Dodge County PFA’s Big-Time Fishing

Thank goodness for the postspawn as south Georgia lunkers get hungry.

Brad Gill | August 2, 2014

The drive before dawn from Putnam County to Dodge County PFA was a long one, but the anticipation was certainly enough to keep me awake. Not only was I getting to fish at what I believe is one of south Georgia’s best public fisheries for catching giant largemouth, I was going to be fishing with a really good friend of mine, Troy Davis, of Cochran.

Troy and I do some Christian ministry work together, and during our time serving together, I have learned that this brother loves to fish. I’ve seen enough pictures on his cell phone and Facebook page to know that he’s good at it, too. That’s how this whole Dodge PFA article idea came up.

When I pulled into the very nice parking lot at Dodge PFA, Troy was waiting on me in what he calls his river boat. Nothing fancy, but certainly roomy enough to go fishing in comfort.

A full-sized bass boat was idling away right beside him. PFA rules state that if a lake is open to boats with gas motors, you can operate a motor of any size as long as you keep it at idle speed. We were one of about seven boats already on the water on a Thursday morning.

“I caught a few out here last Saturday,” Troy shared with me.

We headed up the lake several hundred yards and went into the first pocket on the opposite bank. I started the morning slinging a Rat-L-Trap, and a few casts later a 1 1/2-pounder smashed the plug right at the boat. The first fish was in my hands. Monkey off!

Troy was working a more traditional early morning bait for this time a year. His choice was a shad-colored Zoom Super Fluke. Before long, he had a 1 1/2-pounder in the boat, too. I almost just kept fishing, but I told Troy, “Let me take a picture, just in case…”

I’m so glad I took that picture. It was the last bass that made it into the boat on a day I thought we would absolutely kill them. It was a warm, sunny day in April, and the weather had been stable for several days. What was the deal?

To unravel the mystery, I called another friend of mine, Bert Deener, who happens to be the WRD Fisheries region supervisor for the region that Dodge County PFA is located. In addition to a job where he deals with fish, Bert loves to go fishing about as much as anyone I know.

Bert told me, “(When you fished) It went from a high 50s water temperature to almost 70 in five days. It just happened too quickly, I think.”

Also, it appeared from all the bass beds we saw that we were fishing during the peak spawn. Bert backed up our suspisions.

“There will be days during the spawn when they get a funk,” said Bert. “Some days it’s just hard to figure them out. I like the postspawn where you can absolutely rope ’em.”

OK, so I’m honestly not making excuses for our lack of bass in the boat. I’m actually trying to encourage you that bass fishing is fixing to get right on Dodge. Bert shared some other information regarding the bass bite on Dodge PFA that is worth noting.

“It’s really strange, but the bass bite (at Dodge) is a light switch kind of thing, but when they turn on, it is incredible. It’s almost as if every bass in the lake goes on a feeding frenzy,” said Bert.

Bert said fishing after work for an hour or so is not the best way to experience the best Dodge PFA has to offer.

“When I fish the PFAs, I like to fish sunrise to sunset,” said Bert.

So what triggers the fish to turn on for three or four hours on any given notice? Bert is not sure, but he stands firm on the fact that Dodge bass fall into the category of light-switch bassing. In fact, the late David Partridge, former WRD fisheries biologist, helped prove the light-switch theory.

“Partridge used to come here in the 90s, and for literally two weeks, he would fish it every day—the whole day, and that is what he found. They would turn on in phases, like you would have a feed for four or five hours.”

Did Partridge figure out the trigger to the feeding frenzy? Nope. Bert did say it was never moon related. Instead, the feeding frenzy was sporadic.

“You just have to put in your time,” said Bert. “It was almost as if every fish in the lake would feed. I (still) don’t know what the trigger is.”

The take-home message is to pack a lunch when you head to Dodge County PFA in May. Take plenty of sunscreen and water, and make plans to stay from sunrise to sunset as bass get out of their spawning funk and start loading up on the calories—at least when the light switch goes on.

You can bet my buddy Troy will be out there in May fishing the 104-acre lake. Troy’s fishing techniques are pretty simple, but they really work. His postspawn baits for Dodge are on page 65, and he basically fishes main-lake points from one end of the lake to the other as fish stack up on their summer patterns.

If the light switch turns on for you, don’t be surprised if you hang into the fish of a lifetime. Troy and I saw a fish cruising the shallows that was bigger than anything he’s ever caught, and he’s got several 10-pounders under his belt.

Go Fishing On Dodge

PFAs are open Wednesday-Sunday from sunrise to sunset. To get to Dodge County PFA from Eastman, go south on US Hwy. 23/341 for 3 miles. Take a left on Dodge Lake Road (County Rd. 49). Travel 0.6 miles to lake.

New Fishing Regs At Dodge PFA

New fishing regulations on Dodge County PFA went into effect that will help improve the fishery, while making it a little easier for folks to have a fried-fish supper.

Bass Regulation: As of May 1, there is no longer a minimum size limit for those wanting to harvest bass. The creel limit will remain at five bass per person per day, and anglers will be allowed to keep only one bass longer than 16 inches as part of their daily limit of five bass. In the past, anglers faced a 14-inch minimum with only one bass longer than 21 inches that could be kept.

“Right now Dodge is overcrowded with bass,” said Bert Deener, region supervisor for Fisheries out of the Waycross Office.

To help improve the overall fishery, the lake is at point where some bass need to be removed.

“We evaluated different size limits on the bass, but the reality is that we want the mouth out,” said Bert. “It really doesn’t matter if that’s a 4-inch bass or a 10-inch bass. According to our models, which are based on our sampling data, we believe this is going to be the right regulation to improve the growth rates.”

When too many bass get into a body of water, it means more competition for food and fewer big bass.

“There are still giants in there, just not as many as it cranked out before,” said Bert. “Over time, this new regulation should result in a higher percentage of bigger bass.”

Live Bait Regulation: If you like to crappie fish with minnows, since January you can use them to fish on Dodge PFA.

“Some people will only go crappie fishing where they can use minnows,” said Bert. “That barrier is now gone.”

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