Lake Burton Magnum May Spots
John Hill marks our map for big spotted bass that are chasing herring this month on Lake Burton.
Each May the shad and blue- back herring will spawn by the gazillions, and when they do, bass and other predatory fish gorge themselves on the baitfish.
On north Georgia reservoirs that have blueback herring, anglers experience some of the fastest, most fun fishing of the year. If a lake is full of big spots, the fishing can be amazing. One of the best and most overlooked places to take advantage of this feeding frenzy is at Lake Burton in northeast Georgia.
Lake Burton produced the state-record spotted bass, an 8-lb., 2-oz. monster caught two years ago. There are a good many 3- to 5- lb. spots caught at Burton each year, and May is one of the most exciting times to catch them because they are up shallow feeding during the herring spawn.
Located on the Tallulah River west of Clayton, Lake Burton is a 2,775-acre Georgia Power Co. lake that was dammed in 1919. The steep, rocky shoreline has plenty of blowdown trees in the water, and the lake is lined with docks on posts; both are great wood cover for bass. There are also a lot of brush- piles put out by anglers. The boat docks are usually backed up by seawalls, a key to May fishing there.
The very clear water at Burton is also a plus for catching big spots during the herring spawn. The spots can see your bait from farther away, and you can work it fast, covering a lot of water to find the fish. Spots do better in clear water, and they have done very well at Burton.
For years Burton was known by local anglers as a good place to catch big largemouths on topwater in May. Then blueback herring were introduced illegally, probably around 1990. The herring led to an explosion of spotted bass, but they have hurt the largemouth fishing. Big largemouths are much harder to catch now, although some lunkers are still caught each year. The future does not look good for them because of the herring, though.
John Hill grew up in Clarksville and spent many hours fishing with his dad and his brother Bobby on local lakes. One of his favorites was Burton, and they caught a lot of big largemouths from laydown trees in the spring by throwing topwater plugs around them. Not only did John catch his first 7-lb. bass on Burton, but his biggest bass ever, a 10-lb., 5-oz. hawg, came from Burton just a few years ago. After going to work at HD Marine, John started fishing Lanier a lot and learning about spotted bass. He still fishes Burton a good bit and has found the spotted bass there react a lot like they do on Lanier. His tactics at Burton produce some good spots this month. John is an experienced angler. You will see John at some of the pot tournaments at Lanier, and he does well in them. He also fishes the HD Marine trail and catches bass on a wide variety of lakes, but Burton is still one of his favorites, not only from the great memories he has there, but also because of the excellent fishing.
The strongest pattern in May at Burton is the herring spawn on seawalls and rocky banks. Big spots move shallow and eat herring while they are running the rocks in the morning, then back off and hold on dock posts, blowdowns and brushpiles nearby. You can catch them in all those places.
John keys on rocks in shallow water with deep water nearby. A shelf or flat near the rocks on the edge of the water helps. Those kinds of places are very common on Burton, and you can find a lot of them.
Topwater baits like a Heddon Zara Spook and Lucky Craft Sammy are good baits for fishing the herring spawn. Hard jerkbaits like a Rogue or Flash Minnow are also good. Back them up with a fluke and you can catch bass while the herring are spawning.
John will use a big crankbait like a DD 22, a drop-shot rig, a jig ’n pig or a jig-head worm when the spawning activity ends for the morning. He backs off some and probes deeper water for the fish holding near the spawning banks. Blowdowns, docks, brushpiles and deeper rocks are all good places to find bass holding later in the day.
The following 10 spots are all good for May bass, and you can catch fish on them right now. They are good spawning banks with cover the fish hold on nearby. Check them out to see the kinds of places John catches Burton bass.
No. 1: N 34° 49.986 – W 83° 34.393 — If you put in at Moccasin Creek State Park, head down the creek until it narrows. On your left, a point runs way out and has rocks on it. Toward the bank on this point you will see a white dock with a two-level red roof, and there was a for-sale sign on the point on Easter Sunday.
The water is very deep near the bank, but there is a shelf of big rocks that runs out before dropping off. This is a good place to find the herring spawning first thing in the morning, and it is the kind of structure and cover John looks for to catch early morning bass on Lake Burton.
Start on the point between the dock and the end of the point, and stay way back as you start fishing. If it is light enough, you will see big rocks under the water near the bank. Work a topwater bait over them and both soft and hard jerkbaits through them. You should see the herring running the rocks laying their eggs.
If you are on this point later in the day, back off and make long casts with your other baits. Work a jig ’n pig through the rocks down to 20 feet deep. Try a jig-head worm and a big crankbait before leaving.
Across the creek from this point, on the opposite bank, you will see a beige dock with two green roofs. A sea- wall starts just downstream of that dock, and you should start fishing there. Cast right to the wall, and work your bait out. Keep fishing downstream around the point into the cove. Also, you might want to watch for bedding bass in any of the small cuts along this bank in early May.
No. 2: N 34° 49.813 – W 83° 34.067 — Run downstream until the creek narrows again, and watch for a United States flag on the point on your right. There is also a double-door dock on your right with a rock fireplace and a wheeled cart on the front of it. Start fishing here, casting to the rock wall behind the docks with a jerkbait and topwater, but work them past the dock posts, too.
Continue down this bank past the pirate standing on the bank, and fish the brush in the water for bass holding on it waiting on herring. Often largemouth will hold in cover like the brush and wait as spots herd herring along a wall so you can pick up good largemouth this way, too.
Fish on down this steep bank past the dock with United States and University of Tennessee flags on it. You will often be 30 feet off the bank with your depthfinder reading 40 feet deep. You are heading into a pocket that is a good bedding area so bass are holding here moving out from the spawn as well as chasing herring on the walls.
No. 3: N 34° 49.731 – W 83° 33.639 — Farther down the creek you will see a small island with a rock sea- wall around it just off the right bank. The blow-through between the bank and island has a danger marker in it. Start here, fishing around the island and blow-through, then work down- stream, hitting the seawalls along that bank and point.
The next point downstream is shallow, and John says he has caught a lot of good largemouths from it. Largemouths will often hold on flatter points that the spots don’t like as well, but don’t pass one up because Burton can still produce some good large- mouth.
No. 4: N 34° 49.639 – W 83° 33.365 — Run out to the river, and you will see a marked hump just upstream of the mouth of Moccasin Creek. There is a pole with a red flashing light and two white danger buoys on it. John says this is a good early morning spot, and he often starts here.
Fish all around the shoal, throwing your topwater baits to it, then working jerkbaits around it. Stay out in deep water, and cast up on top of the shoal. If the sun is on the water, try your deep- running crankbaits, jig ’n pig and jig-head worm here before leaving.
No. 5: N 34° 49.058–W 83° 33.525 — Head downstream, and watch the left bank for a white dock with double green doors and a green-shingle roof. A shelf runs out between two pockets just downstream of two docks near it, and there is natural rock along the bank. You will also see a dock with a green slide on it that has brush off the end of it, and also a dock with permit 1133 on it.
Fish the rocks and brush with all your baits. Stay out from the bank, and make fairly long casts to it. Always watch for activity near you. If you see herring flashing and even jumping out of the water near the bank, get to that area. Bass should be close by.
No. 6: N 34° 48.689–W 83° 33.251 — Farther down toward the dam, across the river from the mouth of Murray Creek, you will see a dock with a model of the Statue of Liberty on it. It is on the upstream side of a point on your right going downstream. There is deep water just off the end of this dock.
Start fishing near the dock with the Statue of Liberty on it, and fish downstream, cast to the rocks in shallow water and work around the point downstream of it. There are seawalls and trees along this point to cast to and brush out from the docks. It is a good place to catch bass all day. John will fish down this bank on the downstream side of the point to the dock with the chiminea on it. That dock has no top.
No. 7: N 34° 47.914–W 83° 32.855 — Run down to the mouth of Perrin Cove, and look to your left as you start into the mouth of the cove. There is a green-roofed dock in front of a double rock wall, one a seawall and one a few feet up the bank. Fish from the green-roofed dock toward the main lake, casting to the seawall and also to blowdowns and other wood cover along this bank.
Fish to the dock on the point with the for-sale sign on it. It has permit number 218 and a sign that says “Fatcrest” over the doors. The trees on this point have always been good, according to John, and you should fish them carefully. The water is 50 feet deep just 40 feet off the bank along this point.
Trees like these are a good place to throw a Texas-rigged Senko and let it fall down into the wood cover. John will try this when the fish are not active and not chasing baits very far. Let it fall through the limbs of the tree, and be ready to set the hook and reel hard when your line twitches.
No. 8: N 34° 50.423 – W 83° 33.033 — Run up to the island in the mouth of Timpson Creek. This big island has a seawall all around it and the entire length of it will hold fish, but John concentrates on the end where the house sits. That is the upper end toward the mouth of the creek. Near the house you will see a small dock, and you should start fishing there. The water is very deep, and there is some brush way off the bank here. Especially later in the day, probe the brush with jig ’n pig or jig-head worm.
No. 9: N 34° 50.724 – W 83° 32.781 — On the left side going into Timpson Creek, you will see what looks like a small island just off the bank. It is really just a point coming off the bank. There are tall pines on it, and it is made of big mounds of dirt. There are some bushes, possibly blueberry bushes, that have a protective net around them. Fish all around this point. There are big rocks under the water, and it’s 30 feet deep just 30 feet off the bank. Try the rocks on the edge of the water early, then back off and work the deeper rocks with your other baits.
No. 10: N 34° 59.797 – W 83° 32.388 — Just upstream on the same side is an island that has a causeway to it. There is a house on the island, and on the outside end there is a sign with a light on it that warns of a 100 foot no- wake rule. There is rip-rap on both sides of this island.
Fish all around this island and the causeway going to it. Just like at the other spots, the herring will spawn on the rocks then move out as the sun gets higher. Bass will chase them very shallow when they are spawning, then move out to the cover a little deeper and ambush any bait that comes by. Make them think your bait is a herring.
All 10 of the locations that John marked on our map are excellent this month, and John will be fishing them when he heads to Lake Burton. You can check them out, catch fish on them and see what kind of cover and structure is best. Then use what you have seen to find other spots. Although Burton is a fairly small lake, there are dozens of other places that hold bass just like these do this month.
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