Black Shoals Bass and Crappie On The Banks
An early spring meant a lot of fish bedded early, but they'll still be shallow and easy to catch all month.
April is one of the best months of the year for Georgia anglers. All over the state fish of all species are feeling the urge to spawn and head to the banks. And the bass of Black Shoals are no exception. Black Shoals Lake, in Rockdale County, is a picturesque spot. This 650-acre water-supply reservoir is clear and beautiful, set in a wooded surrounding and dotted with standing timber on the upper end. It just looks fishy.
David Pinner, of Loganville, is a Black Shoals regular who has been fishing the lake for about 10 years. David and his father Jody fish both the Southern Jonboat Anglers and the High Voltage Bass Anglers trails, and Black Shoals is one of the frequent tournament spots for both clubs.
I went fishing with David in mid March to see what the lake had to offer.
“Black Shoals can be tough to fish,” said David. “The lake is clear, and there is so much cover it can be hard to pinpoint where the bass are.”
That’s why David likes fishing the lake in March and April. The bass head to the shallows to spawn, and this is the best time during the year to find large numbers of good-sized bass.
I met David at the entrance to the park at about 6:30 on a weekday morning. The gate was still locked, and anglers were already lining up to get in. Since gasoline motors are not allowed on the lake, all of the boats in the line were small jonboats with electric motors. David’s boat is set up to fish the jonboat trails and is equipped with three motors (two on the stern for thrust and one on the bow for steering). Add to that the seven batteries he uses for power and it is quite an impressive rig.
The park at the lake is well equipped with a pavilion and a nice ramp and dock area. There is even boat storage on site.
Leaving the ramp, we headed down the lake toward the dam. The 16-foot boat moved along quickly under the power of the three trolling motors. We turned in to the first major creek on the left and headed toward the back.
“There is a good bedding area at the back of this creek,” said David. “While the bass might not be back there yet, the warmer-than-usual winter has water temps already around 60 degrees. They should be moving in, and there is a submerged bridge in the channel about halfway back.”
David said the bridge often holds fish, and it is a good staging area as the bass move in and out of the spawning flats.
David said structure is a key to being successful on Black Shoals. With all of the cover in the lake, every log looks like it is probably holding bass.
“Most people spend their time beating the banks,” said David. “And while you can pick up a few bass that way, your boat is passing over the best fishing spots.”
David relies on his electronics and looks for changes in bottom structure—rocks and stumps—as targets. Isolated cover, when you can find it, is your best bet.
As we approached the middle of the creek, David handed me a spinning rod with a white Trick Worm, and he pulled out a heavy casting outfit with a multi-wire contraption tied on to the end.
“I have just recently started fishing the A-rig (Alabama rig),” said David. “It is a small version of an umbrella rig, and it can be really effective when the bite is tough.”
The rig consists of stiff wires, connected at a center point, each with a short leader and swivel. There are five arms on the rig, and each is equipped with a jig. David uses 1/8-oz. jig heads with a natural-shad color soft plastic swim bait threaded on to the hook. The 1/8-oz. heads cause the bait to run around 10 feet deep on a steady retrieve. He will increase the jig weight in depths of 15 feet or more. David fishes the rig on 50- to 65-lb. test braided line on casting tackle with a stout rod.
“You need a hefty rod to throw that much weight,” said David. “And the cast is more of a lob motion.”
When fishing the rig over a point or structure, David looks for the level the fish are suspended on the graph and counts the bait down to just above that level. He then begins a steady retrieve back to the boat. David finds the steady retrieve to work best. When he has used a start and stop action, the jigs tend to tangle with each other.
We fished the area near the submerged bridge and picked up a couple of bass right away.
We moved farther into the creek to scout for spawning bass. It was a little early but worth the try. Unfortunately, the water at the back of the creek was stained from recent rains and made it tough to see much below the surface of the water. As we cruised through the area of the flats, I stuck with the Trick Worm and David switched to a buzzbait.
“I always fan cast an area while searching for beds,” said David. “Often you can pick up cruising fish, so I like to keep something in the water.”
When David spots a bed, he tries to set up with the sun and wind at his back if possible. This gives him maximum visibility, and it is tougher for the bass to see him. His favorite bait is a 3/8-oz. football-style jig with a white soft plastic crawfish.
“The football jig causes the craw to stand up in the bed and appear to be eating eggs,” said David. “I like to use white, because it is easy for me to see it in the bed.”
David pitches the bait beyond the bed and hops it in carefully to keep from spooking the bass. If the bass runs off right away, he leaves the area and comes back later. If the fish is aggressive and sticks close to or in the bed, he wiggles the rod tip gently to shake the bait. Often that will trigger a strike. David fishes the jig on spinning gear spooled with 10-lb. test fluorocarbon line. He believes line visibility is a major factor when fishing beds. If the fish are especially spooky, he’ll drop down to 8-lb. test and even switch to a finesse bait like a Trick Worm or fluke with no weight.
“If it is windy, it can be difficult to keep the light bait in the bed, but sometimes it’s the only way you can get a spooky bass to bite,” said David.
At times David will tip the craw or worm with chartreuse or red for a little extra attraction.
David prefers to fish deeper beds. Although they can be hard to see, they get less pressure.
“The beds in 1 to 2 feet of water get hammered,” said David. “They generally have smaller fish. I have better luck with beds as deep as 7 or 8 feet.”
Since we couldn’t see beds in the back of the cove, we backed out and fished secondary points for transitioning bass. David prefers windy conditions, because wind creates chop and generates current. This agitates baitfish and can cause the bass to start feeding.
He uses mid-range crankbaits like a Strike King Sexy Shad Series 5 or 5 XD fished on 10-lb. test fluorocarbon. He said color doesn’t matter as much as the proper presentation.
“The key with a crankbait is for it to be hitting something. Bump stumps or rocks or plow along the bottom,” said David. “If you don’t feel anything on the retrieve, then you don’t have the proper setup.”
Using a deeper-diving bait or dropping down to 8-lb. test line can help get the bait down. David also uses a 3/8-oz. spinnerbait with double willowleaf blades over the points. He sometimes adds a twin-tail grub threaded on the hook. He always adds a trailer hook for short strikes. David makes long casts over the point and burns the bait back to the boat with a steady retrieve.
A Texas-rigged worm or a Carolina-rigged lizard are also excellent choices when the bite slows down. Danny uses watermelon seed or scuppernong color combinations on the worm or fluke. Natural greens work best on Black Shoals. He will keep a junebug handy for stained water conditions, but the greens are his go-to colors. Danny uses 5/0 wide gap Gamakatsu hooks on his soft plastics.
David splits his time on Black Shoals between the area we fished near the ramp and down the lake near the dam. The lower end of the lake is generally more clear and deeper than the section near the ramp.
We ventured to the lower end on our trip. It can take a while on the electric motors, but it was worth it. We found some fish on the beds in the clear water. Even though it was mid March, the bedding activity had already started, which isn’t a surprise with the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve had this year. Oh by the way, if you decide to go down to the dam from the ramp, make sure you have more than two batteries aboard or you might not make it back. Just to tempt you, David said there is a major run off to the right of the dam that always holds a bunch of fish right after a heavy rain, so it can be worth the trip.
So you might want to consider heading out to Black Shoals this month. Even though the bedding activity started early this year, there are sure to be bass bedding around the full moon on April 6. Look for the deep beds, and you might land a trophy.
Use David’s techniques, and you are likely to have success. The A-rig is an excellent choice. It caught fish the day we were out when nothing else would. We even had a double on it.
Black Shoals Park opens at 7 a.m., but get there early because it gets busy at the ramp and can take a while to launch your boat. Admission fees are $1 for Rockdale County residents and $5 for everyone else. Boat launch fees are $1 for residents and $5 for non-residents.
Check out the Black Shoals section of the Rockdale County website at <www.rockdalecounty.org/main.cfm?id=3363>.
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