Johnson’s Hot Spots For February Carters Lake Bass

Whether he’s fishing on the BASS trail or just for fun, Mike Johnson will be throwing a jig this month and expecting a big spot to eat it.

Ronnie Garrison | February 1, 2003

To catch bass in Georgia in February usually means one of three things — hope for a warm spell, head south, or look for clear water and spotted bass. If you live in northwest Georgia, the first two are tough, but you have Carters Lake near you which has clear water and a great population of spotted bass.

Carters spot population exploded a few years ago, and a lot of 5- and 6-pounders were coming out of the lake. Some folks predicted a new world record from Carters. Word spread, and the bass got a lot of fishing pressure. Catching a 6-pounder is tougher now, but there are still a lot of good spots in the lake.

All the pressure has made the fishing harder, but you can still get a great day of bass fishing from the lake. There are a lot of tournaments there, and somebody usually manages a good limit. February is an excellent time to find some of Carters’ spots and possibly catch a personal record.

The lake is deep with steep, rocky banks and points everywhere. Wood cover is common. The water stays clear most of the year making cold-water fishing better. Spots feed better than largemouth in cold water. All these factors make Carters a good choice for a February trip.

This Carters Lake spotted bass hit a jig while Mike Johnson fished with the author on Dec. 27, 2002. Mike also uses a Finesse worm to catch spots.

Mike Johnson grew up near Carters, and he has fished it all his life. About five years ago he got the tournament bug, and he has been fishing on the professional trail ever since. He got a big boost, as well as a good background in fishing, from his father-in-law Danny Kirk, a well-known professional fisherman.

This past year was good to Mike. If you get the Bass Times magazine you can read about his second place finish on Lake Martin last November in a BASS tournament. That wrapped up a place at the 2003 Bass Masters Classic for him. He caught his fish at Martin on a homemade jig ’n pig that he perfected at Carters. The spots at Martin liked it as much as the spots at Carters.

Mike weighed in a sack of five spots weighing 13.06 pounds at Martin the last day, including a 4-lb., 10-oz. spot which was the biggest spot in the tournament. He says catches like that are common at Carters, too, and his biggest spot from Carters is a 5-lb., 13-oz. monster.

February is a great month for catching spots at Carters, according to Mike. He chooses two baits to use and says they will work all month. The home-made jig ’n pig with a Zoom twin-tail trailer is his favorite, but he will also keep a Zoom Finesse worm Texas rigged and ready. The bass at Carters will eat one or both of those baits all month long.

Both baits are fished on 12-lb. Vanish line, the same line he used in the Martin tournament. He believes this line helps him catch spooky fish in clear water, and the fact that it sinks fast and has little stretch helps get the light bait deep and makes strikes easier to feel.

Mike warns of three things about the Vanish line. One, don’t use a Palomar knot but use a Trilene knot. The Palomar does not hold in the Vanish as well. Two, watch for nicks in the line, as any abrasion can really weaken it. And third, remember this line has little stretch, so you cannot jerk on it like you do monofilament.

Light weights also help, and Mike uses a 1/4-oz. jig and a 1/4- oz. sinker on his Texas rig. He likes brown jigs and rootbeer-colored trailers. The jig will sometimes have some chartreuse strands in it.

Also, Mike will trim the jig to make it smaller and more compact. Mike fishes a watermelon or green pumpkin Finesse worm for his Texas rig.

Mike looks for steep, rocky points and banks and prefers ones near the mouths of creeks or with standing timber nearby. Both help hold February spots. Mike will cast his jig up into 12 feet of water and work it out to 20 feet, since he expects to find spots somewhere between 15 and 20 feet deep this month. When he locates a depth he concentrates on it, saying spots all over the lake will hold in a surprisingly narrow depth range most days.

Rather than hopping and twitching the jig or worm Mike likes to crawl it along the bottom, making it look like a crayfish easing along. He offers an easy meal for fish, and this also allow him to feel the bites better. Scraping the jig or lead along the bottom also makes noise that might attract bass.

Toward the end of the month, Mike will look for pockets off the main river and creeks, and expect spots to be moving into them looking for bedding areas. Again, if standing timber is present it is a much better area. Mike will work all around the pockets with both baits as the water warms in late February.

Mike showed me 10 of his favorite spots on Carters for February fishing. There are many more on the lake that are similar to these. Check these spots out with a jig ’n pig or Finesse worm, and then you can find others like them.

No. 1: N 34º 36.589 – W 84º 37.077 — If you put in at Doll Mountain you can go straight across the creek to the ramp for the campground and catch bass. The ramp was dug into a point and just a narrow strip of land runs out parallel to it. There is brush along the drop for the ramp, and bass hold here in February.

Here’s location No. 1 that Mike mentions as a good place for a February bite on Carters this month. Fish the dock and ramp here, and also work the point upstream of it. Mike said to get way out on the point and cast back across it, working your jig or worm up and down looking for deep brush.

Fish the dock and ramp itself but also work the point upstream of it. Get way out on the point and cast back across it, working your jig or worm up and down the drop, probing for brush and rocks in the 15- to 20-foot depth range. Make more casts to the same area when you locate cover.

No. 2: N 34º 36.816 – W 84º 37.072 — Head out of the creek and watch for the second main-lake point on your right. It will be clay on the upstream side and then changes to rock. There are several dead beetle-killed pines on the bank, and one had fallen into the water on this point when we were there.

There is a steep drop all around this point, and it is a good place to find bass in February since it is a main-lake point near some pockets where they will spawn later in the spring. Fish from the upstream side of the point through the little sandy pocket with trees in it on the downstream side. Work the pocket and wood in it good in late February.

No. 3: N 34º 37.147 – W 84º 37.141 — Go past the mouth of Coley Creek and watch for the two danger markers on your right. This is a long underwater point that rises well off the bank at the markers. It is a complex little point according to Mike, and you should fish all the way around it, watching for areas where it flattens and then drops sharply. You should also ease across the pocket to the clay point with the big stump on it, and fish all around it while you are here.

No. 4: N 34º 37.501 – W 84º 37.064 — Head up the river and watch for a narrow clay point on your left. It has a tree in the water out on the end of it, and the rootball is sticking out of the water near the bank. As you approach from downstream you will see a tree growing out on the point, and it looks like all the limbs are on the right side of it. Fish all around this point, feeling for the end of the tree you can see in the water and any other cover on it. Crawl your baits along the bottom, trying to scrape the clay and bump into anything there. Fish slowly since even spots are less active in cold water.

No. 5: N 34º 37.780 W 84º 36.822 — Go up the river, and there is an island on the left where the channel makes a wide sweep to the right as you go upstream. Just before the point where the bank turns is a small point with a tall dead pine on it. Just upstream of the point is a little pocket full of standing timber. A couple stick out of the water, and more are visible when you get close.

Start at the point downstream of the pocket and fish upstream past the big point where the river turns, and then fish the bluff bank above it. The points and bluff wall hold bass all month, and some will move into the pocket to scout out spawning areas late in the month. Fish all the wood on the bank and in the pocket. Late in the month fish from very shallow out to 20 feet deep, but early in the month concentrate on the deeper 15- to 20-foot level.

No. 6: N 34º 38.048 – W 84º 36.968 — Go past the island and stop on the point upstream of it on the left that points toward it. Start fishing the point and work the steep bank going upstream. There are rocks and wood in the water along this bank that hold spots all month long. On this bank and others, remember how fast the bottom drops. You must fish your bait slowly to keep it in contact with the bottom. Hop it too high and it might fall several feet before hitting bottom again. Fish parallel to the bank, making casts that angle toward the bank from deeper water to help you keep your bait on the bottom on steep banks.

No. 7: N 34º 37.907 – W 84º 38.386 — Run to Wurly Creek and start up it. Past the mouth of Gobie Branch start counting coves and go to the third small one on the right. Start fishing the downstream side and work all the way around the point and pocket itself, feeling for any kind of cover on the bottom. Watch for a big log on the downstream bank, just inside the point, to know you are in the right place.

No. 8: N 34º 36.044 – W 84º 38.804 — Head down toward the dam and cross to the south bank. The point between Lewis Branch and the next creek north of it is excellent. You will be across the creek from the marina. Start on the downstream side inside the creek where you see the white rocks. Fish from them out around the main-lake point with the one stickup on it. Bass school up here in this area between the two creeks and hold all month long.

No. 9: N 34º 36.492 – W 84º 39.448 — Go to the bluff wall on the main lake upstream of the mouth of the creek where the boat ramp is located. Fish the bluff bank and around the point into the creek. You can fish all the way to the boat ramps, working the trees in the water. A lot of tournaments are held from this ramp and released fish stay in the area.

On the outside bank you must fish slow because it drops straight off. Work the point casting across it from both sides. As you go into the creek the bottom flattens out some, and there is a lot of wood cover. This whole area is good in February.

No. 10: N 34º 36.686 – W 84º 39.083 — Straight across the lake at the mouth of Fisher Creek you will see a hump marked with three danger markers. You will be facing the dam when fishing the upstream side of it. There is a steep drop on this upstream side where bass hold during February. Fish all around this hump, but concentrate on the drop on the upstream side.

For February, check out these 10 fishing spots that Mike likes to fish, then look for others that are like them. Work them with a jig ’n pig or a Finesse worm, and you might catch that world-record spot that some anglers say is hiding in the waters of Carters Lake.

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