Carters Lake Magnum Spotted Bass In December

If you don't mind fishing when it's cold, head to Carters in December for a chance at the spotted bass of a lifetime.

Ronnie Garrison | December 9, 1995

Bruce Hicks won a week of the GON Fishin’ Contest during the summer of 1994 with this 5-lb., 14-oz. spotted bass from Carters Lake, and he’s caught even bigger spots from Carters.

Spotted bass that weigh six pounds? In Georgia? That’s just a little hard to believe.

Although I had seen pictures of Bruce Hicks in the Stratos GON Fishin’ Contest a couple of times with huge spots from Carters Lake, I was still a bit skeptical, but talking to him on the phone really got me fired up about going with him to see exactly how he caught those monsters.

Bruce grew up a few miles from Carters Lake and has fished the reservoir, and the Coosawatee and Oostanaula rivers most of his life. The lake and its big spotted bass are where he spends most of his time and efforts though. When you do something right, stick with it!

Spotted bass weighing 6-lbs., 4oz., 6-1,5-14 and 5-7 have given Bruce third place twice, second once and first once in the weekly GON Fishin* Contest. His one winner, a 5-1b., 14-oz. spot caught in a Monday night pot tournament, was actually the second biggest spot weighed in that night. Bruce watched with relief as the winncr released a spot weighing 6-2 without entering it in the GON contest.

The lake has a fantastic population of big spotted bass. Bruce thinks they grow big here due to the shad populadon and the perfect habitat for them. No matter what the reason, Bruce knows where they live.

The Coosawatee River was dammed in 1975 to form 3,220-acre Carters Lake. It is a scenic lake with steep rocky banks, many hardwood hUlsides and very little shoreline development. The water is usually window-pane clear. There is lots of wood structure in the lake ranging from stumps to stickups to blowdowns, and most of it is on top of rock, a perfect cover for spotted bass.

A re-regulation reservoir was built just below the dam to pump water back into the lake at night to keep it full after generating power all day. Bruce feels the movement of water from the pumpback and generation of power affects the fishing, but not like you might think. He prefers to fish when there is no current moving in either dkection. He also likes fishing the lake when it is at full pool.

Most bass fishermen think small when fishing for spots. Little worms, small crankbaits and tiny jigs are the usual bait for 12- or 13-inch fish. Bruce says if those babies are what you want to catch, stick with your little baits at Carters. If it’s the wallhanger 6-lb. plus magnum spots you are after, he says to show them something big enough to match their appetite.

Bruce will have three rods rigged when going after Carters spotted bass. His primary weapon is a Norman’s DD22 crankbait in the sun perch color. He will have a jig and pig rigged for probing the blowdowns and other cover needing a slow approach. A gourd green finesse worm rigged Texas-style to offer an appetizer to a big finicky spot, just in case one is present, completes his arsenal.

The crankbait and jig and pig will be on baitcasting outfits with 10-1b. Trimax line. The little worm will be on a spinning rod with 8-1b. line and a 1/4-oz. weight. The crankbait will always be thrown first because it has accounted for most of Bruce’s big spots. If he wants to fish a structure slowly, the jig and pig is used.

When Bruce casts his Finesse worm, it doesn’t take him long to get it in for another cast. He works it very quickly, almost like fishing a jerk bait, but on the bottom. He locates schools of fish with it, and sometimes catches a big spot on the little worm. If a school of fish is located, he will be sure to show them the big bails before leaving. Rocky humps and points are the primary spotted bass habitat on Carters. Wood on them makes them even better. At times, the spots move to clay and sand points, so don’t pass them up. When you locate a point that has a distinct change from rock to clay bottom, fish that edge hard just like you would any other edge. It will often hold fish.

Keep the boat away from the structure and make long casts in the clear water. Make your crankbait bump the bottom. Bruce says you aren’t fishing where the big spots live if you are not bumping something with your bait.

The following 10 holes will give you examples of the kinds of places on Carters where Bruce has found big spots. There are hundreds of others on this lake. It is almost impossible to fish Carters without fishing good water. Try these places and then fish others like them.

1. Put in at the ramp near the dam and you can fish your way around the lake. Many tournaments put in at this ramp and release their fish here. (Remember the 6-2 that Bruce watched swim away in the night tournament!) The main-lake point past the ramp is where many of them hold while getting re-oriented. Many tournament fishermen make this their last stop before weigh-in. It is typical of a good main-lake point. This point is deeper on the outside. Sit well off the end and make casts to both sides and work your crankbait down the point on both sides. Work around to the inside and cast toward the deeper water, trying to hit the bottom with your crankbait as it comes out of the deeper water. If that doesn’t work, move your boat to the lake side and make long casts across the point into the cove. Bump the bottom and, when your bait loses contact as it comes over deeper water, pause and let it suspend for a second. Expect a strike when you move the bait again.

2. Run across the lake past the dam and fish the points on either side of the cut on the north side of the dam. Striper fishermen like this area when the water is moving from the pumpback. Big spots use this area for the same reason as the stripers — there are lot of shad.

Sit inside the cut and cast your plug to the shallow water outside it. Work it across the drop, pausing as you come over the drop. Then move out so you can cast down the wall and work your crankbait beside it. If your crankbait doesn’t pay off, switch to the jig and pig and work it down the wall. The spots hold in cracks and ledges on this wall, waiting for food. Offer them your lure instead. Try to hit every nook that might hold a spot. Both sides of the cut are good, but Bruce likes the right side as you face the dam better. The rocks are very jagged and you will lose baits here, but the bass will make it worth the loss.

3. This big main-lake point has two keys to watch for. As you approach it, the left side has standing timber just under the surface at full pool. It runs out in a line off the outside edge of the point. Big spots sometimes hold in the limbs of the trees, and you can catch them by bouncing your crankbait through the limbs. A jig and pig also works well in the limbs.

If you can’t pull anything out of the timber, fish the bank around to the right. Cast your crankbait right on the bank and work it by any wood you see. The bottom drops fast so get in fairly close and make parallel casts. Bruce suggests this angle on most of the deep banks and points. It keeps your bait in the strike zone longer.

Watch for the old logging road entering the water before you go into the small pocket on this point. Work it carefully. Fish use the road as a migration route up and down the point. Cast across it from both sides with a crankbait and work a jig and pig down the roadbed.

4. After passing the marina heading upriver, watch for the big point where the lake narrows down. The day-use area will be directly across lake. Bruce says he has caught a lot of fish near the two stumps on the downriver side of this point. Work that area carefully with your plug and jig and pig. Try a worm here to see if there are fish on the point. If you catch one, even a small one, fish carefully with your bigger baits. Fish of any size mean there is probably food available and could mean bigger fish in the area.

There are several big trees in the water as you work around this point toward the upriver side. Make several casts with all three baits to every tree. Concentrate on the trunk and don’t forget to work the very end of the top of the tree. It will be in the deepest water and may be where the biggest spot hangs out. You may be jigging your jig and pig up and down under the boat in 40 feet of water by the time you get to the very deepest limbs.

5. Across the lake behind you is small island off the end of the point the day-use area is on. There are lots of stumps around this island. Fish all the way around it but concentrate your efforts on the downstream point. It runs out shallow and goes all the way to the river channel. It is an ideal structure for spots.

This island is where Bruce’ s uncle once caught a 5-lb. spot that hit a finesse worm. Try your big baits first, but don’t leave without working a small worm way out on the point. Watch your depthfinder for fish. You can even jig your worm up and down under the boat if you see fish.

6. Motor on up Harris Creek and watch for the beach on your right. A danger marker on a hump on the left bank is where you want to start. There are several stumps near the post for the marker on the downstream side of the hump. Make repeated casts to these stumps. Work the saddle between the hump and the bank from both sides with your DD22.

It is worth your time to work on the bank on the upstream side of this this hump all the way to the big sandy point. There is lots of wood structure on this steep bank and you will see a couple of edges where the bottom from rock to clay or sand.

Works these edges thoroughly. Spots hold on them just like they do on any other change in structure. There is an old logging road entering the cut just before you reach the sandy point that you should also fish thoroughly.

7. Leave Harris Creek and go around the point, past the small island and head toward the ramp in Crump Creek. Across from the ramp is a sandy point with a big tree lying on the downstream side. If you get to the ramp on the right bank, you have gone too far.

The tree will hold most of the fish on this point, so start there with your crankbait. Other wood on this point will also hold fish, so fish your crankbait around the point heading upstream. Then work back around it with a jig and pig, again concentrating on the tree when you get to it. It is worth your effort to fish on down this steep bank.

8. As you come out of Crump Creek, go straight across into the mouth of Wurley Creek. The big pocket on your right is Goble Branch. The big upstream point is where you want to start. Fish your crankbait parallel to the bank, casting ahead of the boat. the way around the point and fish the pocket upstream of it. Bruce tells an incredible story about this point. His partner hooked a good 4-1b. spot on a crankbait. As it neared the boat and Bruce was waiting with the net, he saw an even bigger spot, one well over 5 pounds, trying to take the plug away from the smaller bass. If your partner hooks a fish, you might want to make a cast behind it, just in case.

9. Start up the river, watching for the big clay point on your left just as the river bends back to your left. There are trees on the upriver side and the bottom drops fast. Bruce says you could sit here all day and catch fish out of those trees. Don’t forget to fish them all the way to the end. That is where the fish you are looking for is probably holding.

10. The last place to fish (not shown on the map) is just as far away from the ramp where you put in as you can get, and it offers a different kind of fishing. To get there, run up the river until you almost run out of water. This is flipping territory. There is usually a current here and a little color to the water. You can get in close to the stumps, rocks and logs and work them with a jig and pig.

Even when close to the bank, you will be in 12to 15 feet of water because toe river cuts a deep channel. Try to work your bait all the way down the face of the wall. You can also cast a crankbait up the current and work it back.

The big spots started moving up and hitting a couple of weeks ago. Fishing will get better as the water cools even more. If possible, fish during the week. Bruce feels your chances arc definitely better when there is less competition. Go fishing any time you can, but be on your best hole during a feeding period. Two of Bruce’s biggest spots hit during those times. Bruce warns you not to expect to catch a bunch of fish. If it is the magnuin spots you are after, set your mind to getting just a couple of strikes a day. Make most of your casts with the big crankbait. If you want a bunch of fish, stick with the little baits and enjoy catching more fish, but you are not as likely to catch a big one.

As always, practice catch and release. The fishing pressure at Carters has increased drastically since word of its monster spotted bass spread, and this is not a large reservoir. Unless you catch a monster you plan to have mounted, please release your bass!

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