Jonboat Bass On Lucas Lake
This water-supply reservoir in Jones County gives middle Georgians a small-boat destination that has the feel of big-water bassing.
The booths at the Waffle House in Gray were filled with a bunch of EMC line crews who had been working all night. Five inches of rain and a tornado had swept through the county overnight. But less-than-ideal conditions weren’t going to stop Chris Day from going fishing that morning. After being closed for five months, Lucas Lake was re-opening to the public.
Lucas Lake, originally known as Town Creek Reservoir, is a 625-acre water-supply reservoir operated by the Macon Water Authority (MWA). Located just northeast of Macon, it was first opened to public fishing on March 28, 2004. Lucas is not open to public fishing from the end of September to the first of March. This year, it opened on March 2, and Chris wanted to be there.
At the ramp, the effects of the storm were evident — the walkway to the boat-launch dock was under water. It was still dark, so we didn’t notice the color of the water.
Chris, 24, a resident of south Jones County who works at the Ace Hardware in Gray, cranked up his trolling motors and headed straight up the lake to the dam. His jonboat is set-up for small-lake tournament fishing. Chris and partner Matt Lee fish the Southern Jon Boat Anglers tournament trail, and they’ve qualified for the trail’s Top Six three straight years.
Chris eased up to a main-lake point and began casting a Norman’s Deep Little N crankbait in his favorite Lucas color, which is called slick. I started with a 1/2-oz. Rat-L-Trap that once was chrome, but it’s caught enough bass and bounced off enough rip-rap that is more like a chrome and bone color. On my fifth cast of the morning, a 1-lb. keeper loaded up on the Rat-L-Trap — not a jarring hit, but a quick bass is always welcomed.
After about 10 minutes and a couple of dozen casts, Chris moved across the mouth of a creek and began fishing the opposite main-lake point. On his second cast to this point, Chris swung and connected on a 2-lb. chunk that ate his crankbait.
Our morning was starting out just fine. In fact, over the next hour, we spanked some Lucas Lake bass, catching a dozen solid keepers up to about 3 pounds and one dink. Chris caught more and better bass on the Little N, but the Rat-L-Trap was getting its share of action.
We were just getting to the rip-rap at the dam when a MWA authority truck pulled up, and a fellow told us that we weren’t allowed within 100 yards of the dam. Chris politely said OK and backed away.
As he headed the jonboat toward the opposite end of the dam so we could continue fishing, he chuckled and said, “It’s 100 feet. And it’s always been 100 feet from a concrete structure, not the rocks. I’ve fished this rip-rap a lot of time when the main guy would stop and talk and ask me how many I caught.”
Sometime after our trip on March 2, the dam area was buoyed off, so apparently there’s been a rule change at Lucas Lake. I called the MWA, and the fellow I talked to said boats weren’t allowed past the buoys, but he couldn’t say exactly why the rule was changed. Regardless, for now anglers are cut off from a good area — the entire rip-rap along the dam.
As Chris and I began to work some areas moving away from the dam up the lake, we hit some seriously stained water.
“Man, I have never seen this lake look like that,” Chris said.
Muddy water was rolling in from Town Creek, the main tributary into the lake. We kept fishing, but once we hit the muddy water, our bites slowed to just one here and there. We talked to several other anglers who started their morning in the muddy water, and between eight anglers’ boats they hadn’t caught 10 bass total.
Chris didn’t waste much time before heading back down the lake to the points near the dam, but in the two hours since we’d fished other spots, the mud line had rolled in all the way to the dam. Chris managed another keeper on a spinnerbait and scratched out a few more on the crankbait, but the muddy water pretty much killed our fishing.
A lull in the action allowed me to get the notebook out and pump Chris for some info on how he catches bass on Lucas Lake. It’s not as easy as he made it look that morning.
Lucas is deep, and the water is usually very clear. There is a forest of flooded planted pines along the banks, and several of the creeks and pockets are a maze of bigger flooded timber. The very clear water and lots of structure are factors that can make catching bass a challenge.
“A lot of guys come out here for the first time, and they are drawn to that timber,” Chris said. “They spend all day in there going from tree to tree with a worm or a jig. That’s just not for me.”
Since there is so much flooded timber, Chris actually looks for areas of the lake where the timber was cleared. It’s easier to fish, and he feels the change — areas without timber are something different — is something that attracts bass.
April on Lucas will be spawning and postspawn time for most of the bass.
“Last year some fish were on the bed March 15,” Chris said. “The big ones seem to spawn first here, and they bed deeper. It’s hard to see any bass bed on this lake because they all bed in 8 feet of water or more, I guess because it’s so clear. There’s no grass or weeds, so it’s hard to see the beds — you can’t see like a sandy spot in a dark area.”
Chris’ No. 1 bait for April, and just about any time of year for that matter, is a shaky-head worm — a small worm fished on a homemade jig head.
“I just love ’em,” Chris said. “It’s something Ted Lee taught us (his partner Matt’s father). You can fish a jig head faster than a regular worm, or you can really slow it down. It’s like a perfect combination between finesse and power fishing.”
Chris pours his own jig heads, again something he learned from Ted Lee.
“Ted couldn’t find the kind he wanted, so he started making his own. I like a 4/0, 90-degree jig-head hook. We can make our own for about 10 cents apiece. A Spotsticker is a real good one, but they’re about a dollar apiece. With my homemade one, I break them off instead of going over there to a spot and ruining it. On Lucas I can go through 20 jig heads a day.”
Most of Chris’ fishing with the shaky head is in 8 to 15 feet of water, and for that he uses a 1/8-oz. jig head. If he’s fishing areas with grass, he’ll switch to a 1/16-oz. jig head, and if the water is deeper than 15 feet, he’ll use a 1/4-oz.
His favorite worm for the jig head is a Strike King 3X finesse worm, and his favorite color on Lucas is green-pumpkin red. On a cloudy day, he’ll try a blueberry color, but he said it’s not a good color if it’s sunny and bright. Chris will also fish a Zoom Trick Worm on the jig head, but only after he bites off the first 1/2-inch.
Chris said the shaky head works great on Lucas when the bass are holding off the banks in that 8 to 15 foot depth range, which is where they usually are in April. However, two weeks ago Chris fished a Southern Jon Boat Anglers tournament on Lucas and the bass were right up on the banks.
“That’s really unusual for Lucas. There’s a lot of grass that grew last summer, and it’s really hard to fish a jig head right on the bank. If the bass are on the banks, I’d throw a Senko.”
Chris and Matt placed sixth with a five-fish limit that weighed 9.66 pounds. The winners had 12.6 pounds.
Floating worms — Zoom Trick Worms — are what I used three years ago when I fished Lucas in April, and we killed the bass deep in the standing timber on the soft jerkbaits.
When I go back this month, I’ll follow Chris’ advice and first try the shaky-head worm in that zone off the banks in 8 to 15 feet of water. If that doesn’t work, it’ll be hard to resist fishing a soft jerkbait for those aggressive, postspawn bass in the timber.
Lucas Lake’s rules and hours are subject to change. There’s a check-in building as you come in the gate. This year the reservoir is open to public fishing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, as well as the Mondays of Memorial Day and Labor Day, and the Monday during the week of the July 4 holiday. The hours are 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A daily parking fee is required — $10 if you’re pulling a boat, $5 for those fishing from the bank. A season pass good for the 2007 calendar year costs $100. The lake will be open until September 30. No boat equipped with or containing a diesel or gasoline motor is allowed on Lucas Lake. There’s a very loud airhorn that blows 30 minutes prior to closing time, and when you hear it, you’re required to start heading back to the ramp.
Directions to Lucas Lake: From Hwy 129 in Macon, turn onto Shurling Drive and proceed 0.1 miles. Turn Right onto Clinton Road (which changes to Upper River Road). Proceed on Clinton/Upper River Road for 4.5 miles. The fishing entrance will be on the left at 150 Broach Lane.
For more information on the public fishing schedule, rules, and regulations, contact the MWA at (478) 464-5600, press 0, then ask for information about fishing at Lucas Lake.
If you’ve never fished a water-supply reservoir, you’re missing out on some of Georgia’s best bassing. The only sounds you’ll hear is the hum of trolling motors and the swish of rods swinging to set the hook.
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