Hartwell Bass Blowing Up Topwater In May

10 locations where the blueback herring spawn produces exciting topwater action for some of the most healthy, chunky reservoir largemouth in the state.

Ronnie Garrison | May 1, 2001

By the first of May, most of the big Hartwell bass have finished spawning and are waiting on the main-lake points for the blueback herring, which are just moving in to the gravel bars and sandy points for their spawn. May is one of the best times to catch a bunch of grown Hartwell bass, and they are on a pattern that is easy to find and fish. Since the bass are hitting on top, it is also one of the most exciting times to fish this awesome northeast Georgia lake.

In mid-April we went to Hartwell to check out the action and look at some places bass will be schooling in May. Bass were on the beds almost everywhere we looked that day, meaning by the time you read this they will be off the beds and feeding heavily.

With its clear water on the main lake, Hartwell is a great topwater lake. The blueback spawn in May offers some of the hottest action of the year, and it is a thrill watching a 5-lb. bass come up and smash a Zara Spook or Super Fluke.

Good polarized glasses are a huge advantage when fishing a soft jerkbait like a Super Fluke, which is a deadly bait on just about any lake when the bass are postspawn.

I met Richard Parson, of Lithia Springs, in 1988 when we were both on the GBCF State Team. He won the Top Six that year, and it was his fourth consecutive time on the state team, quite an accomplishment. Since then Richard has gone to work at Tom’s Sporting Goods and fishes bigger tournaments like the Everstart Trail. This year he is concentrating on the BFL and a couple of smaller local trails.

“I like Hartwell because of the way the bass school up on these long shallow points in May,” Richard said. “You can find them near the spawning areas, feeding on the herring.”

This pattern pays off every year at Hartwell, and this year should be good because with the water down like it was in mid-April, it is easy to find places the bass will school up and see why they pick them. They will be on the same places whether the water comes back up or not. It was about seven feet low when we were there.

“Marker poles are good indicators of places to fish,” Richard told me. These “danger” markers are placed out on the end of shallow ridges and humps so boats won’t hit them. They are standing in water that ranges from 1- to 7-feet deep when the lake is full.

The classic place to catch a bass on the blueback spawn is a “blow-through,” a shallow place between the bank and an island. Any place where a long, shallow ridge or point comes off the bank near deep water is likely to hold spawning herring and bass in May.

Richard Parson holds what Lake Hartwell is known for — chunky largemouth that will bust topwater lures this month during the herring spawn.

“From 9 a.m. to noon is usually the best time for me on this pattern,” Richard said. “As the sun gets up, the wind starts to blow, and wind moving across these areas makes them better,” he added.

Richard chooses four rigs for fishing May bass at Hartwell. He rigs a Zara Spook, a Zoom Super Fluke, a Spro jerkbait and a Zoom Centipede or Finesse worm on a Carolina rig. Those four outfits give you all the options you need no matter what the bass want.

Richard fishes all four kinds of baits on Shimano baitcasting reels and G Loomis rods, and uses mostly P-Line. He uses 15-lb. test P-Line for the Fluke, and it is rigged with a swivel about a foot ahead of it. The Spook is tied on to the same test line, but Richard drops down to 10-lb. P-Line for the Spro jerkbait. The main line on his Carolina rigs is 17- to 20-lb. Trilene, but he goes back to 10-lb. P-Line for the leader. P-Line is strong enough to hold up even with just 10-lb. test.

If there is any schooling activity on top, Richard throws the Spook to them first. If that does not draw a fast bite he will pick up a pearl-white Fluke. When the bass are active but want something below the surface with more flash, the Spro jerkbait with silver sides and a blue back looks just like the herring.

When there is no surface activity, Richard often throws a green-pumpkin or watermelon-colored Centipede Zoom worm across the points while watching for surface activity. He casts into the wind and brings his worm back with it. This is important when there is no schooling activity. When bass are breaking on top it is not as important to bring your bait back with the wind, since baitfish are running in every direction.

The following 10 places are all good for schooling bass in May. They are all shallow ridges or humps near deep water. Bottom composition varies, but rocks and sand seem to attract the herring best. All these spots are within an easy ride from several ramps like the two at Weldon Island, so you can launch there and fish them even in bad weather.

GPS coordinates are given to help you find the places. On most of them the reading was taken about 50 feet (casting distance) off the ends of the humps or points. Readings were taken with a hand-held Eagle 12 Channel Receiver.

No. 1 on map at the end of article: N 34 28.852 W 82 52.212 — If you put in at the Weldon Island ramp out on the end of the point, you can see the first two spots to fish. There is an island to your left facing the water and the blow-through between it and the bank holds May bass. If you start on the island side of the gap and idle toward the bank, the bottom drops then rises back up on a small hump. That hump makes this spot excellent. The prevailing wind also blows through this spot, moving herring and shad to the waiting bass. If the fish are on top, cast to them. If you don’t see any activity, sit inside the creek and throw out across the point and hump with a Carolina rig, working it up the drop on the ramp side, across the shallow top and down the side in the creek.

No. 2: N 34 28.601 W 82 52.164 ­Going out from the ramp at Weldon Island toward the main river there is an island on your left. Two long ridges come off it between channel markers T8A and T8. The longest ridge is very obvious with the water down, and it is covered with stumps. This is a good place to work a Carolina rig since bass hold around the stumps all the time. They like it even better in May when bluebacks move across the shallows. There is also standing timber in the pocket between the two points, another reason for bass to hold here. When the water is up this is a good place to try to get the bass to come up even if they are not schooling. The stumps on the bottom mean they hold fairly shallow and don’t have to suspend off the sides as they do on some of these places. They will come up from deep water to hit a Spook, Fluke or jerkbait. Work the Spook back, making the bass below think something is chasing blueback herring on top. They will come up to investigate and feed. The same method works with the jerkbait, and the rattles in it draw them up. With the Fluke, it is visual.

No. 3: N 34 28.101 W 82 53.107 In mid-April Richard and I found bedding bass in the pockets of Cranes Creek, and those fish will have moved out to the points at the mouth of it by now. Look for the “danger” pole off the point on the north side of the creek. It is out on a long, shallow sandy point that is an excellent place to catch bass. Sit way off the bank and fish all the way around the end of the point if the water is still down. If it is up, fish from the end all the way across the top of the shallow point as far as you can. Fish will move on top to catch herring that are spawning. This point is a good place to fish the mud line, too. The wind often blows out of Cranes Creek toward the open water, making a mud line that extends out off the end of the point. Bass will often hold inside the cloudy water watching for baitfish in the clearer water. Fish the mud line just like any other piece of cover. Work any of your baits down it, parallel to the mud, keeping the bait in the clear water. Bass will ambush it just like they were holding on a grass line. Try working the bait just inside the mud line, too, just in case they don’t want to move into the clearer water.

No. 4: N 34 28.299 W 82 53.162 Across the mouth of the small creek just north of Cranes Creek are two humps with marker poles on them. They are out in front of the ramp at Mary Ann Branch and are easy to see on the map. Bass spawn in the back of the branch as well as the pocket on the north side of the ramp, so these two humps are good places for them to move to and feed. With the water down, keep your boat out a long cast from the exposed bottom and fish from it all the way back to the boat. If the water comes up enough to cover the humps, fish all around them staying way out, covering the shallows.

No. 5: N 34 27.544 W 82 51.526 Go downriver to the mouth of Little Beaverdam Creek where it enters the river between the two big islands. The point on the north, unnamed island that comes off the very end where the creek and river join is long and shallow. It is like a crooked finger pointing to channel marker LBC1 and is an excellent place to find schooling bass in May. There is a danger marker on it, too. Fish both sides of this ridge if it is exposed, starting on the outside and working around and into the mouth of the creek. Fish it like the others, casting to the bank if the water is still down and fishing across it if the water rises.

No. 6: N 34 27.392 W 82 51.499 If you go on a line between channel marker LBC1 and T4 you will cross a marked hump. There is a huge stump on top of it, and it drops off fast almost all the way around it. This hump is better later in the month but will hold fish all month long. Circle the hump and fish across it. In April it was just barely exposed, so water may cover it completely now. Remember the stump if it is not visible and try to fish over and around it, too.

No. 7: N 34 27.199 W 82 51.306 A long rocky ridge comes off Andersonville Island and points toward channel marker LBC2. It has two danger markers on it. There is a dip between them so this is more like a true blow-through. Fish the point off the island, the dip and the hump out on the end. The rocks make this a favorite place for the herring to spawn so the bass hold here and feed all month.

No. 8: N 34 27.501 W 82 51.170 Near marker LBC 3 on the Andersonville Island side is a big rocky hump where herring spawn. The hump is connected to the island by a ridge that is wide and flat. The bottom drops fast since the channel swings by it. Fish all around the hump with all four of your baits. Working the Carolina rig down the drop on the outside edge of this hump is a good way to catch bass when they are not schooling on top.

No. 9: N 34 27.886 W 82 51.151 Across the creek you can see a hump with a willow tree and some button bushes on it. It was high and dry in April but usually is just a small island. This is another good blow-through to fish when the wind is out of the west. You can fish all around it, but remember to fish your baits with the wind, bringing them back “downstream” with the water movement.

No. 10: N 34 29.686 W 82 50.265 If you follow the channel markers up into Little Beaverdam, when you pass marker LBC 7 the channel narrows down with huge sand flats on both sides. The point on the right comes way out and just past it the point on the left has planted cypress trees. Fish both areas. The flats hold spawning herring and shad in May and bass can be anywhere in this big area. The baitfish funnel down here as does the wind, concentrating the bait and making it a good ambush point for bass.

Check out these places. They are all close to each other in a small area. There are hundreds more just like them all over the lower lake and bass will be feeding on many of them. Use Richard’s patterns and places to find similar ones you can call your own.

While taking pictures I noticed Richard had the name “Grocho” on the arm of his shirt. I asked him about this and he said it was in memory of Louis Alford who died on January 15, 2001. Grocho was a long-time member of the South Cobb Bass Club and was well-known by many fishermen in the state. He will be missed by many fishermen in Georgia.

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