Fishing Small Waters On Your Hunt Club

Explore the waters on your hunt club.

Capt. Bert Deener | October 29, 2010

The author with a 3-lb. bass that engulfed a small Rapala minnow flung under an overhanging limb. The fish dove under a tree but came back out.

Ever been bored around hunt camp in between deer hunts? Do naps, TV, talking (lying) and eating typically fill the time void? Chances are there is another good option right on your hunt club, fishing. If you want to be the hero of your club, bring back some fish to go with your venison steaks and have a surf-and-turf supper.

Many hunt clubs are blessed with some type of water, be it a river, pond or creek. Bryan Rogers, of Dublin, has been bragging about the small-stream fishing on his hunt club for a couple years, and I finally had a chance to go with him early this fall. I have a passion for small-stream fishing that developed when I was growing up in Maryland and wading tiny, rocky creeks near our house.

Because of my experience with little water, I was not surprised when Bryan boasted he caught fish on his first 16 casts the last time he went to his Laurens County honey-hole. Anticipation was high as we bounced down the trail on his Polaris.

“Glad you remembered your snake boots,” he said. “I see canebrakes around here pretty often.”

When we arrived at his magical spot, a slow-flowing channel no wider than a cast, Bryan tied on a small white Beetle Spin. I rigged one of my hand-tied pink Okefenokee Swamp Sally flies under a float on my ultralight spinning outfit. I pinched a small (B-sized) split-shot about 6 inches above the fly.

“Here we go, a fish on every cast,” Bryan quipped as he wound up for his first fling.

His reel messed up, and his lure slammed into the mud beside him, so no fish on the first cast. Of course, I had way more dignity than to giggle or question whether he had ever fished before. However, on the second, third, fourth, and about every second or third cast thereafter, the routine was flip the lure out to the other bank, reel it about halfway and WHAM, a panfish would load up his ultralight spincasting outfit.

My fly was just as effective, and even more so after Bryan caught all the active fish out of the pool. I would cast the fly out and let it sit a second or two and then give it a short twitch to make the fly dance upward before fluttering down again. From this small pool, we caught bluegills, redbreast sunfish, longear sunfish, chain pickerel and a largemouth bass, about 25 fish in all. Fish were still biting when Bryan said he wanted to show me a few more pools downstream.

Bryan Rogers, of Dublin, with a big, sassy longear sunfish that whacked his small Beetle Spin.

The next area was about 1 1/2 casts wide. On Bryan’s first cast, a chain pickerel (jackfish) slammed his Beetle Spin and leapt several times trying to free itself, to no avail. After snapping photos of the 15-incher, we eased it back into the creek. We caught several redbreasts and bluegills in the main run by working each little opening on the bank. A couple dozen more fish out of three or four small openings, and we arrived at a deep pool with slower-moving water and a blowdown tree right in the middle.

Recognizing the potential for a bigger fish in the pool, I switched to a tiny Rapala minnow on an ultralight spinning outfit. Several quality redbreasts slammed the fake minnow in the current, and Bryan caught a few nice redbreasts on his Beetle Spin, as well. One of Bryan’s redbreasts was the biggest of the day — a 9-incher — that made his line sing as it cut back and forth through the water. I got daring and flung a cast to shade under some overhanging limbs. My minnow disappeared in a big swirl. The ultralight strained and drag screamed as the big fish surged to deep water.

“Bryan, I think I have a bass,” I excitedly shouted just before the fish rocketed skyward.

The bass, as bass typically do, headed straight for the blowdown a dozen yards from its ambush point. As it pulled, I was doubtful my 6-lb. test monofilament would hold this one. It dove underneath the main trunk but did not wrap up in it. I was able to put just enough pressure to bring it back out. After a few more runs and jumps, I was able to lip the 3-pounder, share a few high-fives with Bryan, take a couple photos, and slip her back into the pool to fight another day.

“Just like the good ol’ days growing up fishing small streams… but southern-style,” I mused.

With dark approaching, we had to head out, but our tally was almost 50 panfish, a couple pickerel and a memorable bass in only a couple hours of fishing. This scenario can play itself out all across our great state, but most folks simply do not think about fishing the small waters right in front of them.

“I’ve been fishing this creek for years,” Bryan shared. “Decades ago some of the older folks fished our small streams, but the younger generation has almost totally overlooked our fantastic small-stream fishing.”

Take a look around your hunt club for water you may have been overlooking for years. The gear needed is very simple, relatively inexpensive and will provide a fun afternoon diversion. If the understory is fairly open or you have a mean roll-cast, fly equipment is fun for panfish and other small stream dwellers. Ultralight gear is Bryan’s and my favorite for fishing small streams, as even panfish will challenge you, and your fishing prowess will be tested if you hook a nice fish.

Bryan prefers spincasting gear, and a 4 1/2-foot Pflueger 4410 outfit is perfect. That model comes in a regular spincasting or underspin model, as well. I use spinning gear, with my best combination being a 5 1/2-foot light action Pflueger Medalist combo for bass and ultralight options for panfish.

I spool all my small-stream outfits with 6-lb. test Vicious Ultimate Monofilament. You can use 4-lb. test if you want to cast farther, but you will break off a bunch when you snag your lure on copious limbs (both in and out of the water). Often, the heavier line will bend the hook before breaking, and your lure will pop free, thus preventing a lost lure.

Your lure assortment can be as complex as you want to make it for a creek fishing trip. These recommended lures are the bare minimum, and you can add other options to suit your taste. You definitely want to have some small Beetle Spins — white/red dot, and black/yellow stripes being time-proven fish catchers. Bryan’s favorite lure is the 1/32-oz. white/red dot version, and he used it exclusively during our trip. A floating Rapala minnow in the smallest size you can find is a must-have if you want to try for the biggest fish in the stream. Black back/white sides and chartreuse back/white sides have produced the most fish for me over the years, but a black back/silver foil sides fooled the big bass on this latest trip. An in-line Mepps spinner in a tiny size (00 or 0 work great) is another great lure for small waters. For me, silver blades have worked best in clear streams, while gold blades have produced in blackwater systems. You might want to snip one of the hooks from the treble to help with hook removal. It is really aggravating trying to remove the hook when a bluegill inhales the treble and all three hooks ring its mouth.

Finally, a small fly called an Okefenokee Swamp Sally in pink (the best color on the day Bryan and I fished), yellow or catalpa (black/chartreuse) fished under a small float will trigger strikes from fish that are not actively feeding. The flies are available at tackle stores around the Okefenokee Swamp or by calling (912) 287-1604. Load up an assortment of these lures into a small Plano box, and you can carry what you need in your pocket.

Several other items will improve the effectiveness, comfort and safety of your trip. Polarized sunglasses are a must. My open-water green Tifosi polarized Fototec lenses knock out the glare and help me spot underwater cover, such as rocks and limbs. Once I get familiar with the creek, I can also determine relative depth by changes in water color. Bug spray is a must, as creek bottoms are prime places for mosquitoes, flies of all colors, and other little nasties that like to bite you. Snake boots are another must when walking a creek bank. Here in south Georgia, you never know when a venomous snake may be coiled under a palmetto. Invest in a good pair of snake boots or chaps if you are going to tromp around creeks.

If the water on your club is a farm pond or a dammed area of a creek (either man-made or beaver-made), then think more toward species such as largemouth bass, chain pickerel or bluegill that prefer slack water. The main change is to upsize your equipment to medium-light or medium-action tackle. If there is a bunch of cover, you may want to upgrade to 8-lb. test line.

While the lures previously discussed will work well for panfish or smaller bass, you may want to target the larger bass in pond-like areas. To do so, you cannot go wrong with a No. 7 or No. 9 floating Rapala minnow (black back/white sides) for a surface bite or a 4-inch plastic worm for bottom-bouncing. My most productive setup for ponds throughout the years has been a 4-inch Bass Assassin curly tailed worm Texas-rigged with a 1/8- or 1/16-oz. weight and a 2/0 offset shank worm hook. Three of the top producing worm colors are junebug, red shad and pumpkinseed. Fished on a 6-foot medium action outfit, either of these lures is hard to beat for bass. Even a small beaverpond or farm pond that has been ignored can produce large bass.

This fall do not just stroll past that little creek on the corner of your hunt club. Fish it for a couple of hours one afternoon. You might be surprised what you have been overlooking all these years.

Species you can catch in small, warm-water streams

Statewide: Redbreast sunfish (except northwest Georgia), bluegill, largemouth bass, warmouth and spotted sunfish.

North Georgia: Redeye bass, spotted bass, chubs and rock bass.

Southwest Georgia: Shoal bass, Suwannee bass (Ochlockonee and Withlacoochee rivers) and shadow bass.

Southeast Georgia: Flier (mostly blackwater systems)

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