Clarks Hill Bass On Little River Steep Banks

This October pattern with 10 locations is set by GBCF State Team qualifier Steve Taylor.

Ronnie Garrison | September 25, 1998

Cooler weather, less competition, and bass ready to eat make October a great time to be a bass fisherman, especially if you fish Clarks Hill.

“I would rather be on Clarks Hill in October than any other lake,” said Steve Taylor, a member of the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation (GBCF) state team. “It is just about the best lake in the state in the fall. Starting in October and right on through December, you can count on catching good bass up Little River.

“The bass here are like ranchers, herding the shad into narrow cuts up the river, and then feeding on them. That makes them easy to catch.”

Steve joined me at Raysville Boat Club on Labor Day weekend to show me his patterns for October bass. Although exceptionally hot, and under conditions making a local guide say the black flies were the only thing biting, we were able to catch a few small bass on his patterns. We were a month early. In October the bass will be herding the shad up Little River, feeding on them, and ready to eat your bait if you follow Steve’s advice.

October patterns are very simple, according to Steve. You run up Little River until you get to the water-pumping station at Kemp Creek and start fishing the steep banks and narrow cuts. There are several places up the river where you could fish all day, working the outside bends of the river and the cuts off it.

You need only four rods for this fishing, one with a buzzbait for early morning, and for the rest of the day one loaded with a crankbait and another with a jig ’n pig. As a back-up, a Texas-rigged worm can save the day when the fish are playing hard to get, as they were Labor Day weekend.

Little River makes big bends above the pumping station at Kemp Creek. The channel sweeps against the bank on most of the outside edges of these bends and the water drops straight down to 15 to 25 feet deep. The current has exposed the rocks and hard clay on these banks, and many trees have fallen into the water.

Spaced all along these bends are old ditches and gullies that run back from a few yards to a few hundred yards. They also have rocky points, blowdowns and wood cover that has washed downstream and lodged there. Everywhere you look seems to be perfect cover for bass. And Steve assures you it is, and they are there.

Start on one of the steep banks, working a buzzbait early in the morning, and then switching to the crankbait when the sun gets higher. Move quickly, casting to any visible cover like rocks, overhanging bushes and trees. Where there is wood in the water, slow down a little and make a few casts with your jig ’n pig. Keep your boat near the bank and make casts parallel to it, working the buzzbait close to the bank and the crankbait out just far enough to bump bottom often.

Work into any narrow cuts you come to and keep fishing rocks and wood. The ideal cut is narrow enough that you can work both banks from the middle if you keep your boat there. These narrow cuts have deeper water than the wider coves you find in that area, and the bass seem to prefer them. If you see any activity, work the area hard. Smaller, schooling bass will push shad into these cuts and will be chasing them. For the bigger bass concentrate your casts to wood cover sticking out into the cut. The quality fish often will hold on it, waiting on the shad being pushed by the smaller bass. Steve says this is run-and-gun fishing — you are looking for active, feeding fish that will hit quickly. Cover lots of water looking for them. When you catch one, slow down and fish a little more thoroughly since there are usually others in the area, but don’t waste too much time in one spot. There are miles of this good cover to fish and lots of fish to catch.

Another time to slow down a little is when all three types of cover come together. A blowdown or log just in- side a narrow cut, just behind the rocky point at its mouth, is a super place to find a good bass. To prove this point Steve hooked a big fish just inside the cut at spot No. 4 on the map when we fished on Labor Day weekend. It stopped his crankbait dead in the water but came off when Steve reared back on the rod. I started to say something about setting the hook on a wood bass, but a 10-lb. boil where the fish came off shut my mouth!

Early in the morning Steve runs a 1/2-oz. Hank Parker Classic buzzbait. He works it fast, sputtering and churn- ing the water to draw the bass up from the almost vertical drop. He likes Spider Wire on his baitcasting outfit to stick the hook into any bass that tries to eat it. Remember to keep your boat close to the bank and cast down it to keep your buzzbait in productive water longer.

If the water is clear, Steve usually throws a No. 9 natural shad-colored Shad Rap on a casting outfit and 12- lb. line. That bait will work seven to 10 feet deep and dig bottom, so he keeps the boat right on the bank when fishing it, making parallel casts to work that depth. If the water is stained he goes to a Firetiger pattern 7A Bomber for a brighter, noisier lure but works the same depth. Feeding fish will usually move into seven to 10 feet of water, so that is where Steve wants his bait.

Many of Steve’s better fish hit a jig ’n pig. He fishes it on all the cover up the river, but especially likes blowdowns and logs as targets. Rocks and hard clay are also good places to catch a bass on a jig ’n pig here. A black jig with some blue or purple in it, with a black frog, are generally the colors Steve chooses, but he will try a brown and orange combo if the bass don’t seem to want the black one. Although he likes a Bo Hog trailer, he usually uses a Zoom Chunk since it will not dry out. He trims them to make them more effective, giving them a more streamline shape.

The 3/8-oz. Strike King Pro model jig is Steve’s favorite and he fishes it on a casting outfit with 14-lb. line. Try several different kinds of retrieves on the jig ’n pig until the fish show you what they prefer. Steve usually starts with a “pull and hop” retrieve but then will try to entice bass by shaking his rod tip or twitching the bait off the bottom.

If the fish just will not hit any of the above baits, Steve will throw a Texas-rigged worm. He likes a six-inch Junebug worm fished on light lead. This outfit will often produce some small fish if the bigger ones aren’t active. Keep trying the other baits, though, because the bigger fish may turn on at any time and they seem to prefer crankbaits or a jig ’n pig.

The type cover to fish is easy to spot when you get up the river, but several of Steve’s favorites are marked on a map for you. Running up the river from Amity ramp is not bad, even in the near darkness early in the morn- ing, until you get to the pumping station. From it on up be very careful, watch for floating logs, stickups and mud flats.

Go slowly, especially if the lake is a few feet below the 330 full pool mark like it usually is in the fall. Stay on the outside bends, the inside bends are mostly mud flats and you can go from 20 feet to stuck on the bottom right now. For a shorter run, put in at Smith Mill ramp, although it is harder to reach by land and not as well-developed as Amity.

No. 1: The downstream point of Kemp Creek often holds quality bass and is a good place to start. Fish the bare clay bank. There is a stump line off the bank near the upper end of it, almost on the small point. Work your buzzbait in this area if the sun is still below the trees, and it is an excellent place to run a crankbait. Try to hit the stumps — when you do make several more casts to the same area.

No. 2: The bank on both sides of the pumping station, and on into Kemp Creek, is a good area. It is typical of the outside bend of the river, with lots of wood lodged against the bank. It is also the last 30-foot deep water you hit running up the river and many bass move downriver to this point during the summer and concentrate there. This area will get early sun, so fish it early. The overhanging bushes give some shade and may hold a bass after it gets bright. At places you can have your boat almost on the bank and be over 30 feet of water, so work your jig ’n pig down the drop slowly. Try around the base of the pumping station pilings before you work on down the bank.

No. 3: Circle wide of the interior point to your left across from the pumping station to get the bank above it. There is a small rocky point down this bank a short distance and that is where Steve usually starts. Fish this point with the buzzbait if it’s still early and try a crankbait and jig ’n pig on it from several different angles. Work down the bank, fishing any cover you see, but working all the bank because there is lots of good cover under water. You will come to a couple of small ditches with logs and floating wood lodged in them. Some logs are not visible, so try to hit one with your jig ’n pig. When you find it, try to fish the entire length of it. As the bend turns back to your right, the bank is steep and has a hard clay bottom and over-hanging brush. You will also see some rocks under the bushes, indicating a ridge that extends on down. Fish these rocks carefully, bass like to hold on them.

No. 4: The two rocky points on the downstream side of this cut are always good, and this is where Steve hooked a big fish Labor Day weekend. He says he always fishes it carefully before going on into the cut and has often caught quality bass off the rocks on the two points and also from the area be- tween them. As you go into the cut, both banks are steep and have wood cover on them. The deep ditch on your left offers another point to fish on its right side. Near the back of the main cove the bank stays steep but there is a flat to your right as you work in. That flat has some stumps on it and they also hold bass.

No. 5: When you come out of the cut the steep bank continues upstream. There is one deep ditch with wood cover and lots of wood on the steep drop all along the bank. Overhanging bushes are also good targets, but the sun hits this bank fairly early. Steve works it on up to the first wide cove, but doesn’t fish into it since it is not typical of the cuts he finds bass in. He works the rocky point just before you get to the cut.

No. 6: Straight across the river is another deep bank. The point is very flat and shallow and may fool you be- cause the bank is not high above the water, but it drops off fast. It is one of Steve’s favorite areas since there is lots of wood hung up here, there are several small ditches to offer drops at different angles under the water, and it stays shady for a long time. This bank does not drop as straight off as others so keep your boat farther out while fishing it. While fishing your crankbait, keep your boat over water a little deeper than the maximum the bait will run, and make angling casts to the bank, working it all the way back to the boat. When you hit good wood or rock cover, stop and try the jig ’n pig for reluctant bass.

No. 7: The two big cuts on this bank, as well as a few small ones, are all worth repeated casts to the points on either side. Steve usually does not work deep into them unless he sees activity back inside, preferring to stay on the river bank in this area. If you find fish on one point you can try hopping from point to point since they may be on that pattern that day rather than scattered between the points.

No. 8: This bank is as far up river as Steve fishes. It has lots of good water to fish and you will probably run out of time before you can fish it all. Stay well out to the right as you approach the point, the channel kicks out away from it, and it is very shallow just where the point ends. Steve starts fishing right at the point and works up- stream, fishing it like the others. There are no deep pockets on this bank al- though a couple of ditches do hold wood — and bass. The river has narrowed down enough here that the bass’s choice of cover is very limited. Watch for a pattern on this bank and the others. If most of your fish hit on wood rather than rocks, concentrate your casts to wood. If they seem to like logs better than blowdowns with limbs, pay attention to the logs, etc.

You can fish on up the river from here, and Big and Hart creeks also have similar structure. Some steep banks below Kemp Creek can also be fished the same way. There is lots of good structure to keep you busy all day, and it holds bass.

It also looks “fishy,” an added bonus that makes you fish harder and keeps your attention at a high level. All in all, it is a super area to spend some time bass fishing.

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