Lake Oconee Fishing Report – January 2020

GON Staff | December 29, 2019

Oconee: Level: Full pool. Temp: Mid to high 40s up the rivers. In the far backs of pockets and on the main lake, it’s in the low 50s at best. Clarity: Up the lake is muddy, and this will slowly move down the lake.

Updated Jan. 13: Bass: Tournament angler Karl Pingry reports, “Water temps have gone up with the rain and warm weather. January 1 had water temps by the dam of 53-54. On Jan. 12, the same area water temps were 58, and the pockets with incoming water that get the afternoon sun were even warmer! The lake is mud red from Highway 44 north with stain working its way down the lake. Richland is muddy up the creek and stained by the time you get to Armor Bridge boat ramp.  

Bass: Tournament angler Karl Pingry reports, “Flat cranks and a Shad Rap on rocks and wood, a ChatterBait, slow-rolled spinnerbait (bright blades in stained water, gold and silver in clear water) are your go-to moving baits. Slow down with a Carolina-rigged Trick Worm or centipede worm. Shaky-head worms, drop-shot worms and jigs worked slowly on docks, in blowdowns and brush will be the key to the next couple of months. Two patterns to keep in mind: 1) Concentrate on wind-protected pockets that might be a degree or two warmer. 2) Fish the windier pockets and banks that get a lot of sun when there has been a few warm days in a row. Working a jigging spoon for stripers, hybrids and largemouth from Great Waters to the dam and up part of Richland Creek is another pattern if you are patient enough to search for bait and fish on your electronics before dropping.”

Crappie: Guide Al Bassett reports, “Crappie fishing is currently fair as the fish are on the move. Trolling with Jiffy Jigs tipped with live minnows is your best bet. This is the time of year to catch some big fish. You may not catch numbers but good size. Areas that are good and will only get better are in Lick Creek, the mouth of Sugar Creek and Dyar Pasture. This will last for the month as the fish get ready to spawn. If we have a few warm days in a row, look for these fish to move into shallow water. This is the time of year to catch your big fish as these fish will move shallow first.” Capt. Doug Nelms reports, “I love pushing for big crappie in January. My setup is 16-foot Todd Huckabee Rods, 8-lb. fluoro and Jiffy Jigs. Red sexy bug, Doug bug, black/blue, black and pank, pank and pank. (That’s for Mr. JC). I tip them with minnows and move ever so slowly over the deeper river channels on the north end of the lake. I also spend a lot of time in Lick Creek this month, as it seems like this is the first place the bigger fish will make their move. Some great advice is to fish on the big moons. The full and new moons just make these fish go crazy. This time of year we also get a lot of rain, and the old timers had an axiom about fishing after a rain of an inch or more. They said it would take three days for the fish to turn back on, and for everything I have seen they were right, unless the moon is full. Our crappie will bite in a monsoon on a full moon pattern. I feel like the best days fishing in January will be Jan. 7-13 and Jan. 20-26. If you see fish in deep water, as in 15 to 20 feet, don’t be afraid to drop your lines down to them. You will find a lot of fish in river channels this time of year, but don’t be surprised either if after a few warm, sunny days, you find them in 6 feet of water. I think our crappie move a lot more than they get credit for. If you start your day marking fish and catching a lot, then they disappear from your Humminbird, it simply means they have left. You got to pull up and go look for them.”

Linesides: Capt. Doug Nelms reports, “Right now we are beating the stripers up just about every trip. The nastier the weather is, the better they like it, and so far this early winter we have had some huge numbered catches, more than I have seen in some time. In a GON report back during the summer, I mentioned that I had seen a great number of stripers and hybrids schooling all over our lake, and if that continued, we could look forward to an awesome winter bite. Well, it happened, and I am just giddy about our striper fishing right now. Right now the seagulls are showing us where the fish are feeding. Most of the guides are putting our boats in at Lick Creek and heading down the lake searching for birds. Those gulls can show up anywhere. Last week an angler caught his limit in just a couple hours fishing within casting distance from the Old Phoenix Road Bridge. They can be in open water all the way down to the dam, and they can be tucked back in a small cove that you have never caught a fish in. If you find them in a cove, don’t let your excitement overpower your wisdom and rush in there on top of them. I always find that on more than one occasion I have been sneaking up on the birds with my big Yamaha running and look down and my Humminbird would already be full of fish. Too late. When I see them in a cove, I drop my Ulterra, grab my 7 1/2-foot GLoomis spinning rod that has been spooled with 20-lb. braided line and throw a Sassy Shad or an A-rig as far as I can.  I try to start on the outside of the school picking them off. Then when the bite slows down, I will fish a jigging spoon and start working the water column. I do keep live bass shiners on my boat during this time of the year, and I use them only if it appears the fish aren’t active. In my humble opinion, you can load the boat a lot faster throwing artificial lures than live bait. Try a 3-inch Sassy Shad on a 1/8-oz. or bigger DOA Head (short shank) or a Mini Mac Umbrella Rig. For spoons, I use a 7/8-oz. War Eagle. All of these can be found at Sugar Creek Marina. The areas you want to focus on are anywhere you find a flat, hard bottom with no trees. Mainly it will be where the bait has no place to hide, and they can school them up and freely attack them. Areas like Great Waters, the Pipeline, the confluence of Richland Creek and Oconee River, Double Branches, the big flat area just upstream of the Rock House, River Bend and sometimes just north of Highway 44 are all great places. Again, watch for the birds. If you see them sitting on the water, and not flying, be sure to come back there and check it out. I promise you there is a big school of bait not far from where they’re resting, and they will be back up at it soon. This bite will continue throughout the month into February and March, until the stripers make their way to spawn up the river and at the dam.”

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