June Prescription To Catch Black Shoals Bass

Small-lake bass anglers Randy Dover and Scott Edwards provide a summer bass-catching tour of this Rockdale County reservoir.

Mark Lozynski | June 17, 2006

Black Shoals is relatively young but already has a reputation for producing big bass. The four biggest bass that Scott Edwards (left) and Randy Dover caught at Black Shoals ranged from 2 to 4 pounds.

The lightning on the horizon leaving the area brought a big sigh of relief. Each bolt illuminated the dark, ominous clouds that were moving rapidly toward the east. Although the severe weather that pelted the area had just passed, rain was still in the forecast. These were the conditions that greeted Randy Dover, Scott Edwards and me for a day of bass fishing on Black Shoals Reservoir in Rockdale County. It goes without saying that being out in the middle of a 650-acre electric- motor-only, water-supply reservoir during a thunderstorm is a helpless feeling.

After confirming the rain gear was in the boat, we launched at daybreak. Randy owns a G-3 1652 jonboat that is tournament ready. He and Scott follow the High Voltage Bass Anglers jonboat trail and always seem to qualify for the season ending, top-five fish-off. Both anglers have fished Black Shoals since it opened in May of 2000 and have done quite well in tournaments held there. The bass fishing can be excellent in June, and Randy and Scott were going to give me a preview.

Our first stop was directly across from the ramp.

“This is one of the few flats found on the lake,” explained Randy. “Compared to the other lakes we fish, Black Shoals is a lot deeper and has fast tapering banks. You can be beating the banks and the boat can be sitting in 30 feet of water. You won’t find many areas with a constant depth.”

“A roadbed also runs through this flat,” added Scott, as he pointed to some partially submerged road signs that flank the roadbed. “The roadbed acts as a travel corridor or migration route. The bass will use the roadbed to access this flat.”

With the cloud cover and water temperatures in the lower 70s, both anglers opted for topwater baits. Scott began making long casts with a 1/4-oz.double-bladed buzzbait with silver blades and a white skirt.

“You can use a single-bladed model,” he said. “The two blades allow for a slower retrieve and create twice the commotion.”

Randy was fan-casting a white- pearl colored Zoom Super Fluke, working it fast so it darted along the surface. Randy was showing me his Fluke rig when Scott had a blowup on his buzzbait, but the fish failed to hook up. Randy quickly fired his Fluke to the large boil left by the fish that attacked Scott’ s buzzbait. He let the Fluke sink before he started working it. After a couple of twitches, his rod loaded up and, with a sweeping hook set, the fight was on. While Randy was fighting the fish, he stressed the importance of having a follow up bait ready.

“When fishing topwater baits, it’s wise to have a Zoom Fluke, Trick Worm or Z-Nail ready to throw at a fish that fails to take a surface lure. Most of the time you can catch those fish that won’t commit. Just cast in the vicinity of the missed strike and often the bass will take the bait on the fall.”

After several leaps and strong surges, Randy lipped the scrappy 3-lb. Black Shoals bass. When fishing areas void of cover, Randy likes to nose hook his Flukes. The hook is inserted about 1/4-inch into the front or nose of the bait. Thread the hook until the bait is in the center of the bend in the hook. This rigging technique will leave the hook exposed and increase your odds of good solid hook sets. Randy throws a Fluke on spinning tackle and 8- to 10-lb test with a barrel swivel about a foot above a 3/0 hook.

After 20 minutes of fishing the flat with no more takers, the small-lake specialists decided it was time to move. As we started working our way down the lake (to the right), I asked Randy and Scott how they would fish Black Shoals in June.

“We would do exactly what we’re doing now,” Scott said. “Early in the morning or during cloudy conditions, we try to cover as much water as possible with buzzbaits and Flukes before the sun gets above the trees. Once the sun gets high in the sky, we’ll do some point hopping with deep-diving crankbaits or Carolina rigs. Believe it or not, some of these fish should already be getting on a summer pattern.”

As we worked along a stretch of cover-laden shoreline it was Scott’ s turn. As his buzzbait cleared a sub- merged log it disappeared in a spray of water.

“These fish are strong,” Scott said as he fought another Black Shoals 3-pounder.

As we rounded the next point, we entered a creek arm that cuts back to the left and is several hundred yards long.

“This creek is a great place to fish in June,” said Randy.

Once you pass the first point on the left, the lake flattens out and offers a slow-tapering bottom. If you choose to bang the banks in this creek, concentrate your efforts on the left side as you work your way in. As you can see, the bank is lined with wood cover plus the creek channel runs parallel to the bank.”

Because of the thick shoreline cover, Randy and Scott decided to slow down and fish the cover thoroughly. Scott picked up a rod rigged with a blue-pearl hologram Z-Nail rigged wacky style on a weedless hook. Randy opted for a 3/16-oz. Booyah Baby Boo Jig with a black-and-blue skirt tipped with a green-pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk Jr. After about five casts with the Z-Nail, Scott noticed his line moving toward the boat. Reeling fast to take up the slack in his line, he set the hook as soon as he felt tension. As Scott lipped the fat 2-lb. bass he turned to Randy and said, “That was fun, you ought to try it.”

It wasn’t long before Randy had his shot at redemption. Casting to a fallen tree, he felt a thump as his jig settled into the entanglement. With a hard hook set, and reeling fast to pull the fish out of the cover, Randy’s rod doubled as the fish peeled drag and headed for deeper water. After several strong runs, the bass finally surfaced as it tried to throw the jig. After another surge, Randy knelt down and lipped the 4-lb. plus bass. As he put the fish in the livewell for pictures later, he asked Scott about the statement he made after his last fish. Scott humbly smiled and shook his head.

After about an hour and two more keeper fish, not to mention a brief downpour that sent us scrambling for our rain gear, Randy told Scott to turn the motors on.

Our next stop was the point on the left at the mouth of the creek we just fished. Randy kept the boat about 50 yards off the bank.

“Some of these points run out really long and deep,” he explained. “I think a lot of small-water anglers are intimidated by the deep water they find at Black Shoals. In June the water is usually gin clear and the water temperature starts to heat up. The bass will go deep to avoid sunlight and seek more comfortable water temperatures.”

Once the sun is on the water, a deep-diving crankbait on main-lake points is a good bet at Black Shoals.

After positioning the boat, Scott began throwing a Norman’ s DD22 and Randy heaved a Carolina rig. Scott uses a 7-foot medium-action fiber- glass rod paired with a baitcasting reel with a 4.3:1 gear ratio spooled with 10- lb. test.

“With a fiberglass rod you get a better hook set and the limber rod really helps when fighting the fish. A low- ratio reel allows you to get that big crankbait down. You can crawl your bait along the bottom, almost like you’re fishing a Texas-rigged worm.”

Randy and Scott both stressed that if you throw crankbaits at Black Shoals you’d better invest in a lure retriever.

Randy’s Carolina-rig rod consisted of a 7-foot medium-heavy graphite rod with a baitcasting reel spooled with 14-lb. test. He likes a 1/2-oz. weight to get the bait down quickly, and on the business end of a 1-1/2 foot leader, he rigs a Zoom green-pumpkin lizard.

“I’ve been experimenting with fish attractants,” Randy said. “I’ m convinced the fish will hold the bait longer. That’ s a plus because Black Shoals has a lot of gnarly cover and bites are sometimes hard to detect.”

“In June when fishing the points, you need to pay attention to the wind,” Scott instructed. “These small lakes have no traditional form of current. They don’t have the current created by the turbines of a power generation plant. Wind-generated current will have a major impact on bass location. A slight breeze can cause the bass to stack up on the points. We try to cast into the wind. It gives your bait a more natural look, moving with the current, not against it.”

These experts recommend fishing as many points as possible, targeting any form of cover you can find, be it wood or rock. Use deep-diving crankbaits as search baits. Once you find fish, slow down and fish the point with slow-moving baits. If the fish stop biting, try changing colors or leave for a while and try the point again later.

After spending 30 minutes on the point without a strike, my guides for the day decided to move. We crossed the lake and entered a large cove full of standing and submerged timber.

“By the time June rolls around the shad have spawned,” Randy explained. “Although bass school year-round, they really make their presence known in early summer. This pocket is a great place to catch schoolers. Black Shoals is full of shad. Since shad are plankton feeders, they’re guided by the rise and fall of their forage base, which tends to be geared by the sun. That’s why you see a lot of schooling action on bright sunny days.”

When the duo is in the middle of a feeding frenzy, they choose Flukes as their No. 1 bait. If the bass won’t take the bait off the surface, they’ll try a Lucky Craft Pointer 100.

“A Sworming Hornet Fish Head Spin also works well,” Scott said. “When the bass sound, you can count it down and still catch fish.”

As the sun peeked through the clouds, both anglers tried to take advantage of any remaining topwater action. After an hour of working the outside edge of the trees with no success, Randy weaved the boat through the trees, and they began fishing the inside edge. Randy was throwing his trusty Fluke and Scott began walking a Lucky Craft Sammy across the surface. Scott throws topwater baits, including buzzbaits, on a 6 1/2-foot medium- heavy action graphite rod paired with a baitcasting reel spooled with 14-lb. test.

This 2-pounder hit a Zoom Z-Nail rigged wacky-style and fished in thick shoreline cover.

Scott made a long cast past an iso- lated tree. As he worked the Sammy past the tree his cadence was interrupted by a violent strike. The fish made one surge for the tree, but Scott was able to turn it. Soon he was lipping a fat 2-lb. bass. After fishing for about 100 yards, Randy gave up on the Fluke and started throwing a buzzbait. On his third cast, it was his turn to do battle with a scrappy Black Shoals four-pounder.

In the back of the cove, there is a point that splits the cove into two smaller pockets. Randy and Scott each caught a fish off this secondary point. Randy fooled his fish with a crankbait, and Scott connected using a Carolina- rigged Zoom Brush Hog.

“A lot of pockets on Black Shoals have ditches that run through them.” Randy said. “While in the back of a cove, start zig-zagging while watching your depthfinder. You can usually find them. Once you find a ditch, try to follow it out to deeper water. These ditch- es are usually lined with stumps and rocks and hold fish in June.”

After working the small pockets in the back of the cove with no success, the jonboat experts decided to call it a day. Unfortunately, we only fished a small portion of the lake, concentrating mainly on the mid-lake section during our seven-hour trip. As Scott and I waited on Randy to get the truck, I asked Scott for some tips for fishing near the dam.

“If you go all the way to the dam, there’s a large cove to the right.” he said. “It’s about as big as the cove we just left. It also has a point that forms two smaller pockets in the back of it. In the left pocket, on the left bank, almost to the rear of the pocket, there is a creek that enters the lake. Some people call it the waterfall because it runs down a large granite outcropping before dumping into the lake.”

He was quick to point out that the bite at the “waterfall hole” was erratic.

“The best fishing generally occurs a day or two after a heavy rain. The increased volume in water flow gets the food chain going. The shad move in to feed, and then the shad draw in the bass.”

Scott recommends that you make long casts with Pointers, Flukes or Rat- L-Traps and work your way in. The fish may be holding at the seven- to eight-foot range or they could be right on the bank. The waterfall hole is a long way from the boat ramp, but you can enjoy some of the best fishing Black Shoals has to offer.

To get to Black Shoals, take I-20 to exit 82 (Hwy 138). Go north to Sigman Road and turn left, then turn right and take Hwy 20 north. Go 5.3 miles and turn right on Bethel Road, then make a left on Black Shoals Road. The park is closed on Wednesdays. During daylight saving time, the hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The remainder of the year the hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. All boats must be out of the water 30 minutes prior to closing. Gasoline motors are prohibited on the lake. Fees and other details can be obtained by calling Black Shoals Park at
(770) 761-1611.

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