Late Summer Bass Hotspots On Seminole
Baty and Blackmon know Seminole's secrets to a late-summer bite.
Your sun tan hasn’t ever looked better, and you’ve lost more weight than if you were on multiple weight-loss programs combined from your exercise regimen of 5,000 casts a day with nothing to show. Your countless days at the best infrared sauna ever, or Lake Seminole, which lies along the Georgia-Florida border, have treated you right in terms of tanning, but September is a tough month for bass fishing. Thankfully, there are two guys who know how to fill a tournament bag with Seminole hawgs and have a little knowledge to share. With a combined experience of more than 20 years, it’s worth listening.
Tournament team Matt Baty of Bainbridge and Chris Blackmon of Colquitt have been fishing Seminole for more than 10 years. Matt is a school teacher and also owns his own landscaping company, so he has plenty of free time on the lake during the summer to get acquainted with the fish. They consistently place near the top in local tournaments. In 2006 Matt won the Sunshine Bassmasters of Tallahassee, Fla. Angler of the Year award, and in 2007 he won first runner-up while Chris grabbed second runner-up.
I spent a day on the lake with the duo to learn how anyone can catch fish on what Matt and Chris called one of the toughest tournament months of the year.
Matt said you want to start your morning out throwing topwater on the river ledges. He said you need to fish close to the channel, and he considers the outside bends a little better because there is a little more current present. If there is grass near the ledge, it just makes it that much better, he said. Their go-to baits for topwater are a Super Zara Spook and the Super Spook Jr. The action of the Spook looks like bait on the surface and causes some explosive topwater action when the bite is on.
“I like to throw the frog color if it’s cloudy and the chrome-and-black color if it’s sunny,” said Matt.
Matt said the biggest issue with a Spook is you’re going to miss a lot of fish with the hooks that come on the baits. Matt and Chris change the hooks and split rings for a better hook-up percentage. Matt said he uses Mustad Triple Grip hooks, because they have one long-shank hook out of the three on the treble, and XPS Rick Clunn signature series split rings from Bass Pro. The longer hook and new split rings let the hooks ride lower in the water which has helped Matt and Chris catch the majority of the fish they set the hook into. They use No. 6 hooks on the Super Spook Jr. and No. 4 hooks on the larger Super Spook.
Matt and Chris said before they started changing the hooks, they’d almost given up on Spooks because they were missing or losing so many fish. The modified hooks have given them confidence in the Spooks, and it was apparent since they were catching fish the morning of our trip. We boated more than 20 fish during our half-day trip. Matt said they also use 65- to 80-lb. Power Pro braid when throwing topwater because it helps them work the fish in and allows for a harder hook set, and you can really crank them out of the grass and into the net.
With their combination of modifications to Spook fishing, the brothers have become a deadly pair on early morning bass.
“That bite is only going to last about an hour at the most,” said Matt. “When that bite is over with you’ve got a couple of options.”
The first option they suggested was something a lot of anglers might find a bit odd. But Matt said September is such a tough time of year, that you do what you can to get the few bites you’re going to get.
“I like to get a spinning reel out with a jerkbait, like a Rattlin’ Rogue or a Rapala minnow,” said Matt.
He said they usually throw the floating baits instead of suspending ones because they get more of a reaction strike from them. They change their colors based on the sun, just like with the Spooks, using chrome if it’s sunny and firetiger if it’s cloudy. Matt said the spinning outfit allows him to work the lure better, and Chris said he likes it because you can cast it well even in a little bit of wind. They like to use 10-lb. fluorocarbon line and said to make sure you’ve set your drag correctly.
“Doing that will usually get you another bite or two,” said Matt.
The other option you’ve got after the short-lived topwater bite, if you don’t want to throw a jerkbait, is a crankbait. Matt and Chris cast parallel to the grasslines with a crankbait to try to catch the fish that have stopped hiting topwater.
“I like to throw a Rapala DT10 or a Strike King Pro Model Series 5 in shad color,” said Matt.
Matt said baby bass and Tennessee shad are also good colors. This bite will usually only last for another hour as well.
“Usually you’ve just got to let the fish tell you what to do. If you catch one or two and it gets real slow for 30 or 45 minutes, then you’ve got to break the big sticks out once the sun gets out, and it starts getting hot,” said Matt.
The big sticks Matt referred to are flipping sticks, 7 1/2-foot Dobyns flipping rods, to be exact. The duo usually travels upstream to flip hydrilla mats, water hycaniths and dying milfoil after the morning bites are over with. They said the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers both offer good places to start looking for fish in the grass to flip to. Matt and Chris agreed that you need something with a lot of backbone, but a little bit of tip, to flip the way they like to.
They said the key to a good flipping rod is having something with enough backbone to get the fish out of the cover but also enough action in the tip to prevent the hook from ripping out of the fish’s mouth.
“The right rod keeps it from pulling the hook out of its mouth when you’re trying to horse it out of the grass,” said Chris.
“A lot of people think you’ve got to just set the hook on the stiffest rod you’ve got and just pull him out, but we’ve lost a lot of fish doing that,” said Matt.
“You need a good stiff rod, but it needs to have some tip to it,” he said.
When Matt and Chris are flipping, they try to stick to something natural looking that has some action to it. They suggested a Berkley Power Craw, a Yum Craw Papi and the NetBait PacaCraw hooked on a Reaction Innovations BMF (Bad Mother Flipping) hook. The hook eyes are welded shut to keep the braided line from getting through and being pinched and becoming weak or breaking. They will usually use a 1- to 1 1/2-oz. Tru-Tungsten flipping weight as well.
“The bigger weight will help you fish faster; it’ll go through the grass and it’ll punch through easier. That 1-oz. bait will hang up and you’ll have to shake it to get through,” said Chris.
“The 1 1/2-oz. weight will get through there quicker; it does make a difference,” he said.
Depending on the water clarity, Matt said there are a variety of colors he likes to use. If the water is really clear, Matt will go with green pumpkin, watermelon seed or Okeechobee craw. If the water is dingy, they like to fish a NetBait Paca Craw Jr. in the red bug color.
“Okeechobee craw and the red bug are all you need on Seminole in my opinion,” said Matt.
They also like to match the color of their weight to the color of the plastic for a better presentation to the fish. For a red-bug plastic, Matt will use a blood-red Tru-Tungsten weight, and Tru-Tungsten offers a variety of other colors to match the plastics.
Matt also said Reaction Innovations makes a heat shrink called the BMF Rebarb which you can put on the hook to keep the weight from beating the bait down the hook and affecting the action.
“The barb will hold your bait on the hook and keep the weight from knocking the bait down. The rebarb will hold your bait on, and you won’t have to fix it every time,” said Matt.
Another thing Matt and Chris like to do is to paint the tips of the pinchers of the craw with an orange lure-dye marker. Matt said just painting the ends gives it a natural appearance and just a little added flash in the water. The pair both said they could see the difference in strikes when using a painted versus a non-painted bait.
Matt said he always takes the time to sit down and paint the pinchers, but sometimes Chris will just start flipping to try to get some fish in the boat. Matt said Chris usually sees a difference in strikes after just a short while of flipping.
“There have be several tournaments when I’ve been up here fishing and things would get real quiet behind me, and I’d look back there and he’d have his marker out dying those pinchers,” said Matt.
“I’ve seen it make the difference out there when we’re both fishing,” said Chris.
If the flipping bite isn’t working in the afternoons, then you’ve still got another option to go with. The dying milfoil grass in September makes a scum-looking layer that floats and offers shade for bass in the heat of the afternoon. Matt and Chris said the milfoil almost blacks out the sun as opposed to the hydrilla, which just weakens it. The resting bass under the shade are what Matt and Chris target when they throw Spro Bronzeye frogs. The frog is weedless and has two 4/0 Gamakatsu hooks which produce better hook-up ratios than other frogs on the market.
“With some of those other frogs I feel like I only catch 30 percent of the fish,” said Matt.
“With the Spro frog you are going to catch 70 percent of the fish that hit the bait,” he said.
When it comes to the color of the frog, Matt said anything with black on it works well. The color he had tied on during our trip was rainforest black. They throw the frog on the same 65- to 80-lb. Power Pro braid and tie a Palomar knot with about a 1/2-inch tag to allow for slippage.
Matt uses a steady pop-pop-pop retrieve or sometimes he will vary his retrieve with a pop-pop-pause, and the big boys will usually hit it on the pause.
“Throw it on top of the mat, and work it fast until you get a bite, then slow it down and start twitching it. Most of the time the fish is going to miss it the very first time he hits it. You can slow down and work it slowly right there by him. If he doesn’t hit it again, reel it in and throw right back in there on top of it and work it by him again. It’s got to be in the exact same hole, or he’s not going to bite him,” said Matt.
Another thing about the Spro frog that Matt prefers over other frogs is they are more durable. He said he’d caught more than 50 bass with the one he had tied on, and it still had a flawless action in the water. He said they may cost a little more initially, but they’ll hook more fish and last longer than anything else he’s tried, making them worth the extra money.
Matt and Chris also had one more trick up their sleeves for winning Seminole tournaments. If they’ve got a couple good fish but still need to fill a limit, they’ll ride up the Flint to Bainbridge to the banks above the Boat Basin. Matt said they’ll a throw jerkbait, like a Bagley’s Bang-O-Lure, and usually catch a couple more good keepers to put them in the money.
“I like to use any colors that resemble a minnow. Chrome or silver with black back on sunny days and gold with black back for cloudy days,” said Matt.
He said when you’re working this lure, you really want to give it a pretty good jerk so that the spinner on the back of the lure is spinning as it comes back to the surface for the added attention it will get from the bass. They both agreed that without some nice bass in the morning, the trip up river is probably a waste of time.
“You have to get a couple on the lake first because if you don’t have any in the morning, it ain’t worth doing,” said Matt. The trip up river will cool you off if nothing else. And after a morning of the south Georgia sun, you’re going to enjoy the ride.
Whichever method you use, you’re definitely more likely to catch fish in the tough summer’s end with the advice of Matt and Chris.
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