May Bass at Seminole with Jim Merritt and Brian Key
May is a magical month at Lake Seminole. The grass beds are thick enough that you can see them and fish the edges easily. The weather has stabilized so you can fish the big water. And the big bass have moved into their summer pattern, stacking up in places where you can find and catch them.
Brian Key and Jim Merritt live in Bainbridge and fish team tournaments together. They have had great success on Seminole and May starts their favorite time to fish there. Their patterns and places pay off year after year in tournaments and will work for you.
Jim moved to Bainbridge in 1979 and started fishing Seminole. He guided there for several years and learned the lake’s secrets. Brian lived near him and they got to know each other. Fishing with the Bainbridge Bass Club, they paired up for a 24 hour tournament and found out they compliment each other well in tournaments, so they started fishing team tournaments together.
Brian and Keith fish the R & R Team Trail as well as the Wingate Open and other team tournaments in the area like the Wingate Summer trail. In 1999 they had a string of 3 wins in a row in R & R and other tournaments like the Wingate Open and the Memorial Day tournament, and did it again in 2001. After winning three in a row two years ago they had a poor tournament, then won a fourth that year at Seminole.
Not only are the patterns Jim and Brian fish consistent, they produce big bass. Jim has been in on three catches of 10 bass weighing over 50 pounds in tournaments. In 1990 he brought in 10 weighing 55 lbs. 13ozs. and he and Brian had ten fish weighing 57-3 in 1999 and 55 pounds even in a two day tournament in 2001. Their best one day catch of 5 bass in a tournament weighed 37 pounds and they have won the big fish pot in Wingate’s tournaments three times.
Starting in May there are two basic patterns Jim and Brian fish to win tournaments. Their primary target is grass beds on the river ledges, and they fish them a couple of different ways. They will also fish the standing timber in Spring Creek if the ledges just don’t produce, something that seldom happens.
The best grass beds are the ones that come to a point or have cuts in them and grow right on the ledge, dropping into 20 plus feet of water. Current running across the grass and ledge helps. Jim says you can be sitting on a ledge near the dam and hear the siren go off, warning of water release, and within a few minutes the bass will start biting.
Before sunrise Brian and Jim hit grass points with spinnerbaits and top water. Jim tells a story of how he discovered his favorite spinnerbait. About 15 years ago some guide clients brought some spinnerbaits with big #7 willowleaf blades and he thought they were “tourist” spinnerbaits. When the sun came over the trees the clients had 7 bass to his 2. The next day he was loaded up with spinnerbaits with #7 blades.
Brian and Jim like to get near the grass ledges and keep the boat out in 20 feet of water. They cast the spinnerbaits up over the grass and bring it back to the edge. Bass usually hold right on the edge of the grass. A 1/2 ounce white spinnerbait with a big #7 silver blade and a smaller Colorado blade in either silver or copper is their choice.
While one is working a spinnerbait the other might throw a Baby Torpedo top water plug. If the bass are not real active, they might try a Texas rigged worm with a 3/16 ounce sinker, worked down the edge of the grass. But Jim and Brian and looking for active fish and expect to “get rich” as Brian says, on a ledge with feeding bass.
After the sun gets up they switch to their bread and butter tactic of catching bass. Both will throw a Carolina rigged Hummer Hawg trick style worm in green pumpkin or a lizard in the same color. Hummer Hawg makes lizards and trick style worms using suggestions Brian and Jim have made so they really like their worms.
The Carolina rig has a long leader, five or six feet, but the key is the lead. Brian and Jim make a special 1 1/4 ounce lead that is long and has a pointed end. This lead comes through the grass better and they can pop it free, a technique that seems to turn on the big bass. They fish this rig from 6 inches of water to as deep as it gets.
Jim and Brian use a long 7 foot rod and would like one 8 feet long for more leverage. They found the perfect Carolina rig rod when Davy Hite showed them a Pflueger Trion 7 foot rod while they were fishing together. The rod has plenty of backbone but a light enough tip for the action they want. And best of all, I was able to order one from Berry’s Sporting Goods in Griffin for $44.95 retail. You should be able to get one at a similar price.
They like to team it up with a Pflueger Solar reel and Brian favors the PFLSOLARALP. It has served him well in many tournaments and is affordable. That combination works well for him.
With the Carolina rig Jim and Brian throw the bait up into the grass and drag it to the edge, then pop it free and let it fall. They make long cast and work the bait to edge of the grass, then reel it in for another cast when they don’t fee the grass anymore.
Both Brian and Jim warn to be careful when pulling through the grass. Fish, especially big bass, will grab the bait and hold on without moving. All too often you will pull your lead away from the grass only to realize you pulled your worm away from a fish. Be careful when you feel weight and make sure it is grass, not a bass, before pulling it free.
The fall-back pattern is to go to standing timber and fish it with a Texas rigged worm. They both like a 3/16s ounce sinker and use smoking blue, green pumpkin or grape with red fleck worms. They drop a worm beside every piece of wood and let it fall until a fish hits. The key to fishing the timber is to keep your boat in 20 feet of water and fish the deeper timber.
Hydrilla used to grow in the timber in Spring Creek and you could follow the edge of it. Now, you just fish all the timber since bass might be anywhere. There are no spots marked on the map for fishing timber, if you get into Spring Creek you can’t help but find it, it is everywhere. And all of it can hold bass, you just have to fish a lot of it.
The following 8 holes are all good, and the lake is full of more just like them. Jim and Brian say they found these spots by getting out there and fishing. You can find more by getting on a ledge and following it, fishing all the grass you find until you find hotspots of your own.
Note – the following number channel markers are numbered on the Atlantic Mapping Lake Seminole Map, but not all channel markers have numbers on them on the lake.
1. N 30 47.118 W 84 44.142 – One of Brian and Jim’s “get rich quick” spots is the bend of the river above Wingates near the island on the left side going upstream. Head up the Flint to the island just downstream of the entrance to Ten Mile Still landing. Just off black channel marker 10.2 you will see the end of a log sticking out of the water. Jim and Brian call this “leaning log hole” from that log.
Look for the grassbed in this spot where it comes out to the river ledge and ends. You will be sitting in 20 feet of water in the channel and throwing up on top of the grass. If you are here before sunrise start with topwater and spinnerbaits. Run the spinnerbait out to the edge of the grass and let it fall if they won’t hit it on a steady retrieve. Cast the topwater bait to the edge and work it slowly right on the edge of the grass as long as possible.
2. N 30 46.397 W 84 45.351 – This is the spot where the old ferry used to dock and there is riprap on the edge of the old river channel. Grass grows right to the edge so you have rocks, a drop and grass all together. It is an excellent place to find fish. Look for red channel marker 11.2 and line it up with the little cut on the bank. That cut is the entrance to the slough upstream of Wingates. If you work from the channel marker toward the mouth of the slough you will go right over the old riprap.
Sit in the river channel and work your spinnerbait and topwater along the grass. Follow up with a Carolina rig, but if the current is strong you will get hung in the rocks a lot. You can work a lighter Texas rig along the rocks in the current by casting downstream and working it upstream along them.
3. N 30 45.893 W 84 46.636 – Head down the Flint past Wingates to the green channel marker across from red channel marker 8.8. The green buoy does not have a number on it. If you are heading downstream there is a grass point on the right of that channel marker a little upstream of it where there is an old wash out in the river ledge. You can see it on a map. The edge of that washout has a grass point on it that holds bass.
If the sun is up, use your Carolina rig. If there is current running down the Flint bass will stack up here on the upstream side of the grass point, holding on the edge of it waiting on the current to bring baitfish to them.
Keep your boat out in the channel and cast up into the grass. Let the heavy sinker go to the bottom, falling through the grass fast. It will pull the worm down and then the worm will fall slower after the lead hits bottom. Move the lead along, popping it through the grass when it hangs up. When the lead breaks free of the grass stop and let the worm follow it down right on the grass edge. That is where you are mostly likely to get bit.
4. N 30 45.954 W 84 49.496 – Going downstream, cut behind the line of standing timber near channel marker 7.3 and stay toward the bank to your right. As you pass the islands and can see through to Spring Creek, stop and look for the grass line on your right. You will see a big snag on your left with a osprey nest on it about six feet above the water when you are in the right area.
This is really a triple shot hole. There are three excellent grass points on this grass bed within 1/4 mile. The osprey nest is about even with the middle one. The first is back toward the big island upstream and the last one is downstream near the small island.
Fish each of these grass points with spinnerbait and topwater early, then switch to your Carolina rig. The long leader is important in the grass since you will be throwing up into fairly shallow water. The long leader lets the worm work better further away from the lead. The heavy lead will also stir up mud on the bottom and move grass, attracting the fish.
5. N 30 44.250 W 84 53.133 – Run down to the main lake and go across to the Florida side to the entrance to Sneads Landing. Near the green channel marker just upstream of the first two sets of poles going into Sneads, there is a good grass point on the river ledge on the Georgia side of the channel.
You will be about 150 yards from the poles toward the island on the Georgia side. You can see the shallow river ledge on the map, and grass grows on it to the drop. Fish it early with fast moving baits but slow down after the sun comes up and use the Carolina rig.
6 N 30 44.024 W 84 53.121 – About 100 yards below the poles near the first green marker going downstream, look for a blowout on the river ledge on the Florida side of the channel. If you look upstream, you can make a triangle with the red and green markers and your boat – you want to be sitting at the peak of the triangle downstream of the two markers. The grass will form two points, one on each side of the drop where the current cut away the old ledges. Both points hold bass.
Fish both points on the grass bed, sitting in the channel and casting up onto the ledge. Current here running down the Chattahoochee River will make the bass feed, so listen for the siren at the dam and sick around if you hear it.
7. N 30 43.504 W 84 51.694 – Run down to near the dam on the Georgia side, just downstream of the Chattahoochee Park swimming area. There is a long sand ridge running parallel to the river and bank, about 150 yards off the bank. There are two cuts through this ridge where the bass stack up.
The first one is out from the second dock on the bank. If you get straight out from this dock and ease along, you will see a dip in the sand ridge where a little channel cuts through it. There are grass points on both sides of the cut, and bass hold on both of them. Fish them just like the other grass beds.
8. N 30 43.079 W 84 51.591 – Ease down the ridge toward the Coast Guard station. Watch the radio tower behind the station and line it up with the first building if you are going toward the dam. On this line is a hole that is a borrow pit made when they were building the dam. It is right on the sand ridge and grass grows on both sides of it, too.
You will see the bottom drop from 12 feet on top of the ridge to 22 feet in the pit. Fish the grass on both ends of the ridge where it drops off. Here as in other places look for something a little different in the grass that the bass key on. A small point, a cut or a sudden drop in the grass will hold the fish and you should concentrate your casts to that spot.
On the outside of the pit toward the channel there is an old road used in construction leading out of the pit. It forms a ridge on the channel side, and will have grass on it, too. Fish it as well as the points of grass on the bank side.
These 8 holes are just a few of the spots on the river and creek ledges that hold bass in May at Seminole. And if you get tired of running the ridges, go to the timber in Spring creek for a different kind of fishing. All of the timber and ridges may harbor a 10 bass, 50 plus pound catch for you like it does for Jim and Brian. Use their methods on spots you find for a fantastic catch of May bass at Seminole.
Jim and Brian sell their Carolina rig 1 1/4 ounce sinkers for 25 cents each plus shipping. Call them at 229-246-6046 or 229-254-3884 to order some.