Monthly Archives: June 2013

Soft Shell Turtles

The snapping turtle has not shown itself in my pond again. I guess being pulled out of the water by the tail gave it the idea my dock is not a great place to hang out. I have seen some little one swimming around. They look to be about a year old and I can’t tell yet if they are common snappers or Alligator Snappers. When they get older their characteristics will develop.

Back in May when we fished a tournament at West Point I saw more soft shell turtles than I had seen in years. They seemed to be in every cove, probably getting ready to lay eggs. They ranged in size from a few inches across the shell to one that looked to be about two feet wide.

Soft shell turtles are very shy, probably because of their soft shell. The shell is not really soft, it feels like leather, but it is not near the protection a hard shell would be. The soft shell makes them much easier to clean so they are prized for those wanting fried turtle or turtle stew.

These turtles look very different, even in the water. The first thing you notice is how flat they are. They look like a pancake! And their shell is usually a light brown, contrasting with the dark brown to black of most other turtles. Since they don’t come out of the water except to lay eggs I guess the color blends in better with the lake bottom. They spend most of their lives buried in the sand or mud of a lake or pond bottom, often shallow enough to stick their long neck up to breath without moving.

Their heads look very different, too. The nose is very extended, almost like a snorkel. Since it is so long they can stay deeper in the water with more of their head hidden and still breathe. They usually come up for air then disappear for a long time if you see them swimming around.

Last Sunday in the Flint River tournament I saw two soft shells swimming around. They were huge. One looked like it was well over two feet across its back. That means it was probably a female since they get much bigger then males.

Keep your eyes open while on area lakes. You might sight one of these strange turtles, especially if you are at West Point.

Turtles and Fishing

Turtle stew, anyone?

A few days ago I was fishing from my dock and noticed a light brown shape under the water several yards from me. It gradually got bigger then a head about the size of my fist came near the surface. A big snapping turtle had taken up residence in the pond.

Snapping turtles are usually very cautious but this one got a gulp of air, gradually sank and eased off. I could follow its progress across the pond since its light brown color showed up in the sun. It would slowly swim about 20 feet then come to the top for air again. It worked all the way across the pond like this until I lost sight of it.

Thursday I was on the dock again and the cloud of bluegill around me waiting on a handout suddenly started acting strange. They would open up and move away from something. Then I saw the light brown shape down deep under them. Slowly the snapper came to the top. I stayed perfectly still and it did not see me although it was only about five feet away.

It got a breath of air then its front end sank down while its rear stayed right on the surface. It floated in this position, looking for all the world like a floating chunk of wood. Its head was pulled back near its shell.

When a bluegill got near its head it would strike out at it. Anyone who has ever held a snapper up by its tail knows they have very long necks and can almost reach around to their tail. This one could strike out about a foot. I saw it try for three different bluegill but it never got one that I saw.

Friday it was back. When it came up a few feet from the dock and went into its hunting position I threw some food past it. The bluegill splashing around made small waves that pushed the floating turtle to the dock. I was able to reach down and grab its tail. When I lifted it out of the water it looked around at me like it wondered what was going on.

The turtle felt like it weighed about 15 pounds and its shell is about 20 inches long and 16 inches wide. I dropped it back into the water and it quickly swam off. I started to kill it then decided there were plenty of bluegill for both of us. Also, I thought I remembered they are a protected species.

We have two kind of snapping turtles around here. The one in my pond was an alligator snapping turtle, often called a loggerhead. They have huge heads and ridges that are almost spikes on their shell. They get big. The one in my pond looked pretty big until I remembered the picture I was shown several years ago. It showed a man standing by a turtle hanging from a tree by its tail, and it was taller than him.

I was told, if I remember right, that the turtle was caught in Lake Blackshear back in the 1960s and weighed 115 pounds. The biggest alligator snapper known is a 236 pounder living at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. There are unverified reports of a 403 pound snapper caught in the Neosho River in Kansas in 1937.

The common snapping turtle is smaller and has a smooth shell. Its head is big but not nearly as big as the alligator snapper. It too has a long tail but it is not as thick as the alligator snapper. The biggest one recorded was 18 ½ inches long.

I found a dead alligator snapper on the dam of my lower pond a few years ago. When stretched out on the tailgate of my truck, with the head and tail fully extended, it came within a few inches of spanning the whole width of the tailgate. The shell was about one third of its length with the head, neck and tail making up the rest.

Another alligator snapping turtle somehow got into a beaver trap I had set out a few years ago. The trap grabbed its head and drowned it. A third one got on a baited hook I had put out for catfish in my lower pond. I caught it soon after some baby geese, the first to every hatch on the pond, disappeared. I thought it may have eaten them but found out it is more likely the parents walked them off.

I have eaten turtle a few times. The first was when I was doing yard work in Athens when I was in college. The lady I worked for usually gave me lunch and one day she had turtle stew. It was pretty good.

Turtles are interesting and our world is full of many kinds, if you just happen to be in the right place at the right time to see them.

What Are Some Postspawn Topwater Tactics?

Mike Murphy caught this nice largemouth on topwater baits

Mike Murphy caught this nice largemouth on topwater baits

Michael Murphy’s Postspawn Topwater Tactics:

(Today’s feature comes to us from Scott Estes at Denali Rods)

It’s almost like clockwork each year. You’re on fish all through the spring, spend a few weeks having a blast fishing the spawn, then they simply disappear. Call it a post-spawn funk, recovery period, or whatever; but it can be downright difficult to put any kind of consistent pattern together in the period immediately following the spawn.

Former FLW pro Michael Murphy thinks a lot of anglers make this time more difficult than they have to, saying “That immediate post-spawn period is hard for a lot of guys and there are a number of reasons for that. I think the biggest is that guys spend too much time thinking about where the fish are going, and not enough time covering water with a topwater, something that I have consistently caught them doing when the fish come off the bed.”

Early Spawners

The secret to Murphy’s topwater confidence is his observation that there is almost always a group of fish that spawns before the “official spawn” brings anglers up shallow. Those fish are often already recovered by the time the bulk of the spawn winds down, and he begins targeting them while other anglers are still looking for fish on beds.

“I know that most bass spawn in that 66-70 degree range, but I’ve personally seen lots of fish up well before that, so often those fish are already done and recovered by the time most guys think the spawn is in full swing. As soon as the water starts to get to about 65 degrees, I begin targeting those fish that are already done and a topwater is a huge focus in my approach.”


Murphy thinks the driving force behind post-spawners propensity for devouring topwater offerings is that they are turning the tables on the bluegills that were predominant nest predators during the bass spawn, saying “Those bass had to put up with pesky bluegills raiding their nests the whole time they were trying to get their business done; as soon as those bass come off the bed, it’s on and you don’t want to be a bluegill near an angry post-spawn five pounder.”

It’s for this reason that the South Carolina angler relies on a lot of bluegill imitating baits during the post-spawn. “You can get a wide variety of topwater baits today that do a phenomenal job of imitating bluegill. Anything from a prop bait to a frog can work wonders at imitating a crippled bluegill when targeting shallow water post spawn fish, you just need to keep that in mind and stay in areas that bluegill frequent.”

Where to look

On reservoirs, the bass often spawn a little earlier in the upper ends due to increased color and shallow water causing it to warm up faster, so it makes sense that Murphy usually starts up there when looking for recovering post spawners.

“I like to pay attention to spawning areas up the rivers, places like the backs of major creeks and pockets off the channel. Once there, I try to find flats and stretches of bank near the last 6-10 foot deep water in the area. They’re usually gonna be on some type of cover close by. Things like docks, laydowns, stumps, and rocks are all dynamite for holding post spawn fish that you can dupe with a topwater.”

The Gear

Because he uses a target oriented approach, Murphy dotes on his Denali signature series 6’8″ topwater/jerkbait rod for most of his postspawn topwater fishing because its shorter length allows for extremely accurate casting.

He pairs the rod with a high-speed Lews BB-1 casting reel spooled exclusively with monofilament, saying “you need that stretch with treble hooks, and I’ve found that I land many more fish in close quarters with mono than any other type of line. I use 20 lb Toray Bawo Polyamide Plus almost exclusively and am extremely confident with that setup.”

Murphy’s bait choices depend a lot on water clarity. In clear water he likes prop baits like the Deps Buzzjet, Ima Skimmer, and the floating Ima Flit 120, which he works like a wakebait. In stained water, Murphy throws a popper like the Deps Pulsecod or a Kahara hollow bodied Frog, saying “It’s really a tight quarters, commotion deal so I utilize several baits and let the fish tell me what they prefer. The dirtier the water, the larger commotion I like to cause.”

One of the things Murphy likes most about fishing the immediate post-spawn with topwaters is that it gets you fishing in the right water depth and around the same types of cover that become boat-loading spots once the next phase of the season unfolds, the shad spawn. “If you are already up shallow fishing topwater, you’ll be right there to get the most out of it once the shad start spawning, something that anglers chasing their tails out on the main lake won’t find nearly as quickly.”

This early topwater pattern isn’t necessarily a recipe for having big numbers days, but Murphy believes that as a tournament pattern it still shines because the fish you do catch are going to be the right ones. “Another reason a lot of guys don’t devote a ton of time to fishing topwater during the immediate post spawn is because you may not get a ton of bites. They are missing out, as I can guarantee you that almost every fish you do catch doing it will be one that gets brought to the stage.”

How Can I Keep Cool While Fishing In the Summer?

Its hot, yes I am wet with sweat, but this bluegill put a smile on my face

Its hot, yes I am wet with sweat, but this bluegill put a smile on my face

Its so hot I saw a dog chasing a cat and both were walking. Its so hot I dug a potato from my garden and it was already baked. Its so hot my chickens are laying boiled eggs. Its so hot robins are using pot holders to pull worms out of the ground. Its so hot I saw two trees fighting over a dog.

Its so hot the global warming true believers are having field day claiming our record setting temperatures prove they are right. But when I ask them what caused the previous records we are breaking, those only one degree cooler set back in the 1930s, they can only reply with a blank stare. Must have been all those depression era SUVs everyone was driving.

Its so hot I almost don’t want to go fishing!

Last Sunday I spent the morning on Millers Ferry Lake in Alabama getting information and pictures for an Alabama Outdoor News article. It was miserable by 9:00 AM and unbearable by noon when we quit. I thought about jumping in to cool off but realized I could not get any wetter. I sweated so much the money in my wallet was wet.

There are many ways to keep fishing and beat the heat. Fishing at night is my favorite. Not only is it cooler, you avoid sun problems and the fish bite better. The Flint River Bass Club scheduled our July tournament this Sunday at Sinclair from 4:00 AM to Noon. And the Spalding County Sportsman Club always fishes night tournaments in July and August because of the heat.

Jumping in the water does usually help since the water is normally cooler than the air. Dipping your cap in the water helps keep your head and the rest of you cool, too. I carry a change of clothes in my boat since I don’t want to drive home in wet clothes, but wet clothes sure do feel good while fishing.

Riding around in the boat creates a breeze that helps so I usually don’t stay in one place a long time. That can help you catch fish, too. Last Sunday we fished over a dozen different places in five hours and caught fish on only one of them. Finding some feeding fish is easier if you keep moving. At least that is my excuse.

Finding any place on the water with breeze helps a lot and bass seem to feed better with some wind, too. So fish anywhere you can stay where the air is moving, like out on a point on the main lake, if you can fight the boat traffic and waves.

Drinking lots of cold drinks helps cool you off a little but more importantly keeps you hydrated. That is very important when you are sweating a lot. Water is probably best but I like Diet Rite Cola. It quenches my thirst better and has no sodium, sugar or caffeine. You do need salt when sweating a lot but I would get too much if I drank colas with salt in them. But I do crave salt and vinegar potato chips driving home after every fishing trip this time of year.

If you fish during the day sunscreen is critical. I put on 100 SPF before leaving the house and carry a spray on sunscreen in the boat to refresh it during the day. I like a baby sunscreen since it doesn’t burn my eyes, and it is going to get in your eyes during the day from sweating, no matter what you do.

Fishing in the shade helps, too. I often try to find a shady bank or get under a bridge to avoid the sun. And the bass like shad as much as I do.

The right clothes can help. Light colored shirts and pants are not as hot as darker colors. I have several kinds of shoes that are well ventilated. And a cap or hat with a big brim can shade your eyes and ears. I don’t like to wear shorts or sandals. Keeping the sun off my skin seems to keep me cooler.

Even as hot as it is, I still prefer fishing to sitting at home with the AC at full blast. So go fishing but try to beat the heat any way you can.

What Are Some Secrets To Catch Summertime Bass?

David Dudley likes the Craw for summertime fishing

David Dudley likes the Craw for summertime fishing

Two Secrets To More Summertime Bass

By Lawrence Taylor
from The Fishing Wire

FLW pro David Dudley has 33 Top 10 finishes and 6 wins under his belt. He won the FLW Championship in 2003, and was named the FLW Tour Angler of the Year in 2008, 2011 and 2012. In short, the guy knows how to catch bass.

In the summertime, if he’s not deep-cranking a Fat Free Shad BD8, he’s thinking soft plastics. Here are two of his favorite ways to fish soft plastics for hot weather bass, and two secrets he uses with those rigs to catch more, bigger bass than his competition.

If he knows bluegill and other panfish are spawning, Dudley first reaches for a 6-inch YUM Dinger and rigs it wacky, a common and effective rig for bass keyed in on the panfish activity. What’s not common is the way he retrieves the bait.

Dudley says that many anglers work a wacky-rigged worm completely wrong. They go far too slowly, giving it a couple of twitches and letting it free fall down in a more vertical-fishing style. Dudley keeps the bait moving with quick twitches of the rod so the bait moves more horizontal than vertical.

“You’ve got to keep it moving,” he said.

Dudley twitches the rod every second or less and continually collects the slack. The result is a worm that claps its two ends together and says “you…come…eat…me” to any nearby bass. He often throws the bait on spinning gear and prefers to skip it into pockets of flooded buckbrush or other cover. Preferred color patterns are the usual, with Bream and Watermelon/Red Flake getting most of the reps.

Another soft plastic he’s been throwing since it was introduced late last year is the YUM Mighty Craw. This elongated craw-imitator features a segmented body and two pairs of thin legs along the sides, and two long, maximum-action claws on the front. These long front claws are designed with extra plastic at the ends, which prompts them to “swim” with the slightest twitch of the rod or smallest breath of current.

Common Mighty Craw rigging includes the Carolina rig, Texas rig and as a trailer for jigs and bladed jigs. Dudley notched an 8-pound-plus largemouth this spring using the Mighty Craw as a trailer on a Booyah Swim’N Jig.

“I throw this rig anytime I’m around cover,” he said. “Cover can be rocks, wood, grass, docks – any type of cover.”

One key to success with the swimming jig and Mighty Craw is to select the color of the Craw depending on water clarity. If the water is clear, he suggests using greens or browns. In muddy conditions he goes with black.

If the cover he’s fishing is sparse, Dudley fishes the jig and craw quickly through the area and picks up active fish. The thicker the cover, though, the slower he works the bait.

Dudley doesn’t make many alterations or tweaks to his lures, but does make sure that the jig skirt doesn’t hang down too far and touch the arms of the Mighty Craw because it restricts the swimming action.

“Whatever gives you confidence makes you fish better,” he said, “but all I do to the jig is make sure the skirt isn’t impeding the action of the claws.”

Why Should I Use Confidence Lures To Find Bass?

A spinnerbait is one of Is Monroe's confidence baits

A spinnerbait is one of Is Monroe’s confidence baits

Ish Monroe caught this smallmouith on a confidence bait

Ish Monroe caught this smallmouith on a confidence bait

from The Fishing Wire

Confidence lures’ help Monroe find bass anywhere.

Yamaha pro Ish Monroe chases bass all over the nation, and has evolved a fish-finding strategy that earns him tournament money nearly every where he goes.

Few anglers anywhere face the problem of locating bass on new lakes more often than Yamaha Pro Ish Monroe, who competes on both the Bassmaster® Elite and FLW® tours, as well as in any other events he can fit into his schedule. He doesn’t often have time for pre-tournament practice nor does he research each lake, but rather, he relies on his four ‘confidence lures.’

“At every lake I fish, I tie on a topwater frog, a square-bill crankbait, a spinnerbait, and a plastic creature bait on a flippin’ rod,” he explains, “and then I look for the places where I can use them. These are my favorite lures, and I would rather fish them than anything else.

“I have enough confidence in them so that when I find the conditions where I can use these lures I know the bass will be there. I also know through experience that somewhere on any body of water I will find the right cover and water depth where at least one of these lures will work.”

Monroe likes a spinnerbait best of all, but also relies on creature baits, frogs and square-bill crankbaits.
Of the four lures, Monroe’s favorite is the spinnerbait, either a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce model with Colorado and willow leaf blades and a white skirt. It’s a combination he’s been using nearly 30 years.

“This technique of locating bass is known as ‘fishing to your strengths’, and I certainly am not the first to use it,” continues the Yamaha Pro, “but it really does help solve the problem every fisherman has in locating bass. You always fish better and more confidently with your favorite lure or technique, and most of the time you can visually identify the water where that lure will be the most efficient.”

That’s how Monroe fished the opening event of this year’s Bassmaster® Elite Series on the Sabine River in southeast Texas. He’d never seen the water previously so he did spend three pre-tournament days looking at it. During that time he never made a single cast. He did locate the spinnerbait water he was searching for, however, some 70 miles from the launch, and he later fished it all four days of the tournament where he finished fourth.

“I really can’t stress enough how important confidence is in bass fishing,” Monroe emphasizes, “so I always tell fishermen to start every day fishing with their favorite lure. If they don’t have that confidence, they aren’t going to catch anything. What I have done personally is add three other lures I have just as much confidence in that let me expand my water selection.

Monroe says scouting until you find water where your favorite lures will be effective is key.

“The spinnerbait is the most versatile, but the square bill crankbait gives me another option for shallow brush, the frog works over thick vegetation, and with the creature bait I can penetrate any thick cover. I am essentially a shallow water fisherman, and with these lures I know I can fish any type of shallow water.”

The Yamaha Pro also points out that for him, all four of his ‘confidence lures’ are fun to fish. He is versatile and has mastered all of the various lures and presentations tournament pros use, but he doesn’t necessarily always enjoy using them.

“A bass is a bass anywhere in the world you find them,” laughs Monroe, who has not only fished for them throughout the United States but also in Spain, Japan, and several other foreign countries, “and I think we often give the fish credit for being much smarter than it really is.

“That’s why the ‘confidence lure’ system works so well. We know bass are going to be located in shallow water with cover, and we know spinnerbaits, for example, are extremely effective around shallow water cover.

“When you can look at bass fishing that way, I think the whole problem of finding bass on any lake you go to becomes a lot easier to solve.”

How Can I Catch Bass In the Altamaha River Basin In Georgia

Roger caught these bass in Lake Oconee

Roger caught these bass in Lake Oconee

Catching bass in the Altamaha River basin in Georgia offers a lot of different kinds of fishing.

Some waters just seem to produce better bass fishing. The Ocmulgee River, whose waters produced the world record bass, and the Oconee River join to form the Altamaha River. The lakes on the two rivers upstream are varied but excellent bass fishing waters, and the big river downstream of the junction is full of hungry bass.

On the upper end of the basin, Lake Jackson on the very upper end of the Ocmulgee and Lakes Sinclair and Oconee on the Oconee River are popular destinations for bass fishing. Although there are some similarities, all three lakes have their own types of cover and structure.

The Altamaha River itself can be intimidating if you don’t fish big rivers much but it can be excellent if you take the time to learn to fish it. It is very different from the lakes but all four places are definitely worth fishing right now.

Lake Jackson

Jackson, dammed in 1911, is one of our oldest lakes and it covers 4750 acres. The dam is on the Ocmulgee River downstream of where it forms at the junction of the South, Yellow and Alcovy Rivers. Its rocky shorelines are covered with docks and the lake has a reputation for big largemouth, but it is also full of spotted bass.

Kip Carter is a well known professional bass fisherman and Jackson is his home lake since grew up on it and lives nearby now. He knows it well and this time of year is one of his favorites to fish it.

Bass fishing on Jackson in the spring centers on both the bass and shad spawn. Bass will move into spawning areas in waves, starting in March and continuing through April. Since the bass don’t all spawn at one time you can catch pre spawn, post spawn and spawning bass right now. Kip says you can find bass on the bed almost any day in April.

The shad spawn in April provides some of the best fishing of the year. When the shad move to seawalls and riprap to spawn the bass concentrate on them, eating their fill every day. They are so voracious they will often eat until you can see the tails of the last shad they swallowed sticking out of their throat.

A wide variety of baits will catch bass now on Jackson. While the shad are spawning a white buzz bait or white spinnerbait with silver blades is definitely a go-to bait. Use a one quarter ounce bait for most fishing, but go to a half ounce spinnerbait if you want to concentrate on bigger bass.

Early in the morning you will see the shad schools running the seawalls and riprap. Points on the main lake are best, especially if the channel swings in by them, but secondary points back in the coves are also good. You should move fast until you find the shad spawning then slow down.

Throw your bait right on the bank and work it out at a 45 degree or less angle. The bass will be right on the bank early. After the sun gets on the water back off and slow roll your spinnerbait, covering deeper water where the bass are holding after the shad back off the bank.

Also try a jerk bait after the sun comes up. Cast near the bank and work it back in a jerk – jerk – pause action, making it look like an injured shad trying to get back to the school. Shad colors work best.

During the day Kip targets shallow cover lake brush piles, blowdowns and docks in the coves. A brown jig with a brown or pumpkinseed trailer is one of the best baits to fish around this cover and a three eights to one quarter ounce jig will fall slowly and not get hung as much. It will also draw strikes from any bass on the bed you spot.

A weightless worm will get bit better than just about any other bait, day to day, this time of year. Kip sticks with natural colors rather than the bright worms some favor and watches his line for the bites rather than just watching the bait. He says the natural colors will draw more strikes than the brighter colors.

If you like worm fishing both a Carolina or jig head worm will catch fish. And they are better for fishing a little deeper. Try a Baby Brush Hog on the Carolina rig and a straight worm like a Trick worm on the jig head. Stick with natural colors like green pumpkin and fish rocky points and creek channel drops with them.

Lake Oconee

Lake Oconee is on the upper Oconee River just south of I-20 and is one of our newest lakes. It has it everything bass like with defined channels, deep points, riprap, docks, roadbeds, grass beds and standing timber. With a slot limit protecting 11 to 14 inch long bass it produces a lot of them that size that are fun to catch. It also means there are a lot of bass longer than 14 inches in the lake.

Roger McKee guides on Oconee and does well in a lot of tournaments there. He says the bite centers around the bass spawning movement and the shad spawn on Oconee like it does on Jackson.

A spinnerbait and crankbait are good baits to locate the bass on Oconee and also catch the bigger bass needed in tournaments. Roger will fish both baits fast, looking for active fish. He says he would choose a crankbait if he could use only one bait on Oconee right now.

Use white spinnerbaits with a gold and silver blade in clear water but go to more chartreuse in the bait as it gets more stained. Shad colored crankbaits are better in clear water but also use more chartreuse baits in stained to muddy water.

Many big bass spawn on Oconee in March so they are on an active feeding spree now, and there will also be pre spawn bass moving in as well as bass on the beds. Secondary points in the coves and smaller creeks are the key to both pre and post spawn bass and Roger will hit as many as he can. By fishing his crankbait or spinnerbait fast he can cover a lot of water, and fast moving baits make it harder for a bass to see it is a fake and will draw reaction strikes.

The very back of the cuts and pockets behind these secondary points are where the bass spawn, so look to them for big females on the bed. Roger says some of the biggest bass of the year can be caught off the beds if you have the patients to soak a jig and pig or worm in them.

A weightless worm will also catch fish back in the pockets now. Fish it around any cover like stumps, brush, blowdowns and grass. Try working it fast just under the surface first but it you don’t get hit slow it down. Jerk it and make it dart, then let it sink. Watch your line and if you see any tick or movement set the hook.

Roger also fishes a jig and pig and Carolina rig on Oconee. The Carolina rig is good on the secondary points, especially if you get a couple of bites on fast moving spinnerbaits or crankbaits on one. Slow down and work it with a worm on a Carolina rig.

Fish the jig and pig on the same points, but also throw it around brush, blowdowns and stumps. Fish a brown jig and trailer in clear water but go to a black and blue jig and trailer in stained water. Work the bait slowly with hops on the points and jiggle it on wood cover.

During the shad spawn all the bass on the lake, unless they are locked in on the bed, will feed on them. Shad prefer hard cover like riprap and seawalls to lay their eggs seawalls with riprap are all over the lake. Fish your spinnerbait fast on them early in the morning close to the rocks then slow it down some as the sun comes up.

Lake Sinclair

Lake Sinclair backs up to the Oconee Dam but varies a good bit from it since it is an older lake. Many coves have grass like water willow in them and the docks tend to be older and have more brush piles around them. There is no slot limit on bass and Sinclair bass tend to run smaller, with lots of 11 to 13 inch bass being caught every day.

Both my bass clubs fish Sinclair this time of year since we catch so many bass there and there are so many different patterns you can fish. The bass spawn is in full swing and the shad spawn will take place during the month.

When the shad are not spawning, start early in the mornings with a white and chartreuse buzzbait or spinnerbait back in the coves around the grass. These grass beds are full of bluegill and bass love to eat them. If the grass is not too thick throw to the back side of it and work your bait out. If it is thick cast into it as far as you can without getting your bait clogged up.

Keep the buzzbait moving steadily but drop the spinnerbait at the edge of the grass in any holes or cuts. Let it flutter down a few inches then pull it forward. Bass will often eat it as it stops and flutters.

Floating worms are also good in the grass. Fish them in the grass, letting the bait fall into any holes and at the edge. A white Trick worm is good since you can see it and keep track of where it is and when it disappears, set the hook.

After the sun gets up back off to secondary points and fish a three sixteenths ounce jig head with a green pumpkin worm on it. Drag it along the bottom, with a hop a few inches high every foot or so. Some JJ’s Magic chartreuse dye on the tail mimics the fins of a bluegill and helps you get more hits.

During the shad spawn fish a three sixteenths ounce white spinnerbait with two silver willowleaf blades on riprap, seawalls and around the grass, too. Shad will spawn on the grass as well as the wood and rocks. Watch for flickers of shad as the school moves down the bank.

Cast as shallow as you can, even to the point of landing your bait on the bank and pulling it off. It often seems a bass will sit with his nose right on the rocks, waiting on a shad to come by. You don’t want to cast behind them.

After the sun gets on the water and the shad quit moving, back off the cover and reel the same spinnerbait slowly, keeping it right over the bottom. Fish it out to at least eight feet of water since bass will back off to that depth after feeding.

Docks are also hold a lot of bass this time of year and you can catch them by running a shad colored crankbait or your spinnerbait beside the posts and over brush piles around them. Also pitch a black and blue jig and pig to the docks, getting back under them as far as you can when the sun is bright.

Try to bring your jig and pig right beside every post. When you hit brush stop your bait and jiggle it in one place to get a reluctant bass to eat it. Make it look like an easy meal for a lazy bass.

Altamaha River

The Altamaha River starts south of Vidalia where the Omulgee and Oconee Rivers join. It is a big river with lots of current but also has many pockets and backwaters with overhanging trees and bushes. These pockets are where the bass move in the spring to spawn, so that is where you want to fish.

This is pretty simple fishing since you will be casting to visible cover in shallow water. One of the best tactics is to skip a weightless worm under overhanging limbs of willow trees. Let it sink to the bottom and settle for a few seconds. Watch for your line to start moving off when a bass picks it up. Use natural colored worms like green pumpkin or black.

Also study the backout. If it is a small creek entering the river it will often have a channel the bass will follow. Target stumps and other wood cover along the channel with a chartreuse and white spinnerbait with one gold and one silver willowleaf blade. Run the bait over the wood then let it fall as it passes.

If the backout is an old oxbow, usually one side will be deeper. Bass often hold on this deeper side on wood and grass. A spinnerbait fish beside the cover is good but also try a black and blue jig and pig flipped into the heaviest cover on this deeper bank.

The Altamaha River drainage offers lots of different fishing opportunities. Give them all a try.

Why Should I Use Vibrating Jigs for Bass?

Jeremy with smallmouth bass that hit a vibrating jig

Jeremy with smallmouth bass that hit a vibrating jig

From The Fishing Wire

Heavy pre-spawn bass like vibrating jigs

Big smallmouth like this one readily grab a vibrating jig almost year around says Yamaha Pro Jeremy Starks.

Of all the lures Yamaha Pro Jeremy Starks normally stocks in his boat and truck, his supply of vibrating jigs always gets packed within easy reach. They’re not just his “go-to” lures if fishing gets tough, they’re his “anytime, all the time” choice.

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s a wrong time to fish a vibrating jig,” explains Starks, winner of the Bassmaster® Elite Series event on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake last season. “My favorite time to fish them is right now where water temperature is still in the 40’s on many lakes, but these lures are so versatile you can really use them anytime.”

Vibrating jigs look like normal jigs, except they have a small, rectangular shaped vibrating blade attached to the front of the jighead. As the lure moves through the water, the blade swings from side to side, often ticking the head – thereby adding sound – and also causing the jig to vibrate and wobble from side to side.

Rip-rap, docks and other cover are ideal cover for the wobbling lures, which are nearly snag-proof.

“Vibrating jigs are a relatively new design in lures,” continues Starks, who first began fishing them in competition in 2006, “and even today they’re not that widely used simply because a lot of bass fishermen don’t really understand them. Vibrating jigs are most often compared to spinnerbaits, but they have more vibration than a spinnerbait although not as much flash. They’re far easier to fish through submerged vegetation than spinnerbaits and have a smaller profile, but they’re not weedless.”

The Yamaha Pro’s favorite fishing technique with vibrating jigs is working them in clear water over and through submerged vegetation like hydrilla or milfoil in depths of 10 feet or less, places bass will not only be staging now in preparation for spawning, but also the same areas they usually return to for much of the remainder of the year. He retrieves slowly so the jig swims just over the top of the vegetation, then stops reeling to let the lure sink into the greenery. Then he rips it free and starts slowly reeling again.

“A vibrating jig comes out of the vegetation much easier than a spinnerbait,” Starks explains, “which is why it’s so effective for this type of fishing. Even lipless crankbaits get snagged in the grass, but the jigs come through without any trouble.

Starks sometimes changes the size of the blade or switches to heavier jig bodies, depending on conditions.

“At the final Elite tournament at Lake Oneida last summer, I fished a vibrating jig over hydrilla that had grown to within about three feet below the surface and caught smallmouth bass all day long. I ended up giving lures to some of my competitors who were fishing beside me because they couldn’t catch anything with their spinnerbaits.”

Starks adds a soft plastic fluke-style trailer to his vibrating jigs to enhance the lure’s visual appeal, as well as to add more action. He also occasionally changes blade colors to add or reduce flash, depending on water conditions.

“Vibrating jigs are not weedless,” he cautions, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t fish them around or through wood cover. I like to twitch my rod or change retrieve speeds around wood so the jig has a more erratic action. I think it helps compensate since I can’t really fish through thick limbs and brush. If I see flooded brush along a shoreline or off the end of a point, I’m definitely going to cast to it, just a little more carefully.”

Other places Starks regularly fishes vibrating jigs are over and around rocks, along riprap walls, and underneath boat docks and piers. For these types of places, he normally fishes 1/2 or 5/8 oz. vibrating jigs, rigging with 15 or 20 pound fluorocarbon line and a medium action rod, using a slow, steady retrieve. When he specifically targets thicker vegetation, he changes to 30 pound braided line and a stiffer rod for his ripping presentation.

“Vibrating jigs are excellent big fish lures, too,” the Yamaha Pro concludes. “Although I haven’t caught any real monsters, I have caught a lot of fish in the five to six pound class. There’s just something about the lure’s different type of vibration and its light ticking sound that seems to trigger big bites.”

Fathers’ Day Fishing Memories

I can see daddy sitting in the big soft green recliner, feet propped up and newspaper across his lap, watching “Jeopardy” and checking the sports at the same time. The recliner sits in the living room of what is now my place at the lake, since the chair has been empty for 12 years.

We joined the Raysville Boat Club in 1966 when I was 16 years old. I am not sure why daddy decided to join the club. Mama and I both loved to fish, and our best friends, the McGahees, joined at about the same time. Our families already camped together at Clarks Hill often and Mr. Hugh had taught me to water ski when I was 11, something I was fanatical about as a teenager.

Daddy didn’t ski and didn’t really like to fish but he bought a nice ski boat to keep at our dock and put a pop-up camper at the boat club. We stayed there almost every weekend, even though he had to dive the 22 miles back to the farm to take care of the chickens, hogs and cows each day. Those were wonderful days filled with skiing, fishing and eating fantastic food cooked by mama and Miss Mary for me.

Daddy loved to fry fish and he was good at it. We would have big fish frys at the lake on a cooker he and Mr. Hugh made from an old tire hub, tubing and rebar. I can still see him standing over the big black pot, fork in hand, carefully watching the fish until they were cooked perfectly or until the hushpuppies turned over and browned just right.

When the crappie were in the bushes bedding in the spring daddy would fish with us. We would take the big ski boat to a cove and tie it up and drown minnows in the surrounding bushes, catching dozens of fine eating fish. We also had a 12 foot jon boat would sometimes pull to the cove to be able to more around better.

I can still see daddy in the back of that boat one day, fishing near mamma and me in the big ski boat. Daddy moved wrong and tipped out of the boat head first. The water was only a couple of feet deep and he stood up, water dripping from him and a half broken soaked cigarette dangling from his mouth. All of us laughed so hard we probably scared every crappie for miles.

Daddy figured out how to make a platform on the front of that ski boat to mount a foot controlled trolling motor and pedestal seat. He would drive to where we wanted to fish and crawl over the windshield, then perch up there and move us around to the perfect fishing spots. And he never fell off!

It was difficult for daddy to relax. He was a hard worker, running a farm and Dearing Elementary School as its principal. He could not fish just for fun, he had to be catching something to eat. That he could enjoy.

We often ran trotlines, jugs and bank hooks at night and caught a good many cats. We also put out baskets baited with meal cake and caught an amazing number of fish in them, often more than I wanted to clean.

We had a great cleaning system. Daddy and mama would scale the crappie and I gutted them. I could keep up with the two of them once I realized I could cut at an angle from the top of the head to just past the vent. Almost all the guts came out with one slice and there was no waste of meat since there was nothing but rib cage there.

The mobile home I now call mine has a screen porch running its length on the front. Daddy, Uncle Slaton and a couple of other friends built it. I helped some since by then I was doing construction work during the summers between college years. That porch is well built, it is now on the third mobile home on the lot. When the mobile home got too old we would detach the porch, move the trailer out, move a better one in and reattach the porch.

One event really stands out in my mind that shows how much daddy wanted me to be happy. We were camping on Clark’s Hill when I was about 12 years old. The campsite was on a point about 300 yards from a bridge and I wanted to fish under it at night so bad I couldn’t stand still. Daddy agreed to take me.

Our only boat was an old wooden skiff that was very hard to paddle and uncomfortable to sit in. Right at dark we loaded lanterns, rods and reels and I think daddy probably told me to put the minnow bucket in the boat. He rowed us to the bridge and tied up and we realized the minnows were still on the bank. He did not complain, just untied the boat, rowed back to get them, rowed back to the bridge and we fished. I have no idea if we caught anything or not but I cherish that night.

When I go back to the boat club now there are ghosts there. Daddy and mama are always around. It is very bittersweet, but I would not give up those memories for anything. If you have kids, or if your parents are still alive, make some memories this summer. They will last a lifetime.

Fishing Snakes and Floating Bass

Largemouth from Bartletts Ferry

Largemouth from Bartletts Ferry

Last Sunday there were a couple of unusual things that happened to Al and me at and after the Flint River Bass Club tournament at Bartlett’s Ferry. As we left the ramp headed home a rattlesnake was in the middle of the road. And a bass did something I have never seen happen before.

The snake was about three feet long and was right in the middle of the road. I didn’t try to run over it because I see no reason to kill a snake that is not threatening anyone. The guys in the vehicle behind us saw it too and didn’t run over it, but confirmed it was a rattlesnake.

One reason I don’t want to run over a poisonous snake is something, probably what we now call an “Urban Legend,” that I grew up hearing. The story goes that a guy had a flat and got out to check it. He ran his hand around the tire and got scratched by what flattened the tire.

Supposedly it was a rattlesnake’s fangs that stuck in the tire, and when they scratched him he got enough venom to kill him. I guess that could happen. Either way, I don’t take chances!

Rattlesnakes are pretty uncommon around here. I grew up near Augusta and the sandy terrain over there, rather than the clay around here, is more to their liking. We killed rattlesnakes on the farm several times while I was growing up. I still have the rattles from one, and many of us boys carried rattles in our pockets, bragging about how many rattles and buttons they had.

Snakes normally won’t hurt you. They will try to get away from you. After all, you are too big for them to eat. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone.

The other strange thing happened while we were fishing. Al and I were fishing a deep brush pile and Al had caught a couple of nice bass, and I broke off two and missed a couple. Then Al set the hook on a bass that wrapped him up in the brush. After trying to get it loose he had to break his line.

About ten minutes later a bass floated to the top and we picked it up. The 2.5 pound largemouth had Al’s hook in its throat! Apparently it swallowed the hook deeply before or while getting hung up and it killed it. I have broken off a lot of fish like that but have never had one float up like that one did.

At the tournament 13 members and guests landed 41 keeper bas weighing about 52 pounds. There were three five-fish limits and one member didn’t have a keeper. It was a surprise only ten of the bass were spots – usually we catch a lot more spots than largemouth there.

Al Rosser won with four weighing 6.37 pounds. We were real worried the one that broke off would make the difference but he still won without it. Niles Murray was second with a limit weighing 6.26 pounds and Chuck Croft placed third with five at 5.96 pounds. Roger Morrow’s four weighing 5.69 pounds was fourth and his 2.91 pound largemouth was big fish.

Fish were caught on a little of everything, from fish head spins to jigs and worms. There was a lot of muddy water coming down the river but the main lake and lower creeks were clear, and that is where most of the fish were caught.

Al and I started up the river a little ways and I missed two on spinner baits around grass. Niles had run about a mile above us and where he stopped was real muddy at 6:00 AM. Where Al and I fished the water was still ok at that time, but by 2:00 PM when we ran in the mud had come down the river past the ramp, several more miles downstream. Bass seem to hate fresh muddy water and stop biting when it first gets muddy.

Al and I fished a lot of different places and I got my first keeper at about 8:00 on a jig and pig off a seawall. Then Al got two on a jig head worm. Around 10:00 we went over a deep brush pile and Al got a nice 2.3 pound bass from it. I could see a lot of fish around the brush on my depth finder, but they would not hit.

After several hours of running around the lake trying to catch bass without any luck we went back to the brush pile for the last hour. Often bass will hold off brush then, for some unknown reason, move in to feed. And they had. Al got two more good keepers from it and I got one the last hour, and that is when we missed several bites and broke off three fish.

Deep brush is worth checking out several times during a day, especially if you see fish around it on a good depth finder!