Batson On Catching Lake Jackson Bass In April

Aaron Batson is dynamite at Lake Jackson. This month he's heading up the South River to fish for largemouths that haven't seen a lure all winter.

Brad Gill | April 27, 2006

My first trip to Lake Jackson was in April of 2000. I was filming tournament pro Eric Perkins and GON editor Daryl Kirby for GON-TV. Right off the bat Eric caught a 4-lb. largemouth on a Bang-O-Lure.

The bite never stopped. All day bass hit Flukes, spinnerbaits, worms, jigs, whatever hit the water. It was a day that sticks vividly in my mind as one of the better reservoir days I’d ever seen. From that day on, I was sold that Lake Jackson in April can be fabulous.

I made a trip to Jackson last month with lake-pro Aaron Batson. Aaron is from Covington and has been competitively fishing Jackson for about six years. He and his partner, Denver Mullinax, have received enough first-place checks from Berry’s nighttime pot tournaments that Aaron paid off his Javelin bass boat in only two years.

To catch Jackson bass in April, Aaron Batson said to throw spinnerbaits, jigs and even a shallow-running crankbait around shallow wood cover. Aaron caught this fish on a cold day in March 2005.

Their winning ways continue beyond night tournaments — they were the 2003 Dixie Bass anglers of the year and the runner-up team for Berry’s 2004 traveling trail. This year, they are ranked in the top five in both Berrys and R&R. Also, he and Denver are ranked in the top percentage in GON’s Team Power Rankings (see page 102).

Knowing Aaron’s past success on the lake, I was excited to hear his tournament plan for April. We left Berry’s Boat Dock and headed down the lake to the South River. The temperature was a raw 40 degrees, and we were fishing one day after a pretty big rain event. I was a little pessimistic about a fish actually wanting to bite on such a dreary day, but Aaron was confident we’d get into at least a few fish.

As we went into the South River, Aaron pointed to several areas of steep, isolated rocks on the main river run. These rocky bluffs would be the ticket for what would turn out to be a decent day of cold-weather bass fishing. As we rounded the second curve in South River there was a boat stuck on a sandbar.

“The lake’s been down about four feet all winter,” said Aaron.”

I contacted Georgia Power on March 21. The lake was on its way back up and was expected to be full by April 1.

“All winter the fish hold in those deep holes (in the river), and people aren’t fishing for them because they’re scared to come up here since it’s so shallow.” said Aaron. “The fish aren’t beat up. People have been throwing crankbaits on the rocks down the lake all winter.”

As the water temperature gets steady in the mid to upper 50s, the bass will move out of these deep holes in the river and load up on stumps, blowdowns and docks in the pockets. Aaron expects that by the time you’re reading this the fish should be congregated around the mouths of the pockets. If they’re not, and the water temperature is right, work toward the backs until you find fish.

Aaron recommends several baits to entice prespawn bass into biting. One of his favorite April lures is a 1/4-oz. Ol Nellie spinnerbait with either a chartreuse/white, chartreuse/red or chartreuse/blue skirt.

“I like those colors because you have bass that are feeding on bream. There’s very few shad in the lake, so those colors are better than all white with silver blades. I like to mimic those little bluegill.”

Aaron uses double gold Colorado blades because generally Jackson stays dirty or stained. These big, gold blades produce thump and flash. He said to throw down both sides of the wood cover and then move in and pitch a jig at it before moving on back.

Be careful when running up toward the rivers at Lake Jackson when the water is down…

A Little TT crankbait, a shallow-diving plug made by Tennessee Tuffy, is another bait Aaron likes to throw.

“Cranking in April is different, but that’s what I like to throw,” said Aaron. “It only dives down a foot or so. It’s got a wide wobble. When the water gets back up, it’s perfect to pull around the trees. I usually slow it down, and you’ll see the fish come up and roll on it.”

Aaron said that between April 10-20 expect to find fish on the bed. Because of the dingy water color, Aaron’s approach to bed fishing is a little different.

“Jackson is a hard lake to sight fish,” said Aaron. “That stained water sometimes makes the fishing better. The fish seem a little less spooky than if it were gin clear.”

Aaron targets stumps for bedded bass, and he said sometimes you’ll just see a little swirl or a movement that indicates a bedded fish. He throws a seven-inch, chartreuse Senko to spawning females. Aaron believes the bigger bait will either aggravate or intimidate fish into biting.

For bedded fish Aaron likes a seven-inch Senko fished wacky style with a 1/0 hook.

“Those bigger fish that I try to target are going to eat those bigger baits,” said Aaron.

Aaron was fishing a Jackson tournament last year and found a good fish on the bed. He didn’t have a big Senko in the boat. After an hour of fishing with a small tube bait, Aaron gave up. She never bit. Later that afternoon Aaron decided to fish Berry’s night tournament. This time he had the Senkos on board.

“I rolled down there and pitched that big Senko in there, and she bit — it was a 6-pounder, and we won the tournament,” said Aaron.

Aaron uses a 1/0 Owner Mosquito hook and rigs the Senko wacky style through the middle of the bait.

“I get better hookups this way,” said Aaron. “I used to fish a 5/0 Gamakatsu extra-wide-gap hook Texas rigged, but it’s so much plastic to drive through, and you miss a lot of bites. With that wacky rig, you don’t have to set the hook hard when she picks it up. You just put steady pressure on it, and it hooks her in the side of mouth in that tough skin. They hardly ever pull off.”

Aaron also keeps the standard white tubes in the boat. He likes the Strike King baits in pearl or white with black flakes. He also likes six-inch Tora Tubes in bright colors.

“The color isn’t for the fish, it’s for you to keep your eye on,” said Aaron. “If you pitched a watermelon in there, she’d bite it. You can’t see it. She’s not going to bite it and run 10 feet off the bed with it. She’s going to suck it in an blow it out. You better be watching.”

Chunking a spinnerbait can make a bedded bass bite, especially at Jackson where bass are super defensive against small bream and crappie.

“They’ll pounce on a spinnerbait because they’re defending off bream,” said Aaron. “Watch a bed after the fry hatch out. There will be some bream attacking that bed, and the bass will be there on them.”

When the bass pull off the beds, expect the postspawn bite to begin.

“They’re going to stay shallow until early May,” said Aaron. “I throw a floating worm about 70 percent of the time.

Twitch it close to surface, and then let it fall. Just work it back out. Fish are going to be real aggressive by that time. My favorite floating worm color on Jackson is yellow.”

Aaron said a Spook Jr. and a Bang-O-Lure are also good baits.

These giant hybrids were an added bonus on the author’s trip with Aaron Batson last month. Aaron caught both fish, and they hit a small, bream-colored crankbait in the South River. Weighed at Berry’s Boat Dock, the combined weight was 23 1/2 pounds. The bigger fish weighed 11.93 pounds. The lake record for Jackson hybrids is just over 15 pounds.

For the next six weeks Aaron will stay in the South and Yellow river areas. He says the fish have not been pressured over the winter and most of your bites will come from largemouths and not spotted bass.

In the South River, just above the Hwy 36 bridge, there’s an oxbow on your left with lots of docks, and Aaron says you can easily spend two hours fishing in there.

Just above the Hwy 36 bridge is an old steel bridge. When you cross under that bridge, the next three oxbow lakes on your left are real good. The mouths of these lakes can be exceptional because of some exposed gum trees. The fish will pull up and hold around these trees to spawn.

“Usually the mouth of those oxbows are where you’re going to get them,” said Aaron. “A lot of times you got that current coming down through there, and it’ll eddy in the mouths of those sloughs, and the fish will hold.”

Aaron fishes the Yellow River, too. You’ll find three oxbows before you get to the steel bridge — one on the right and two on the left. These oxbows have a lot stumps, which makes them a good place to look for bedding fish.

Staying near the mouth of the South River, we managed seven keeper bass in just three hours of fishing. We wanted to go up the rivers to explore around these oxbows, but the water was still four feet low, and we didn’t want to risk losing a prop. My thinking is that if Aaron didn’t want to make the run, these fish probably haven’t seen a lure all winter. It should be prime right now as the water returns to full and hungry fish pull up shallow.

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