Fishing Holes Of Long Ago
Author recently revisited a Lake Oconee white bass fishing hole he that he once fished as a teenager.
I was young when I figured out a certain fishing technique. No one taught me this one, and I would not be surprised if there are numerous other methods that trump mine. However, I figured out how to put white bass in my boat.
The white bass is a fish I feel is often overlooked. Perhaps it is because they don’t get that big. Or maybe it is because they are finicky fish. Or maybe it is because they are not ubiquitous or even native in Georgia—they are native to rivers that flow into the Mississippi. I mean, I have never wrestled with one in my south Georgia Alapaha River and never tossed one into the boat on an old farm pond. But they are in Georgia now, and when you find one, you often have found multiple.
When I was a kid, I used to chase the topwater explosions on Lake Oconee. July seemed to be the month when these fish would really show themselves, chasing shad schools to the water’s surface in an all-out assault on the tender, white minnows. I would witness 10, 15, 20 surface hits in the blink of an eye, and unless I was within casting distance, I would miss my chance and come up empty-handed.
Then I got to thinking. Where do these bass go after the feeding frenzy stops? One day, I tied on a white Rooster Tail and decided to let it flutter down to the bottom, which was about 10 to 12 feet deep. Before my lure reached the bottom, I felt a hard strike and set the hook. My old, flimsy Quantum ultralight rod doubled over as I strained to drag the aggressive fish to the surface. Finally, I boated that 1-lb. white bass and stared at it proudly. Little did I know that I had just discovered something.
On my next cast, I slung my white Rooster Tail in the middle of the cove as far as I could. I let the lure free fall down like before, but this time it reached the bottom. Working the Rooster Tail much like a Texas-rigged plastic worm, bumping it off the bottom, I received another hard strike and set the hook. Second cast, second fish.
Over the next few years, I discovered a honey hole on Lake Oconee. My teenage self set out on a hot July day in my 14-foot Custom-Craft with my Johnson 35 hp motor in search of a school of marauding white bass. As I headed south of the I-20 bridge along a section of western shoreline owned by Georgia Power, a tiny island with an osprey nest on a tall wooden post came into view. I slowed down, curiously approaching the raptor’s nest. Then the explosions began all around me.
Quickly, I grabbed my flimsy pole, tossed out my white Rooster Tail, and let it fall. The old, familiar, heavy strike sent my heart rate up as I set the hook and boated a solid white bass. I hurriedly cast again and caught another… then another… then another. I couldn’t get them in the boat fast enough. This boy was on top of the world!
As I fished around this small island, I began to realize why it was such a hotspot for white bass. On one side the main river channel abruptly dropped off to more than 20 feet, while the other side of the island had a shallow plateau stretching all the way to the main shore. These schools of white bass would lie in wait on the deep side of the island until the opportune time to ambush the unsuspecting shad pods covering the sandy flat. They repeated this assault all afternoon and kept a smile on this teenage boy’s face.
A few weeks ago over the Fourth of July weekend, I stared at the same tiny island, the white bass honey hole of my youth. It looked different, especially from a wave runner instead of a fishing boat. Numerous pontoon and ski boats were anchored on the sandy, shallow stretch, and swimmers splashed in the water; it was a party zone rather than my isolated, quiet fishing spot. I realized that it has been years and years since I have fished there. My Custom Craft boat is long since gone, as is my youth, but I still remember that feeling so well.
Just when I thought that I would probably never catch another white bass near that island again, I saw it. One splash. Maybe it was just a random fish hit, I thought. But then there was another… then another… then all at once 20 more splashes sent minnows flying out of the water. I knew my white bass were still down there. The vacationers seemed oblivious to the feeding frenzy just a mere 30 yards out. I slowly turned my wave runner away from the island and cruised off with a smile on my face.
This ol’ boy might just have to revisit that little island… in a fishing boat with a white rooster tail!
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