Jackson Bass Cold, Shallow And Active
The February bite is good for largemouth and spots on Lake Jackson.
If you like fishing crankbaits in shallow water for largemouth and spots, Lake Jackson should be on your radar for February fishing.
For many years, Jackson was the lake for anglers to fish if they wanted to catch a bragging-sized largemouth in the winter. Those 7-lb. largemouth aren’t as common as they used to be—maybe because the lake now also produces chunky spotted bass. Whether it’s a largemouth or spot smashing your crankbait or jig, Jackson is still a good place to land a stringer of quality bass this time of year.
Jackson is a very old Georgia Power lake—the dam was built in 1910 at the headwaters of the Ocmulgee River. It’s centrally located right in the middle of the state just east of the city of Jackson. The 4,750-acre reservoir is lined with docks, rocks and wood cover, and the lake has a variety of creeks and coves, as well as three main rivers joining together to form the lake.
For many years, if you fished Jackson in February and didn’t land a 6-lb. or better largemouth, it was a bad fishing trip. But several things happened to change that kind of fishing. New sewage treatment plants diverted sewage from the South River, and Jackson became much less fertile. Gone are the summer months with the lake looking pea-soup green like a well-fertilized farm pond.
Along with the less fertile waters and resulting less critters in the food chain, spotted bass were illegally introduced into the lake in the late 1980s and now make up at least half the bass in the lake. Spots are more aggressive, so they dominate feeding places, and they just do not grow as fast or as big as largemouth.
Even with those factors, Lake Jackson still regularly produces five-fish tournament limits topping 15 pounds, and better than 20-lb. sacks are caught every year. Knowing the lake and where the quality bass live and feed is important, and if you key on those feeding patterns, you can still have a quality catch.
Willie McMullen lives in Oxford and grew up in houses on the South and Yellow rivers. His mom still lives on the Yellow River. His dad, Wayne McMullen, and uncle Ronnie McMullen were known as two of the best fishermen on Jackson for many years. Before his dad passed away a few years ago, Wayne taught Willie well. Willie has been a top angler in the area, particularly on the competitive Berry’s tournament trail. Willie and partner Chad Stahl won the point standings back-to-back years a couple of seasons ago, the only team to do that.
Willie also fishes the weekend and night tournaments at Jackson. On New Years Eve, he won one of those with just under 15 pounds. If you looked at the Tournament Reports in the January GON, you saw Willie’s name three times, and Willie is pictured holding his 6.61-lb. big fish from a tournament.
Wayne McMullen was one of the founders of the Butts Bass Busters Club in Jackson, and Willie’s first tournament, was in 1986 when he was 9—a youth tournament put on by that club. Willie and his dad won that tournament with a 10-fish limit. Willie joined the club as soon as he was 16, and he won Angler of the Year in the club when he was a senior in high school.
Now Willie fishes some BFLs, as many of the Berry’s tournaments as possible, and the ABA trails. He hopes to enter the BASS Opens and see how well he does in them.
“I love winter fishing on Jackson,” Willie said
When the water gets below 50 degrees and stains up, the bass fishing gets better on Lake Jackson. Many fishermen do not like cold, muddy water, but that is what Willie likes, and those are normal conditions for Jackson in February.
“I fish very shallow. I just don’t like fishing deep water,” Willie said.
In February, he expects to pick off a shallow, actively feeding bass from a location rather than try to find a school of fish. He may catch more than one from a place, but he says he is more likely to catch one and then come back a few hours later and catch another bass from that spot.
Willie will have about 10 rods on the deck ready to fish in February. One will have a jig ’n pig. All the rest will have crankbaits. A No. 5 or No. 7 crawfish-colored Shad Rap is always on at least one rod, and a Cotton Cordell C.C. Shad will be on another rod. On the rest, he will have a variety of Wee R, Bandit and Little John crankbaits in different colors—some with rattles and some without.
No matter the conditions and water color, Willie wants to pull up on a place and be able to choose from a variety of baits that he feels right about under those conditions, without having to slow down and re-tie. Hence the 10 rods on the casting deck. Although he moves a lot and fishes a lot of different places—most more than once—he fishes slowly and pays attention to angles and very specific ways to fish each spot. That kind of knowledge comes only through experience
Willie says it is very important to control everything you can control. Make sure your hooks are extremely sharp. Check your line often for nicks, and change it regularly. Vary your baits to offer different actions, depths and sounds. Controlling those things will help you overcome the things you cannot control.
We fished the first week of January under cold, rainy conditions, and then went back on Sunday after the hard cold front. Even under those conditions we caught some bass. Expect the longer days of February to encourage even more bass to move up and feed on Wayne’s shallow patterns.
No. 1: N 33º 22.455 – W 83º 51.282 — Going down the Alcovy River from Berry’s, just downstream of Pope Neck and upstream of the powerlines, on your right look for a concrete seawall on a small point between two pockets. There is a brown dock on the right side of the point facing it. The point drops off into deep water quickly and has chunk rock on it. This is the perfect kind of place for February fishing at Jackson.
Start at the dock, and fish around the point. Try different crankbaits until the bass tell you want they want. Cast right against the seawall, and fish your bait back slowly. Try different angles off the seawall, and when you catch a fish, remember exactly how you were retrieving the bait. Willie caught a small spot here on his first cast the day we fished, setting the luck for the day.
No. 2: N 33º 21.814 -W 83º 51.729 — Run down to the mouth of the South River to the downstream point where the river narrows down. On the right, there is a cement seawall on the point. The bottom drops off fast, with rocks and wood cover all over the point. Willie starts on the downstream side of the point where the seawall starts and fishes upstream around the point past the small dock on that side.
As you fish around the point, try moving in close and casting your crankbait parallel to the seawall. You want your bait, no matter which plug you choose, bumping the bottom. A No. 5 Shad Rap will not get down nearly as deep as the bigger Bandits, so experiment with different angles.
When you find wood cover, work a jig through it. Willie likes a black-and-blue or black-and-chartreuse jig with a black Zoom Super Chunk Jr. on it in stained water, or he tries a green-pumpkin trailer in clearer water. Crawl your jig along the bottom and over logs and brush that wash in on places like this. Also fish the jig in brushpiles found around many of the docks.
No. 3: N 33º 22.783 – W 83º 51.746 — Go across the mouth of the South River. Just inside the upstream point, you will see a narrow point—the second point inside the mouth of the river. There is a small private boat ramp on the point, and it runs way out very shallow.
Many people stay way out on this point to fish it, but Willie moves in until his boat is in about 7 feet of water. He casts his bait right to the edge of the boat ramp and bank as he works around it. Bump your bait on the rocks as you work it back to the boat. Watch for one big boulder that’s on this point, and make multiple casts to it.
No. 4: N 33º 22.577 – W 83º 52.012 — As you go up the South River, it makes a big bend to the right and then back to the left. The point on the left is narrow, runs way out and is very deep on the upstream side and at the end where the river channel hits it. Any current coming down the river is concentrated by this bank, making it a good feeding location for bass.
Start fishing on the point, and work your way upstream. Keep your boat in close to the bank, and make parallel casts upstream, working your bait back with the current in a natural action. Try your different crankbaits along the bank, and then run them by dock posts. Also try your jig around the docks and through any wood cover hung up on the docks and the bank.
No. 5: N 33º 22.712 – W 83º 51.952 — Straight across the river channel, there are three narrow creek channels that run a good way back from the main river. There is a huge mud flat on that side from just below where the Yellow River enters all the way down to this area. Until you learn it, do not try to go straight across from hole 4 to hole 5. Idle downstream some and then cross to make sure you have enough water.
Go to the downstream point of the last creek. There is a red-roofed dock on the downstream point. Start just upstream of this dock, and fish upstream. The creek channel coming out goes around this point and downstream, making it some of the deepest water on this side of the lake. The bottom has some big chunk rock.
Fish upstream around the point, fishing all your baits. Always try casting your plug in extremely shallow water. This point receives sun all day, and the rocks will help warm the water, and it is usually protected from strong winds. Any protected, sunny place like this with water even one or two degrees warmer will pull bass in very shallow this month.
No. 6: N 33º 22.720 – W 83º 51.824 — The other end of this point is the upstream point of the second small creek. It too is deep and rocky. Willie said he spent many hours catching bass from this side of the point while he was growing up in a house near here, and it still holds bass during the winter.
Go around to the end of the point, and start fishing just upstream of the old dock near the point, and work into the cove. Fish your crankbaits from the edge of the bank out to the boat. Also fish a jig around the docks—from the old dock on the outside of the point to the green-roofed dock in the cove.
Several of these docks have brush around them, so probe for it. Sometimes, even in very cold, muddy water, the bass will hold in the shade of the dock watching for baitfish, so run your crankbait along the edges of the dock, as well as pitching a jig under them.
No. 7: N 33º 22.595 – W 83º 52.316 — Go back out around the mud flat, and run up the river, staying in the channel. Across from the old Walker Harris Marina, there is a round, rock-bluff-type point on the downstream side of a small creek going in. It does not have a dock right on the end of it. It is rocky with overhanging brush, and there is a good bit of wood in the water.
Start on the downstream side, casting crankbaits right to the edge of the rocks, fishing them out bumping rocks as deep as they will dive. Also fish a jig through the brush. Work around the point to the upstream side.
No. 8: N 33º 22.510 – W 83º 51.779 — Go back downstream to the last small creek on your left. The upstream point of it has rip-rap on it and a metal boathouse on the downstream side. Like the others, the channels coming out of the small creeks upstream of it run near it, but this one is close to the main river channel, too.
Start on the upstream side on the rip-rap, and work around the point past the boathouse. Keep your boat in fairly close to the bank, and run crankbaits along the rocks. Then go over it with a jig. Here and other places, it is worth stopping several times on each during a day’s fishing.
No. 9: N 33º 21.616 – W 83º 51.681 — Go downstream out of the South River past where the Alcovy River narrows way down. The Turtle Cove ramp will be on your left. Downstream of the ramp, just before the river swings left and opens up, you will see a small reddish-orange dock on the upstream side of a rocky outcropping. This bank is very deep with the channel running right along it. The transitions into almost a bluff wall not far downstream of the dock.
Start just upstream of the dock, and fish downstream past the small private ramp. Work all your baits along this bank like in other places. Fish the crankbaits more slowly in colder water. This winter has been very warm, and water temperatures were still in the 50s in mid January. If they remain high, fish fairly fast all month, but if they drop to normal mid to upper 40s by early February, slow down. Water in the upper 40s and heavily stained are perfect conditions, according to Willie.
No. 10: N 33º 22.603 – W 83º 50.945 — Head back up the Alcovy River, and stop on the left point at the powerlines. Start fishing right were the powerlines come out on this side, and fish upstream, casting to the rocky bank with crankbaits. There are some blowdowns on this bank, as well as several brushpiles, so work that wood with a jig. Current will hit this bank and make it better, as current does on all these and other spots. Fish around the point, working the rocks at the small dock then to the downstream mouth of the small pocket there. There is a short rock pier running out on this side that often holds bass so fish all around it.
All these places will be excellent all month long, and there are many others in other areas of the lake to find once you see Willie’s patterns and methods. Give them a try.
Note: Do you find these Map of the Month articles helpful? If so visit http://fishing-about.com/keys-to-catching-georgia-bass-ebook-series, where you can get an eBook or CD with an article for each month of the year on Clarks Hill and Lanier.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy