High Falls Lake In December: Great Change Of Pace Bass Fishing

Here's a map to this small lake's big-time December bassing.

Ronnie Garrison | December 1, 2009

Derek Snider has found success on the jonboat tournament trails, and he ranks High Falls as his favorite small lake for good December bass fishing.

Tired of running all over big lakes and burning gas while trying to catch bass? For a change, try High Falls Lake, a small state-park lake between Griffin and Jackson, where the bass feed heavily in December, and you can land some quality fish.

High Falls is a 650-acre lake located a few miles east of I-75 just south of Georgia Highway 36. It is a very old lake, and most channels are silted in, but there is lots of wood and rock cover along the shoreline. The fishing can be exceptional, with 20-lb. and better stringers weighed in during jonboat tournaments. Bass weighing more than 8 pounds are caught regularly at High Falls.

According to Wildlife Resources Division studies, High Falls ranks near the top of all Georgia lakes for bigger bass. About one-third of the bass are more than 15 inches long, a very high percent.

You may have to make adjustments to fish High Falls. Gas motors are limited to 10 horsepower, but you can use your big rig if you don’t crank the gas motor. The horsepower restriction forces you to take your time and fish slowly, covering a spot before moving on. This can be a fun, peaceful way to fish. Hours are restricted to sunrise to sunset.

Two ramps give you access to the lake. The ramp at the dam is a good one to use if you want to fish the lower lake. Put in at the Buck Creek ramp if you want to fish the upper lake. You can fish all over the lake without much trouble if you have a small boat with a gas motor meeting the horsepower restriction, but if you are on trolling-motor power only, you will be limited.

Derek Snider grew up in Henry County, and he got an early start fishing. He and his brother fished a pond near their house, and then he bought a jonboat and started learning to catch fish at High Falls. He has always loved bass fishing and was drawn to tournament fishing because he is a naturally competitive person. The jonboat trails attracted Derek since they fished High Falls, his favorite lake, and because they can be fished with less investment.

There are jonboat trails in middle Georgia, and Derek has fished several of them. He has been very successful on them, too. He won two boats on the Southern Jon Boat Anglers trail and has done well in many tournaments. This year he and his partner won the Lil’ Waters Bassin’ trail point standings for the year, and he also won the point standings for the individual trail. He says High Falls played an important role in his wins.

Kenny Parker has taught Derek a lot about High Falls, and fishing with Kenny has helped him hone his approach to bass at High Falls. Derek knows the lake well enough to have landed a five-bass stringer weighing 21 pounds there and has weighed in several tournament limits better than 19 pounds. His best bass ever from High Falls weighed 10 1/2 pounds.

“In December, High Falls bass hold in the deeper water and pull up to feed on the first place they can near that deep water,” Derek said.

He added they want a hard bottom to feed and wood cover helps. So Derek focuses on a hard bottom near the deepest water in an area and works the wood cover thoroughly. Deep water at High Falls is relative. Since channels are silted in and the lake is very old, 10 to 12 feet might be deep. The key is the deepest water in an area with a good feeding spot close to it. Over the years Derek has located several such spots and was willing to share them.

Derek likes to run-and-gun at High Falls, which may sound strange with the horsepower limits, but by that he means he hits as many places as he can in a day. Since the lake is small, he can fish each one pretty carefully, and go back to them several times, but he does not sit on one place and wait on the bass to feed. He keeps moving trying to locate active fish.

Several baits are always rigged and ready in Derek’s boat, and he will try them all, but he says once he catches a fish or two he will stick with that bait and grind it out. Once a fish shows him what is wanted on that day, he thinks it raises his odds to keep throwing it. Edge Baits work well for Derek, and he says Big Ernie’s Bait and Tackle at the Bonanza Shopping center carries a good selection of them.

An Edge spinnerbait is one of his favorite baits if there is some chop on the water or if it is stained. In clear water he goes with a white or glacier-blue bait with silver blades, but in stained water chartreuse is a good choice.

A Shad Rap in either natural shad for clear water or crawfish for stained to muddy water is another of his favorite baits. A Shadee Shad soft jerkbait is another good lure to have tied on, and natural-shad colors for clear water and chartreuse colors for stained waters are what Derek chooses.

For really inactive fish, a jig ’n pig or a worm are also ready to cast to cover. Derek rigs his worms either Texas style or on a Hardhead jig head. He likes the Edge Thin Shakey or straight-tail Trickster worm and keeps his weight as light as possible. There is a lot of black, slimy moss-type grass on many bottoms at High Falls, and the lighter weights helps stay out of it.

If the water is warmer than 50 degrees, Derek will move more and fish a little faster since he expects more bass to be aggressive. If the water temperature is colder than 50, he really slows down, barely moving his baits and making sure they bump wood cover.

The following 10 spots are all good and are easily accessible from the Buck Creek Ramp. There are other good spots in this area and on the lower lake, too, but these give you a good idea of what to look for this December.

No. 1: N 33º 12.201 W 84º 02.396 — Coming downstream from the upper end of the lake on the Towaliga River arm, watch for the first big point on your right. It is just downstream of the big shallow flat covered with logs and stumps on that side and is one of the first holding areas for fish moving off this flat. It also gets good sun all day, which keeps the water a little warmer, making the bass a little more active.

On the upstream side of this point you will see a small tree leaning over the water, and downstream of the tree the water is deeper and there are several good blowdowns on the bank. Some run out a long way, so watch for them and don’t get in too close, especially if the water is stained and they are hard to see. Run a spinnerbait down the trunks of the blowdowns, bumping limbs and letting it fall. Derek likes to move his spinnerbait as slow as he can and still keep the blades barely turning. He got a nice keeper here on a spinnerbait the day we fished.

After running the spinnerbait along the tree, try a soft jerkbait over it, and then work a jig ’n pig through it. Be sure you stay on the cover and bump it. The colder the water the more you should try to bump every limb on the tree. Fish down this bank to the small pocket on the downstream side of the big round point.

No. 2: N 33º 12.077 – W 84º 02.301 — Derek will jump across this small pocket at the end of this round point and start at the brown-roofed dock that has a little rip-rap by it. Work the next bank all the way out to the main-lake point, especially if you catch any bass along the first point. There is good deep water along this bank, the bottom is hard, and there are rocks and wood to hold the fish.

Try a crankbait cast right to the bank and fished out at an angle, and then go back and bump the bottom with a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm. There is not a lot of the black moss here, so it is easier to fish a bait on the bottom.

“An aggressive bass will hit a slow-moving bait, but an inactive fish won’t chase a fast-moving bait,” Derek said. For that reason, he will always fish the spinnerbait and other baits slowly. He likes to imagine there is a bass on every piece of cover he fishes, so he works each one carefully.

No. 3: N 33º 12.020 – W 34º 02.046 — Go downstream of this big main-lake point that narrows the lake down before it opens back up. Watch the right bank where it runs straight. You will see a steep bank with a small dock on your right. There is lattice work under the deck, and a pontoon boat was tied to the dock the day we fished. There is also a pelican statue on the dock and a rock seawall running on either side of the dock.

Derek said this is a one-fish hole, but it is usually a good one. Start at the dock, and fish around it. Then work downstream to the next small point. The bank drops fast, and the bottom is hard, so fish a crankbait at an angle to the bank, and then slow-roll a spinnerbait right on the bottom. If you don’t get bit, turn and go back over the area with a jig-head worm or jig ’n pig. This spot is worth working very carefully with all your baits.

No. 4: N 33º 11.898 – W 84º 01.875 — Just upstream of where the lake narrows down again you will see a danger buoy. It marks a hump right in the middle of the lake, and sometimes bass hold around it. Fish all the way around this hump, covering it from all sides. A soft jerkbait is a good choice to start here, and then cover the same area probing the bottom with a jig-head worm or jig ’n pig. Fish slowly and probe for cover, and hit it several times when you find some. Remember, fish with the mindset there is a fish on every piece of cover you hit, and you just have to make it eat your bait to catch it.

No. 5: N 33º 11.807 – W 84º 01.934 — To your right headed toward the dam, just downstream of the hump a big point comes out and narrows down the lake. On the upstream side of it is a big blowdown, and you want to start at it and work downstream around the point. You will pass a light on an angled pole out over the water. Keep fishing until you get to the screen gazebo near the water on the downstream side of the point. There are rocks under the water on this point, and it is a good hard bottom. You won’t see many rocks on the bank, but a few indicate what is hidden beneath the water. Fish all around this point with all your baits. If two of you are fishing, one should try a spinnerbait, crankbait or jerkbait and the other a jig-head worm or jig ’n pig. By covering all the baits, you can tell what the fish want.

No. 6: N 33º 11.744 – W 84º 10.697 — Across the lake from the big point the bank turns to the left going downstream past the narrow gap. There are some big houses on this bank, and you want to start at the dock in front of the first big brick house and work downstream. Fish the entire bank past the small cove on this bank. Just past a dock that had a pontoon boat tied to it the day we fished you will see a rock outcropping on the bank, and it runs on out under the water. It will be about 8 feet deep under your boat, but that is pretty deep water for this area, so fish it hard. Fish all your baits on these rocks. Derek says they often hold a good bass so give them a choice of baits to hit. Work the bottom with a jig out until you stop feeling the rocks to find out how far out they run.

No. 7: N 33º 11.521 – W 84º 01.852 — Back across the lake, the bank curves a little and then comes back out to the point on the upstream side of Brushy Creek. A sailboat is usually tied to a dock just downstream of a brick house that is for sale on this steep bank. The bottom drops quickly here, and there are hidden blowdowns and rocks to fish. There are also overhanging limbs and brush here. Derek likes to cast up to the bank under the overhanging brush and fish the rocks that line the bank. There is one really nasty-looking tree with dangling limbs, and it covers a deep hole with rocks and is a very good spot to catch a quality bass.

No. 8: N 33º 11 369 – W 84º 01.571 — Going downstream, Brushy and Buck creeks enter on your right, and the first big creek on your left is Watkins Bottom. The point on the downstream side of Watkins Bottom has a line of cedar trees growing along the seawall, and there is an unusual looking house with castle-like buttresses along the top.

Start on the upstream side of the point. There was a big new brushpile here the day Derek and I fished it. Work the brushpile, and then fish on down the bank, casting a Shad Rap to where the cedar trees end. Derek says there are chunk rocks here, and the bottom drops fast. This area holds fish moving out of the river and Watkins Bottom to a winter hole. Derek said he fishes this spot several times during a tournament and does not go past it without hitting it. It is a good example of the type deep bank he looks for on the lake in December.

No. 9: N 33º 11.267 – W 84º 01.637 — Across the lake, the last point on your right coming out of Buck Creek as you turn toward the dam has a seawall around it. It is on the downstream point of a small pocket just as you come out of Buck Creek. Start out on the point, and work the upstream bank going into the pocket. There is a cream-colored siding house and a block seawall as you go in. The water is fairly shallow close to the seawall but drops off. There is pea gravel here. Derek likes to parallel this bank with his Shad Rap, making casts that run along the bank about 20 feet out. There is also a good blowdown on this bank. Fish it with a jig ’n pig and spinnerbait.

No. 10: N 33º 11.300 – W 84º 01.752 — Going into Buck Creek, the first point upstream of the small pocket at hole No. 9 has some old pilings out on it. There is a mercury vapor light on a pole out on the point. It is shallow around the old dock posts, but it drops off to a ledge off the point. Derek said there is no cover on the bottom here, but the ledge holds fish. He stays off the bank and works a bottom-bumping bait around it. You can slow-roll a spinnerbait or bump bottom with a Shad Rap, but be sure to bounce a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm out even deeper, hitting the dropoff. Bass often hold right along the edge of the drop, and you need to get a bait down to them.

Give these spots a try, and then look for similar areas. If you put in at the dam, there are many good places on that end of the lake, too. Now’s a great time for change-of-pace bass fishing at High Falls.

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