Flint River Shoal Bass

Even with Yellow Jacket Shoals closed to fishing, don’t forget the many miles of public fishing along the Flint River this summer.

John Trussell | May 30, 2023

Noah Aleshire used a Hedden Tiny Torpedo in chrome/black to put this 3-lb. shoal bass in the boat that was quickly released. Flint River fishing guide Quint Rogers holds the bass. The beautiful Flint River spider lilies were in full bloom in mid May.

Looking at the bubbling water racing across the rocky shoals, sprinkled with colorful spider lilies cramped within the crevasses, it’s hard to believe you’re in middle Georgia. While drifting down the Piedmont section of the Flint River in a raft, the rolling hills and rocky cliffs stretch upward to the sky, interspersed with many flat sections, so it would be easy to imagine that you are somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains or even in Wyoming or Montana chasing rainbow or brown trout.

This very special outdoor scenery is part of the Flint River fishery that runs through the rocky granite outcroppings of the ancient Fall Line which is a remnant of the Appalachian Mountains that were formed years ago. The Flint is also blessed with a very special fish, the shoal bass, that is a tough, scrappy fighter that has been born and bred to thrive in these turbulent waters.

Before we discuss the excellent fishing that is available in the middle section of the Flint, we must mention the topic that has been on anglers’ minds in recent months. Will the Yellow Jacket Shoals portion of the Flint River remain closed to public fishing? The latest news story on the subject is on

Although the Yellow Jacket Shoals is currently closed to public fishing, the public is still allowed to pass through that section in boats, rafts and other small watercraft. Plus, many miles of the Flint River is open to public fishing right now. So, let’s get after those shoalies!

On Monday, May 15, I hooked up with Flint River fishing guide Quint Rogers to float the section from Highway 36 to the Pobiddy Bridge. He guides on the Flint, the upper Ocmulgee River and the Satilla River and operates He also works part-time at Ocmulgee Outfitters, a premium retailer for outdoor gear at 565 Popular Street in Macon.

Also in our three-person StealthCraft raft was Noah Aleshire, of Atlanta. We also teamed up with Gordon Rogers, who is Quint’s dad, part-time guide and full-time riverkeeper and executive director for the Flint Riverkeeper organization. Gordon was guiding Dave Ederer, of Atlanta, in a separate raft.

We put in our rafts, equipped with metal bracing up top to support slightly elevated seats, in the river at the Highway 36 public boat ramp. I should call it a boat drag, because three large metal poles placed across the center of the ramp prevent anglers from launching a boat off a trailer. Whatever craft you use, it must be dragged down to the river by hand, so be prepared. If you want to get closer to the water, the Flint River Outdoor Center is directly across the river, and you can launch there for a small fee.

Quint knew of some good fishing areas, both above and below Yellow Jacket Shoals, and that was our goal for the day. We started fishing at the first run of shoals. Noah, who was using a spinning outfit loaded with a Tiny Torpedo, cast into an area of still water near some spider lilies and hooked up with a scrappy-fighting shoal bass that weighed about 2 1/2 pounds. It was a great start to the day!

I tried a fly rod with a homemade surface streamer on the business end. Quint came up with a lure that uses a small, round, soft Styrofoam cork that sits one inch ahead of a colorful streamer fly. The method is to cast out the rig and then work it back to the boat with short jerks to make a gurgling, popping noise. You fish it like a surface frog. I had several short strikes on nice fish before I finally sealed the deal and put a 2.5-pounder in the raft.

All our shoal bass were released to fight another day. Once I proved that I could use the fly outfit, I pulled out my weapon of choice, a Shimano spinner loaded with 10-lb. clear Stren line and a Rattlin’ Rogue surface lure in chrome with a blue back.

Quint suggested that we target the quiet water behind the rocks and spider lilies. These deep pools are where the shoal bass lie in attack mode, waiting to ambush any minnow or insect that comes by. Quint expertly handled the raft from the middle section, while Noah and I could concentrate on catching fish. Noah put several 3-pounders in the boat, and I had loads of fun contributing to the total count.

Quint’s recommended lures for shoal bass are (starting with top row): a Tiny Torpedo in black/silver; a Rattlin Rogue in chrome/blue back; a Half Time Show by Quint Rogers, which is a small round piece of soft foam ahead of streamer fly; a Circus Peanut, which is a soft white streamer for fly fishing; an EP Minnow for fly fishing; and a sinking Hellgrammite plastic lure to be fished on bottom. In addition (not pictured), you can try fishing a small plastic crayfish lure rigged Texas style with a 1/8-oz. bullet weight. You can also fish it Carolina style—just crimp a BB weight about 12 inches above the hook and crayfish lure.

Quint suggested I try one of his most productive techniques for shoal bass, and that’s to put a hellgrammite larvae artificial lure under a beige soft trout cork and drift it slowly along the bottom in the deeper pools behind the rocks and just off the bank. The hellgrammite, which is the larval stage of a dobsonfly, was about 1-inch long and was made of soft felt and plastic. These are often carried by trout fishing supply stores.

He had the rig on a fly fishing outfit, which makes for some exciting fishing. Often the strike would come as the lure was still on the bottom and the bass would pick it up and run with it. It was loads of fun to set the hook on a strong-fighting shoal bass and try to retrieve the line and keep the bass tight on the line without losing it. Quint says the bass like to cheat and will use a variety of quick moves to throw the lure out of their mouths.

Quint’s biggest shoal bass weighed more than 6 pounds, and those are most likely to be caught in the early springtime when the bigger fish move up the river to spawn.

The shoal bass is native to the Chattahoochee and Flint River basins. They are now seen occasionally in the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers. They have an upper jaw that does not extend beyond the eyes, unlike the largemouth bass, and the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched. They are most similar to the redeye bass, but do not have any red coloration in the fins or pale margins on the tail. Unlike smallmouth bass, they usually have a large dark spot at the base of the tail. Although spotted and largemouth bass inhabit the river, we only pulled in shoal bass on our trip.

Anglers can choose several river sections when they fish the Piedmont section of the Flint River. We fished from the Highway 36 bridge to Pobiddy Road, and it took about seven hours, and we often stopped to fish and had lunch along the river bank. The last mile of the trip was flat water with lots of paddling, so be prepared. Quint earned my respect on this trip, and I highly recommend him for your first trip, or any trip on the river.

The Flint River Outdoor Center is located at the west side of the Highway 36 bridge, and they offer several trips on the river and they rent equipment. Take a look at their webpage and Facebook page. They are located at 4429 Woodland Rd., Thomaston, GA 30286. You can call Margie McDaniel at 706.647.2633.  They have several trip variations listed on their website, plus they offer camping, both primitive and full hookups.

Another great option is to use the Camp Thunder Boy Scout Camp boat ramp at 506 Thundering Springs Road in Molena. Scouting manager Robert Johnson says they offer boat launching off their concrete ramp for $5, and they can arrange for a shuttle service for you and your group, starting at $10, depending on boat size and the number of participants. They require that you call 770.227.4556 and make a reservation prior to arrival.

Sprewell Bluff Park is operated by Upson County, and they have camping, cabins, public restrooms, picnic tables and a small store. Go to or call 706.601.6711 for more information. Sarah Williams is the park coordinator. An observation tower at the park will give you a great view of the river bottom and surrounding hills.

Whatever trip you take in the middle Flint River, make sure you are properly prepared, especially if you’re on a do-it-yourself adventure. The rocky shoals can be dangerous, and slipping and falling on the granite rocks is a common occurrence. Even the small shoals can flip a canoe or raft if you approach it at a bad angle. Dehydration can be a serious problem, particularly in the summertime, so take plenty to drink, and an emergency water filter to drink river water is a good idea to throw in your day pack.

Don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen—I had a tick and several chiggers hitch a ride after the trip. A cell phone is a necessity, but cell service can be very poor along the river corridor.

Locals say that if you have an emergency, take out on the left side of the river going down, this being the east side, as there are more roads, cabins and better 911 services in Upson County—and saving a little time may save your life. Although the weekends can be busy on the river, the weekdays can be almost fishermen-free. We did not see another fisherman all day on our trip. Quint says the fall season is excellent on the river as lots of folks are deer hunting and not fishing, plus you get to see wonderful fall foliage.

Be aware of the river water levels. A summer fishing trip can easily become an ordeal if the river gets very low and you’re spending a lot of time dragging your raft across granite rocks. You can check the water level at for Flint River, and look at the Molena and Thomaston gauges.

Quint says 8 feet is his upper limit for fishing the river and 2 feet is the lower limit for him. If you can’t get to the website, give Margie McDaniel a call and she’ll be glad to advise you. You can also get the river water level by following the links at, under Sprewell Bluff Park.

Quint is an excellent guide and very knowledgeable about how to catch shoal bass. He has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about where the fish hang out that will help you catch fish.  So, whether you are a novice or skilled angler, you’ll have a great time with him on the river! Give him a call at 912.269.1464, or visit the website at

I estimate that we caught and released 25 shoal bass and lost at least 15, which was an excellent day of fishing. Get out and enjoy the Piedmont section of the Flint River. It’s one of the last best places in Georgia!

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