High Falls Bass In April

When Art Jett goes bass fishing in April, he is hunting for bedding fish with a spinnerbait and a plastic lizard.

Brad Bailey | April 2, 2002

The first bass of the day was right where Art said it would be, back in thin water in a High Falls slough off the Towaliga River. Art had slowly nosed his 14-foot jon boat into the narrow slough hunting for swirls or ripples on the surface that would indicating a bass below.

“Most people won’t come back in here because they think the water is too shallow,” he said. “But the bass like these kinds of places when they are getting ready to spawn.”

A swirl beneath overhanging branches was just the sign Art wanted to see, and he made a long cast past the spot with his spinnerbait. When the blade bait spun by the overhanging branch, a bass flashed on the lure and Art set the hook. In the 2-foot-deep water, the battle was brief, and Art quickly lipped a fat 4-pounder.

“If you come to High Falls in April, you can catch some big bass,” he said. “You just have to be patient to find them.”

Art Jett, of Griffin, and I were on High Falls on March 15 for a preview of the April bassing. Art is 28 years old, and he has been fishing the 650-acre state park lake since he was 14.

Art has never fished Lake Lanier. His jon boat pretty much stays on High Falls because he never saw the point of leaving the excellent “small-lake” fishing at High Falls to learn other, bigger, tougher reservoirs — especially this time of year.

Art uses a junebug Zoom lizard as his follow-up bait if a fish misses, or doesn’t want, a spinnerbait.

By the first week of April the bass in High Falls will be on the bed and when they are, Art has two lures tied on before he heads for the lake: a spinnerbait and a plastic lizard.

The first rod he uses is the spinnerbait rod, and he uses the blades as his fish-finder lure. He expects to catch bass on the spinnerbait, but if a bass misses, he follows up immediately with the plastic lizard.

“If you don’t get them on the spinnerbait, a lot of times you can throw right back in and catch them with the lizard,” he said.

Art and I came out of the narrow slough, crossed the Towaliga River and pulled into the Duck Pond, a big, wide slough at the very upper end of the lake. We started fishing around the left-hand bank, casting to several blowdowns and to stumps just below the surface. We pulled up to the bottom side of an uprooted tree, unusual because it had had fallen away from the lake, pushed over into the woods by the force of flood waters during the Flood of ‘94. Art missed a strike on the spinnerbait near the tree. When he cast a plastic lizard back to the base of the tree roots, he caught a small bass.

Art throws a 3/8-oz. white or chartreuse and white spinnerbait. He is partial to the spinnerbait made by Georgia Blade. He occasionaly dresses the lure with a split-tail, but most of the time he fishes a bare skirt. To keep the skirt in place, he often Super-Glues it to the lure.

“After fish snatch a skirt off a few times, they usually ruin it,” he said.

He prefers to fish with  double-Colorado blades.

“The double Colorado blades give off a lot of vibrations and you can fish it up shallower,” he said. “It’s just a confidence thing with me — I have caught more fish on it than on willow-leaf blades. I don’t use a trailer hook because it is too easy to get hung up in the moss and weeds.”

On another rod, Art had a 6-inch Zoom junebug lizard on a 5/0 hook on an 1/8-oz. Texas-rig ready and waiting.

“A lot of times the lizard is a better offering,” said Art. “It is lighter entering the water and a lot of times they’ll hit it as soon as it hits the water.

“Junebug is my favorite lizard color,” he said. “But any dark color will work. I use red shad or green pumpkin some of the time.

“This time of year, I don’t use any line less than 20-lb.,” he said. “Fifteen-pound line will work — until you get a big one wrapped up in a tree.”

Halfway up the far side of the Duck Pond we paralleled the bank, targeting several old downed trees, and Art slowed down, going into his bass-sleuthing mode. He is looking for the bass to give their location away before he makes a cast.

By the later half of April, the grass and moss growing back in the creeks at High Falls will make retrieving a spinnerbait more difficult, and Trick Worms will become more effective as a postspawn pattern emerges.

“When the bass are on the banks spawning, they will give themselves away when they move,” said Art. “Sometimes they will move out of the way of the spinnerbait as it goes by. When they do, I throw a lizard back in and a lot of times they will hit that.

“It’s a patience thing. You want to move quietly and as slowly as you can and watch for any movement. In April you will see a lot more movement as the bass run the bluegill away from their beds. When I see a swirl, I try to ease in as quietly as I can so I don’t spook the fish out. But if you spook a fish, you can usually come back in 25 or 30 minutes and have a good chance of catching it.”

In Art’s April scheme, this is sort of bass-scouting before bass fishing. We fished several places twice, and as we left after the first attempt, Art would note the places where he had seen fish move. When we came back, he would quietly slip up to fish those exact locations, expecting the fish to be right there.

By mid-afternoon, we used the gas motor to cruise down the lake past “Rock Island,” a mostly-submerged island marked by metal poles, and into a big cove on the left before you reach the dam called Watkins Bottoms.

We started throwing spinnerbaits to stumps in the back third of the cove, then fishing through the shallow brush at the very back. It is another example of a good April spawning area with plenty of stumps, grass clumps, brush and logs for targets. Art has an 8-lb. and an 8 1/4-lb. High Falls bass on the wall. One of them came from this area.

The backs of any of the coves on High Falls are a good place to try for spawning bass in April, said Art.

“There are good spawning flats in the back of Buck Creek and Brushy Creek with lots of stumps and brush to cast to,” he said. “I will pretty much stick with the spinnerbait and lizard until the end of April. When the water warms up and some of the fish finish spawning, a Trick Worm fished around the stumps and grass beds will catch a lot of fish.”

Surprisingly, we saw a dozen or so boats fishing for crappie. but we passed only one other boat with bass anglers in it (and they said they had a 5-pounder in the live well).

Later in the afternoon, we pulled into Buck Creek, past the state park ramp and fished stumps along the old creek channel. I caught a largemouth that weighed about 2 1⁄2 pounds from a 6-foot deep brushpile on a junebug lizard.

Just before dark, we fished a bank up the Towaliga River on the left-hand side upriver from Rock Island. As we eased along, Art spotted a telltale swirl ahead of us along the bank.

“There’s me a fish,” he said, watching the spot.

When he was close enough, he cast in with a junebug lizard and missed the fish on the hookset. He cast back in, however, and the second time he hooked a keeper bass that was evidently determined to be caught.

Thirty feet farther down the bank, he repeated the performance, casting to a specific ripple and pulling out another keeper on the lizard.

“Like I said, you can catch some good bass here in April,” he said. “Just move real slow so you don’t spook them and watch for movement.”

And when the water moves, that’s your target for a cast at a High Falls bass.

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