Blackshear’s Spring Bassin’

For the next three months you'll be able to find Blackshear bass on the beds. Join Mike Lee for some expert advice on how you can set the hook on a few of these shallow-water bass.

Brad Gill | March 1, 2001

It was just after 8:00 a.m. and I had just made my fourth cast of the morning. My medium-sized crankbait landed right where I wanted it to, just beyond an underwater spring that had been attracting fish as of late. I gave my reel seven or eight good cranks trying to get my bait down deep. A slight pause in my retrieve was all it took to make the fish strike, and that’s just what it did. Wham! What a great way to start off a day of fishing.

This was a scene from a February 10 bass-fishing trip on beautiful Lake Blackshear. My guide for the day was Mike Lee of Cordele. The 10,000-acre impoundment on the Flint River is located in Dooly and Crisp counties. Mike’s been fishing on Blackshear since February of 1977 and is definitely qualified as one of the top anglers on the reservoir. When it comes to March, April and May he’s no stranger to catching big bass.

When I pulled the hard-fighting fish up to the boat I was kind of surprised. It wasn’t the largemouth I was expecting to see but a 3-lb. striper. About that time Mike’s rod tip slammed back and he informed me that fish number two was on the way to the boat.

“That’s what we’re after,” said Mike. It was a solid, 3-lb. largemouth. We had launched the boat 10 minutes earlier from Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park in Gum Creek just below the Hwy 280 bridge. We caught both fish directly across from the boat ramp where an underwater spring had fish stacked like cord wood.

Mike wanted to fish the spring first thing due to some recent success with the stripers, but he proved largemouths are also attracted to the warmer, spring water as well.

Mike Lee holds a 3-lb. chunk caught in Gum Creek. Mike said March, April and May are the best months to find fish shallow and active on Blackshear.

Mike’s main objective was to show me how he plans to catch fish during March, April and May, a time when Blackshear bass will be fanning beds, pulling up in the shallows or pulling out into deep water. Also, GON Editor James Guthrie was there with a GON-TV camera in hand to catch all the action. The show will air March 2 in most areas, but check page 87 for exact days and times.

Fifteen minutes later we were sitting in Warren Slough. “This is probably the number one bedding area on Lake Blackshear,” said Mike.

Warren Slough is located less than a mile above the Hwy 280 bridge on the western side of the Flint. It’s the big slough on the left as you go into Spring Creek.

This slough is a popular fishing spot for anglers this time of the year as water temperatures climb and fish start going on the beds. “The spawning on Lake Blackshear usually lasts three months,” said Mike.

The spawn usually kicks off in late February and early March and runs into May. However, not all these bass bed at the same time. For the next three months on Blackshear you’ll find bass in a spawning pattern or in a pre- or post-spawn stage.

As a general rule this month look for prespawn and spawning fish. In April, you’ll find pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawning fish, and in May you’ll find mostly spawning and post-spawning fish. In all three stages Mike knows how to catch fish. Warren Slough was a prime place for him to explain how he’s going to be fishing Blackshear for the next 90 days.

“I love to catch bedding bass,” said Mike. “When trying to catch a bedded fish it’s just a matter of being more persistent than the fish. You have to keep casting, physically making the fish mad. In most cases the fish have more patience than the fishermen. A few can’t be caught, but you can catch most of them if you’re patient enough.”
Mike has two primary ways to catch bedded bass on Blackshear—tube baits and lizards.

“The three colors I like for tube baits are shad, crawfish and chartreuse,” said Mike. The shad and crawdad colors obviously match natural bait colors, but the chartreuse allows Mike to see his bait better, especially on windy and cloudy days, or after a rain.

He fishes his tube bait Texas-style, using a 1/0 hook with a 1/16-oz. sinker. Mike rarely uses a heavier weight when fishing a tube bait, but on windy days he will sometimes switch over to a 1/8-oz. sinker. He always pegs his lead with a rubberband.

“That’s very important so you keep the lead in contact with the bait so you can maintain contact,” said Mike.

When Mike rigs his tube bait with the 1/0 hook he’ll almost penetrate the bait on the backside. “I like to get it in just under the skin on the backside so if a fish touches it you got him,” said Mike.

Because of all the natural structure in Blackshear, Mike will generally use 14- or 17-lb. line. Mike’s backup to a tube bait is a Texas-rigged, Zoom pumpkinseed lizard fished below a 1/8- or 3/8-oz. weight.

“Something different often causes a strike,” said Mike. “Another thing that can make the lizard effective is to dye the tail.”

Mike carries a bottle of chartreuse dye in his boat and says it can really pay off. “Often times a simple change like that can make a big difference,” he said.

During our mid-February trip there were no bedding fish so we threw three types of baits, concentrating totally on a pre-spawn pattern. “This pattern we’re fishing today will work for the next three months,” said Mike. “The pre- and post-spawn patterns are the same.”

You’ll find these fish in the same areas and will be able to catch them the same way.

On our pre-spawn trip, we threw either a small- or medium-sized crankbait, depending on water depth. Mike prefers a shad-type crankbait in either a shad or chartreuse color.

A second bait we threw was a Texas-rigged Finesse worm or lizard. “I like dark colors, preferably black or junebug,” said Mike.

Pitching a 3/8-oz. black/blue or a black/brown jig ’n pig at the base of cypress trees was the third way we fished, and it will continue to catch fish for the next three months.

“If the water is muddy I like to put a touch of orange on the jig,” said Mike. A jig ’n pig was the bait Mike used to catch his biggest Blackshear bass, an 11-lb. hawg.

Mike says these three baits will catch fish that haven’t yet decided to spawn or those just coming off.

So just how will Mike focus his fishing techniques for the next three months?

“Work the outside cover, like boat docks, isolated logs and cypress trees,” said Mike. “There will be some fish staging there, but also there will be some fish up on the bank spawning. Concentrate on outside cover first, and as the day progresses and the sunlight gets on the shoreline move in and look for fish on the bed. You’ve got fish between the staging areas and the spawning grounds and they’re constantly coming and going.”

We spent over an hour in Warren Slough fishing outside cover hoping for a pre-spawn bite. We fished all three pre- and post-spawn baits with no luck, but don’t be discouraged.

“There’s a lot of sand in the slough and it’s shallow,” said Mike. “The deepest water in here is probably only five feet deep. Fish will pretty much bed all the way around it.”

Also, bass will spawn in moss flats which have sand underneath. Look for these places around cypress trees and there are areas like these in the slough. There is plenty of outside cover in the slough and loads of places to hold bass before or after they go on the bed.

There is one landmark in Warren Slough that’s worth noting. There’s a cypress tree that sits right out in the middle of the slough.

“There’s probably been more fish caught off that one cypress tree than any other tree in the whole lake,” said Mike. We fished the tree with crankbaits and jig ’n pigs without the first bite, but don’t overlook it on your trip. The water there is deep for Warren Slough, about four feet deep, and will hold pre- and post-spawn fish during the next several months. Warren Slough isn’t the only place to concentrate on this spring.

Look in Cannon Branch. Some of the prettiest and clearest water I’ve ever seen was in the very back of the creek. We visited the area on our trip and saw a few buck bass already cruising. There are plenty of cypress trees out from the spawning areas that will be holding fish, so remember to keep a crankbait, jig ’n pig and either a worm or lizard tied on.

Boy Scout Slough is another good place. During the mid-afternoon hours Mike boated a chunky 3-pounder on a jig ’n pig that hit on the dock at the mouth of the creek. The fish was obviously in a pre-spawn pattern, but I’d be willing to bet that fish was well on her way to finding a sandy area in the back of Boy Scout Slough. Gum Creek and Pecan Slough are other areas that will hold bass from now until May, but there are plenty of others.

If you’ve never been to Blackshear, don’t be intimated by a public reservoir. It’s a fairly small lake and now is an easy time to pinpoint bass patterns. To find a bass on the bed just look for sandy areas in creek, sloughs and coves. If you see a bedded bass remember that you can also catch fish by backing off to the outside cover, change baits and catch fish in both pre- or post-spawn patterns.

If you decide to fish Blackshear over the next few months remember that because these fish are easy to see they are more vulnerable to fishermen. If you pull a big Blackshear sow off the bed and plan to release the fish, it’s a good idea to do it as quickly as possible. This will help ensure she will return to her same bedding area unharmed.

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