Fishing Lay Lake and Blue Ridge Lake

I love my job. Who would not love going fishing and getting paid to write about it? But it does get hectic at times. I have been on the road so much the last two months I met myself on the highway Monday – twice!

After a five-day trip to Clarks Hill I got home a week ago Monday then went to Lay Lake in Alabama Wednesday for two days to get information for my June Map of the Month article in Alabama Outdoor News. Then I got up this past Monday at 4:30 AM to drive to Lake Blue Ridge for my article in Georgia Outdoor News for June.

Lay Lake is a Coosa River lake south of I-20 near Birmingham. It is different from our Georgia lakes, with shorelines covered with grassbeds. And the Coosa Spots grow big and fat and fight harder than you would think possible.

I met 21-year-old David Gaston, a tournament fisherman and guide on the lake. We got out at daybreak and found shad spawning in the grass and bass feeding on them. Unfortunately for us, they were feeding on very small threadfin shad and we had a hard time catching them on our bigger baits.

I did manage to catch a spot weighing about 2.5 pounds on a swim jig, my first fish ever on that bait. Swim jigs have a bullet shaped head to come through grass and, with a trailer on them, look like a fleeing baitfish.

Those jigs work great on any lake with grass, but we just do not have grassbeds on many of our lakes. I do not fish that bait much, so it is unlikely for me to catch fish on a bait in my tacklebox. Fishermen tell me they work good around docks and shallow brush, cover we have here, so I am going to learn to fish it more.

Another difference with those lakes is the current in them and the relatively shallow ledges where flats run out to the river and creek channels. Most of our channels are in much deeper water and harder to fish. There, you can cast crankbaits up to five or six feet of water and bump the bottom with them out to the drop into 25 to 30 feet of water where the bass hold.

David showed me many such ledges on our trip since that is the best kind of places to fish after the sun gets high in June. We caught several bass on out trip.

Even more impressive was the pond on David’s family’s land. They feed the bass in it bologna and crawfish. The bologna surprised me, I had never heard of that, but David said I could easily catch a ten to 12-pound bass if I wanted to. He had one over seven pounds for pictures.

I didn’t fish the pond. There is something about catching easy bass that does not give me a thrill. That is the same reason I have never gone shiner fishing in Florida. Although I have always wanted to catch a 12-pound bass, and my biggest ever is one that weighed nine pounds seven ounces, I just don’t think I would really fulfil my goal with one that I did not make much personal effort to catch.

Lake Blue Ridge is totally different. A beautiful mountain lake near the Georgia/Tennessee/North Carolina junction, it is deep and clear, with little shoreline cover. It is the lake in Georgia where you have the best chance of catching a smallmouth bass, but their population has been decimated by the introduction of spotted bass.

I met Barron Adams who grew up in Mineral Bluff near the lake and now fishes tournaments and guides on Blue Ridge. The water was also much colder than on Lay and the shad had not started spawning. Neither had the bass. We saw one on a bed but many more cruising the shallows getting ready to spawn as soon as the water warms a little more.

This has been a crazy spring, with warm weather in February that made many central Georgia spawn early, then cold weather that stopped everything. Now the shad are starting to spawn and so are the herring, so fishing should be fantastic for a few weeks. I am afraid the water will get hot fast, shorting the time bass are in the shallows this year.

At Blue Ridge David caught a nice three pound largemouth and a two-pound spot, as well as some smaller bass. He also caught a big crappie and a small trout that was either a rainbow or brook trout. Neither of us know enough about trout to be sure which one it was.

We marked ten spots with deep brush and rocks where the bass live and feed in June. The baits to use are very different for June on Blue Ridge than Lay, with the best baits those that you can drag along the bottom 25 to 35 feet deep.

The fishing can be good there, but it is worth a trip just for the scenery. And there are many local points of interest in the area to visit other than the lake.

Either lake would be a good weekend trip for a fisherman and family. But traffic to Blue Ridge is awful since you have to go through downtown Atlanta. It took me 2.5 hours to drive up but over three to get home.

Downtown traffic was not bad that morning since I got through town before 6:30 AM but southbound traffic on I-75 and I-575 was already backed up by 6:30. And coming home it was bumper to bumper at less than 20 miles per hour from the junction of I-85 and 75 on the north side of town all the way to I-285 on the south side. And I saw four wrecks in that area.

If you go to Blue Ridge, plan your trip to avoid rush hours. I do not see how people stay sane driving in that mess daily to go to work!