Jonboat Bass Fishing At Stone Mountain Lake

You don't have to have a big, expensive rig to enjoy great bass fishing in the shadow of Stone Mountain.

Don Baldwin | June 1, 2007

Jonboat bass fisherman Brian Capes with a Stone Mountain Lake keeper. Most jonboat fishermen will tell you that their jonboats allow them to fish smaller lakes where the fishing is often better than on bigger reservoirs.

If you are a Georgia bass angler you have no shortage of good places to fish. Our state is blessed with lots of excellent bass waters, some of them legendary. Reservoirs with names like West Point, Eufaula, Russell… the list goes on, are lakes nationally known for the quality of the bass-fishing experience they provide. But unless you have a well-equipped bass rig, it can be difficult or downright dangerous to venture out on these large bodies of water. And with top-notch bass boats sniffing at the $50,000 mark, they are out of reach for many of us.

But don’t despair, there is an alternative that is far less expensive and can be just as rewarding if you know where to go.

In addition to the prolific large reservoirs in Georgia there are literally hundreds of small lakes that are well stocked and maintained. A few of these good small lakes are within the state-park system and offer excellent fishing from the bank as well as from a boat. Bank fishing certainly will limit your access, but a small boat can really open up the possibilities. These lakes are tailor-made for a group of avid bass fishermen whose ranks are rapidly growing as word of their approach spreads.

One such group is Southern Jon Boat Anglers. These guys (and gals) fish a tournament trail that covers a number of small lakes around the state. And they do all of their fishing from, you guessed it, jonboats.

One of their regular tournament destinations is the 350-acre lake at Stone Mountain Park.
This beautiful setting includes the mountain, of course, a golf course that skirts part of the lake, riverboats, a carillon and some pretty good bass fishing.

I met one of the Southern Jon Boat guys at the lake on a Monday in mid May. Brian Capes, of Dacula, has been fishing Stone Mountain Lake for most of his life and the Southern Jon Boat Trail for the past two years. He is a consistent high finisher in the events and is currently in seventh position after the May tournament (held on Stone Mountain Lake).

We boarded his well-rigged jonboat and set out from the ramp on the 10 hp outboard, (the lake has a 10 hp limit).

To say his boat was well equipped is an understatement. Brian had modified the boat by adding casting decks front and rear as well as swivel seats. The electronics included a GPS and front- and rear-mounted LCD graph units. For power there was the already mentioned 10 hp outboard on the stern and a bow-mounted trolling motor. Brian said he had two additional trolling motors to mount on the stern for lakes where gasoline motors were not allowed.

All-in-all it’s a pretty neat set up and obviously a great fishing machine.

We motored out from the ramp near the Evergreen Conference Center and headed toward an island near the riverboat docks. It was mid afternoon and Brain wanted to try a Carolina rig on the long point that extended from the island.

“During late May and June I like to fish a Carolina rig on long points and creek channel ledges,” said Brian. “After the spawn the bass head out to these points to recuperate and feed on the schools of shad that hang out near structure on the points.”

Brian caught a nice fish earlier in the day on a similar point, and he thought we might be able to pick up one or two more before sundown.

Brian swings a bass on board his specially rigged jonboat. Although the boat is small, it has all the electronic advantages of the bigger bass boats.

The Carolina rig consisted of a Lindy Little Joe No-Snag sinker tied on to 15-lb. test fluorocarbon with 3-foot monofilament leader of 15- or 20-lb. test. Brian likes the fluorocarbon because it provides more sensitivity and less visibility than monofilament. The downside is that fluorocarbon sinks, so he uses mono for the leader to give the bait more freedom to float off the bottom.

Brian isn’t too fussy about the type of soft plastic on the hook. Worms of different sizes and lizards all seem to produce pretty well as long as they float.

In addition to the Carolina rig, Brian will sometimes slow-roll a spinnerbait on the points with success. But his other favorite deep-water bait is a small plastic worm fished on a jig head.

“I make casts to places where I know there are fish holding, isolated structure, and allow the bait to sink to the bottom,” said Brian. “I then either shake the rod tip very slightly or just let the rig rest on the bottom. Sometimes the fish will pick up the bait just from the movement of the current.”

One of Brian’s favorite baits at Stone Mountain for fishing deep water is a small plastic worm fished on a jig head. He allows the bait to sink to the bottom, then shakes the rod tip to make the worm vibrate.

Brian uses an Omega Savior jig head with a matching color finesse worm. He fishes the worm on light spinning tackle and 10- to 12-lb. test mono.

We worked the point thoroughly without much luck, so since the sun was getting low in the sky, Brian decided to try for some topwater action.

We headed to the edge of the lake near the golf course and began working a school of bait with topwater offerings. Brian says there is usually a great topwater bite on Stone Mountain both first thing in the morning and just around sunset.

“You can often see the fish busting shad on the surface,” said Brian. “But even if you don’t see surface activity it is a good bet that you’ll be able to pick up some nice fish along the bank or rip- rap.”

We worked a buzzbait and Pop-R around the edge of the golf course and picked up a couple of nice fish before calling it a day.
In addition to the buzzbait and Pop-R, Brian suggests you try walking baits like the Sammy or Zara Spook. He fishes his topwater baits on medium- to medium-heavy tackle spooled with 15-lb. test Berkeley Big Game line.

As far as locations on the lake are concerned, Brian says that there are good fishing opportunities all over the lake. The upper end tends to stay more stained due to the incoming creeks and runoff while the lower end stays relatively clear.

The key to successful fishing on Stone Mountain, or other small lakes, is to use your electronics, and do your homework. There are generally no good topo maps of these small bodies of water, so you have to get out on the water and discover the fish-holding structure on your own.

“There is no substitute for time on the water,” says Brian. “I look for structure that isn’t obvious. The lake gets a pretty good bit of pressure, so you need to find isolated structure that doesn’t get hit all the time.”

You can catch bass along the shoreline, particularly early and late on the topwater bite. But for best success during the summer months Brian advises that you back off, look for deep points and creek ledges and work isolated cover along the breaks.

Another thing to look for is balls of bait.

“There are big schools of shad in the lake, and you’ll usually find fish around them,” said Brian.

During June the fish are replenishing themselves after the spawn and feeding heavily on the shad. If you see balls of shad over deep water, you can bet that there are bass nearby. Dragging a fast-moving shad imitation through them will often produce strikes. This is particularly true if you see diagonal lines on the graph moving through the shad ball indicating actively feeding fish. A lipless crankbait like a Rat-L Trap or a Sassy Shad on a jig head or other soft plastic shad imitation will likely fit the bill.

Brian says there is often a good topwater bite at Stone Mountain lake, particularly around schools of shad. Some of his favorite topwater baits include (top to bottom) a Devil’s Horse, a Pop-R and a buzzbait.

If you plan to fish lakes like Stone Mountain a lot, you might consider investing in a jonboat of your own.

Brian tells us that a boat like his will run about $5,000 to $6,000, fully rigged and ready to fish. That is not an insignificant investment but a much easier pill to swallow than the $50,000 that some big, fiberglass bass-boat rigs cost today. As a bonus, many small lakes with excellent fishing are open only to jonboats with electric motors.

The lake at Stone Mountain Park is a great spot to give your new jonboat a try. It has an excellent bass population and is a good choice for a weekend outing. There are well-equipped campgrounds with plenty of camping spaces as well as a lodge if you prefer a few more creature comforts.

For the non-fishing members of your family the park offers lots of attractions including, train rides, skylifts, a laser show on summer nights and of course the mountain itself. There are some restrictions on summer boating activity on the lake, so you should check out the details on the website at

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