Find Bait Balls In Pockets For Oconee Fall Bass

The baitfish bunch up in the pockets this month, and that’s where you’ll find the bass as well. Leo Sauer marks a map with 10 locations to get you started.

Ronnie Garrison | November 1, 2011

Leo Sauer, who fishes with a couple of Lake Oconee bass clubs, says in November to follow the baitfish to find the bass.

Fishing can be great in November. As the water cools, the bass get very active. They are feeding heavily to get ready for the winter, and fish can be caught a variety of ways. Lake Oconee is one of the best lakes in Georgia to take advantage of this fall feeding spree.

Lake Oconee is a Georgia Power Co. reservoir on the Oconee River just north of Sinclair. It is lined with big houses and boat docks, and the banks are rimmed with rip-rap and seawalls. There is pumpback at the dam, which means water is pulled out of Oconee and pumped back into the lake from Sinclair. The lake level rises and falls about about a foot each day, with current flowing both ways.

In mid-October, the lake was about 3 feet low, which is very unusual for Oconee. Fishing had been tough for several weeks as bass and baitfish began to transition to fall patterns, but the fishing was improving as the water cooled.

Right now, shad are moving into the coves and creeks, and bass are following them. It’s a great time for fun fall action on Oconee as bass key of balls of shad in the pockets.

Leo Sauer moved to the shores of Lake Oconee in 1990 and loves bass fishing there. He fishes with the Oconee Bassmasters and the Lake Oconee Anglers, clubs that fish the lake in many of their club tournaments. He is on the lake two to three days most weeks and keeps up with what the bass are doing.

“Bass follow the shad,” Leo said.

In November, you want to be fishing where you see shad, since they are a key to the feeding this month. You can go into creeks and coves and find the balls of baitfish, and the bass will be nearby.

Leo uses a variety of baits in November, but his favorite is a Spro Little John crankbait. He will usually have two tied on, both in the same clear-chartreuse color, one that runs shallow and one that runs 7 to 9 feet deep.

First thing in the morning, Leo will throw a buzzbait when he sees dimples or swirls indicating bass chasing shad. He will also have rigged and ready a jig-head worm with a green-pumpkin Trick Worm on it, a Texas-rigged green-pumpkin Zoom U-Tail or Ol’ Monster worm and a spinnerbait.

The way Leo fishes a crankbait in November makes a big difference. He does not just cast it out and reel it in. He fishes it almost like a worm, reeling the bait down until it bumps the bottom, and then Leo slowly crawls it along with his rod tip until it loses contact with the bottom. He will then pull it back down and very slowly crawl it along again.

The following 10 spots are all good in November, and there are many more like them all over the lake.

No. 1: N 33º 28.503 – W 83º 19.004 — Leo likes the area around Sugar Creek Marina because fish are brought in from all over the lake each week and released after tournaments. These recycled fish stay in the area and feed, some for long periods of time, so he usually starts in the Sugar Creek area by fishing several nearby holes.

Across from the marina and a little upstream, on the second big point above the boat ramp on that side, you will see two lights on the bank if you are there before the sun comes up. There is a dock with no cover on the point, and it is lined with a seawall with rip-rap in front of it. The bottom is rocky, and there are a couple of blowdowns on the point.

This is a good place to start before it gets light. Fish a crankbait and a buzzbait around the lights and the cover on the point. Leo will often start with the Little John shallow-running crankbait. He’ll cast it across the point, bumping bottom as he crawls it back.

If he sees any surface activity, he will throw a buzzbait, running it fairly fast to attract feeding fish. He will also get in close to the bank on one side of the point and throw the buzzbait parallel to the bank, keeping it over shallow water near the bank as he works around the point.

No. 2: N 33º 29.542 – N 83º 18.880 — Run up Sugar Creek, and take the right fork at the small island between the two forks. On your right you will see a small cove that turns into a point with a tin boathouse on it. There is a blowdown on the right side of the boathouse, and the point on the other side is gravel. Rip-rap lines the bank around the point.

This is another good place to hit early with both the crankbait and buzzbait. Start at the boathouse, and work around the point. Cast to the edge of the bank with your buzzbait, and work it all the way back to the boat. With the crankbait, cast the shallow-running one close to the bank, and fish it back out, bumping the bottom. Then try the deeper-running crankbait, casting it across the point in 5 to 6 feet of water and bumping bottom at that depth.

No. 3: N 33º 28.508 – W 83º 18.882 — Run back to the marina, and stop on the point upstream of the cove that has the boat ramp in it. Start on the upstream side of this big, shallow point and throw a spinnerbait. Sit way off the bank, and make long casts, slow-rolling the bait back along the bottom.

Also try your crankbaits along this point, and continue to work into the cove. It is shallow, so stay well off the bank, and cast your shallow-running crankbait near the bank. Fish it back until it stops bumping the bottom. Leo said to not get in a hurry. Fish your crankbait slowly on the bottom, and concentrate on all the little points and ditches in this cove. Fish around the cove to the upstream point.

No. 4: N 33º 28.321 – W 83º 18.520 — The rip-rap at Sugar Creek bridge is the biggest community hole on the lake — for a good reason. It is always loaded with bass, and a lot of tournaments are won by people willing to stay on this rip-rap until the bass run in to feed.

Leo will fish all of the rip-rap, but he concentrates on the corners with crankbaits and a jig-head worm. He likes a 1/8-oz. head since it will not hang up in the rocks as bad as a heavier head, and he works it and the crankbait slowly, keeping in contact with the rocks.

Current here helps, and it often moves in both directions during the day as water is pumped back at the dam and then released for power generation later in the day. The current seems to ebb and flow several times during each cycle. Watch the current, and fish your baits with the current, depending on which way it is moving.

No. 5: N 33º 28.208 – W 83º 18.552 — Go under the bridge, and on the right side are a series of about 10 docks, starting with one near the bridge. They run along a deep bank that holds a lot of bass year-round. Some of the docks have brush under them, and rip-rap is between some of them.

Fish them with your crankbait, working all the way to the mouth of the next small creek on the right. When you find a dock that has brush, try a Texas-rigged worm in it. Leo will usually start with a green-pumpkin Zoom U-Tail worm, but he will switch to an Ol’ Monster in the same color for bigger fish.

Use a light sinker to keep from hanging up in the brush or on the rocks.  Leo likes a 1/8-oz. bullet weight ahead of the worm. He will also fish the light jig head with a worm here. If the bass seem finicky and the bite is tough, put a finesse worm on the jig head to get them to bite.

Leo likes the Jiggy Head jig head, and he wants a big 4/0 light-wire hook on it. The bigger hook gives a better hold on the fish, and the light-wire hook makes it penetrate better on light line. He usually fishes it on 8-lb. fluorocarbon line.

No. 6: N 33º 27.990 – W 83º 16.847 — Run to the mouth of Sugar Creek, and you will see an osprey nest out in the middle of the open water. It has a danger marker on both sides of it because it is on a hump. Many say this is an old Indian mound, and it has big rocks all around it.

Leo said this is a good spot to hit on the way in from a tournament or on the way out. Standing timber nearby gives bass a place to hold when they’re not running up on the hump to feed. Current moving across the hump helps.

Fish all the way around the hump with different baits. Leo’s favorite here is the jig-head worm. He stays out in deep water and casts to the shallows near the nest, fishing the jig head back over and beside the rocks. The upstream side of the hump is a little more nasty, and you will probably get hung, but you will catch bass.

No. 7: N 33º 26.925 – W 33º 16.048 — Run down the main lake, and watch for the second point above the Highway 44 bridge on your right. It is a long shallow point, and you will see a green-striped awning on a boat dock in front of a gray house with an American flag in the front yard.

Fish the dock, but also work out on the point near it and around to the downstream side of the point. This is one of the few places Leo will throw a Carolina rig, and he likes a lizard. This year the green-pumpkin 5-inch lizard seems to be better than a bigger lizard.

There is some brush on the point, so probe for it. Current that is moving upstream during pumpback is best at this location. Pumpback current comes under the bridge and hits the point, making eddies for the bass to feed in.  Current usually runs upstream in the mornings, so hit this place early.

No. 8: N 33º 24.383 – W 83º 14.738 — Run down to the mouth of Lick Creek, and stop on the point on the river side. There is a small cove upstream of it and a big, tan stucco house with brown trim and a cedar-shingle roof. Bushes and pampas-type grass hang over a wooden seawall with rip-rap in front of it. The upstream point runs out across the mouth of the cove, and it has rocks and stumps on it. The point drops off fast on the outside.

Start inside the cove, casting to the seawall on the point, and then work way out around the point, fishing across it. Make casts across the point from both sides, but also cast up on top of it and work down the drop, especially on the channel side. Fish it with a crankbait and a jig-head worm.

Fish up the rip-rap toward Lick Creek to the first dock. Fish the rocks with the crankbait and a jig head. If you catch a fish here, work back over the area, trying a different bait on the second pass.

No. 9: N 33º 24.600 – W 83º 16.612 — Run up Lick Creek under the first bridge. The creek splits ahead of you with the main creek going to the right under a bridge and the left fork going under Highway 44 at a big culvert. The point has condos on the creek side, and there is a good drop-off on this side.

Standing timber out in the creek channel holds bass, and they feed along the edge of it and on the point. Look for baitfish balls, and fish near them out in deeper water near the timber. Also sit in fairly close to the seawall where it ends on the point, and cast back upstream toward the dock on that side.

Fish a Carolina-rigged worm or jig-head worm here. Work either bait along the bottom probing for rocks and other cover. Leo will fish out to 12 feet deep or so. He said he does not catch bass on Oconee deeper than about 18 feet, so he concentrates on more shallow water. The timber starts where the point is about 12 feet deep, so that is as far out as he goes here.

No. 10: N 33º 24.333 – W 83º 15.833 — Go back down under the first bridge in Lick Creek, and you will see a small creek on your left. The upstream point of this creek is a big flat point, and bass run baitfish in on it to feed. The docks upstream of the point are on fairly deep water, and some have brush. These docks are good, too.

Fish from the point upstream to the small point where the water shallows up going upstream. Fish your crankbait on the point, and also throw a jig-head worm on it. Then switch to a Texas-rigged worm, and fish around the docks, probing for brush around and in front of them.

These 10 spots all hold bass in November and are some of Leo’s favorites. Try them with his best baits and also the ones you like best. You can find this pattern all over the lake.

Editor’s Note: Leo and others take part in a very special event on Oconee each year. They work with the Wounded Warrior Project and take injured soldiers from the hospital on Fort Gordon in Augusta out fishing. He and others in his clubs provide boats, and guides Norris Edge and Roger McGee provide a day of fishing free of charge. Other clubs could get involved in similar projects.

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