High Falls Lake In February: Jig ’n Pig For A Few Good Bass

Billy Carpenter says you aren’t likely to catch big numbers, but the bass you catch will have some weight on them.

Brad Bailey | January 1, 2007

On High Falls Lake — and just about everywhere else — a jig ’n pig is considered a big-bass bait.

“Seems like every time you catch a bass on a jig ’n pig on this lake, it’s a good one,” said my fishing partner on the lake last month.

On Jan. 16, I spent an afternoon on this 650-acre Monroe County fishing pond with Billy Carpenter, of Griffin, looking for one of the big bass that the lake is known for producing.

“You might have a jig ’n pig tied on,” Billy had said on the phone when we set up the trip. “That’s usually a good bait to throw this time of year.”

You won’t catch as many bass on High Falls by throwing a jig ’n pig, says Billy, but when you catch one, it is likely to have some weight to it.

Billy and I started the afternoon on High Falls Lake by making the run from the Buck Creek ramp all the way to the mouth of the Towaliga River. As the lake necked down, we turned into the big flat on the left side of the river. The lake was a little beyond dingy, heading toward hard stain, but we could see enough to see stumps jutting up, mostly to just below the surface. This shallow, wood-infested bay looks like spinnerbait heaven, and as the water warms up, it probably will be. On a cold, gray, breezy afternoon, however, Billy was more interested in a slow approach.

High Falls Lake was down a foot or so when we were there as the state park attempts to lower the lake level to inspect a leaking dam gate. Park officials, leery of opening a dam gate that may be damaged, have been attempting to lower the lake level by a siphoning water over the dam. If the effort is successful, the lake level will be dropped four feet, which will reveal acres of shallow stump flats.

We hopped jigs past dozens of stumps; I tried slow-rolling a spinnerbait; and Billy even tried a Rat-L-Trap in creek channels, but despite excellent-looking bass cover, the bass weren’t having what we were throwing. Billy decided to look for deeper water and especially for the breaks from the shallow water falling off into deeper water.
We headed back into the main lake and pulled in to stop in front of a row of boat docks on the right-hand side. You’ll recognize the area by the home on the middle of the bank with a lake-front yard meticulously manicured with paths and plantings into a spectacular rock garden. The old, wooden-post docks and seawalls that line the bank here are a target-rich environment for someone pitching a jig and typify a lot of what High Falls looks like: great bass habitat.

But we fished past the docks without drawing any interest from bass that were surely there. On the first steep bank dropping into the lake as we started out of the back of the cove was a log laying low in the water. Billy dropped his jig over the log nearly to the bank and began to pull it slowly back, then he stopped, watching his line.

“I got a bite,” he said, as he reeled down and then set the hook. His rod bent over under good weight, and in a few seconds a bass was boiling on the surface — and it was a good one.

I was diving for my camera — no net-man help from the back of the boat for Billy this time— but he was able to play the fish to the boat, lip it and bring it in without the net. The fish was a stout, healthy looking largemouth that would weigh about four pounds.

“She hammered it,” said Billy of the black-and-blue jig ’n pig in the bass’s mouth. “Then she started swimming off with it. That felt good!”

True to form, a jig ’n pig had produced a good-sized bass at High Falls Lake.

“When the water is cold, a jig will usually produce good fish with some weight on them,” said Billy. “The bass aren’t going to be as active in the cold water, but if you can get a jig down in front of them, they will usually take it.”

We took some pictures of the bass, then slipped her back into the lake near the log.

Billy, 32, is a truck driver who lives in Griffin. He makes delivery runs locally, so he is home each night with his wife and three sons. His boys and his wife all enjoy fishing and hunting.

“I love the outdoors,” he said. “I love to be on the lake or in the woods, either one, it doesn’t matter.”

Billy fishes the Lil’ Water Bassin’ jonboat bass trail. The trail fishes several small middle Georgia lakes including High Falls, Horton, Juliette, Griffin Reservoir, Big Lazer, J.W. Smith and Blalock. Last year, Billy and his partner Matt Pike of Griffin won the tournament at Blalock and missed winning a two-day tournament at J.W. Smith by about a pound.

Billy has been fishing High Falls Lake for about 10 years, and he says its reputation revolves around the big bass the fertile, shallow lake produces regularly.

“You may not always catch big numbers of bass here,” he said. “But when you catch one, it’s usually a good one.”
While fishing the banks in Brushy Creek one day, Billy caught a bass in the 5- or 6-lb. range. Two minutes later he caught another one that would go four pounds — and they were the only two fish he brought to the boat that day.

Billy’s biggest bass from High Falls weighed about eight pounds.

Interestingly, for a lake with a strong lunker-bass reputation, GON has received no entry for High Falls Lake in the largemouth-bass category for our Lake & River Records. Contact GON for details about how to enter a big fish.

While the slow approach with a jig ’n pig is usually a good bet in February, there are exceptions, says Billy.

“If you get several days of warm, sunny weather and the water temperature starts to climb, a spinnerbait can be good.”

The two bass he caught within minutes of each other in Brushy Creek both hit a spinnerbait on a warming spell during the winter. Billy fishes 1/4-oz. Strike King spinnerbaits, with a green or white skirt. When he is fishing a blade, he is usually running it over and through shoreline blowdowns, brush and stumps.

Any time he is fishing High Falls, Billy is also likely to have a Rat-L-Trap tied on, and the choice is based on tournament results on the lake.

“A Rat-L-Trap has been the winning lure a lot of times on this lake,” he said.

Much of High Falls is shallow. We fished the back of Watkins Bottoms, for instance, and as we came out of the back of the creek, for several hundred yards, the water depth hung in the five- to seven-foot depth before the graph finally showed depths dropping off into more than 20 feet. That first break in depth can be a good place to fish with a worm, or to run a Rat-L-Trap over, says Billy. But day in and day out, a slow-moving jig ’n pig on wood on fast-dropping banks is your best bet for a High Falls lunker.

High Falls Lake is a state-park lake with several special regulations. The lake is open year round from 7 a.m. until dark. A $3 parking fee is required. Boats are restricted to 10 hp or less.

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