Flip Docks Or Spoon For December Bass At Lake Oconee
When Kenny Holloway heads for Oconee in December he expects to catch bass on one of two baits: a jig or a jigging spoon.
Before you go bass fishing at Lake Oconee in December, you have a shallow-water, deep-water decision to make.
For wintertime bass, Oconee angler Kenny Holloway depends on two different lures in two completely different areas of the lake: either a jig ’n pig in super-shallow structure or a jigging spoon on deep drops. Both baits, he says, will catch Christmas-time bass.
Kenny, 33, has a home on Lake Oconee and has been fishing the lake seriously as both a fishing guide and a bass-tournament angler since about 1990. When HD Marine or the R&R circuits are on Oconee, he usually signs up. Currently Kenny fishes the Walmart BFL Bulldog Division, the Southern Division of the Everstart and the Southern Division of the Bassmasters Open. The second weekend in November, he finished 17th among 196 anglers in the Bassmasters Alabama Southern Open at Lake Eufaula.
When he isn’t fishing, Kenny and his wife Tish run Oconee Electric, an electrical-contracting company.
Kenny guides fishermen on Oconee and among his notable clients are President George Bush, who he has guided twice when Bush was running for office, and former President George Bush. Both men are decent bass anglers, he said.
In early December, the shallow-water bite is still going strong at Oconee, says Kenny.
“There are bass in shallow water at Oconee all winter,” he said. “As the water temperature drops, the threadfin shad move into the backs of the coves and pockets and shallow creeks and the bass follow them back.”
During the first two weeks of December, with water temperatures anywhere above 50 degrees, Kenny is likely to have just two baits tied on for fishing shallow, a jig ’n pig and a Rat-L-Trap.
Kenny prefers a 1⁄4-oz. Rat-L-Trap in Tennessee shad. The standard chrome-and-blue model will work, too.
While he works the Rat-L-Trap between docks, the main gun in Kenny’s December arsenal is a jig ’n pig. He fishes either a black or a brown 3/8-oz. homemade jig. The color of the Zoom chunk he adds depends on water clarity.
“If the water is fairly clear, I’ll use a Super Chunk in green pumpkin. When the water is muddy or colder, I’ll go to a Zoom Big Salty in either black or blue and black.”
According to Kenny, a new alternative to the jig is the new four-inch Zoom Ultra-Vibe Craw. The bait has a tail similar to a paddle-tail, except that it is notched. The notch makes the tail flutter even on a slow retrieve. Kenny fishes the craw on a 1⁄4-oz. Texas rig, and he flips docks with it just like he would with a jig.
“The winter is crawfish time,” he said. “There are more crayfish around and the bass are feeding on them. Because the water at Oconee is usually fairly stained, and is often muddy, the craw is a good alternative to the jig, and the vibration from the tail is enough action to attract bass.”
When Kenny and I fished the lake on November 12, we put in at JR’s, went under the bridge and fished the first three coves on the left side. The docks in the back of all of these coves will give you a look at exactly the type of places Kenny fishes in December.
When he is flipping docks, Kenny will work the entire dock and pay attention to any pattern that may develop about where he is getting strikes. Sometimes the fish will be under the deepest, darkest corner. Other times they will be on the front post. Wooden ladders are always good, he says, and brush under a dock is always a sweet spot.
Kenny fishes the jig on 25-lb. line.
“When I get a bite under a dock, I want to get the bass out of there right now, before it wraps up on something,” he said.
“Once the water temperature gets into the 40s, the Rat-L-Trap bite is done,” he said. “The fish are too lethargic to run a crankbait down. But I still use the jig. You won’t catch as many, but usually if you catch one on a jig, it will be a good one.”
When the winter temperatures set in, the shad move out of the shallows, and most of the bass follow the bait out to deeper structure. When they do, Kenny heads for the south end of Oconee with a jigging spoon tied on.
“The south end sets up better for spooning,” said Kenny. “The water is usually clearer, and there is better depth. I am looking for fast-dropping points, and there are more of them once you get south of Horseshoe Bend. There are a couple of good drops in the mouth of Lick Creek, but they aren’t as dependable as the main-lake points anywhere on the south end of the lake.”
When he is fishing a jigging spoon, Kenny first goes hunting for the right drop and for bait. He likes to see a fast-dropping, main-lake point in 15- to 25-feet of water.
“In late December when the water is cold, the fish are lethargic. When they are in the slow mode, they will sit in deeper water, and when they feed they move into shallower water — but they don’t want to have to move far. If they are on a fast-dropping point, they can move from 25-feet deep to 15-feet deep and they don’t have to move far to do it.”
Next, he looks for bait at that depth.
“The most important thing is bait. You’ve gotta have shad,” said Kenny. “And you’re not looking for one little blip, you’re looking for clouds of bait. And I want to see the bait on the bottom or within a few feet of the bottom. You are just looking for bait, that is the only criteria. And you are hoping to find it where there isn’t any structure to hang up in.”
Once he has located a promising cloud of bait, Kenny drops a 3⁄4-oz. Hopkins Shorty spoon. Usually, he fishes the hammered spoon on 12-lb. Trilene Big Game line.
“You get better action on the lighter line, but you are going to get hung up, so you don’t want to go too light.”
Another critical detail is a snap swivel.
‘There aren’t many things that will twist your line as badly as a spoon, so you need to use a swivel,” he said.
Spoon fishing is vertical fishing. Kenny drops his spoon to the bottom, keeping the boat directly over the bait, and he fishes it with short hops off the bottom.
“I don’t want to jerk it too far off the bottom,” he said. “I usually snap it up about two or three feet and then let it fall on a completely slack line. The spoon won’t have any action if you have any tension on the line.
“Most strikes will happen on the fall, and you don’t know you had a strike until you pull up.”
Part of the fun of spoon fishing is that you are fishing big concentrations of fish — and you don’t know what is going to hit next. Hybrids, crappie, white bass, even an occasional catfish may all thump a spoon.
“If you snag one in the back, or the tail — you talk about a fight!” said Kenny. “You will think you have a big bass, and here comes a 2-lb. catfish. What you thought was a head-shake was a tail-shake.”
Moving water makes the spooning bite better, says Kenny.
“Fishing when they are generating water is especially important for spooning,” he said. “If you are on a main-lake point, the moving water positions the fish on the down-current side of the point. More importantly, it just stirs up the entire food chain and gets the fish turned on to feed. I think the fish on Oconee are conditioned to feed in moving water.”
Because demand for electricity is high during cold weather, Georgia Power Co. usually generates at Oconee during the mornings in December, said Kenny.
Whether he is fishing shallow cover or spooning, Kenny likes to see a ripple on the water because the fish are less spooky.
Kenny says your decision to spoon or hit shallow docks with a jig depends on what you are looking for. He says you will likely catch larger numbers of bass and a bigger variety of fish spooning. But if you have the patience and confidence to stick with the jig or craw in cold weather and flip docks, you”ll catch fewer fish, but you may catch a monster.
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