Finesse Tactics For Sinclair Bass Limits

Bass fishing heats up early on Lake Sinclair because of warm water from the power plant. Here’s how and where to mix it up with lighter line and smaller baits for lots of Sinclair bites.

Ronnie Garrison | February 1, 2008

Bass-tournament regular Todd Goade says there are always some shallow bass on Sinclair. This month he likes spinning gear, light line and a variety of smaller baits.

The cold, winter weather of February often puts a damper on bass fishing on most of our lakes. Bass go deep and school up tight and don’t eat much. But Lake Sinclair is an exception to that rule. The warm waters discharged from a Georgia Power Co. power plant make it the most popular lake for club and other tournaments this month.

There is a good reason so many tournaments are held on Sinclair in the winter. Bass are more active because the water is warmer. Current also helps the February bite. At Sinclair, current is created by the power-plant intake and outflow pipes, in addition to current generated by power generation and pumpback at the Oconee dam.

Sinclair is a 15,330-acre lake on the Oconee River immediately below Lake Oconee. Sinclair was dammed in 1953, and the lake is ringed with houses and docks. Almost all docks are on posts, and many have brushpiles around them. There is a lot of grass in the lake, and although it is brown this time of year, it still attracts baitfish. There are sandy pockets and banks, rocks and wood cover to fish all over Sinclair.

When Plant Harlee Branch, the coal-fired steam plant, is taking in water to cool its boilers, current near the mouth of Little River around the bridge and intake moves upstream. In Beaverdam Creek, release of warmer water from the plant not only heats the lake, it creates a strong current around the discharge, under the bridge and downstream.

Up the lake, when the power plant at the Oconee Dam is generating, a strong current flow comes down the river. Oconee also has pumpback capabilities. The turbines are reversed, and water is pumped back into Oconee, creating a strong current going up the river. This current also affects the creeks and will reverse the flow in Little River, too. The strongest effects are from the mouth of Little River upstream.

Most of Lake Sinclair stays stained in February, with Little River often the muddiest area. Near the dam, Island and Rocky creeks almost always remain clear. Those creeks down the lake are also less affected by the warm water so are usually the coldest water on the lake. You can fish shallow, relatively warm, stained water, or you can fish colder, clearer water just a few miles away.

Sinclair is usually one of the top three lakes in Georgia for numbers of tournaments reported in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creel Census Report, with more than 80 tournaments reported each year. In recent years, Sinclair has been one of the best lakes for numbers of keeper-sized bass caught, with more than 20 percent of anglers catching a five-fish limit. But the bass are small, with an average weight of about 1 1/2 pounds, and an average tournament-winning weight of about 10 pounds.

Todd Goade is a regular on the tournament circuit, and Sinclair is one of Todd’s best lakes. He still remembers the first bass he ever caught. He was 8 years old and caught a 6-lb. bass on a topwater plug. That would turn on any fisherman, especially a young fisherman. Most of his life Todd lived in Tennessee where he fished with local clubs and on the pot trails. When he moved to Georgia in 2002, he quit fishing for a few years but got back into it in 2005 and started fishing the BFL trail, the HD Marine Trail, Boating Atlanta and others.

Over the past few years Todd has been very consistent placing in the money in tournaments. Last year he finished third overall in the Bulldog BFL point standings and in 2006 was seventh in the HD Marine standings. Last February he finished in the top 20 at Sinclair in the BFL and needed just one kicker fish to finish much higher.

“There are always some shallow fish at Sinclair,” Todd told me when we met on the lake last month so he could mark a February map and show me the locations. Todd prefers to fish Sinclair shallow this time of year, and he likes to go after them with lighter tackle and smaller baits than most anglers use. Finesse fishing will catch lots of bass on Sinclair most winter days and will often get you in the money in tournaments.

For fishing Sinclair this month, Todd has a variety of baits rigged and ready. He will have a small jerkbait like a Pointer on a spinning rod with 8-lb. test line. He’ll also have a Texas-rigged Zoom Finesse worm and another Finesse worm on a 3/16-oz. Spot Remover jig head, both on 8-lb. line.

Then he’ll have a crankbait tied on, like a Bomber 7A or a Bandit Flat Maxx. A small spinnerbait on 10- to 12-lb. line and a Carolina-rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog or 6-inch lizard complete his February arsenal for Sinclair bass, except that he will also keep a Flex-it spoon ready for deep jigging if he locates bass holding on deep structure.

Todd prefers to fish in 8 feet of water or less and will often be sitting in 12 to 15 feet of water fan casting a point or working a bank. Although the bass are shallow, they will usually be on cover and structure with deep water nearby. This month, he likes main-lake banks and points or banks near creek channels that drop off fast.

Current will position bass on structure, and sun will position them on cover, according to Todd. He likes banks and points where the current is moving and will concentrate on brush, docks and rocks when the sun is bright. This time of year Todd says he does better on sunny days.

Todd and I fished Sinclair the second Sunday in January. It was a tough day for us and others, based on the weigh-in of three clubs at Little River that day. But Todd was able to show me the following places he likes to catch fish on Sinclair in February, and they will hold fish that you can catch, too.

No. 1: N 33° 11.211 – W 83° 17.476 — The bank above the power- plant intake drops off fast, has over- hanging brush, and it has rocks along parts of it. The pockets here have grass in them. Todd likes to fish along this bank, and he often catches a limit of keeper-sized bass here.

Start on the point above the mouth of the intake on the right, and work upstream to the next main-lake point. The channel swings in near the big upstream point, and the deep water is good. You will be sitting in 12 to 14 feet of water along most of this bank. The water is usually stained in this area and is warmed by current coming up the river. When water is being pulled into the power plant, current will run downstream.

Cast a Texas-rigged Zoom Finesse worm under the overhanging brush, to the rocks, and also work it around any grass you see. Todd likes a green- pumpkin worm and will dye the tail chartreuse. Work it with short hops and jiggles, trying to hit any cover along this bank.

If water is moving and the bass are more active, cast your jerkbait close to the bank and work it back in short jerks. Try several cadences until the bass show you what they like. The colder the water the slower you should fish the baits with longer pauses between jerks.

No 2: N 33° 11.351–W 83° 16.242 — Run down the lake past the mouth of the river, and watch for the first cove on your left. There is a big wire-mesh satellite dish on the point. Go into the pocket downstream of this dish, and start fishing before you get to the first dock that has a green-metal roof and several PVC rod holders on it.

Fish down this bank with your Texas-rigged and jig-head worms, casting to the bank between docks and working under the docks and around the posts. When you get to the third dock, you will know you are in the right spot if you see a big UGA emblem on the dock and house, and the walk going up from the dock has little UGA helmet lights and a sign that says “Dog Walk.”

Fish that dock and the grass just past it. You can run a spinnerbait through the grass and work your worm rigs around it, too. Todd likes a small white spinnerbait with silver blades. He fishes this cove to the dock with the United States flag on it. He stops here since the water gets very shallow past that dock.

No. 3: N 33° 11.330–W 83° 15.679 — Across the river is an island, and just downstream of it is a marked hump. There are three danger buoys on the hump and three PVC poles, two side by side. Stop straight out from the PVC poles in about 25 feet of water, and fan cast your crankbait as you ease in toward the poles. Cast to the top of the hump. It is very rough here. Try a worm along the bottom, too.

If you have a GPS on your boat, you will see a point running out from this hump, and that is where you want to stop and start fishing. You can see the point on a good map, too. The contour lines will be close together, and that is a key Todd looks for this time of year. That shows a fast-dropping bottom, and the fish hold on those kinds of places.

No. 4: N 33° 09.806 – W 83° 13.802 — Head down the lake to the big island just upstream of the mouth of Reedy Creek and the airport. There is an old quarry under the water on the upstream side of the island, and the bottom is hard clay. Stop on the outside point of the island in about 20 feet of water, and work around the point, casting a crankbait up shallow. Try to hit the bot- tom with it.

After working the area with the crankbait, back off a little and cast a Carolina rig or other worm rig here. There is a good brushpile in 12 to 14 feet of water that often holds bass. They will hold in the brush and run in to feed. Probe the brush carefully with all your worm rigs.

No. 5: N 33° 09.752 – W 83° 13.973 — Idle over to the center of the upstream side of the island. You will see three points, the one you just left and two more. Stop out from the center point, and you will be over the quarry in very deep water. Fish the center point here with your crankbait, then probe for brush in 16 feet of water.

Todd likes a 1/2-oz. lead on his Carolina rig and usually has a 24-inch leader. He will drag the green-pumpkin lizard or Brush Hog with dyed tails around and through the brush, working it slowly and feeling for any resistance. The bass will be sluggish most days in the cold water.

No. 6: N 33° 11.106 – W 83° 12.509 — Run toward the back of Island Creek, and watch for a bright- red barn on the left side before you get to the powerlines. Start on the point just upstream of the pocket with the red barn, and work around the shallow pocket to the dock with a green slide on it. The bottom drops off fast, and it is rocky, with docks and brush along it.

Fish your Texas-rigged worm or jig-head worm here, hitting rocks and wood cover on the bottom and also fishing around and under all the docks. Todd says this is a good place to find bass pulled up to feed this time of year. He will hit this place and others sever- al times during a fishing day since fish may move in to feed anytime during the day. You just have to be there when they are feeding.

No. 7: N 33° 10.775–W 83° 12.444 — Running down the middle of Island Creek back toward the river, watch on your left for a flat point with a seawall around it. There is a house sitting way back from the water but nothing out on the point. Across the creek you will see a big, brown-brick house, and just upstream of it a green- roof dock. On a line between the point and green-roof dock, out in the middle of the creek, is a hump that comes up to about 18 feet on top. There is brush on it. Todd will stop here and jig a spoon on this hump, especially if he sees baitfish or fish near the bottom with his depthfinder. It is close to the creek channel and often holds a school of fish. He says he will not spend a lot of time here, but he will check it out.

No. 8: N 33° 09.568–W 83° 12.765 — Near the mouth of the creek on your left is a small island sitting
close to the bank. A long, shallow point runs off it toward the middle of the creek. Todd stops his boat just upstream of the island, lining up the trees on the upstream side of it with the red-top dock on the bank behind the island.

Sitting in 15 feet of water, he will cast a crankbait all over this point, covering it with fan casts. He will also try his jerkbait here as well as worm rigs. This long underwater point is typical of the kinds of places winter bass hold on Sinclair, and the water is clear enough here they will come up for a jerkbait.

No. 9: N 33°09.448–W 83° 12.700 — Downstream of the island a big cove runs from the island to the main-lake point between Island Creek and the river. In the middle of this cove is a long, shallow point running out to deep water. It has a sharp dropoff on the downstream side.

Look for an old, tall boat-house roof with no sides, and there is a gaze- bo on the bank near it. There are swift-house gourds on a pole near it. Just downstream is a gray-roof dock with a boat ramp just upstream of it. The point runs out with the downstream sharp edge right at the ramp. You can see this point on your GPS or map. Todd starts way out on this point and make long fan casts across it with crankbaits and jerkbaits. Try to hit the drop from several angles. Then work your worm rigs across the point and down the drop for fish that are not very active.

No. 10: N 33° 08.296 – W 83° 11.535 — Run down to the dam, and start into Rocky Creek. On your right is a point between the river and the creek. There is a Georgia Power Co. park and pavilion on the bank here. This point runs way out shallow, and Todd starts well off the bank with his boat in 15 to 16 feet of water and casts his crankbaits up toward the point. You will be casting to water about 8 feet deep.

Try to bump the bottom with your crankbaits. Todd likes a firetiger Coach Dog pattern for his Bomber and will usually throw a pearl-and-chartreuse or blue-back Flat Maxx. Those baits will dive deep enough to bump bottom in 8 feet of water, so you will cover the depth many bass will feed this time of year.

Check out Todd’s spots, and try his methods on Sinclair this month. There are many other similar spots you can then find and fish. You should catch a lot of keeper-size bass.

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