Clarks Hill Bass On The Spawning Flats

Tony Christian won the last BFL tournament on Clarks Hill. He said April is a great time on the lake because pre-spawn and post-spawn bass are in the same areas.

Ronnie Garrison | April 1, 2002

On a cold, rainy day in mid March, Tony Christian and the author boated 15 small buck bass. Tony said the bigger females weren’t far behind, and they should be on these spots by the first of April.

Bass fishermen look forward to the month of April like toddlers wait for Christmas. Good things happen in April for fishermen, and Clarks Hill is just about the best lake in the state to take advantage of those good things. If you like catching bass in shallow water, now is the time and Clarks Hill is the lake.

At 72,000 acres, Clarks Hill is the biggest lake in Georgia, and there are hundreds of coves, creeks and backouts where bass spawn this month, and a diversity you won’t find on most lakes. A short run will put you in different types of water, from muddy to clear. Cover will range from sand to mud, rocks to wood, and steep banks to huge flats. Clarks Hill is also full of bass. It is consistently one of the best in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creel Census Report for number of fish caught per man hour of fishing.

Tony Christian lives in Hull and has been bass fishing all his life. Tony started fishing buddy tournaments with Donnie Taylor, and they fished every one they could find, usually placing in the top 10 percent. Fishing the Redman/BFL last year as a co-angler, Tony finished third at Sinclair. This year Tony decided to limit his tournaments to the BFL Savannah River Trail and the HD Marine Trail. The first BFL Savannah River Trail tournament was on Clarks Hill in February. Tony won it with four bass weighing 17-lbs., 9-ozs. Clarks Hill is one of Tony’s favorite lakes. He said April is one of the best months for catching bass on Clarks Hill because the fish are usually easy to pattern.

On a cold, rainy mid-March Tuesday, I met Tony at Bobby Brown State Park. We fished places he said would hold bass in April, and fish were already there. We caught 15 bass, but they were all small bucks. They were on the pattern Tony was showing me, and by the time you read this the bigger fish will have moved into those same places.

“In April the bass are moving into the spawning flats back in the creeks and coves,” Tony said. “I look for them on the points going in, from the main­-lake point all the way back to the small secondary points near the back of the creek.” Bass will hold on these points moving in and also moving back out, so you can catch them coming and going, both prespawn and post spawn.

“I like crankbaits and jerkbaits,” Tony told me. “It’s easy to cover a lot of water, find the fish and catch them on those baits,” he added. Tony will have a couple of Shad Raps rigged and a Lucky Craft Staysee or Pointer Minnow ready. By fishing those baits he can find the fish, pattern them and also catch good numbers.

If he gets to the back of the creek and sees bass on the bed, Tony will sight fish with a weightless lizard, letting it settle in the bed. If it is a big bass, he may spend a lot of time working it, but Tony does not especially like sight fishing.

Many of the spawning areas at Clarks Hill are too stained to sight fish. If he thinks the bass are bedding but he can not see them, Tony will Carolina rig his lizard and work it around wood cover where he expects the bass to be on the bed. Slowly dragging a Carolina rig through bedding areas is a good way to catch some big Clarks Hill bass this month.

Tony throws his crankbaits and jerkbaits on All Star rods and Calcutta reels spooled with 8-lb. green Stren or P-Line. He uses the same outfits but 15- to 17-lb. line for the Carolina rigs.

These two patterns keep it simple. That helps Tony locate and pattern the fish. If you throw a lot of different baits in a lot of different areas and catch one or two bass on them, it is hard to pick up a pattern.

Tony has just about every color Shad Rap made and has them in all sizes. He will throw a No. 7 unless he has info the bass are looking for something smaller or bigger. We threw No. 5 black and silver baits mostly but switched to perch in more stained water. Perch is Tony’s favorite color in the Shad Rap.

Go with natural colors in clear water and switch to brighter colors if it is muddy. Tony will throw the clown red/chartreuse/chrome Shad Rap if the water is heavily stained. By sticking with the same kind of bait but changing sizes and colors, Tony can be consistent, which helps him pattern bass.

Tony showed me nine spots where he catches bass in April. If you go to Clarks Hill, try his methods and look at these places. There are hundreds more just like them, so you can easily find others to fish.

No. 1 on the map: If you put in at Bobby Brown State Park, there is no need to crank your gas motor. The three pockets right at the boat ramp are good spawning spots and the steep points between them are excellent holding places for bass moving in and out. Fish all three points with crankbaits. The water should be real clear here, so try natural colors. Watch for any wood cover in the water and fish it carefully. Also watch for breaking fish and work them. Tony says he can catch a fish he sees breaking if he can get the jerkbait near them.

As you work back into each pocket, watch any little flat place you see for bedding activity. Since the banks here are so steep, any small step or flat is a likely spot for a bed. Try the lizard if you find a bed. The main-lake point across from the ramp on the downstream side of these pockets is also a good holding area. It is a big flat point that drops off on the upstream side. We caught two fish here, one on a Shad Rap and one on a Staysee.

2. Head up the river and watch for the first big cove on your left. There is a state fish attractor on the center point back in it between the two side pockets, and you can see a clear area up on the bank at that point with a picnic table on it. The fish attractor is a bunch of PVC pipe sticking up vertically. Fish the point on the downstream side going in and work into the pocket. There is lots of wood cover here — stumps, logs and brush. It runs all the way out into the cove. Look for white jugs just under the surface here and in other spots. That indicates a tree someone has put out. Be sure to run your bait by any of them you see. Fish the back of the left pocket looking for beds.

Work out around the main point and make a few casts to the PVC pipes. Past the fish attractor, the deep cove has lots of wood cover scattered in it and a sharp, narrow point runs off the right bank going in. It is worth a few casts. Tony says he likes to run his bait across points like this, digging in on one side, running across the top and down the other side.

3. Head across the lake to the mouth of Russell Creek. It is unnamed on some maps, but Mount Pleasant Access is in it. There is standing timber all along the channel going into the creek, so be careful. It is down about eight feet below full pool.

Watch for the small creek on the right just after you enter the main creek. It goes back and splits into several small pockets. Fish the points between them and look for bedding bass in them. Cast to both sides of any stumps you see and make as many casts as necessary to cover any brush. Fish this cove from its mouth all the way around and back to the mouth on the other side.

4. Go into Russell Creek and start fishing on the point on the right past the boat ramp. It is a deep main-creek point and a place where bass stack up going in and coming out. Fish the point, then start working into the creek. Several flats covered with stumps and ditches run out from the right side going in. There is a lot of brush, stumps and logs to fish.

Here and in all other spots watch for markers in the trees. A splash of paint, a reflector nailed to a tree or a can on a limb indicate a brushpile. Follow a line from these markers out, and you could find a brushpile to fish. Sometimes bass hold on these brushpiles after heading in, so run your crankbait by them and drag a lizard through them.

Fish all the way back in the creek until you start stirring up mud with your trolling motor. With the lake down you can see a lot of the stumps and brush, but there is even more under the water. This whole creek is almost one big brushpile.

5. Head down the Savannah River arm and go into Pistol Creek. Tony won the BFL in Pistol, but the pattern has changed since then. The bass he was catching have moved on back and are working toward the spawning areas. Go all the way back to the last big turn to the right and start fishing the left bank.

There are stumps and brush all over the back of Pistol Creek. It has a huge sand flat and that makes it even better for spawning bass. Fish all the visible cover you see and look for indications of brush under the water. If the moon is near full, you can bet a large number of bass will be on the bed back here. That is an excellent time to drag a Carolina-rigged lizard slowly across these sandy flats, feeling for stumps.

You can see hundreds of stumps when the water is 10 feet low and there are even more still below the surface. As the water rises and covers these stumps, bass like to bed beside them. You usually can not see them, so you have to probe for them, and a Carolina-rigged lizard is a good bait to choose.

6. Come out to the mouth of Pistol Creek head up Newford Creek. Go all the way to the back to a sandy hump just downstream of the powerlines. This hump comes to within a few feet of the surface at full pool but is high and dry now. Start fishing on the right side of this island and watch for brush. There are brushpiles everywhere from here all the way to the powerline. Fish the ones you can see and try to find ones below the surface. It seems that every stump has a Christmas tree tied to it or stakes driven in the ground around it. Fish them all.

There are also a lot of big rocks in this creek. Fish all around them, too. Bass will bed on them and beside them, and brush has been put out beside many of them. When you pass the powerline, you will hit big stumpbeds on the right that increase as you go far back into the creek. This whole area is sandy and is excellent for bedding fish, so work it all.

7. It is a good run down to the next three spots. Tony likes the small creek to the right going into Murray Creek. It is a good spawning area, so fish it just like the others. Work the wood cover you see with your crankbaits, then try a lizard around it.

8. Go all the way to the back end of Murray Creek. The big spawning flats here hold bass, and the points are good places for them as bass move in and out. Stay to the right as you go around the big point on that side as you go up the creek and probe the flat for cover and bedding bass.

9. Down the lake a little farther on the Carolina side is one of the Patterson Creeks. This one is right at Hickory Knob State Park and there is a big field on the left as you go into it, and an island in the mouth of it. Fish the left bank going in and work all the cover on that side. If the water is higher, bushes and grass that have grown up will provide cover for the bass. If the lake is above 325, you should have a lot of that kind of cover to fish here and in other spots.

These places are some of Tony’s favorites. Check them out with crankbaits and lizards, and work them as Tony suggests. You should find plenty of bass on them and on other similar places all this month. With spawning bass both coming and going, it’s a great time for impressive catches of bass at Clarks Hill

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