Jerkbaits For Allatoona Bass In May
For some serious fun while catching a mess of Allatoona bass, May is the month for jerkbaits, both the hard and soft varieties.
Daryl Kirby | May 1, 2001
When it’s the dead of winter, fishermen cry about the cold and the slow techniques it takes to catch a few bass. By August we’re cursing the Georgia sun, and we’re dreaming of mild days and aggressive, easy-to-catch bass.
Well those days are here right now. The month of May has to be one of the best times to be a bass angler, and if you’re ever going to make time to get to Lake Allatoona, now’s the time to do it.
“Right now to catch bass all you need is a bag of flukes and some Ben Gay,” an angler said when he walked into The Dugout on April 16 with sore muscles after slaying the bass on Allatoona that morning.
It gets even better in May, when the bass are eating like crazy after the spawn. And what I like best about this time of year is that the bass will eat lures that are a blast to fish — topwater first thing in the morning, and then soft and hard jerkbaits all day long.
Lake Allatoona, with its good numbers of spotted bass and the occasional good-sized largemouth, subscribes to this standard post-spawn pattern of fun techniques and aggressive fish.
Topwater — Get on ’Em Early
Last year while pre-fishing for the Moby-In-The-Morning Bass Tournament — an annual benefit for United Cerebral Palsy hosted by Moby, the popular Kicks 101.5 country DJ — Anthony Hampton, of Kennesaw, had me meet him at daylight. He took me straight to a non-descript flat inside a little pocket off the main lake near Victoria, and as he got on the trolling motor and eased up toward a reef marker I could see some good-sized fish busting shad on the surface.
“Please tell me those aren’t hybrids,” I said.
“They weren’t hybrids yesterday,” Anthony responded as he slung a Zara Spook across the flat.
I started working a Zoom Super Fluke, and then I heard a splash. It looked like a toilet had flushed under the Spook as a big fish sucked it under. I was watching Anthony lip a solid 3-lb. spotted bass when another fish nailed my Fluke.
“This school is full of fish this size… Have you seen enough?” Anthony said, releasing the big spot.
Since the tournament was the next morning, we left that school of magnum spotted bass and went searching for a big largemouth still on a late bed, which is what you’re going to need to win if you’re one of the more than 200 teams entered in the Moby tournament. But if you’re just out for some fun fishing, you can stay on a school like that and often catch fish until the sun hits the water.
Productive lures for topwater spotted bass on Allatoona include a Zara Spook, Chug Bug, Sammie, Pop-R — just about any topwater plug you have confidence with. Even a buzzbait will draw a strike sometimes when the bass are schooling and chasing shad.
Catching bass that are busting shad the first thing in the morning is not the hard part. The hard part is finding the schooling fish. For the weekend angler or occasional visitor to Allatoona, it’s going to take some luck.
The first part of May, it seems that most of the schooling activity takes place on large secondary points and flats that are one-quarter to one-half of the way back inside the coves and pockets off the main lake or large creeks. If you find an area where there is schooling activity, often the fish will be there for a week or more — unless they’re getting hammered every morning. Later in the month the schools tend to be more active near primary points and flats on the main-lake areas.
Schooling activity from bass is not going to look like a churning mass of flying baitfish and frothing water. You’ll see a shad skitter here and there, a bass swirl out front, maybe one smacking the surface behind you. While it’s hard to just stand there holding your rod during that prime hour of the morning, that’s really the best thing to do until you see a fish break or see some baitfish moving.
If you cast randomly, inevitably you’ll be mid-cast to your right when the fish breaks to your left — and you’ll be way too late by the time you reel up and cast again. Stand there — ready to cast — and when you see activity try to cast in front of the direction the bait or bass appear to be heading.
If it is cloudy, you might extend your topwater bite, but once the sun hits the water, you’re better off putting on the polarized glassed and heading to the backs of the pockets.
There’s no bait I’d rather catch bass with than a floating worm, also known as a soft jerkbait. All floating worms are generally rigged and fished the same way. The rig is simple — the worm is threaded Texas-style on a wide-gap 3/0 to 5/0 hook with no weight. Some anglers use a barrel swivel a few feet from the hook to help prevent line twist and to get the worm to sink more in clearer water.
These days, nine out of 10 Georgia anglers who use floating worms are throwing either a Zoom Super Fluke or a Zoom Trick Worm. The Super Fluke sinks and darts more quickly than the Trick Worm, and on Allatoona the Fluke seems to produce more spotted-bass bites.
Ted Gambrell of The Dugout, the bait and tackle store and the hangout for Allatoona regulars on Highway 41 in Marietta, said he personally prefers a Trick Worm for Allatoona’s May bass.
“It seems like the Trick Worm will catch more largemouths,” Ted said. “The largemouths are in the backs of the pockets, usually around a blowdown or some type of wood. The water will be clear and shallow, and you won’t think there’s a fish there, and then she’ll just come out of nowhere and eat the Trick Worm.”
With a Trick Worm you can skip it back into a blowdown, and because it sinks more slowly, you can shake your rod tip and just vibrate the worm without really moving it away from the cover. Combine that with a few quick darts, and the Trick Worm sure looks good to a post-spawn bass. The fluke can also be skipped back into cover, but it just won’t stay in the strike zone as long because you’ll have to work it more to keep it up so you can see it.
Where the fluke seems to have the advantage on Allatoona is between the backs of the pockets, when anglers tend to move more quickly along the banks. This is where a fluke can rack up the numbers of Allatoona bass in May. Because it is generally fished more quickly, you can cover more water, and the Fluke seems to call up bass from farther away. After catching a bass right on the bank, on the next cast it’s not surprising for a fluke to get slammed right at the boat.
Two other styles of floating worms that you might not have heard about are variations of the fluke and old Sluggo-style. A fluke variation a lot of anglers are throwing at Allatoona is a smaller 4-inch fluke, known locally as a “Dugout Special,” because that’s where you can find them. Some of the other small flukes I’ve tried weren’t balanced right to get good action, but the “Dugout Special” has perfect action, and sometimes the Allatoona bass seem to prefer the smaller bait.
The Sluggo variation I really like is made by Snoozers Bait Company, and they call it a 5 1/4-inch Soft Jerk Bait. All of the Snoozers worms are hand poured with a mixture of natural scent and flavor. Imagine taking a batch of shad and liquefying them in a high-speed blender, then pouring that shad puree into the mold with the plastic. These things stink to high heaven, but fish seem to like that smell and taste. The Snoozers worms are also very soft. They tear up more quickly, and they also tend to slip down the hook. A dab of super glue on the eye of the hook before you slide the worm up will cure that.
With a fluke the predominate colors thrown at Allatoona are pearl or albino (both basically shad color), or the baby bass pattern. Trick Worm colors range from white and pink to green pumpkin and everything in between, especially this year with Zoom’s introduction of the swirl colors.
When fishing floating worms in May at Allatoona, there’s no real pattern. Just work the banks, paying particular attention to any stumps or blowdowns. The spotted bass might be anywhere — primary points or along non-descript banks that might have red clay, rocks, or sand — it’s really hard to pin down a type of bank to key on. Most of the largemouths will still be toward the backs of the pockets.
Seeing the floating worm makes it a lot easier to catch a bass when one eats it. The minute you turn to look at your partner while twitching a floating worm is when you feel that fish, and once you feel the fish, it has felt you and you’re generally too late with a floating worm. Good polarized glasses help tremendously.
I usually pop a fish with a hard hookset as soon as I see the bass take the worm, while some other fishermen like to wait a few seconds before setting the hook. One thing is for sure with a floating worm, you’re going to miss a few fish, and the fact that you saw the bass eat the worm makes it even more frustrating.
When you’re missing too many bass on the floating worm, or when they just don’t seem to be coming up on the worm as aggressively as you’d like, Jeff McCarthy of The Dugout says it’s time for the super-sharp treble hooks.
A hard jerkbait is a long, skinny crankbait with a tiny lip that is alternately reeled and twitched, producing an erratic action below the surface. Throwing a hard jerkbait on Allatoona in May is a good way to get your arm broken by a magnum spotted bass.
“With a jerkbait, I like to throw a Spro Minnow 45, which says ‘slow floating’ on the package. Slow floating means ‘suspend’ in Japanese,” Jeff said. “Another one a lot of guys are buying is made by Lucky Craft, and it’s called a Pointer 78. They were real hot on Clarks Hill and Lanier last year, and we can’t keep them on the shelf here now.”
Both the Spro and Lucky Craft versions of hard jerkbaits have custom paint jobs and super-sharp hooks — and you pay for all that to the tune of about $15 per lure. Other less-expensive jerkbaits that are productive on Allatoona are Rattlin’ Rogues, Rapalas, and Redfins.
“Basically, May is the time of year to throw what you like to catch fish on,” Jeff said. “Right now they’re already hitting on a variety of things, and it’s going to be good for a while.
“Yesterday (April 15) I used a yellow Trick Worm and they were all over it,” Jeff said. “We went out about 2:30 p.m. and had about 30 bass before dark. People are catching bass from one end of the lake to the other.
“This time of year just keep moving. If you pull into a cove, start on the secondary points, where you can catch bass on a 4-inch lizard on a Carolina-rig, then as you work to the inside and the pockets try a fluke or jerkbait.”
If there’s ever a time you won’t see me picking up a Rig, it’s this month. I’d rather watch a fluke dart all day and not catch a fish than drag the old Carolina-rig — there’s plenty of that to come this summer. This is fun-fishing time.
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