with Nick Roberson
March is a great month to go fishing just about anywhere in Alabama and Georgia . Warming waters turn fish on and they move shallow and feed. It is hard to pick one place to go but Lake Harding aka Bartletts Ferry on the Chattahoochee River just south of Lanette offers a variety of kinds of fishing for both spots and largemouth that is hard to beat right now.
Lake Harding is a 5,850 acre Georgia Power Lake not far downstream from West Point Lake. It was filled in 1926 and the waters near the dam are deep and rocky. Up the river above the Hawalakee Creek junction it is mostly river channel with some big creeks and a good many old oxbow lakes off the channel. Both Alabama and Georgia fishing licenses are good on all the waters.
Harding has been known as a good producer of both spots and largemouth for many years. Last year there were large numbers of keeper size 12 to 14 inch bass and this year those fish will be in the two pound range. In the 2007 BAIT report Harding ranked 5th in Percent Angler Success and there are more keeper bass now than there were two years ago.
Nick Roberson lives near Opelika and fishes Harding often. He started going fishing with his father when he was old enough to walk. About 14 years ago he got into bass tournament fishing when a group at his work place started having tournaments. For the past few years he has fished with the West Georgia Bass Club, a team tournament trail that fishes a variety of west Georgia and east Alabama lakes and is Triton Gold certified, and other tournament on area lakes.
Last year Nick and his partner won the West Georgia Bass Club tournament on Harding with 14 pounds and ended up 5th overall in the point standings for the year out of 170 teams. Nick has also won both the Diehard and Lazy Days tournaments on Harding and had done well in other tournaments there. His best Harding bass was an 8 pound, 8 ounce hawg caught in a tournament and his best five fish in a tournament weighted just over 22 pounds.
“Last year I found fish on the beds in February here,” Nick told me. After a warm winter bass were spawning up the river in oxbow lakes in February and Nick expects to find them there every year from late February to early March. He says bass in the river spawn a lot earlier than most folks realize. Nick says bass on the main lake spawn a little later but he normally finds bedding fish there by mid to late March.
Nick plans his fishing on Harding around the spawning bass. He will start in the mornings on the main lake, hitting points and banks near spawning pockets for the prespawners and will always watch for spawners, too. Then after lunch when the sun has been warming the water all morning he will head up the lake to fish there. In the river he goes into spawning areas and fishes for the bass on the beds and any cruising the spawning areas, too.
A variety of baits work well on the lake and Nick will have a Jawbreaker jig and pig, a jig head worm, a spinnerbait and a crankbait tied on. He will also throw a topwater bait much earlier than most folks and a jerk bait rounds out his lake arsenal.
Up the river Nick relies on Senkos and spinnerbaits. Most of the oxbow lakes are very shallow and full of grass so the Senko works best most of the time. He will pitch and cast his bait to visible beds but will also work the grass, dropping it into holes where a bass might be bedding. That works best when the water is murky and you can’t see the beds as well.
Nick fishes all his baits on baitcasting outfits and his reels are spooled with Suffix line. He fishes with Tommy Gunn, maker of Jawbreaker jigs, a lot and he likes Tommy’s jigs and jig heads. For the jig and pig he will use black and blue combinations with a black or green trailer. His favorite worm for the jig head is a Zoom scuppernong Trick worm.
Colors for crankbaits and jerk baits depend on water color, with natural colors best in clear water and bright colors used when the water is stained. Nick uses a pink spinnerbait a lot and says it is his best color. He likes two gold willowleaf blades on it.
A Boy Howdy, an old topwater lure with spinners on both ends, is Nick’s favorite. He surprised me by throwing it in early February in water temperatures at 50 degrees, and caught a bass on it the day we fished. He says bass will hit on top even in the winter if you fish the right bait the right way.
The following ten holes will produce bass from now through the end of March on Harding. We fished the lower lake spots the second week of February on a cold, rainy day and fish were already on them and will be on them even better now. We landed about 20 bass that day and our best five would have weighed between 11 and 12 pounds. That shows Harding has a lot of bass in the two pound range for us to catch that many on such a bad day. The bass had not moved into the spawning areas up the river in early February but they will be there now.
1. N 32 41.321 – W 85 08.142 – This main lake point and bank is a good place to start. Nick won a weekly tournament here and it holds fish year round. Heading down Halawakee Creek from the bridge the creek bends back to the left. Straight ahead the bank runs out from your right and you will see a point with a seawall around it. Trees on the bank have faces on them and there are post with ropes around them and black metal light poles around it.
Start on this point and work to your left. There are three good docks to fish and bass hold on them and on the block seawall. The first dock has three metal park benches on it. Fish the seawall then the dock and the pocket behind it. Be sure to hit the rails coming from the boathouse. Bass often hold on rails like these.
This pocket runs out to a natural rock point that holds fish, too. Fish it and the next two docks. Try your jig and pig and jig head worm around the docks, probing for brush, and on the rocks and rails. Run a crankbait or spinnerbait beside the docks and along the point. And don’t hesitate to work your favorite topwater plug slowly in this area, too.
2. N 32 41.486 – W 85 08.347 – Back across the creek and slightly upstream, the last point where the creek opens up has riprap around it and a small dock on the upstream side. There is a yellow cabin on the point and there are palm trees planted near the water. The point comes up shallow then drops off. There are some stumps and rocks around this point that hold March bass.
Start out in front of the small upstream dock and work a jig and pig or jig head worm slowly down the bottom. Cast up near the seawall and make short hops. When you hit a stump pause it there for a few seconds then hop it away from the stump. Sometimes a bass holding by the stump will react as the bait jumps away from it.
Work all the way around the point then try your crankbait and jerk bait over it, too. Jerk baits work better when the water is clear and this creek is usually clearer than the river or the main lake.
3. N 32 40.893 – W 85 06.636 – Run down past the mouth of the river and watch for a rocky point on your right. It is between two long deep coves and a brown top gazebo sits under a big pine on the downstream side. The upstream side of the point has a big pine and a big hardwood leaning a little over the water. Start at the small wooden seawall on the upstream side at the leaning pine and work around the point and into the downstream pocket a short distance.
There are a lot of big rocks under the water on this point and bass stack up on it all during the winter. They will start to move into the coves to spawn but some will be out here all during March. As you fish past the gazebo there will be riprap on the bank and a house with a screen room on it.
Fish around the rocks down the steep bank. Keep fishing down this bank, working the riprap and docks. Some of the docks have brush around them and there is a lot of brush around the dock in front of the big house a short way down the bank. Nick says he has caught some big bass from this brush over the years. Fish all your baits here but your jig and pig is the best bet for bigger bass.
4. N 32 40.299 – W 85 04.650 – Run into the big creek to your left right at the dam. Toward the back there is an island in the middle with a house on it and it is before you get to the condos in the bank of the creek. Just before you get even with the downstream end of the island you will see a small pocket on your right. Start fishing at it and work toward the condos.
The first little pocket will hold bedding bass as will the next one and other bass will hold on the steep bank around rocks, docks and brush. Nick and I both caught bass in this area in February. Work all your baits here, running a crankbait beside the docks and off the rocks on the bank. Hop a jig and pig or jig head worm down the bank. Fish rails coming out of boathouse and brush around the docks.
As you work into pockets here fish slowly and watch for signs of bedding bass. You may see a light spot marking a bed or just see the black tip of a bass’s tail. If you spot a bass on the bed throw a jig into it and let it sit. Fish slowly with a jig for bedding bass here you don’t spot, too. Nick says bass will bed in this pocket even in early March.
Work all the way to the little peninsular with the picnic stuff on it at the condos. Nick says you should have a limit of keepers just along this bank in late February and March.
5. N 32 40.568 – W 85 04.668 – Run across the creek on the upstream side of the island and you will see a big cove on the other bank. On the right going into this cove is a seawall then riprap on the outside of a small cove. Start fishing at the end of the seawall and work around that little point into the cove.
Fish around the cove, watching for bedding bass and fishing slowly for the ones you don’t see. If you spot bass on the bed work all the way to the back of the pocket. Fish on around past the dock with a winch and crane to pull in a fish barrel. There is some brush around that dock to fish.
6. N 32 44.477 – W 85 06.688 – Head up the river to Blanton Creek and go to the boat ramp on your right. Bass move in here first as they start moving back to spawn up the river and hold here until everything gets right. Start fishing where the riprap starts just outside the ramp and work around the pocket past the three docks out to the point in the campground.
There is some brush here and rocks for the bass to hold on as they move up the creek. Nick likes to work a jig and pig slowly through the rocks and brush for bigger bass. This is the spot where he caught his 8 pound, 8 ounce fish. He says there will be “quadruple” the number of bass here than down on the main lake.
Nick says he will work this bank and other places several times. If he catches a fish on the first pass he will go back over it with the same bait. If he does not catch one on the first pass he will often go back over it with a different bait like a spinnerbait to offer them a different look.
7. N 32 44.672 – W 85 08.053 – Come out of Blanton Creek and head up the river. When the river makes a bend to your right, straight ahead on the outside bend you will see a house on your left then no houses. A good oxbow starts here and runs up parallel to the river.
You can enter near the last house but you are better off going upstream a little and finding the opening not much wider then a couple of boats that goes in. Be careful in this area, there is a hump off the bank that is under water when the lake is high. You can idle in if you are careful or put your trolling motor down and work your way in.
When you get back in the lake or old oxbow there will be lots of shallow water and grassbeds. This spot and others here are better if the lake is full. The day Nick and I looked at it the lake was almost two feet low and it was hard to get in here.
Nick likes to pitch a Senko to visible bedding bass or work holes in the grass with it if he is not seeing beds. Fish both sides of this oxbow all the way to the upper end. Nick says he gets most of his hits from the middle opening up to the upper end. Water can run in up there, too, but you can’t get your boat in there.
8. N 32 45.109 – W 85 08.219 – Across the river and upstream you will see two openings within a few feet of each other. The downstream one has a tree on the downstream side across the mouth of it so be careful going in. Nick says some folks start fishing here, working the outside edges with crankbaits and jigs, but he usually goes on back into the backwaters.
As you work in you will do downstream parallel to the river. This ditch is not real wide but not far from the opening is a small ditch on your left. Go through it and the oxbow opens up much bigger. Both sides join together and this oxbow opens up downstream so there is a lot of water to fish in here. Work both sides and watch for grassbeds and stumps to fish. There are a lot of stumps to your left when you go through the small ditch.
9. N 32 45.108 – W 85 08.255 – Just upstream of the opening in hole 8 is another opening that is very shallow right at the river opening. It goes in and this oxbow runs up the river channel. Get across the shallow flat at the entrance and you will find deeper water to fish on back in it.
In this one and in others fish until the bass tell you where they are holding. In this one and the others the river side of the oxbow will be more shallow. It usually has willows and grass on it. The bank side will be deeper and often has wood cover to fish. Work both sides until you find where the bass are holding and bedding and they usually are in similar places in all the oxbows.
10. N 32 46.000 – W 85 08.275 – Up the river and on the left just as the channel goes slightly to the right is another small opening. As soon as you go in you can go into a lake to your right. The channel also runs straight ahead and the point between the two is covered with stumps. Go into the right one and work around it hitting the grass and stumps in it.
If you go straight back you will go a good ways in a ditch then it opens up into a lake to fish. The Senko is Nick’s best bait up here this time of year but try a spinnerbait, too. The bass will sometimes be active enough to hit it and sometimes will give their location away by swirling at it without taking it. You can then work a Senko around that spot for them. Also watch for movement in the grass or baitfish jumping to show you where bass are holding.
These spots give you five to fish on the lake and five up the river. Nick will be fishing them this month and they are all good places. Check them out and you can then find some more similar spots, especially on the lake, to fish.
The West Georgia Bass Club is a Triton Gold Certified Team Tournament trail that fishes west Georgia and East Alabama lakes. There is an annual $25 membership fee per team and the entry fee is $50 per team in each tournament. They pay back one in seven boats and have a classic at the end of the year. For the schedule and rules go to http://www.westgeorgiabassclub.com/