Bartletts Ferry Bass On The Winter Rocks

Focus on sunny-day rock for good bass fishing this month at Bartletts Ferry.

Ronnie Garrison | December 20, 2017

What should a bass fisherman do on a cold January day? A good choice is go to a lake with lots of rock, a lake like Lake Bartletts Ferry, where an angler can expect to catch spots and largemouth. Rocks attract bass in cold water, especially when the sun shines on them, and bass you find around shallow rocks are usually there to feed. Some wood cover around those rocks, makes them even better.

Bartletts Ferry, also known as Lake Harding, is a small 5,850-acre reservoir on the Chattahoochee River just north of Columbus. Bartletts Ferry is a great lake for winter fishing. The main river has bluff rock banks and points, and the major creeks do, too. Back in the creeks the water is more stable, and it is much easier to fish the creeks if it is a windy day.

Jason Mitja grew up in Phenix City, Ala. and began fishing at a young age with his father and grandfather. When he was old enough, his father took him to some tournaments, and Jason enjoyed the tournament atmosphere and competition. He got his first bass boat when he was 18 and started fishing even more, entering local tournaments as well as fishing a lot on area lakes, learning how to catch bass. Bartletts Ferry was the closest lake to him, and Jason has fished it often since a young age.

In 2009, Jason entered Auburn University and joined the fishing team. Being on that team made a huge impact on his fishing. Working with and sharing information with teammates like brothers Jordan and Matt Lee helped Jason develop his skills, and he learned a lot about bass habits and how to catch fish.

Jason still lives in Phenix City and fishes with the Southern Bass Anglers club. He also fishes the Ram Truck Weekend Series and as many local pot and buddy tournament as possible.

Jason Mitja with two Bartletts Ferry bass caught during a trip with the author last month to make a map with 10 wintertime locations for quality bass. A few days later, Jason won a two-day tourney on Bartletts Ferry with more than 27 pounds of bass.

Last year, Jason teamed with David Lowery, and they won the prestigious Georgia State Championship on West Point Lake.

“There are a lot of quality 3- to 4-lb. largemouth in Bartletts Ferry,” Jason said.

Those are the fish he targets in tournaments. Bartletts Ferry also has some quality spotted bass, and many fishermen go after keeper spots, but that is typically not the way to win a tournament on Bartletts Ferry.

In January, Jason keeps it simple. He fishes a jig that he makes himself, and he pairs it with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog trailer. He’ll also throw a ChatterBait and a crankbait. He will throw a shaky head if desperate for a bite, but that is a last resort.

“Any chunk rock is good,” Jason said.

The best rock for January fishing will have deep water nearby, and some wood cover on it really helps. Structure is key this time of year on Bartletts Ferry. A dock on a rocky bank, a brushpile or blowdown on a rocky point, rip-rap, or a chunk-rock bank with stumps dropping off into the channel are the kinds of places Jason targets in January.

Jason took me out in December while practicing for a two-day club tournament on Bartletts Ferry. During our trip, he landed three largemouth that would have weighed about 10 pounds from the following places, even though he was not really trying to catch bass while pre-fishing the tourney. Jason then won the tournament that weekend, catching 17 pounds on Saturday and 10 pounds on Sunday. The bass were already holding on these places, and they will be even better by the time you’re getting this January magazine.

No. 1: N 32º 39.644 – W 85º 05.904 — Bartletts Ferry had been about 6 feet low a week before we went but had come up more than a foot fairly quickly. Still, the only ramp with enough water was Po Boys right at the dam on the Alabama side of the lake. We put in there, idled past the coffer dam on the right going out of that creek, and stopped on the downstream point of it.

Jason said he goes around this point with its chunk rock, fishing a crankbait like a No. 7 Shad Rap then fish a jig ’n pig on it.

As Jason talked, he pitched his jig to some brush sticking out of the water on the coffer dam side of the point. He turned to say something, and then quickly turned back and set the hook on a largemouth that would go better than 3 1/2 pounds.

You can see this brush if the lake is more than 3 feet low. This spot is the perfect combination of January conditions—brush on chunk rock with deep water close to it.

Fish around the point, and work down the bank toward the big dam to the next point. There are chunk rocks all along this bank and on the next point, too. Be sure to hit any brush with your jig.

No. 2: N 32º 39.579 – W 85º 05.259 — Run across the face of the big dam, staying outside of the danger markers, to the Georgia side. There is a causeway where water goes to the turbines, and current is often present, making it much better. The point on the dam side is best. Current comes around this point, and bass set up on it to feed. However, both sides hold fish.

Keep your boat in the causeway, and cast across the point, working your Shad Rap or ChatterBait with the current. Also fish a jig on this point and on down the side of it toward the buoy line that blocks the channel. Jason will also fish the point on the other side of the channel before leaving.

No. 3: N 32º 40.095 – W 85º 05.640 — Just upstream of the dam, past the upstream point of the creek with Po Boys landing in it, there are some islands on you left that run parallel to the river channel. The last one downstream is a small island, and the downstream tip of it drops off then comes back up on a hump. There are rocks on this hump, and bass feed on it.

Keep your boat out in 20-plus feet of water, and cast from the river side across the point. The hump tops out about 8 feet deep at full pool, so with the water down 5 feet, it is only about 3 feet deep. Hit the rocks with your crankbait, and fish a ChatterBait just over the top of them. Then work a jig through the rocks.

No. 4: N 32º 41.361 – W 85º 08.859 — Run all the way to the first bridge in Halawakee Creek, or put in at the ramp there if the water is up enough to use the ramp. Go out to the bridge, and fish the rip-rap. Think of rip-rap as a big stretch of chunk rock on a long point that drops into the deepest water in the area. This rip-rap is even better because there are some brushpiles here.

Jason likes the left point and upstream left side (if you are going upstream.) He starts by getting his Skeeter about 15 feet off the bank and casting a crankbait right to the edge of the rocks. Work it back at an angle to the boat. Also fish a ChatterBait the same way, keeping it just over the rocks.

Pitch a jig to any brush you see in the water. Some bushes have been cut and are in the water, and there is a big brushpile just off the rocks on this side. Keep your boat out farther from the rocks. Cast a jig to the edge of the rocks, and work it back down them all the way to the boat.

No. 5: N 32º 41.737 – W 85º 09.776 — Go up Halawakee Creek past the small island on your right. You will see some condos back in a cove with a small creek going in to the left of them. Go into this creek to the no-wake buoy, and fish the left bank into the creek. There are several docks on this bank—the second one has a mercury vapor light on a tall pole, to help you know you’re in the right stretch.

These docks are on a steep bank, and there is some chunk rock on it. There is also a good bit of brush around the docks. Fish from the first dock past the third one with a ChatterBait, running it from the bank—especially under the docks—back out to about 10 feet deep. Jason got a nice 3-lb. largemouth here when we fished.

Jason likes a white-and-chartreuse ChatterBait, and he puts a white 3.5-inch Suicide Shad swimbait on it. If he is getting bites but not hooking the fish, he will take the skirt off the ChatterBait and fish it with just the Suicide Shad.

No. 6: N 32º 41.298 – W 85º 10.339 — Running up Halawakee Creek there is an old railroad bridge over the creek where it narrows way down. On the downstream right side, two blowdowns lay in the water. Start close to the bank on that side, and fish the blowdowns. Then work the rip-rap. I caught a keeper spot here when we fished.

Jason will run a ChatterBait or Shad Rap through trees that have sparse enough limbs, but he likes to pitch a jig in the blowdowns. Let it fall to the bottom with your line over a limb, and let it lie there for several seconds. He will then tighten up his line and raise the jig off the bottom a couple of inches and jiggle it there. Then he will pull it over the limb and let if fall until his line is over another and repeat the process.

No. 7: N 32º 42.052 – W 85º 10.532 — Just a short distance upstream of the railroad bridge, a small creek enters on the left. In the middle of it near the mouth is a rocky island. This is a good big-bass hole, and Jason told of several big largemouth caught here. During our quick stop here, he caught a good 2-lb. largemouth, not the big one he wanted, but a good fish.

Stop in front of the island, and fish the outside of it with all three of your baits. Then work all the way around this island, hitting all the wood cover on it. The outside is best, but fish will feed all the way around it. There are also some blowdowns on the next small island, but they are on a clay bottom, not rocks, so not quite as good.

No. 8: N 32º 41.023 – W 85º 11.066 — Farther up Halawakee Creek is another bridge that has some good rip-rap on the left side. The right side has a big mud flat running out to the channel, so stay to the left as you go to it. Start on the downstream side, and fish the rocks as you go under the bridge.

Upstream of the bridge, the left bank is an outside creek bend with rocks, and it drops off fast. Jason will continue up this bank, fishing crankbait and ChatterBait until the water gets shallow. He will also pitch a jig to any wood cover. There are stumps and some brush in the water around these rocks.

No. 9: N 32º 42.923 – W 85º 07.786 — It’s a long run up the river to Osanippi Creek to these last two holes, but it is usually well worth the run. When you head into Osanippi Creek, be careful and follow the channel, especially if the water is down. You can follow the outside bends by watching the steeper banks, but go slowly until you learn it.

As you round a bend and see the bridge ahead of you, there is a small island to the left of the channel downstream of the bridge. The creek channel comes under the bridge and hits the left side of this island and turns in front of it. On either side of the channel, about in the middle of the island, old bridge pilings top out about 8 feet deep at full pool, so be very careful when the lake is low.

Coming upstream, Jason stops even with the right end of this island with his boat in the channel. He casts to the piling on the island side, running a crankbait across it and a ChatterBait over it. He then casts a jig to come up one side, across the top and down the other side.

Jason makes his own jigs and puts a brown skirt with a 4-inch green-pumpkin Fighting Frog on it in clear water but goes to a black-and-blue skirt with a hematoma color Fighting Frog in stained water. He fishes his jigs on an Impulse Fishing Rods 7-foot, 3-inch heavy-moderate rod.

The other piling is straight across the channel toward the bridge, and he fishes it the same way. If it is your first time fishing here, you need to find the exact location of the pilings. Side imaging helps to locate them without getting right on top of them. We caught some small keepers here.

No. 10: N 39º 42.944 – W 85º 07.881 — The bridge upstream of hole 9 is well protected on a windy day, and the rocks on the upstream right side on the right warm from the sun all day, so it is very good in cold water. Jason will fish all three of his baits here. He will fish all the rip-rap on the right side, and then fish the left bluff side.

Jason with a solid 3-pounder caught at hole No. 10 on a ChatterBait.

Although he seldom uses a shaky head, Jason says it will catch fish on all these spots. If the fishing is really tough, he will put a Big Bite 6-inch finesse worm on a 3/16-oz. head and fish it slowly in the rocks, shaking it often.

All these spots had fish on them in early December and will hold bass all winter. Plan a January trip to catch spots and largemouth now.

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