Jackson Bass Up The Rivers

Brian Lee looks for bait and underwater rocks in March.

Brad Gill | March 4, 2019

When Brian Lee, of Covington, announced to me as day was breaking on Feb. 7 that we’d be running up the rivers that feed into Lake Jackson to look for a bass bite, I was thrilled. I wasn’t sure if there was a bite going on, but I didn’t care at the moment. I was thankful we’d be looking at hardwood hillsides versus a line of docks. As our day would progress, I’d learn from Brian that it was the scenery that first piqued his interest about river fishing in the first place.

“I like fishing up the rivers at Lake Jackson because I like the peace and quiet,” said Brian. “You don’t have to worry about all the boat traffic up here. There’s no telling what you’ll see, turkeys, deer.”

Bass tournament angler Brian Lee said fishing up the rivers on Lake Jackson is where he likes to fish. He likes to fish Spro Little John crankbaits.

As we worked our way up the Alcovy, we didn’t get serious about fishing until we found ourselves in some pretty skinny water without a boat dock in sight. 

“The fish up here don’t have as much pressure as down on the main lake,” said Brian. “Running it can be dangerous if you’re not familiar with the rivers, but I think the less pressure factor makes them more apt to bite at times.”

We began slinging some shallow-running crankbaits into the 55-degree and somewhat stained water. The weather was calling for an air temperature to reach 80 degrees, and we were fishing 36 hours before a cold front. Conditions were as good as they could get for an early February bite.

“One thing up here is that everything looks good,” said Brian. “There’s trees, rocks, stumps everywhere, but that doesn’t mean every stump, blowdown or rock up here is going to have a fish on it.”

When Brian first started river fishing, he found consistent success targeting underwater boulders or smaller rockpiles in areas where shad were present. He has places like this that he fishes up the Alcovy, South and Yellow rivers. 

Electronics are very important up the rivers as you look for rocks that hold baitfish and attract feeding bass. This picture is of an underwater boulder using side imaging sonar.

“The bigger rock boulders hold the plankton that shad feed on,” said Brian. “The bass like to be on the down current side of the boulder because they are an ambush predator, and they like to hide and wait for the shad to come over or around the boulder.”

Not every spot Brian likes to target has big boulders. He has lots of places up the rivers where he’s fishing around smaller rocks that maybe the size of the basketball or even smaller, but many of them are still big enough to break the current enough that they provide bass places to sit out of the current and wait for bait to wash downstream. Oftentimes, these areas are identified first by seeing rock on the bank, and then Brian investigates this area on his depthfinder. Brian said it increases his bite percentage when he finds these smaller rockpiles along any channel irregularity or on ledges. 

Although not as sought after by the bass, crawfish will hold in rocky areas, too, and Brian likes some of his bait colors to represent those crustaceans. 

Brian likes a Fish Head Spin with a white-pearl Swimmin’ Super Fluke Jr. from Zoom as his trailer.

“However, baitfish is the big forage up here,” said Brian. “But just know that the baitfish will move around, so not every set of boulders will have bait and bass on them. I’d come up here on a Monday and the baitfish would be in one area, and then I’d come back Tuesday, and they wouldn’t be there. I’d have to find them again. The forage has to be there or the bass won’t be.”

Brian keeps his tackle pretty simple up the rivers in March. His No. 1 go-to bait is a Spro Little John crankbait. 

“It’s a good search, but what I like about the Little Johns is the colors,” said Brian. “It’s close to crawfish colors. The crawfish pinchers will be either a bright color or a dull color.”

Brian also likes to work a Fish Head Spin with a Zoom trailer around boulders and bait. 

“A 3/8-oz. seems to be a perfect size. You can fish it shallow and you can fish it deeper,” said Brian. “I like the Swmmin’ Fluke trailer in a pearl white. You can take the tail and dip it in chartreuse, you can do chartreuse and merthiolate and it turns orange if you’re fishing around crayfish. Spotted bass like the chartreuse, and the largemouth don’t seem to have a preference, they just want to eat.”

On cloudy days, Brian will throw a Fish Head Spin with a gold blade. On sunny days, either a gold or silver will work.

“I will yo-yo the bait back, giving it an erratic motion,” said Brian. “Bass are ambush predators. When they see a school  of baitfish come by, they are going to try and break that school up. When a bass gets an individual shad off by itself, the shad is darting different directions, which is why I like that erratic motion—yo-yo, stop, jerk, retrieve, let it flutter down. A lot of times they are going to hit it when it flutters.”

We fished crankbaits and Fish Head Spins around boulders and some smaller rocks from daylight until about 1:30 p.m. A lot of times it doesn’t take a lot of rock to hold bass as they position themselves on the downcurrent side waiting to see what washes downstream. Even better is when you find these areas on any sort of irregularity in the river channels. As you watch your electronics, look along these breaks. 

When we finished up our day, we caught about 25 bass, with the biggest being a 4-lb. spotted bass. Our best five easily went 12 pounds.

While flipping a jig to brushy cover up the rivers isn’t Brian’s favorite way to catch fish, it can be effective if you learn the right places where fish like to hold. When working a jig, Brian likes a dark-colored Chompers Football Jig with either a Zoom Swimmin’ Chunk in black/blue or a 3-inch NetBait Paca Chunk in black blue flake or Okeechobee Craw. In a little cleaner water, you can get away with a green-pumpkin trailer, if you tip it in chartreuse J.J.’s Magic Dippin’ Dye.

If you want a scenic experience, consider exploring up either the Alcovy, South or Yellow rivers this March. Brian says he fishes all three rivers with success by focusing on bait and rocks. However, Brian offers caution to any anglers not familiar with these areas.

“I don’t advise just running way up there and going fishing,” said Brian. “You’ll need to spend a lot of time idling, watching your electronics, learning the river and figuring out where the fish are based on condition. Please know the rivers can be dangerous if you just run up there wide open,” said Brian.

The style of fishing can be productive, but don’t expect to load the boat—or even get bit—on your first trip up. It’s like slinging a jig way under a dock or learning to properly crank deep-water structure, it takes time to perfect fishing up the rivers. 

“It does take time to come up here and figure out what is going to produce and not going to produce,” said Brian. “Once you put in the time to really learn these rivers, you can come up here and get right.”

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