April Allatoona Bass With The Dead Sea Mafia
This month you can put the hit on huge numbers of spotted bass.
There’s a new family on Lake Allatoona, and I’m not talking about the Johnsons from Cincinnati who just bought that cottage in Yacht Club Cove. This family is more like the one on the Sopranos, but without the track suits, pinky rings and certainly without the penchant for hurting people.
Putting the hurt on Allatoona bass, now that’s another matter.
The Dead Sea Mafia, a growing group that boasts more than 250 anglers, is the name of an organization that works hard to improve fish habitat on Lake Allatoona and provides daily reports on its website. In early March, I was going to Galt’s Ferry to meet the family’s two sons, Tim Adams of Powder Springs and Matt Driver of Hiram, a pair of bass anglers who frequent Allatoona and were going to share some of their secrets for catching spotted bass in April.
As I walked down the gangway to the dock at the Galt’s ramp, I wondered if I should worry about wearing concrete slippers, but I knew we were there to whack some Allatoona spots, and the morning was looking nice as I loaded my rods into the boat.
Matt and Tim were already making short casts to the rip-rap bank by the boat ramp at 6:30 that morning. Matt was throwing a small worm on a jig head, and Tim was following up with a crankbait. Matt had scarcely moved the boat down the bank with the trolling motor when he swung his rod tip and the drag on his spinning reel zipped quickly as the hook at the end of his line scraped free of the fish’s soft bite.
“My grandmother fishes better than that,” Tim laughed as Matt reeled up the slack and prepared for another shot at the fish.
“Throw that crankbait up there in that brushpile,” Matt said, pointing at the huge cluster of Christmas trees that at full pool will be several feet underwater.
Tim, who used to be a Douglasville police officer, now runs Buck’s Pawn Shop in Villa Rica. He carries as much fishing and hunting gear as he can, and he explains that his goal is to serve anglers and hunters the things they are craving without trying to compete with Wal-Mart.
“We carry baits that you can’t buy many places,” Tim explained. “We carry JDC Baits, and we’re going to have lots of products from Gambler baits like a soft-bodied Pop-R type plug that you can skip up under docks.”
Matt, an Atlanta firefighter, met Tim through tournament fishing. Both guys fish BFL and Bassmasters events. Tim has qualified for the BFL regional once, and Matt has qualified four times. Between the two, I knew I was going to gather plenty of knowledge about Allatoona, Georgia’s top lake when it comes to numbers of keeper fish caught per angler per hour of fishing effort.
Tim flung the crankbait a few times to no avail before we cranked the big motor and made the short run to our first “official” fishing spot, a nice ambush point where the strungtire wave break at a marina came to a corner with a rocky bank.
“Places like this are great because the baitfish get stacked up in this corner, and the spots just sit here and feed like crazy,” Tim said. “A lot of times, this is the first place I’ll come in a tournament.”
The water was glass slick, not conducive for attracting a crankbait bite, but with daylight still coming on, Tim stayed with it while Matt threw the jighead worm and I flung a small greenpumpkin jig toward the rocks on the bank. The pair began outlining what will work this month on Allatoona.
“What you do in March, you can still be successful with in April because bass will spawn in stages, with some fish in prespawn, some in the middle of spawning, and some already postspawn,” Tim explained.
What works for Tim and Matt this time of year is two-pronged approach — lures that draw reaction strikes, such as crankbaits, jerkbaits, flukes and spinnerbaits, combined with slowing things down with worms and jigs. All of the baits work on Allatoona, but when they work is largely dependent on what the weather throws at you on a particular day. The day we fished, the wind was non-existent, meaning we spent all morning throwing worms and jigs, hopping them slowly along the bottom of the lake and drawing lots of mushy-feeling strikes during the course of six hours on the water.
Tim hopes for wind when he fishes.
“The wind is your friend on Allatoona. Because of the way the lake is laid out geographically, it typically blows the same way most of the year so it’s easier to figure out,” Tim said.
When Tim and Matt fish Allatoona in April, they will be targeting fish that have pulled up shallow to spawn. While they will occasionally target largemouths, which can be caught in a teaspoon of water this time of year, they concentrate on spotted bass, which bed in 10 to 12 feet of water.
Matt outlined the type of water to look for when fishing for spots this time of year on Lake Allatoona. While we concentrated on main-lake areas because water temperatures were less-than-optimal for the type of angling we wanted to do, Matt says spots will be farther back in the creeks and pockets this month.
“What you want to look for is shallow points with deep water nearby,” Matt said. “Fish will bed there, and then they’ll move out a little deeper, basically to rest and feed.”
Points with a hard bottom or sand are the best, and Matt said the more brush and stumps there are on a point the better. Because there isn’t much wood cover on Allatoona, what is there acts as a magnet for bass, offering a good place to ambush meals.
On these types of places, Matt and Tim will start the day throwing crankbaits, like a Bandit 200 Series or a Rat-L-Trap. Both men like crankbaits with square bills because they wiggle through brush a little easier. Colors can vary depending on water clarity, but Matt says any bait with chartreuse or purple, or even a combination of the two, are good bets on Allatoona.
If the bass aren’t keen on taking a fast-moving crankbait, it’s jerkbait time. As I tied on a purple-ghost colored Rapala X-Rap, Tim said, “Oh yeah, that’s a good choice.”
Matt advises anglers to fish the jerkbait with the typical jerk-jerk-pause retrieve, but he provided a helpful hint for drawing more strikes. Matt said that by pointing the rod tip straight at the bait when you pause, the bait will stop suddenly, often triggering a spot to smash the plug.
I felt good about the prospect of snatching a fat spotted bass as we worked our way down a stretch of bank. Tim said he and Matt have lots of success on Allatoona with an X-Rap, and the pair will throw them or Lucky Craft Pointer jerkbaits regularly this time of year. The pair also relies on soft-plastic jerkbaits such as a Zoom Super Fluke to pick off marauding spots.
“If you get on a fluke bite in one of these pockets, it’s fun. Sometimes a bass will chase a Fluke all the way across a pocket to get it,” Tim said.
The crankbait bite was dead, the jerkbait bite was dead, and it was back to the worms and jigs. Over and over, all three of us got bites from spotted bass, but the strikes weren’t the kind of sledgehammer thumps you can expect when water temperatures warm up. Instead, they were delicate little ticks, barely perceptible, and if Skip Caray was sitting on the bank with his microphone, he could have said “a swing and a miss,” enough times to fill up the broadcast of a Braves’ twi-night double header.
Matt and Tim had me on fish from the time I stepped on the boat, yet getting one to hook up was looking less likely as we all missed opportunities to catch one. Finally the fishing gods took pity on us, and the wind — mercifully — began to blow. As we worked our way down one of Allatoona’s countless bluff walls, Matt drilled a jig-head worm through the lip of a small spot, and the hex was broken.
While Matt and Tim will be focusing on spawning and staging areas in April, Allatoona’s bluff-wall bite is a go-to pattern for them all year long, and Tim says the vertical banks shouldn’t be ignored.
“The bluff-wall bite can be good any time, and if you can’t get fish on another pattern, it’s a good way to put a few in the boat,” Tim said.
Before long we cranked up and headed up to Clear Creek for a look at what the Dead Sea Mafia is doing to help fishing at Lake Allatoona. We passed the shoal markers at the mouth of the creek and motored a few hundred yards farther down the bank when Matt pointed to a downed pine tree on the left bank.
“We have been out here cutting trees with DNR to help provide better habitat for the bass,” Tim explained. “This is our way to give something back to the fishery.”
When trees on the bank begin to get too tall and rain washes soil from around the roots, they get too top heavy, so DNR works with the Dead Sea Mafia to cut the trees, which are then cabled to the stump so they don’t get washed into the lake. There are 60 such trees marked to be cut in Clear Creek and a total of 200 on the lake. As time goes on, more trees will be cut, providing better cover for bass.
“This is the first time in years that any structure has been added in this lake except for ‘pirate’ brushpiles that were placed without DNR’s approval,” Tim said. “Though spotted bass are the thing in Allatoona, we do have largemouths, and these trees will create a flipping bite that hasn’t really existed before.”
Matt said the tree-cutting operation is safer than letting the trees fall, and the project is overseen by experts from DNR.
“They pick trees they want cut, and we help them,” Matt said. “They have somebody oversee it, and we do it completely safely, with safety goggles, helmets, chaps and everything.”
Matt took me back to Galt’s Ferry, and he and Tim kept fishing for a couple more hours. The day was warming up considerably, and the sudden presence of wind had the boys ready to see if the fish weren’t feeding better. They kept my camera in the boat to take a photo of the nicer spot they knew they were going to hook in the afternoon, and when I arrived at my normal job at the golf course near Matt’s house, his boat was sitting in front of the clubhouse, and he was standing there with my camera in his hand.
“About an hour after you left, Tim caught a 4-pounder,” Matt said. “That wind helped out, and we actually caught a couple more spots.”
Despite the fact that anglers have for years referred to Allatoona as The Dead Sea, bass fishing there is anything but slow most days.
“It’s like any other lake, and the best guy on Allatoona can still go get skunked,” Matt said. “But 30- to 50-fish days aren’t unheard of, and this is the time of year to catch tons of fish.”
When you head to Allatoona, Matt and Tim will likely be on the water, trolling motor down, fishing fast and putting baits in front of as many fish as possible. When you see a little round decal with a bass holding a Tommy gun, you’ll know there are members of the Dead Sea Mafia in the area. If you come across them, don’t sweat it, because this helpful, family-oriented bunch wants everybody to know their lake is a jam-up place to fish, and they are working to make it better.
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