Tempt The Lethargy Out Of Lake Jackson Late-Summer Bass
With the heat and drought conditions, the fishing has been tough everywhere. But with a little help, you can catch those bass on Lake Jackson.
For good bass fishing, especially for quality-sized bass, one of Georgia’s smaller reservoirs, little Lake Jackson, stands tall. The fishing is tough as summer’s grip clings in early September, but the regulars on Jackson know some techniques that will tempt those lethargic late-summer bass. Like any big reservoir that gets lots of fishing pressure, Lake Jackson can be a difficult body of water to fish. This is especially true during the hot months of summer when the pleasure-boat traffic is at its peak.
This 4,750-acre Georgia Power Co. reservoir is formed by the Alcovy, South, and Yellow rivers and Tussahaw Creek. The lake is lined with weekend and permanent homesites, and it is a very popular spot for water skiing, jet skis and other pleasure craft. Couple that with the fact that the lake is fairly narrow in most places, and you have a pretty good washing machine effect during the day from boat traffic. This year, with little rain and high air temperatures, the water surface temperature has soared, adding to the difficulty of summer fishing conditions.
As a result, this time of year most serious bass anglers approach Lake Jackson either very early in the morning or from sundown on into the night. Two such anglers are 36-year-old Carl Wilson and 34-year-old Benjie Cleary, both of nearby Covington.
Carl and Benjie are nighttime Jackson regulars and fish the weekly Tuesday night bass tournaments out of Berry’s Boat Dock almost every week. Both have been fishing Jackson for over 15 years, and they were “Anglers of the Month” for the Berry’s tourneys in July.
I met Carl and Benjie at Berry’s on a Thursday afternoon in mid- August to see if we could hook into some Jackson lunkers. As we motored slowly away from the marina and turned up the Alcovy River arm, the surface temp read a whopping 89 degrees.
“It’s likely to be pretty tough,” said Carl. “We’ve had to work pretty hard for a couple of keepers the last few times out.”
With the high water temperatures the fish are lethargic, so the bites are few and far between. “They don’t seem to want to chase a bait,” said Benjie. As a result, the pair spends most of their time fishing slowly and methodically with Texas-rigged worms on submerged brush. We pulled up on a spot not far upstream from Berry’s and began probing the bottom in about 15 feet of water.
“It’s important to find brush that is on an edge near deeper water,” said Benjie. “We work brush in 10 to 15 feet of water almost exclusively, but the key is deeper water close by.”
In this case the lake topographical map showed that the river channel swung in close to the bank where we were fishing. From the top of the ledge at a depth of 15 feet to the bottom of the channel was about eight to 10 feet of almost vertical drop, and the brush appeared to be sitting right on the edge.
Within 10 minutes we had our first fish. A nice largemouth about 15 inches long. The fish had inhaled a red-shad colored, six-inch Zoom Texas-rigged worm. The worm was threaded on a 2/0 hook, and a 3/16-oz. bullet weight completed the rig. Neither Benjie nor Carl use a bead on their Texas rigs, and Benjie pegs his sinker to limit hang ups in the brush. Both were fishing 12-lb. Berkley Trilene XL on bait casting reels, and 6 1/2-foot casting rods.
I noticed that both Carl and Benjie were dipping their worms in a jar of clear liquid, and the boat was taking on the aroma of a fine southern Italian restaurant. When I quizzed them as to what was in the jar, they were at first reluctant to tell me, but eventually relented. Both anglers were using a dipping oil called JJ’s Magic Garlic Oil. And they swear by it. I don’t know for sure if it makes a difference or not, but more anglers than not who are successful in tournaments are using some sort of scented and flavored spray or gel.
After a few more casts we pulled up the trolling motor and headed upstream on the Alcovy River arm.
“This time of year we don’t stay in one place long,” Carl said. “One fish is about all you can expect out of each spot right now. Once in a while we might get two quick bites but not often. During the night tournaments we only have a couple of hours to fish, so we stay on the move to cover as much water as possible.”
The next spot we stopped at yielded a chunky spotted bass. This one also hit a Texas-rigged Zoom worm, but the color was pumpkinseed this time. The guys tell me that about one in three of the bass they catch on Jackson is a spot.
“We’ve been catching more spots each year, and it is unusual for us not to catch at least one on an outing now,” said Carl.
This tracks pretty closely with the Wildlife Resources Division Fisheries Section information on the lake. WRD’s 2002 Fishing Prospects booklet states the ratio as 73 percent largemouth and 27 percent spots on Lake Jackson. And the spotted-bass population appears to be on the increase.
If you are looking to catch a large bass, say over five pounds, Jackson is a good bet. While the average-sized largemouth in electro-fishing surveys is about a pound, WRD estimates that better than 48 percent of the largemouths are over 15 inches in length. Quite a few fish in the 5-lb. plus range are boated at Jackson each year.
As we continued upriver, the action slowed a bit, and we didn’t boat any more fish for a while. We had a few short strikes, but that was all.
“I’m really surprised that we caught those two fish as early as we did,” said Carl. “The bite doesn’t usually turn on until just before dark when things settle down a bit. We should get some more action as we approach sundown.”
As a change of pace Carl began throwing a Carolina-rigged worm with a 3/4-oz. bullet weight and about a two-foot leader. He said that he sometimes uses this rig when things are slow, or he is scouting new water.
“It allows me to move the bait more quickly, and still keep it on the bottom and search for the brush,” Carl said. “Once I find the brush I slow down and keep the bait in the strike zone as long as possible.”
The same is true for the Texas rig. Get the bait into the brush and move the bait slowly through it, always maintaining contact with the bottom.
We fished the Alcovy arm upstream until just before the shoals. One nice thing about that area of the lake is that there are several no-wake zones. These tend to slow down the pleasure-boat traffic. While that makes it easier to fish, it is unfortunately a two-edged sword. If you are fishing a tournament and have limited time, the no-wake zones can rob you of valuable fishing minutes.
One thing that is fairly unique about Lake Jackson is the number of docks on the lake. Like other Georgia
Power lakes, the water level doesn’t fluctuate severely, and almost all of the docks on Jackson are built on posts as opposed to floating. A lot of those docks have lights hanging out over the water. A dock with a light over the water and rod holders near the light is a dead give away that there is likely to be brush below. Many bass anglers key on those lights and work the docks pretty hard. They get a fair amount of pressure. Carl and Benjie fish lighted docks also, but not this time of year.
“Until the water starts to cool off in late September or early October, we tend not to fish the docks and stay on the deeper brush,” said Benjie. “While you may pick up a fish or two on a light in the summer, particularly if the channel runs close to the dock, most of the bass don’t seem to move up on the docks until the water temperature drops to the mid 70s.”
With the way our weather has been lately we may not see water temperatures like that for a while, so the pair recommends that you stay with the deep brush for the time being.
When the bass do move up on the lights, the Texas-rigged worm will still produce, but the boys expand the arsenal to include crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Some crankbaits of choice include the Excalibur and Fat-Free Shad in natural shad colors when the water is clear. If the water becomes murky or stained, a bright color like chartreuse or firetiger will be more likely to produce. For spinnerbaits the team recommends a 3/8-oz. bait in chartreuse or white with a silver Colorado blade.
In either case they recommend that you cast the bait past the light and pull it back through the lighted area among the schools of bait that congregate there. Carl and Benjie like to work the edges of the lighted area first, and then pull the bait at various angles through the center of the lighted space before moving on to the next dock. These lighted docks can produce some impressive strings of fish when conditions are right. As stated before, this activity will really turn on when the water cools and will continue to be good until the really cold weather hits late in the season.
As the sun started to disappear behind the horizon we were fishing back down the Alcovy arm toward Berry’s. We pulled up on a spot that we had skipped on the way upstream and made several casts to the submerged trees along the river with a red-shad worm and got a hit deep in the brushpile. After a brief fight Benjie led a fat 5-lb., 5-oz. largemouth to the net. The beautiful bass capped off our night quite nicely.
Although there is a lot of territory in Lake Jackson, we never left the Alcovy River on our outing. In fact Carl and Benjie tell me that they never go down the river any farther than the powerlines.
“There is plenty of good fishing in the Alcovy,” says Carl. “And with the small amount of fishing time available to us in the night tournaments we just don’t want to waste good fishing time on long runs.”
They have identified a large number of fishing spots in that section of water, however, and hit as many as possible on a typical night.
If you would like to spend some quality time fishing on Jackson, the weekly night tournaments at Berry’s are not a bad way to do it. The tournaments are held Tuesdays and Fridays and start at 7 p.m. You will be fishing against some of the locals who know the lake best, and you may just pick up a few pointers. The evenings are also the most enjoyable time to fish the lake when the boat traffic is at its lowest.
Give the folks at Berry’s a call, and find out about signing up for the next pot tournament. You can reach Berry’s Boat Dock at (770) 786-6087.
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