Altamaha River Bass In The Trees

Layton Anderson has a pretty simple approach to March bass fishing on his favorite river, but’s it’s worked for years.

Craig James | February 28, 2021

Looking out my front window as I begin working on this story, it’s raining… again. If there has ever been this much early spring rain in Georgia, I’m either too young to know about it, or old enough that I’ve forgotten about it. Bottom line is it’s made for some tough fishing, and I’m ready for the hot dry months of summer.

March has long been one of the best months for bass fishing in Georgia, and rain or no rain, you can bet Layton Anderson will be on the Altamaha River trying to catch a limit.

Layton lives over in Hortense, not far from the river, and fishes the river every chance he gets. He fishes numerous tournaments on the river every year and has had great success, particularly in the early spring months. I’ve wanted to line up a GON story with Layton for a few years now, and this month it finally came together.

Layton Anderson, of Hortense, with a nice collection of Altamaha River bass caught shallow in the trees in February.

We met up at the Altamaha Regional Park not far from Brunswick for a quick trip one Wednesday morning after Layton got out of prison… just a joke. Layton works at the federal correctional facility and often quips that if he’s not in prison he’s fishing.

The morning of our trip the 34-degree air temperature bit through my jacket as Layton throttled down on his 150-hp Mercury and brought his Triton up on plane. After one of the coldest 10 minute rides of my life, Layton slowed down and eased to the mouth of an oxbow and dropped his trolling motor.

“I caught them really good out here a few days ago. The fish were out here in the mouth of this lake, stacked up on this tree. I’m hoping they will still be here, but with river fish, you just never know,” said Layton.

Layton slowly began working a Texas-rigged junebug-colored worm down the bank approximately 20 yards from where he had previously located the fish. Carefully and methodically he made repeated casts to each piece of cover he came to, slowly shaking his worm as he went.

Layton keeps a simple selection of lures handy in March. His choices include a basic Texas-rigged worm, a topwater bait and a Trick Worm rigged weightless.

“In case you haven’t noticed yet, I like to fish slow. I do my best to try and hit everything from every possible angle, and I believe it can help you pick up fish that other anglers might have missed,” said Layton.

Layton spent the next 15 minutes or so thoroughly picking apart the tree. He made a half-dozen casts or so from each side, working his boat into position to fish it different ways.

“ Not here today, that’s river fishing for you. We will have to go find them somewhere else.”

Layton used his trolling motor to ease into the entrance of the oxbow, carefully squeezing through a small opening between a couple of logs.

“It’s tight back here, any bigger of a boat and we couldn’t squeeze in. This is where smaller aluminum boats really shine. It’s easier to get in for sure, but I love my Triton.”

Fishing our way farther in the lake, Layton keyed in on the shallow side of the narrow oxbow.

“What I’m looking for in early spring when the river is up some is the flooded areas in these lakes. Out in the bushes where the water has pushed up, it’s a foot or 2 deep, and normally it’s going to be a degree or two warmer than the deeper parts of the lake.”

As Layton finished his sentence, he quickly set the hook. Missing the bite, he quickly pitched back to a small sapling sticking out of the water. Before his worm made it to the bottom, a fish slammed the worm creating a 2-foot bow in his line.

“He’s got it this time, I’m gonna give him just a second though.”

After the longest five seconds of my life, Layton drove the hook home. Struggling to pull the fish from the flooded timber, Layton finally was able to pull the fish up next to the boat and I managed to scoop up the chunky 2.5-pounder with the net.

Not a bad way to start the morning with the air temperature still hovering at 35 degrees and the water temperature holding at a chilly 52.

“One thing I can’t stress enough for this kind of fishing is good fluorocarbon line. I made the switch to it a year or so ago, and it has made a tremendous difference for me in my ratio of strikes to catches. Not to mention the abrasion resistance you get with fluorocarbon helps keep your line from getting nicked up in the timber.”

Layton says during March on the river, he throws a plastic worm 90% of the time, opting for either a Zoom Speed Worm Texas Rigged with a 3/0 hook and a 1/4-oz. weight, or a Trick Worm rigged on a 3/0 hook weightless. He fishes both setups on medium-heavy baitcasting gear and prefers a 6- to 7-foot rod for working the tight gaps amongst the trees.

When it comes to color selection, Layton says dark colors are hard to beat on the river, with junebug and black being two of his favorites. When fishing a Trick Worm, he says pink and white are two colors that work well.

“It’s all about what the fish want that day. I’ve seen days when a white Trick Worm is the ticket and days when all they will hit is a black one. It doesn’t hurt to change it up, but you don’t have to have 100 different colors in the boat. A good selection of five or six dark colors and three or four lighter colors will cover most every situation on the river,” said Layton.

When it comes to other lure choices, Layton says he will mix in a topwater plug or prop-type bait, but the majority of time he sticks to the soft plastic pattern due to its effectiveness at working through the thicker stuff he likes to fish.

We continued working along the flooded edge of the lake as Layton methodically continued to pick apart visible structure. Making repeated casts from different angles, he would let his worm settle to the bottom and then give it a few shakes. After a couple of seconds, he would shake it again before repeating the process.

“The fluorocarbon really helps get it down quick. A couple of years ago I was goofing around throwing a plastic worm on monofilament in my dad’s pool. It shocked me that the way and speed that I normally fish a worm, it wouldn’t even make it to the bottom of an 8-foot pool. That prompted me to make the switch to fluorocarbon. I know most of us old-time river fishermen came up fishing monofilament, but I would encourage anyone who hasn’t already, give fluorocarbon a try.”

After wrestling a few more fat fish from the thick cover, Layton mentioned that it’s a good idea to always keep your drag set properly and be ready for a big bite.

“I’ve tournament fished the Altamaha with my dad Jimmy Anderson since I was a kid, and I’ve seen some big bags of fish over the years. There are some grown ones in here.”

Layton and his dad Jimmy with a winning bag of tournament fish caught in the springtime on the Altamaha River.

Layton’s best bass ever on the river was an impressive 6-lb. 10-oz. fish, and his best tournament performance with his dad was during a seven-fish limit tournament where the pair weighed in an impressive 31 pounds of fish to take home the first-place check.

After another half hour and a few more fish, we had finally worked our way into the back of the lake. Once we took a few pictures of the fish, we talked some more about Layton’s approach to spring fishing on the Altamaha.

“From the Altamaha Regional Park all the way upriver to the Williamsburg landing, the lakes are going to be loaded with prespawn fish that are hungry and ready to eat. The key is getting out on the water and figuring out where they are that day. If you pick a few lakes apart, you’re bound to run into the fish. Hopefully we will get some warm weather to really fire them up.”

When warmer weather moves in and the water temperature rises above 60 degrees, Layton says the Trick Worm will really shine as bass move up super shallow to spawn. He recommends fishing it slower than slow and paying attention for light bites as fish pick the worm up to move it off their bed.

“The Altamaha is a pretty muddy river. A fish can be bedding in a foot or 2 of water, and many times you can’t see the bed. You just have to work the worm in your mind like every cast is to a bedding fish.”

Layton says that though the river level fluctuates a good bit during the spring, it should stay pretty fishable as long as the Everett City Gauge doesn’t read above 9.5 feet. Once the river rises above that level, it becomes extremely difficult to get out in the woods to where the fish are.

For those interested in making a weekend trip to the Altamaha Regional Park this month, there is camping available on site. For rate or park information, you can call 912.264.2342.

“I’m gonna be fishing every chance I get in March. My son, Brooks, is starting to get really serious about bass fishing, and we plan to do a bunch of it this summer. Heck, he’s getting to where he’s catching more than me these days,” said Layton.

Layton’s son Brooks is coming up the learning curve quick, sometimes catching more bass than his dad.

If you have questions, Layton says he’d be more than happy to answer what he can. To find him on Facebook, look him up under Charles Layton Anderson and shoot him a message.

As for me, well the rain just stopped, and the temperature is on the rise. It’s time to wrap this story up and hook up the boat. Spring is on the way to the Altamaha, and so am I!

God bless and tight lines!

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