Draw-Down Bass At High Falls
The lake is coming down 5 to 6 feet for work on the dam. Low water will mean super bass fishing - and great scouting for hidden cover.
March is one of our best bass fishing months, but where should you go? Would you like to head to a lake where you won’t be bothered by pleasure boaters, there are almost no tournaments and one of the best populations of bass more than 15 inches long among Georgia reservoirs?
If so, plan a trip to High Falls. And that’s just during a normal March. This year, DNR is lowering High Falls 5 to 6 feet to work on the dam. Hemmed up, hungry bass in a small lake? Sign us up!
High Falls is a 660-acre lake in High Falls State Park just off I-75 between Jackson and Forsyth. Motors are restricted to 10 horsepower or less, but you can put in a boat with a bigger motor if you don’t crank it. You can be on the lake between daylight and dark. Great fishing makes up for any headaches associated with these restrictions.
During shocking studies, fisheries biologists have found High Falls has one of the highest populations of 15-inch or longer bass of any Georgia lake they sample. Bass heavier than 8 pounds are caught regularly. Typically, most of your fishing for High Falls bass will be on shoreline cover, since deep structure like channels and rockpiles have been silted in on this old lake.
This year you have an unusual opportunity to see exactly what that shoreline cover looks like that is normally hidden underwater. The lake will be lowered 5 to 6 feet and kept low during the repairs. Although four siphons have been running since late January, all the rain this year has kept the lake full so far. It was supposed to be down the full 5 to 6 feet by now.
The reason siphons are being used to lower the lake is because the control gate was damaged in a flood a few years ago. The state had no money to repair it, so it was cemented in. Funds are now available for repair, so the lake will be lowered and repairs made so this problem won’t happen again.
The resource manager said the lake will be lowered no matter how long it takes. When it goes down, you will have a few weeks to get on the lake and study the exposed cover, see how to fish it when the water comes up, and be more efficient fishing it. And with the water low, you will have an excellent chance of catching a big bass since there will be fewer places for them to hide.
Sunny days, especially after a couple of warm days, will make the water temperature in the shallows go up quickly. This pulls the bass and baitfish into very shallow water. The backs of pockets and creeks can hold good numbers of big prespawn largemouth under these conditions. And they may be very shallow on any bank.
A cold front will push them back out to the first drop or cover near the mouths of the creeks. Cloudy days keep the temperature from warming, so that may push them out, too. Adjust your fishing to the weather conditions.
There are two ramps, one at the dam and one in Buck Creek, that provide access to the lake when full. Both may be useable with the water down, so it would be best to plan on taking a small boat to make launching and loading easier. You can cover the entire lake with a trolling motor, and with the lake down, you will have even less water to cover.
Ricky Hightower fishes the lake a lot and does well in jonboat tournaments on High Falls. He fishes the Lil’ Waters Bassin’ and other trails and puts on some pot tournaments there. This year there is a new trail, Extreme Bassin’, that fishes High Falls and other small lakes. Schedules and more information on this trail can be found on the GON Forum at forum.gon.com.
Their first tournament was on High Falls on Jan. 11 this year, and a 9-lb. largemouth was weighed in. There are a lot of quality fish like that in High Falls, and March is one of the best months to hook one. Ricky says High Falls has a tremendous number of 4- and 5-lb. bass, so you should catch some in that range, too.
What’s the key this month, whether the lake is down 5 feet or full pool?
“Keep moving,” Ricky said.
Catching bass at High Falls in March can be that simple. Ricky says you want to cover a lot of water, fishing fairly fast with crankbaits and spinnerbaits to find active bass. He does not expect to catch a lot of bass in one place. He does expect to catch individual bass on cover, so he moves a lot to catch a lot.
At the end of February and in early March, the water is usually still cold and often muddy, so Ricky said he fishes a little slower while still covering water. He will fish the main-lake deep banks and into creeks and pockets. On warm sunny days, the bass may move farther back into them, so keep fishing into the pockets if you are not catching bass at the mouths of the pockets.
With the lake full, concentrate your casts to docks, blowdowns and stumps. Many docks have brush around them, and most are on posts, making them even better. The grassbeds have not started to grow, but bream and shad still feed around the old dead grass, so fishing it is worth trying, too.
A 1/2-oz. Constant Threat spinnerbait with a silver-and-white skirt and one gold and one silver willowleaf blade is his first choice this time of year. If the water is really muddy, he will go to a skirt with some chartreuse in it.
Ricky will run his spinnerbait beside all the cover he can find. Don’t hesitate to cast right on the bank in a foot of water around the bank-side dock posts, brush tops and at the trunks of blowdowns. Fish your bait as slowly as possible while keeping it off the bottom.
A crankbait is good, too. Ricky likes the Strike King 1.5 square bill in shad colors in clearer water and a black-and-chartreuse bait in muddy water. These baits bump the cover without hanging up, and that is important. Bump dock posts, blowdown limbs and brush.
A red rattle bait is always good in muddy water on High Falls in March. Early in the month, fish it as slowly as you can, and then speed it up as the water warms. Since this type bait hangs up easily, run it close to cover without hitting it, and also fish it on more open and rocky banks.
Buck Creek, Brushy Creek and Watkins Bottom are all good areas to fish, as are the main-lake pockets and deep banks near the dam. There are also some good banks upstream of the mouth of Watkins Bottom to fish this time of year.
Buck Creek, upstream of the ramp and bridge, is full of old stumps, and they can be a bass magnet this time of year. They are on shallow flats that warm quickly, and the bass like to spawn in this area, so it is a very good place to fish. The ramp in Buck Creek gives you easy access to this area.
Late in March as the water warms, bass will move to the spawning areas, and some of the bigger bass will spawn on the full moon on March 16. The week after the full moon should be excellent unless the weather is unusually cold.
Stumps can be the key in late March. Wear good polarized sunglasses so you can see dark spots marking deeper stumps. There are a lot of stumps that come up to the surface, too. Cast to all of them with spinnerbaits and square-bill crankbaits.
Ricky says the water is usually too stained to do much sight fishing, so he does not spend a lot of time looking for bedding bass, but he will cast a fluke to one if he sees it. The bass on beds you can’t see are often near stumps, so targeting them is a good tactic.
If the lake is low when you fish, Ricky says to look for deeper banks on the main lake and also the first drop in the mouths of the creeks and coves. Bass will still try to move into the spawning areas in March and will stack up on the first drop going into them.
The lower water will also keep more bass on the steeper banks. A lot of the cover will be out of the water, so what is still in the water will be prime places to catch fish. Most docks will be out of the water, but brush in front of them will still have water on them, and you can see them.
A blowdown will be exposed except for the end, so bass will hold on what is still in the water. You will have less cover to fish to get your bait to them. Make multiple casts to any cover like this that is in the water.
A spinnerbait or crankbait run by the tip of a blowdown or brushpile is a good bet. Make multiple casts to any cover in the water, since you don’t have a lot of cover to hit. A big bass may be reluctant to hit, but you can get a reaction strike if you make the fish mad with repeated casts.
For the drops in the mouths of the coves, Ricky will work a jig-head worm on them. He likes a 1/8-oz. Spot Remover head with a candy-bug Trick Worm on it. If the water is muddy, he will go to a darker worm like junebug. He fishes it on 10-lb. fluorocarbon and works it through all the cover.
Early in the month, if the water is draw-down, fish the shaky head slowly, pausing it on top of the drop and shaking it. Later in the month, hop the shaky head more but still shake it in place, especially on the edge of the drop.
A shaky head is also good around stumps. Cast to any stumps sticking out of the water, and watch for the submerged ones, too. There are a lot of stumps out in 6 to 8 feet of water that are missed when the lake is full, but you will be able to see and fish them when the water is low.
The water should get near or above 60 degrees toward the end of March, and as soon as it gets there, Ricky will keep a buzzbait and Spook ready. Topwater will work well whether the water is full or drawn-down as long as the surface temperature is near 60 degrees.
Fish the buzzbait over any cover on the banks and the Spook over points and submerged cover. Topwater will also catch bass around the old dead grassbeds. Fish the buzzbait as slowly as possible while keeping it on top. The Spook can be fished slowly, too, with pauses right over the cover.
When the water is drawn down, creeks with a water flow and ditches with runoff if it rains will wash out some. A delta will form out from the mouths of them, exposing a harder bottom past it. Those should be very good places to find spawning bass if the lake is down when they go on the bed.
You might think the ditches and channels that wash out will be good after the water comes up, and they may be for a short time. But within a few weeks at most, wave and current action will fill them back in with silt from banks on either side.
Ricky was featured in a GON Map of the Month article on High Falls in the November, 2013 issue, and he will be fishing most of those same specific spots in March, but he will fish them differently, especially if the water is down.
Give High Falls a try this month. Study the exposed cover when the water goes down. Fish any cover you see either at full pool or with the water low. You have a good chance of catching a fat wall-hanger and will definitely catch some healthy bass.
You can find the Extreme Bassin schedule on the GON Forum at forum.gon.com/showthread.php?t=786563. The other small-boat trail tournaments are there, too.
To check on the water level at High Falls Lake, call the state park office at (478) 993-3053.
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