April Bass at West Point
with Charlie Williams
April may well be the best month for bass fishing in Georgia/Alabama and West Point may be the best lake in the state to catch bass on this month. The lake has great spawning coves that attract bass to predictable places and some simple patterns will catch them from late March through the end of April.
West Point is a fairly new 25,900 acre Corps of Engineers lake that was filled in 1974. It runs for 35 miles on the Chattahoochee River and has plenty of access points on both sides of the lake. A 14 inch size limit on largemouth helps maintain quality size for them and the increase in spotted bass over the past ten years offers anglers plenty of keeper size fish to eat. There is no size limit on spots (in either state) but there is a ten bass creel limit on them.
Charlie Williams grew up on Maple Creek just upstream of the lake and caught his first bass ever on the riprap while fishing on that creek under the bridge for crappie. He fished for bass with his grandfather and also his best friend and father, Randy “Rock Man” Williams who was a member of the LaGrange Bass Club and helped found the West Georgia Bass Club with Rickey Childs.
Living so close to the lake gave Charlie a chance to spend a lot of time on it. He started fishing tournaments on the lake with his dad when he was 12 years old. Charlie now works for Toyota dealership in Columbus and at State Line Marine on some of his days off. At State Line he gets to talk with lots of bass fishermen and that, along with all his fishing friends and contacts, helps him keep up with what is going on at West Point every day.
Charlie fished the BFL and other trails until two children blessed his marriage and he has slowed down fishing tournaments the past few years. He still fishes with West Georgia Bass Club and in some BFLs and pot tournaments on West Point. And many afternoons he hits the lake for a few hours after work.
“Don’t even fool with the first half of creeks this time of year,” Charlie said. By late March most West Point bass have moved back into the creeks and are looking for bedding areas. Charlie will run and gun, hitting a lot of places back in creeks and covering water. He says too many bass will hit to fool around in one area trying to make them bite.
When the bass go on the bed Charlie will do some sight fishing but water is often stained and it is hard to spot them. Many times a better plan is to run a Rat-L-Trap across gravel where the fish spawn then follow it up with a Carolina rigged lizard. This will get bites from fish that are spawning too deep to see.
The one exception to fishing back in creeks is the shad spawn. Charlie says it will start when the water hits 68 degrees, usually around the second weekend in April. A full moon around that time helps. When the shad spawn is on there will be 15 to 20 minutes of fast and furious action right at daylight if you are in the right spot.
For fishing this month Charlie will have several baits rigged. For pre-spawn fish he likes a pearl with red eye Bandit 200 crankbait. If the water is stained he will go with the same crankbait in spring craw. A chrome and blue half-ounce Trap will be on one rod and he will have a white spinnerbait with two small willowleaf blades ready for the shad spawn.
A Carolina rigged six inch lizard in green pumpkin or black will be rigged on a 30 inch leader and quarter ounce sinker unless the wind is strong, then he will go with a heavier lead. And he keeps a three eights ounce All Terrain Tackle jig and pig ready to flip into any heavy cover. He likes a black and blue jig and trailer in stained water and a Texas craw color in clearer water.
Charlie keys on several kinds of structure and cover this time of year. He especially likes rocks and likes to hit “hidden” riprap and boat ramps. Many creeks and coves have patches of riprap back in them that hold bass now and during the shad spawn, and unused boat ramps built by the Corps but never opened are very good spots to find bass since they have concrete and rocks.
For pre-spawn fish, banks that drop fairly fast are best. Clay banks with some rock on them are good and Charlie will often put his trolling motor on high and hit every little bit of cover back in creeks and coves. He says he doesn’t mess with wood that doesn’t stick above the water, but will run his crankbait by every stick of wood, even small pencil-sized stickups. Thick cover will draw a flip of his jig.
When some fish start spawning Charlie looks for flatter banks in coves and creeks and wants a bottom with gravel on it. If he knows where the gravel is he will run a Trap across it then drag a Carolina rig on it. A Carolina rig is a good way to find gravel and see how far it runs out.
February 27th Charlie and I fished West Point on a bitterly cold, windy day. We even had snow flurries that morning. Yet under almost impossible conditions Charlie caught bass. His best five keepers weighed 15 pounds. The fish were already beginning to move to the outer points on these spots and will they will be much better now. The following ten spots give you a variety of kinds of places to fish right now.
1. N 32 55.705 – W 85 10.327 – R. Sheafer Heard Park sits between the mouth of Maple Creek and the dam. The middle point of the park has riprap around it and is an excellent place to find shad spawning in mid-April. Some bass also hold on it in late March and early April as they move into the pockets on either side to spawn, then feed on it again as they move back to deep water post spawn.
The middle point is the big point upstream going toward Maple Creek past the Corps work area. It has a picnic shelter on it and a boat ramp on the upstream side back in the pocket. Start fishing at one end of the riprap and fish all the way to the other end.
Before the shad spawn and after it fish a crankbait from the rocks out. There is good deep water just off this point so bass feed here, Keep your boat out in 10 to 15 feet of water so you crankbait covers the water down several feet off the rocks.
During the shad spawn get right on the rocks and run your spinnerbait parallel to them as close to the rocks as you can get. Charlie says a few inches make a big difference. If you are more than a few inches from the rocks you are less likely to get bit. Charlie likes a spinnerbait since it has a single hook. He says the action it too fast and short to mess with removing treble hooks.
2. N 32 57.118 – W 85 11.957 – Another good rocky point that holds bass all month but is especially good during the shad spawn is the entrance to Southern Harbor Marina. The riprap on the lighthouse side is especially good and shad spawn here because it is close to deep water. Tournaments constantly restock bass into the area, too. Charlie caught a solid three pound bass here the day we fished.
Start where the riprap starts on the outside of the point and fish around it to about even with the lighthouse on the back side. Charlie says he hardly ever catches bass further down the back side of the rocks. Before and after the shad spawn work the blowdowns near the point on the outside carefully. During the shad spawn the bass will be right on the rocks and you are wasting precious seconds trying to fish the trees when the bass are concentrating on easy meals in inches of water.
Corners of riprap are especially good during the spawn. It seems bass hold right where the rocks make a turn and ambush shad as they come down the rocks to where they change directions. Charlie often sets up right on the corners and makes constant casts to them even if there is not a school of shad passing the corner. If they are coming down the rocks they will be there soon.
3. N 32 58.032 – W 85 11.417 – Run up and across the lake to the cove just downstream of channel marker 16. The woods around this cove were burned not too long ago and it is open under the big pines. This is an excellent example of the type of place Charlie looks for bass during April. Bass will bed in every little pocket in this cove. It is near deep water but is protected and has the flatter gravel banks he likes. He seldom fishes the right bank since it drops off faster.
Run in to the white pea gravel point on the left about two –thirds of the way back. Start throwing a Rat-L-Trap and work around the left side of cove, covering it fairly fast. Run the Trap over all the gravel banks you see. If the water is up or you don’t know where the rocks are, drag a Carolina rigged six inch lizard until you feel the rocks.
When the bass start bedding they will often be on these rocks and will hit the lizard when they won’t chase the Trap. Charlie likes greens like watermelon and green pumpkin in clearer water and black in stained water. Drag it slowly along the rocks and bass will hit it.
If you are catching fish in an area, any time you see brush or thicker cover flip a jig into it. Charlie likes the All Terrain jig in black and blue and will also pitch it to bass he sees that are on the bed. Work it slowly in the cover even if you don’t see a bass holding there. Some big fish have to be tempted to bite this time of year.
4. N 32 58.519– W 85 11.350 – Go in Bird Creek and you will see a big rocky point in the middle where the creek splits. Start on the big rocks on the left side of the point and work to your right. Fish to the right and the bottom will change to gravel. Work out to the next small point.
This is the kind of place where the bass first pull up on in late March and early April. Fish your crankbait here and try to hit ever bit of cover. Bass will hold and feed around rocks and wood so don’t miss anything. Charlie calls this “beating the bank” and it works for bass before the spawn. Shad will spawn on these rocks, too, so watch for them in mid April.
5. N 32 59.019 – W 85 11.355 – Go into the cove just downstream of channel marker 24 and fish all around it. You will see an old unused bathhouse in the woods on the upstream point. This is another good spawning cove and it has lots of little secondary points that are good places to throw Carolina rigs and Traps. The flatter bottom means it is good for spawning fish.
This cove has the flat bottom and sits right off deep water. Bass moving in to spawn don’t have to go too far. It is protected and always has bait in it, too. There are two ditches in the back that show the kind of channel running through it and Charlie says they are good places to see spawning bass. He says bass love this cove.
For spawning fish Charlie does not look for beds on West Point. He says you hardly ever see the saucer shaped bed like you do on some other lakes. He looks for the bass themselves. You can spot them holding by a stick or on dark patches. They may be hard on the bed without you ever seeing the bed and you can catch them.
Watch the fish. If it runs off and does not come right back, move on. If the bass stays close and seems to concentrate on one spot, pitch a bait to that spot and work it in one place. Try a Paca Craw or All Terrain Jig worked right under the fish.
6. N 32 59.223 – W 85 11.160 – Go around the point and into the cove between channel markers 22 and 24 just downstream of Earl Cook. There is an old unused boat ramp back in this cove and it is a good one to fish. You will see the unused bathhouse on your right that was on your left going into hole #5 and there is a white danger pole marker on the upstream point.
Bass hold around the ramp and rocks and feed and the shad will spawn on them, too. Charlie says all ramps like this one that are “off the beaten path” are good places to fish.
Charlie says the Bandit crankbait is his number one weapon this time of year. Work it and a jig on the rocks and ramp itself. If the shad are spawning cast a spinnerbait right up on the rocks. Fish the ramp and rocks at different angles and work it to different depths.
7. N 33 00.097 – W 85 11.320 – Head upstream you will pass black channel marker 27 and a hump on your left at Holiday Campground. The cove just upstream of this maker is a good spawning spot. The point on the upstream side has some picnic tables and you will see a cedar tree right on the edge of the trees about half-way down this bank.
Start fishing on the upstream point near the picnic tables and fish into the cove, working downstream. This is a good spawning pocket and has a flat gravel bottom. Work it with your Trap and Carolina rig to the back. Charlie does not fish the downstream bank of this pocket this time of year.
8. N 33 01.833 – W 85 09.928 – The Highway 109 Bridge is an excellent shad spawning place with lots of riprap to draw them. Shad work both sides of the bridge and the pilings but Charlie usually has his best luck on the upstream side on the left going up.
Watch for the shad on the rocks. You will see a ripple right on the rocks and shad flipping out of the water. Get in close ahead of them as they move along the rocks and work your spinnerbait right on the rocks.
9. N 33 02.245 – W 85 10.064 – Above the Highway 109 Bridge you will see two islands to your left sitting in the mouth of a creek. Channel marker 41 sits downstream of these islands and you want to fish the pocket downstream of the big point at Indian Springs Group Campground straight in from the channel marker. There is a fish attractor buoy off the upstream point.
Start out on the main lake at the point with the picnic tables and buoy and fish downstream into the pocket. Work this pea gravel bank for spawning fish like the others. If the wind is blowing in on this bank and others like it the Trap will often be better than the Carolina rig. Wind does help and makes the fish bite better.
10. N 33 02.571 – W 85 10.252 – Go around the upstream point and between island the island into the small creek. The right bank going in past the island has rock on it and the whole area in the back of the creek is good from late March on. The banks are steeper out past the old roadbed and better in late March and early April. The bottom past the roadbed flattens out and has gravel and is a good spawning area, making it better later in the month. This kind of transition makes a place even better.
Charlie likes all these places and will fish them in tournaments as well as when trying to locate fish. Check them out then use the pattern to find other similar spots and you can catch bass at West Point now.