Black Shoals Drop-Shot Bass

When the water temperature drops into the 50s, David Ruark and Chris York drop a drop-shot rig onto stacked-up bass.

Brad Bailey | April 26, 2006

When it comes to fishing Black Shoals reservoir, David Ruark and Chris York are fishing fanatics. David, who lives in Crawford and works for Weyerhaeuser, and Chris, who lives in Griffin and works for Progressive Insurance, fish together on the High Voltage jonboat bass tournament trail. Their specialty is bass fishing on several of the high-quality small lakes in the Atlanta area including Black Shoals, Varner, Horton and Stone Mountain. Black Shoals, located north of Conyers in Rockdale County, has been good to them. They have been in the money in four of the last five tournaments at the lake. On August 28, they finished first with five bass that weighed 18.39 pounds anchored by a 5 1/2-lb. largemouth that won big-fish, a prize they took in three of the five tournaments at Black Shoals.

Much of the year if you find David and Chris fishing at Black Shoals, they will be throwing jigs. But in the fall, once deer season winds down, and water temps drops into the 50s, their main-event for wintertime bass fishing will be drop-shotting the points for the lake’s fat bass.

On November 5, I was on the lake with David and Chris for a preview of their favorite wintertime pattern. With the water temperature hovering about 70 degrees, we were well ahead of the winter pattern, and to put a fish in the boat, David and Chris started fishing jigs.

“There is almost always some kind of jig bite at Black Shoals,” said Chris. “When we are fishing a tournament we will throw a jig because it is a big-bass bait. We will catch fewer fish, but on average, they will be better fish. It is a big, bulky bait. A big bass might let a worm go by, but it won’t let a big jig go by.”

From the ramp, we cranked all three trolling motors to go straight down the lake to the north side of the point that separates the two arms of the lake. David’s boat is a 16-foot jonboat that he finished out with a casting deck and live well. The boat is rigged for jon-boat lakes with a pair of 107-lb. thrust trolling motors on the back and a 71-lb. thrust motor on the front. The tandem of motors on the back move the boat from one point to the next, the front motor is the fishing motor. The boat sits a little low in the water under the weight of eight batteries under the casting deck. Black Shoals covers 650 acres, and you can burn a lot of batteries, thus the backup-battery system.

On a fast-dropping bank, David started with a green jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom chunk, and Chris followed with black-and-blue jig.

“We usually fish a 3/8-oz. Renegade jig,” said Chris. “You can get them at Walmart for 99 cents. The hooks don’t last too long, but there is so much to get hung up on in this lake — we have lost 10 or 15 jigs in a day.”

Chris spools up with 15-lb. test line. David opts for 10-lb. line in clear water and 17-lb. in dingy water.

“You like the heavier line because we lose a lot of fish on the hook set,” he said.

About an hour into the morning David was working a jig around a tree standing above the surface.

“On this lake you are always fishing a lot more than what you can see,” he said, as he pulled the jig through a tangle of limbs in about 15 feet of water. “There is a cedar tree next to that tree that is usually a good place. We call this our 5-lb. tree because we have caught several five-pounders from it.”

A couple of casts later, he set the hook on a fish that bowed his rod over. “He thumped it pretty good,” said David, as he pulled the fish out of the cover. After several strong runs, Chris netted a short, thick bass that weighed about 4 1⁄2 pounds.

“This lake is full of of bass in the 3- to 5-lb. range,” said David. “If we don’t get at least one 5-lb. fish, we have had a bad day.”

By the time this article comes out, fishing at Black Shoals will be moving toward the winter pattern

According to David, when the water temperature drops into the 50s, Black Shoals ranks No. 1 for wintertime bass fishing.

“When the water temperature drops, the shad will move out to deeper water on the points and the bass will follow them,” he said. “We ride the points to find balls of shad, and then fish either a drop-shot rig or a spoon to catch them. We always concentrate on the points, moving from point to point to find bait. Most of the time you will find the fish in about 25 feet of water, but they can be as shallow as 10-feet deep, or occasionally as deep as 35 feet. They key is finding shad.”

When they motor up to a point they will zig-zag across the point watching their graph until they locate a ball of shad. Once bait is located, they use either a spoon or a drop-shot rig to catch them.

“I prefer a drop-shot,” said David. “If I can catch them on that, I will. But some days they want a spoon.”

David said he prefers a 1⁄2- to 1-oz. Hopkins Shorty spoon. He drops the spoon to the bottom, then works the area within about three feet of the bottom.

“Sometimes I will use a swivel on the spoon to keep the line from twisting,” said David. “Other times I will just suspend the spoon in the school and let the twist in the line make the lure spin.”

Because of all the wood in the lake, treble hooks can be a liability when fishing on the bottom, so David usually starts with a drop-shot rig in the winter. Most drop-shot rigs have a bell-sinker at the end of the line. David has modified the rig by tying a 1⁄4-oz. Spot Remover jig head on the end of the line. The second hook is tied directly onto the line about 18-inches up the line.

“My No. 1 choice is a Zoom Finesse worm,” said David. “If I am going to be fishing 25-feet deep or more, I like black. I think they can see it better. I also like chartreuse/pepper.”

The day we fished, David used blueberry-colored worms.

“If I am fishing less than 25-feet deep I like reds or greens,” said David, “redbug, cherry seed, or green pumpkin. The worms can be hooked through the head or wacky style (through the middle) depending on how much structure there is. Generally I am going to hook it where the hook is not exposed because there is so much structure in this lake.”

Most of the time the drop-shot rig is fished straight down until the lower jig head (or weight) hits the bottom beneath a pod of shad.

“You want to maintain contact with the bottom,” he said. “The bass are going to be on the bottom. I will barely jiggle the line. All I want is for that worm to wiggle in place.”

The cold-water bite is often hard to detect.

“A lot of times it just feels like resistance on the line,” said David. “They will just sit there and hold the worm in their mouth. If I am not sure, I set the hook.”

A drop-shot rig can also be cast and hopped back to the boat. The beauty of the rig is that the upper worm stays suspended just off the bottom. Almost without fail, it is the upper worm that the bass hits, says David.

The single most-important weather requirement for drop-shot fishing is a relatively calm day.

“One thing that makes for a hard day with a drop-shot or a spoon is wind,” said David. “If it is windy you can’t feel the fish, you can’t control the boat as well, and you can’t stay on the bait.”

Black Shoals has a lot of good points for drop-shot fishing in the winter, says David.

“The points on either side of the dam come way out and those are good ones,” he said.

He noted that the point directly across from the dam is excellent, as is the first point down lake of the ramp on the opposite side of the lake. There are several other less-prominent, but equally good points on the right-hand side as you come down the lake from the ramp, and also a good one in the cove on left side of the dam. Find bait on a point and you are in bass business.

For more information on Black Shoals Park, call (770) 761-1611.
For recent information on bass fishing at Black Shoals and other small reservoirs, visit the High Voltage Bass Anglers website <>.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!