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Lake Blackshear Backwater Bass In April

Jim Murray Jr. marks a map with 10 locations to find shallow Blackshear largemouths moving in and moving out during all three stages of the spawn.

Ronnie Garrison | April 2, 2011

April is the month when every bass fisherman feels like he or she can hit the water and catch fish. All our lakes are good this month, with bass feeding in shallow water in or near the spawning areas. To experience one of the most interesting shallow-water lakes Georgia has to offer, head to Lake Blackshear for some incredible fishing this month.

Blackshear is on the Flint River west of Cordele. It’s shallows are full of cypress trees, grassbeds and stumps, and these structure-filled backwaters cover hundreds of acres. Bass love all this shallow cover, and it’s fun for anglers to be casting to visible cover all day.

Jim Murray Jr. is one of Georgia’s best-known professional bass anglers, and he grew up on Lake Blackshear. After fishing the BASS Elite Series for three years, he chose this year to take a break to spend time with his kids.

In 10 years, Jim has earned about $500,000 in his professional bass-fishing career. He currently guides for shoal bass on the Flint River as well as guiding for largemouths on south Georgia lakes like Blackshear, Seminole and Eufaula. His Custom Bass Tackle business sells high-quality lures online for serious bass fishermen at <custombasstackle.com>.

“I go by the 50-50 rule in April,” Jim told me.

Half the bass are spawning, and the other half are prespawn and postspawn. Regardless, they are all feeding in shallow water. That means stay in shallow water this month to catch bass. Cypress trees and grassbeds are the key to catching April bass on Blackshear.

Jim Murray Jr., of Arabi, is a well-known angler on the national tournament circuits. Jim grew up fishing Lake Blackshear and loves fishing there this time of year.

Jim will have a simple selection of baits tied on this month. A 1/4-oz. gold-bladed buzzbait, a 3/8-oz. chartreuse and white spinnerbait with gold Indiana blades, and a frog will be for fishing fast. For slower fishing Jim likes an 8-inch green-pumpkin Zoom lizard with a 1/8-oz. sinker or a green-pumpkin Senko rigged weightless. If the water is clear, he will throw one of his Custom Bass Tackle swim jigs.

If there is some cloud cover and breeze, Jim will run and gun, hitting as much cover as fast as possible. When it is bright and calm, he will slow down and pick apart the cover.  Bass are much more aggressive when their visibility is limited by low-light conditions or surface chop on the water.

“Isolated cover it the key,” Jim said.

There is so much cover like grass and cypress trees it is easy to make lots of unproductive casts. Don’t fish a big clump of cypress trees or a huge grassbed. Instead, target trees standing alone or out from the clump. Find small patches of grass with open water around them. Those kinds of places will draw in the bass, especially the bigger fish.

Bass will be bedding around the cypress trees, too. Jim says if you catch a bass off a tree, especially a smaller buck bass, return to the tree later, and you will have a good chance of catching the female there when she has time to calm down and returns to the bed.

The following 10 spots are all good places to hit in April.

No. 1: N 32º 02.135 – W 83º 57.315 — Run up the river, being sure to stay between the red-and-green channel markers, until the markers stop. Just downstream of the last marker, there are some openings to the right going through a line of small islands that form a ridge between the river channel and the big flats behind them.

Idle through the opening, and head toward the far bank. Jim warns that you are going to hit stumps in these areas — idle slowly, and be prepared to put your motor in neutral in a hurry. We hit several here and in other spots, from a small bump to riding up on them until it felt like we would have to get out and push.

We followed the most open water we could, heading northeast. A sign nailed on one cypress tree had the letters JCT on it, but Jim said it didn’t really mean anything.

When you get to the far bank, there will be a opening following it going back into a lake behind a big cypress island. This location is just off Smokehouse Road, and you can see houses through the trees. This area is commonly called the Smokehouse, and my map shows it as the “Glory Hole.” It’s a place where many tournaments have been won.

In the open water behind the cypress island, look for isolated cypress trees and grass clumps in the lake here, and run a buzzbait, spinnerbait or frog across and beside them. Pitch a lizard or Senko to the base of isolated trees, letting either bait fall right beside the trunk and working it out. Fish fast if it is low-light conditions, or slow down and pick apart the cover if it is bright.

No. 2: N 32º 02.021 – W 83º 57.314 — As you work the open lake area, you will see a narrow opening ahead and to your left that goes into the next lake. A lot of it will be grassed over in April, and you can run a frog or buzzbait over the grass. Again, look for isolated things that are different — a hole in the grass, a channel, a cypress stump. Anything isolated and different will attract bass.

Just where the pond opens up as you come through the cut into it, there is a point of cypress trees on your right. The trees on the end of this point are spaced out and will hold good fish. Pitch a lizard or Senko to them. Fish them slowly out a few feet from the trees to cover the “donut” of roots that grows around some of the cypress trees.

No. 3: N 32º 01.924 – W 83º 57.354 — On the far side of the pond is another point of cypress trees coming out from your right, with an opening pond behind it. Bass going to this pond area to spawn and coming back out will hold and feed around the trees and grass on the point. Fish all the cover on this point.

Across from the point is an opening going back out to the river and another one farther up on the left. Sometimes bass stack up in these cuts, feeding on baitfish moving through them, especially if there is any current from the wind or flow from the river. It is always worth a few casts to these openings.

No. 4: N 32º 01.764 – W 83º 58.065 — If you can go through the narrow cut with cattails on the right back out to the river, go slightly downstream, and there is a big open area on your right. Idle in, following any openings going toward the back, but expect to find hidden stumps.

Back in behind the big cypress island there is a lily-pad pond with open water and lots of isolated cypress trees. There are also grassbeds, some are big with cuts and holes to fish, and others smaller and isolated. Jim said a spinnerbait will be better here postspawn, but you can catch prespawn fish here on the buzzbait and frog, and on a lizard or Senko.

This area is especially good when current is coming down the river because it will move the water back in here, too. That moves baitfish and makes the bass bite better. Fish all the cover fast on low-light days and slow down on clear days.

No. 5: N 32º 01.855 – N 83º 57.712 — Go back out to the river. Downstream of the big open area you will see the upstream point of an island or ridge running along the right side of the river.  It will be covered in pads and grass in April, and the river side drops off to 18 feet deep, while the shallow ridge will have about 6 feet of water behind it.

Jim says this is a perfect place to find the 50-50 bass, with some holding here pre and postspawn before going back into the pond to spawn or coming out, and some even spawning out here. 

Start on the end of the ridge and work both sides for about 50 yards.  Run buzzbaits, frogs and spinnerbaits over and through the grass. Work a lizard and Senko around the base of trees and in holes in the grass.

The water is often very muddy here right on the river channel, but Jim says muddy water, if at least a few days old, does not bother the bass. In fact, he likes the water muddy if it is not fresh mud coming down the river. It takes the bass a couple of days to get used to the change from clear to muddy, but by the third day they are feeding even better.

No. 6: N 32º 01.486 – W 83º 57.764 — Go down the river, and head into the mouth of Parker Slough. As you go toward the back, you will see three lines of cypress trees running parallel to the left bank — spaced out across the slough. Each is a ridge that comes to a point, and lots of bass follow them into the slough to spawn.

The trees stand in 2 feet of water, but there is water 5 or 6 feet deep near them. Bass will feed around the trees and grass in the shallows. Here, as in other spots, target isolated clumps of grass and cypress trees.

When fishing cypress trees, Jim said to approach them as quietly as possible and stay as far from them as you can while still making an efficient cast. You want your bait to hit without a splash when casting a Senko or lizard to the base of the tree. When throwing a buzzbait or spinnerbait, try to cast past the tree and bring it back by the trunk.

No. 7: N 31º 58.183 – W 83º 56.329 — Head back down the river, carefully following the channel markers. When you get near the bridge, look to your right, and you will see a small rip-rap point in front of a pecan grove.  There is a small ditch here with a pump used to irrigate the pecan trees.

Start fishing at the rip-rap and work upstream, fishing the grass and trees along this bank. Jim says he has not had any luck on the rocks on the point, but bass move in to the trees and grass to feed and spawn.

Work the outside edges of the grass and trees, but also move back in to the trees, and fish all the way to the bank. Bass will hold surprisingly shallow on Blackshear, but the deeper trees and grass edges will hold bigger fish, even in very shallow spots like this.

No. 8: N 31º 57.400 – W 83º 55.962 — Go downstream under both bridges, and stop just past the railroad trestle on the right side. There is a big flat running from the trestle to the mouth of Pecan Slough on this side, and bass hold in it and bed here.

Start near the bridge, and fish all the trees, especially the isolated ones way off the bank, all along this section of lake. Fish all your baits around grass and trees. This area is especially good toward the end of the month for late spawners.

No. 9: N 31º 57.639 – W 83º 55.193 — Run across the lake to the mouth of Gum Creek, and you will see the cabins at the park on your right just inside the mouth of the creek. There are clumps of cypress trees in front of them and some isolated trees scattered around the area, with grass to fish, too.

This area and others like it have sandy bottoms where the bass like to spawn, but bluegills also spawn here. Even after all the bass are done spawning, you can often catch bass shallow where they are feeding on the spawning bluegill. Don’t give up fishing these areas too early.

No. 10: N 31º 57.790 – W 83º 54.775 — Go to the bridge in Gum Creek, and fish the left corner. The shallow flat on the downstream side has lots of very shallow grass and cypress trees, but bass use it from the outer trees all the way to the bank.

Jim likes to fish this area very slowly with Senkos, pitching them to holes in the grass and to the base of trees. This is a good spawning area and some postspawn fish hold in it, too.  Work it slowly and carefully so you won’t spook the fish before they bite.

These spots give you an idea of the kinds of places Jim likes to catch April bass at Lake Blackshear. Jim discovered the patterns and locations by fishing Blackshear since he was a kid, and he said they hold bass year after year.  Give them a try to see what he likes to fish, and you can find many similar places all over the lake.

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