Chatuge Bass Staging And Stacked

February sees big spots and largemouth making a prespawn move.

Ronnie Garrison | January 30, 2014

February is a great time to catch some big spots, but where should you go? Lanier, Carters and Allatoona probably come to mind as great spotted bass destinations, but there may be a better choice up on the North Carolina line. Lake Chatuge has a great population of big spots—and largemouth—and now is a good time to catch them.

Chatuge is a TVA lake at Hiawassee that is split by the state line. A Georgia fishing license is good all over the lake. It is not big at 7,500 acres but has 130 miles of shoreline due to its irregular shape. There is all kinds of structure and cover that spots love, and blueback herring are their main food source now at Chatuge.

Brad Rutherford grew up on Lake Hartwell and started fishing tournaments with his father when he was 6 years old. He was in a Junior Bassmasters club and did well, making the World Championship twice. Brad went to Young Harris College in Hiawassee where he formed a college bass team. With teammate Matthew Peeler, they made the College Series National Championship three times, finishing second last year in their backyard at Lake Chatuge.

Brad now counts Chatuge as his favorite bass lake, and he fishes as many pot tournaments there as he can. On Dec. 28, Brad and his finance Ana Terry had five fish weighing 19.5 pounds, including a 6.5-lb. largemouth, to win a Chatuge tournament. Last year they won the ABA Couples points title for the South Carolina division.

“By the beginning of February, Chatuge spots are moving to main creek points near spawning areas, and largemouth are starting their migration, too,” Brad said.

The spots will be near gravel points and pockets, and the largemouth are usually farther back in the creeks on channels and points.

“You only need three baits to catch February bass at Chatuge,” Brad said.

He will have a jerkbait, a Fish Head Spin and a jig tied on. As a backup, he will also go to a crankbait or a jig-head worm, depending on how the fish are responding to his primary baits.

Brad likes the MegaBass and Kevin Van Dam (KVD) jerkbaits in shad colors. Both work well, but the MegaBass is expensive, and Brad has had problems breaking the bills on them, so he depends on the KVD bait, especially when fishing around docks that will break the bill.

Spotsticker jigs and jig heads are his favorites when fishing a jig and jig-head worm. He likes a 3/8-oz. brown-and-olive jig with a Zoom twin-tail trailer on it. His Spotsticker jig will be a 1/8- to 1/4-oz. head with a Yamamoto Hula Grub in green pumpkin on it.

The 3/8- to 1/2-oz. Fish Head Spin threaded with a Zoom Fluke, Fluke Jr. or Swimming Fluke in shad colors work well. He tries all three kinds of flukes to see what the fish want. It is hard to beat a Fish Head Spin for this time of year, according to Brad.

Crankbaits like the Norman Deep Little N or Spro MD Little John, both in shad or blueback colors, work well at times. There are some kinds of structure and cover that lends itself to crankbait fishing, so you should have one ready.

Brad took me fishing on Chatuge in mid-January. He boated two nice spots, one about 4 pounds and one close to 3 pounds. We also lost another 4-pounder at the boat. We fished only two hours since it was very cold and windy, but the fish bit good even under those conditions.

The following 10 spots are all good now, and some will get even better as the month progresses.

No. 1: N 34º 52.551 – W 83º 48.316 — Go into the mouth of Woods Creek, and the first big cove on your right is Dayton Cove. Halfway back, there is a gravel point on your right. It’s across from the bank that has a powerline on it. This is an excellent staging and spawning point for spots.

Brad will start way off the point, especially early this month, with a Fish Head Spin, keeping his boat in 20 feet of water and casting to 5 or 6 feet of water. He expects the fish to be holding in 5 to 15 feet of water this month. They typically hold deeper early in the month but move more shallow after a few warm days.

Let the bait sink to the bottom, and work it back slowly. Brad usually fishes the Fish Head Spin like a worm, pulling it slowly along the bottom with a few pumps of the rod, and then letting it fall back. Even the spotted bass are slow and sluggish in the colder water.

After working the deeper water, he will move in so he can cast a jerkbait to about 2 feet of water and work it back out to the 15-foot level. The jerkbait is more effective later in the month and after a couple of warm days.

No. 2: N 34º 59.321 – W 83º 48.306 — Go back out to the big rocky point just upstream of the powerline crossing. It will be on your left going out of the creek and is the last big point before an island in the mouth of the creek. This point is a good place to find largemouth and spots as they start their prespawn move into the creek.

Early in the month, cast a jerkbait right to the bank, and fish it back slowly, with long pauses between each jerk. Stay out in 45 feet of water, and make long casts to the edge of the water. Also try a jig-head worm and jig on the rocks here.

No. 3: N 34º 58.306 – W 83º 48.243 — Go into Long Bullet Creek, the one with The Ridges Marina in the back. On your left there is a big, round point between the small cove downstream of the marina and a bigger cove on that side. The point has a clay and pea gravel bottom that transitions to bigger rocks.

Start just downstream of the small uncovered dock on the upstream side of the point, and fish past the next covered dock going into the creek. This is the good transition area, and both a jerkbait and jig are good here.

Some wind blowing into the point helps this time of year. Brad says wind is your friend on this lake, unless it is too strong to let you control the boat. A jerkbait works better if it is windy, and it is easier to fish, too.

Cast both baits right to the bank, and work them out, keeping your boat in about 15 feet of water. This is mostly a spotted bass hole, but some largemouth will be here, too.

No. 4: N 34º 58.424 – W 83 47.640 — Go around the big round point and across the mouth of the big cove downstream of it on the right. On the far bank, you will see a rocky point in front of a light yellow house with rip-rap in front of it. There is a post on the bank between the rip-rap and the natural rocks on the point. To the left of the house facing it is a small dock with an out building near it.

This point runs way out, so stop well off it. Start fishing with your boat in about 27 feet of water, and cast your Fish Head Spin to the 5-foot level, and work it back out to 15 feet deep. The point comes up to about 18 feet on top on the end with 25 feet of water on the sides. Also move in a little closer if you need to reach the 2-foot level with your jerkbait. Fish both baits all across this area, which has the natural rocks running out to deep water.

No. 5: N 34º 59.585 – W 83º 46.681 — Go into the mouth of Sneaking Creek, and you will see a hump on your left at the mouth of the creek. There is a danger buoy on it. When we were there, it was on the ground with the water about 10 feet low.

This hump is a super staging place for spots, Brad said. He stays outside the hump and fishes the creek side and the end in the mouth of the pocket behind it. Fish it deep with a Fish Head Spin and shallower with a jerkbait.

No. 6: N 34º 59.327 – W 83º 45.739 —
Go back into Sneaking Creek to where it splits, to the last cove on your right past where it narrows down. This wide cove spreads out even more in the very back. On the left point of the cove, between it and the arm to the left, a big gray house sits on a clay and gravel bank. There is rip-rap in front of the rock seawall, and at the right end of the rip-rap seawall there is a small chain-link fence running out into the water.

Brad starts at the fence and fishes toward the point, casting a jerkbait and crankbait to the shallows and fishing them out. This is a good staging and feeding area for both largemouth and spots. Fish the bank past the first two docks going toward the point. Try to make your crankbait dig the bottom as far from the bank as you can. Fish it slowly early in the month with pauses, but speed up your retrieve some toward the end of the month.

No. 7: N 35º 00.390 – W 83º 47.538 — Run toward the dam. The last big series of points on your left has Clay County Park on it. The pocket on the point just downstream of Armstrong Cove has a picnic area on the right as you go into it. You will see the playground on the point to your right.

An excellent point comes off the side of the point and runs across the mouth of the cove. Stop out in about 22 feet off the end of the point, and fish the end and both sides with a jerkbait. Brad likes a deeper-running jerkbait with a bigger bill here. Fish around to the upstream side of the point, and also try a jig dragged along the bottom here. The point drops off into very deep water, so it is a good early staging area.

No. 8: N 35º 01.226 – W 83º 47.063 — Go to the dam. On the right end of the long rip-rap on the dam there is a small cove at the metal overflow spillway. The cove in front of it has a lot of rocks in it and falls off into very deep water.

Start on the left point of the cove, and fish across to the other side. There is a boat ramp on this side. Since this area drops off so fast, it is a good area to fish a jig or jig-head worm on the rocks. Brad says it is very good even on really cold days. Stay out in 30 feet of water, and make long casts toward the bank.

No. 9: N 34º 13.116 –W 83º 45.362 — Run up the Hiwassee River past the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds into the mouth of Bell Creek. On your left is a big, shallow point and flat at the creek mouth. Past it is a narrow cove, and on the upstream point of the cove, the bank drops off fast. In front of a white house that had a for-sale sign, there are four big rocks making a line off the bank.

Out from those rocks, between them and the dock on the downstream side, a rocky hump comes up well off the bank. It was visible when we fished it, but just above the water. By now it may be under water. Stay out in 35 feet of water, way off the top of the hump, on the downstream side of it, and fish all around it on the creek side.

These rocks run way out from the top of the hump. Spots hold on the rocks before moving to the gravel banks behind it to spawn. Fish all your baits here, working the jerkbait over the rocks and the other baits on the bottom. Bump the rocks with a crankbait, and crawl a jig ’n pig and jig-head worm on them.

No. 10: N 34º 57.049 –W 83º 46.061 —
Go upstream under the Highway 76 bridge and past Hog Creek. There is a small island just downstream of the first pocket on your right. The island has blowdowns on a steep rocky bank on the river side, and you’ll see red channel marker 5 on the bank.

Stop out from the island, and fish the river side with jig and jig-head worm. Work the blowdowns when the water is up, but also bump the rocks on the bottom, especially early in the month. As the water warms, fish the ends of the island and into the cove on the upstream side of it. Bass will hold on the outside, and then move into the cove later to spawn.

All these places hold bass right now and will get even better as the days get longer and warmer. Give them a try with Brad’s favorite baits, and try your favorites. There are many other similar places all over the lake to catch some big spots and largemouth this month.

Editor’s Note: Ronnie Garrison’s popular GON Map-of-the-Month articles are being compiled and published in digital eBook format. The first collection is for Clarks Hill Lake, and it is now available for download at is a great time to catch some big spots, but where should you go? Lanier, Carters and Allatoona probably come to mind as great spotted bass destinations, but there may be a better choice up on the North Carolina line. Lake Chatuge has a great population of big spots—and largemouth—and now is a good time to catch them.

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