Christmas Bass At Carters Lake

Guide Louie Bartenfield marks 10 locations for December spotted bass at Carters.

Ronnie Garrison | December 1, 2004

Carters Lake has a good population of big spotted bass, and December is a great month to land one over 5 pounds there. The cooler water seems to turn them on, and they are feeding heavily on shad, getting ready for the cold weather to come. If you want a bragging-sized spot, now is the time to head to Carters.

At 3,220 acres, Carters is a fairly small lake, but it makes up for its size in depth. The lake has depths to around 400 feet, so the bass have a lot of vertical room to roam.

The scenery along this mountain reservoir is second to no lake in Georgia. There is no shoreline development other than a few boat ramps and a marina, so fishing Carters gives you a natural setting.

Spotted bass have thrived at Carters. The deep, clear water full of shad is perfectly suited for them, and a lot of big spots are caught there every year. It may be your best bet for a 5-pounder anywhere. And December is arguably the best month to catch big spots at Carters Lake.

Louie Bartenfield grew up around Carters Lake. His father fished it often and with good success. His father has landed three largemouth weighing over 10 pounds at Carters, and Louie learned from him. They fished tournaments together for a year or so, then Louie teamed up with family friend Tony Hill.

Louie and Tony fish most open tournaments at Carters and do well. This year they won a check at 14 of the first 16 tournaments they fished, a very impressive string. The second Saturday in November, Louie and Tony won the Saturday morning “Shoot Out” tournament at Carters with 10.02 pounds. That included a big spot weighing 4.12 pounds.

Carters is Louieʼs favorite lake, and he fishes it a lot. His best spot ever came at night while practicing for a tournament, and it weighed 7-lbs., 3-ozs., almost breaking the lake record. Louieʼs job allows him to spend several days a week on the lake, a key to finding and staying on fish there.

I met Louie at Carters in mid-November, the week after they won the Saturday tournament, to get information about the lake. It was a cool, windy day, perfect for spots. The water temperature was still high at 66 degrees but was dropping, and the spots bit good. We had a total of seven keepers that day, with one over five, two a little over three each and two more over two pounds each. That would have been a great tournament catch.

This Carters Lake spotted bass hit a Fish Head Spin at location No. 3 on our December map.

“Shad are the key to catching spots at Carters,” Louie told me.

He will keep moving, looking for schools of shad, and then fishing around the baitfish. If the shad are not present on a piece of structure, you are unlikely to catch bass there.

“In December, shad are moving off the main lake into creeks and big coves,” Louie said.

He concentrates early in the month on main-lake points and humps at the mouths of those areas, moving back into them and following the shad as the month progresses.

“Keep moving until you locate the shad, then fish the area they are in,” Louie said. He likes to fish a spinnerbait or a Fish Head Spin, keeping it down at the depth he is seeing shad. They might be 10 feet or deeper off a point, and he will make long casts and get the bait down to them. Long casts are important, and he stays well back from the shore.

As he fishes around structure, Louie will keep his eyes on his front depthfinder, looking for shad and fish around the structure. He says a good depthfinder is critical to finding fish. When he marks shad or bigger fish, he will slow down and drop a drop-shot worm or spoon down to them.

Fish the bait around and just under the schools of shad. If the water is 60-feet deep and the shad are holding 30-feet down, jig your worm or spoon at the depth of the bait. You should slow down and fish carefully when you see big schools of shad, especially if you see fish around them.

“Always keep a Sammy tied on and ready, even in December,” Louie said.

As long as the water temperature is 60 degrees or better, cast the topwater bait to any surface activity you see, or work it over structure that is holding shad. Make very long casts, and stay back from the cover. Louie often draws strikes on top during December.

For bigger spots, work a jig ʼn pig through any wood cover on the structure that is holding shad. Key on depths around 20- to 25-feet deep for the big bass. The 5-pounder he caught in mid-November hit a jig ʼn pig on a rocky main-lake point with stumps, brush and shad on it.

A Fish Head Spin is a bait made by Hornet Lures. It is a lead-head with a willowleaf spinner, something like a Road Runner. Louie puts a Fluke on the hook, and says it is important not to bite the head off the Fluke, but to leave it rounded so the bait will not spin. These baits work great early in the month, and they are even better if some wind is blowing in on the structure.

Louie throws the Fish Head, Hornet spinnerbaits and Sammys on 15-lb. P-Line fluorocarbon line. He ties his drop-shot rig with 6- or 8-lb. P-Line fluorocarbon, and he will jig a spoon on the same line. The light line helps get bites in the clear water at Carters Lake.

Castaway rods and Shimano reels are Louieʼs choice, and he likes fairly light rods for drop-shotting. His leader will be anywhere from one to three feet on the drop shot, depending on how far off the bottom the fish are holding. A Zoom Meathead, four-inch Dead Ringer or a Finesse worm are his choices in plastics.

The following 10 places, with GPS coordinates included, all hold December spotted bass at Carters, and you may hang the best spot of your life. And these 10 are just a few of many similar places on the lake.

No. 1 on the map: N 34º 37.018 – W 84º 39.449 — Fisher Creek enters from the north side of the lake. The upstream point at the mouth of this creek is an excellent main-lake point where shad and spots congregate as they move back into the creek. It will be one of the first places to hold fish in the fall, and some bass will stay there most of the month of December. Louie caught a keeper spot here on the Fish Head the morning we fished.

There is water more than 300-feet deep just off this point, and it drops off fast. Louie keeps his boat off the bank over about 60 feet of water and makes long casts down the bank with a Fishhead or spinnerbait. While fishing it back, he watches for schools of shad, and if he sees baitfish, he will drop a spoon or drop-shot worm down to them.

Fish the depth of the schools of shad. If you can make your spinnerbait or Fish Head drop down to their level and work it back through them, it should draw a strike. Remember, you are not fishing the bank, you are fishing the shad. Get right over the shad and drop a spoon or drop-shot down to their depth and work it in them.

No. 2: N 34º 37.648 – W 84º 39.253 — Back in Fisher Creek there is a hump right in the middle of it. As you run back into the creek, there will be a big cove to your left. Past it there is a second cove to your left. Line the rounded point with a pine tree with exposed roots right on the water on your right with the rocky, round point on your left between the two coves. That left-side point has a big, dead tree 15 feet or so from the bank. You will be headed right toward the clay point on the right point that sticks way out ahead of you.

Idle around watching your depthfinder. The water will be up to 70-feet deep around the hump, but it comes up to about 20 feet on top at full pool. Fish all around this hump with a Sammy, Fish Head or spinnerbait, watching for shad. Drop a bait down to the shad when you spot them.

No. 3: N 34º 36.741 – W 84º 38.867 — The next creek upstream on the north side of the lake is Woodring Branch. The main-lake, upstream point has a boat ramp and dock on it and two danger markers out from the ramp. The hump the danger markers are on has big stumps on both sides, and it drops off fast. Louie says this is a good place for keeper spots.

Fish all around the hump, and also work a jig ʼn pig through the stumps on both sides of the hump. That is a good tactic for big bass early in the morning. Fish it slowly and carefully, bumping every stump you can find.

Before leaving here, fish the bank in the back of the first pocket. It is past the ramp inside the creek toward the rip-rap. Bass hold all along here and will stack up in the pocket, especially if wind is blowing into it. There is a lot of brush along this bank, and I landed a 2-lb. spot on a jig ʼn pig here.

No. 4: N 34º 36.241 – W 84º 38.608 — Run across the lake to the second main-lake point upstream of the marina. This big, round, rocky point is an excellent main-lake point at the mouth of a no-name creek. Lots of shad gather here, and it is a good jigging-spoon hole.

Fish around it as in the other spots, casting across it while watching for shad. Fish down into the cove to the second pocket on your left going in. There are some standing trees here just under the water at full pool, so watch for them.

No. 5: N 34º 36.442 – W 84º 38.506 — Back across the lake there is a small island off the tip of a long point, just before the lake bends back north. There are two danger markers on the outside of this island and another one between the island and the point. As you go around the point, there will be a boat ramp on your left.

Start out at the end of the two danger markers, and fish all around them, working the outside and inside past the island. There are stumps on both sides of this hump, so it is a good place to throw a jig ʼn pig, too. Louie says he will often work around a place like this with his spinnerbait and Fish Head Spin, then fish back working the deeper water with drop shot, spoon and jig ʼn pig.

No. 6: N 34º 36.467 – W 84º 37.452 — Head into the mouth of Harris Creek, and you will see a beach on your right. On the left side across from it is a small point with a danger marker off it. Start fishing around this danger marker, and probe for wood cover. Then work the left bank past the danger marker going into the creek.

This bank drops off fast and is covered with wood. There are a lot of blowdowns all along this bank that you can fish with a jig ʼn pig. Fish all the way to the first cut on this long, curved bank. There are a good many blowdowns right on the point of the cut to fish, too.

No. 7: N 34º 37.407 – W 84º 38.072 — The narrow point on the left as you enter Wurley Creek is good. There are two pines on the point with small signs on them, and an old road gives bank fishermen access. Start out on the point, and fish both sides of it. Then fish the bank going into Wurley Creek on your left past the point.

Wind blowing into this bank makes it good for spinnerbaits and Fish Heads, and you can fish the deeper water with a drop shot or spoon. Louie and I both caught keeper spots on spinnerbaits here when we fished last month. The wind was blowing down the bank, and the bass were up shallow feeding.

No. 8: N 34º 36.575 – W 84º 37.042 — Run into Crump Creek to the Doll Mountain Ramp, then look to your right. There is a ramp on that side for the campground, and it is not used much. It sits on a point between two pockets, and both are good. Start on the point downstream of the first pocket. Work it, the point at the boat ramp and around the next pocket, too.

Fish often stack up in the pockets, and the middle of the pockets is a good place to jig a spoon. A lot of tournaments held out of this ramp mean it is well stocked with fish, and a lot of them will move across the creek and hold after being released.

No. 9: N 34º 37.163 – W 84º 37.144 — As you come out of Crump Creek, you will see two danger markers on the inside point of the last cove on your right before the main lake. The hump marked by the signs is a great limit hole for keeper spots, according to Louie. Fish all around the hump and into the pocket upstream of it for keeper fish.

No. 10: N 34º 38.787 – W 84º 36.299 — The last hole is way up the river at the mouth of the creek where Ridgeway Recreation Area is located. The upstream point at the mouth of that creek drops off fast and is rocky, with some blowdown trees in the water. Louie will start at the outside of the point and work down the bank into the creek, fishing all along it to the small island. It is full of brush and is a good place to fish any of the baits suggested. Louie caught a good keeper spot here on a drop shot when we fished.

All of these places hold spots this month. Give them a try, then look for other places that have shad and bass on them. You just might just catch the spot of your life.

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