Lake Chatuge Bass Mapped For January

Set your wintertime pattern with 11 locations including GPS coordinates.

Ronnie Garrison | December 26, 2019


Lake Chatuge spotted bass are feeding heavily in January, eating shad and herring. They follow the same wintertime patterns as Lanier spots, and you can catch them on ditches and rocks. There is also a good largemouth bite at Chatuge after a heavy rain stains the rivers and creeks. Chatuge is a good choice for a wintertime trip right now.

Chatuge is a Tennessee Valley Authority lake at Hiawassee that extends into North Carolina. A Georgia license is good all over the lake. Its deep, clear waters harbor quality spotted bass and a surprising number of big largemouth, as the BASS AOY Championship last year proved.

Dammed in 1942, Chatuge is an old lake with little natural shallow wood cover due to its annual water level changes of about 10 feet—when wood is exposed to air, it eventually decays. The lake is rocky, and there are blowdowns on the bank.

Out deeper, anglers can find stumps, rocks and man-made brushpiles that dot many of the points and ditches. In the 1980s, spotted bass shot up from about 50 percent of the black bass population at  Chatuge to more than 90 percent in a five-year period of electrofishing studies.

The introduction of blueback herring made the spotted bass population grow fast and fat. Five-fish tournament limits of spots weighing 25 pounds are caught. Most tournaments are won with around 15 pounds, with a kicker largemouth typically adding to the weight.

Deep clear water, spots and bluebacks make Chatuge a good winter lake. It has many long arms running out from the main creeks and river channel, and there is a variety of cover and structure to fish.

Barron Adams fishes Lake Chatuge often. He details locations and a pattern that’s similar to the wintertime bite at Lanier.

Barron Adams lives about 30 miles from the lake in Mineral Bluff, and he fishes Chatuge at least once a week. Most weeks he is on the lake at least three times. He fishes Bass Opens and the FLW Costa Series, finishing in 12th place in the points standings in both trails this year.

Barron and Trevor Prince fish the Chattanooga Bass Association Team trail and qualified for the BASS Team Championship at Hartwell in early December.

Barron agreed to show me how to catch Chatuge bass in January, and we went just before the Hartwell tournament. The Chatuge fish were active, and we caught about a dozen fat spots in about five hours. They were just beginning to move into the winter pattern that is in full swing now.

“Spots in Chatuge act much like Lanier spots in the winter, holding in ditches and on points near deep water,” Barron said.

He expects to find schools of spotted bass 25 to 45 feet deep, unless there has been a lot of warm rain to bring them shallow. They often hold on bare bottoms in ditches, but rocks, stumps and brush will concentrate the bass. The same cover on points attract them, too.

For January, Barron will have an underspin, jerkbait, Alabama Rig and a crankbait ready to fish. He will also fish a shaky head and a jig ’n pig if the bass are not actively chasing baitfish.

We fished the following places and caught bass on several of them, although it was early for this pattern. This bite is much stronger now through January.

No. 1: N 35º 01.412 – W 83º 43.946 — Bridges are always good, concentrating bass as they follow the roaming baitfish. The bridge in Shooting Creek has flats on both sides of the channel going to it, and bass feed here. Stop on the point on the left going toward the bridge (the point with rocks on it) and fish around it toward the bridge.

This point runs out downstream with the channel swinging in near it, offering the kind of place spotted bass like. Keep your boat out in 15 feet of water, and cast up to 7 feet deep on the shelf running out to the channel. Cast your underspin, let it sink to the bottom, and then crawl it back in contact with the sloping bottom.

Actively feeding fish will be up on the shelf, but they will hold right on the drop when not chasing baitfish. Cast your underspin along the edge of the drop, keeping it just off the bottom. Barron fishes his underspin on a Fitzgerald All Purpose 7-3 medium-heavy rod, so he can make long casts but still have the backbone to fight the fish. Also keep your drop shot ready to lower to fish you see under the boat.

Fish up toward the bridge about 100 feet, and then jump across to the other side where the flatter bottom runs out to the channel. Fish it the same way. There are some rocks on this side, too, but there’s no brush to hang up your underspin.

Barron says there is always baitfish and bass here, so fish it carefully. Some current moving across the flats make the bass feed more. Barron and Trevor won a team tournament here last January with five spots weighing 25 pounds.

No. 2: N 35º 01.432 – W 83º 44.206 — Going away from the bridge, stop on the big long point on the right past the road causeway running along the bank. It has a cement seawall that was a good distance from the water when we fished with the lake about 7 feet low. We could see the big rocks on the point that runs downstream.

Stop out in 25 to 30 feet of water, and cast a jerkbait to the bank, working it back over water 7 to 20 feet deep. Work around the point, covering it thoroughly. Bass holding off the bottom will hit a jerkbait worked over them.

Also watch for fish under the boat and lower a drop-shot worm to them. Barron rigs a morning dawn Robo Worm about as foot above a 1/2-oz. sinker and drops it straight down, giving it little twitches in front of the fish.

No. 3: N 35º 00.804 – W 83º 44.744 — Run downstream to Chatuge Cove Marina, which is on the left. Upstream of the marina there’s a good ditch that runs back to a road causeway in the back. Stop in the mouth of it in 35 feet of water and fish down it. Keep your boat about that deep while casting an A-Rig or underspin toward the banks on both sides as you work into the ditch.

Barron likes the flash of a Flash Mob Jr. A-Rig, and he puts 3.5 Keitch swimbaits on 1/8-oz. jig heads on each arm. He makes long casts with it, lets it sink a few feet, and then he reels it back. He caught several bass on this rig when we fished.

Watch your electronics for a rock ridge out in deep water in this ditch. Drop-shot it and any fish you see near the bottom. The rocks are an ideal place for bass to hold along the ditch channel and feed.

No. 4: N 35º 01.269 – W 83º 46.003 — At the mouth of Shooting Creek where it opens up and you can see the dam, there’s a long point on your left going downstream. It is upstream of a small island on the bank. The channel swings in right beside the upstream side of the point, and it drops off almost straight down. The point runs way out shallow along the channel. This is an excellent place to find January bass.

Stop out from the blowdowns on the bank near the end of the visible point with your boat in 50 feet of water. Cast toward the dam where it is only 5 feet deep. The point has rock and brush on it. Work your A-Rig and underspin from shallow to deep, and go around the end of the point.

Barron uses a Damiki 1/2-oz.underspin with a small swimbait on it. He fishes it as slowly as possible, keeping it just off the bottom. Fish it around the point while watching for fish under the boat to drop down to.

No. 5: N 35º 00.795 – W 83º 47.138 — Penland Island sits in front of the dam. The point facing the dam has channel marker 1 on it. This is a good place to fish this month. The point is rock and clay with some scattered brush.

Fish all around this point with a jerkbait and drop-shot rig. Barron throws a Lucky Craft Staysee 90 jerkbait in shad colors. He fishes it with a jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-pause cadence. The colder the water, the longer the pauses.

If he is seeing baitfish with bass near the bottom under the bait, but he cannot get them to hit other baits, Barron will try a shaky head or jig ’n pig. He prefers to run and gun, looking for actively feeding fish that will hit his other baits, but he will try the slower-moving baits if fishing is tough.

No. 6: N 34º 59.800 – W 83º 47.191 — Going up the Hiwassee River, look for Brown Island. It is a narrow island with channel marker 2 on its downstream point. The river channel is on the left side of it (going upstream), and a flat runs out from that side, forming a good feeding area.

This area holds a lot of suspended bass that will hit an underspin and an A-Rig. Barron makes long casts with both baits and lets them sink down to about 10 feet deep and works them back at that depth, unless he is seeing fish on his electronics holding at different depths.

Fish from near the downstream point of the island with the channel marker and danger marker on it up about halfway on the left side. Keep your boat out in about 30 feet of water, and blind cast the area, watching your electronics to see the depth the bass are suspended. Target that depth.

No. 7: N 34º 59.910 – W 83º 47.759 — Armstrong Creek enters the river to the right side of Brown Island as you’re going up the river. A long point just inside its mouth on the right has a roadbed crossing it, offering bass a highway to move in and out of the creek across the point. The flat point is clay, and there is a dead tree at the full pool water line marking it. It is a good place to catch bass.

Stop out on the point in 30 feet of water, and fish your underspin and A-Rig for suspended fish, fan casting your baits and also casting toward the bank for fish that might be more shallow. Then fish the point with a shaky head and jig ’n pig, working the bottom cover. Watch your electronics to find the roadbed and bump along it and the drops on both sides of it.

Barron fishes a green-pumpkin or brown 1/2-oz. football jig with a matching Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer. Crawl the shaky head or jig ’n pig along the bottom, bumping bottom cover.

Here and on all other places, watch for fish hitting on top. When you see them, cast your underspin or A-Rig to them as quickly as you can—they move fast.

No. 8: N 34º 58.398 – W 83º 48.630 — Go up Long Bullet Creek under the powerlines, and stop on the big, round, flat point on the right just past the lines. You will be across from The Ridges Resort Marina. Stay way off the bank in 30 to 50 feet of water.

Fish will school a lot in this area in January, and we saw many hitting on top, but it was hard to get them to bite. Barron caught a couple on his A-Rig. Be ready to cast to any that come up near the boat, and move toward those you can reach quickly that are father away. Watch to see which way they are moving and react accordingly.

Also watch for fish near the bottom and drop a bait down to them. You can spend a lot of time here, and it can get frustrating. We cast to schooling fish many times, and it got frustrating not catching them, but if you can figure out what they want the day you fish, you can have a good catch here.

No. 9: N 34º 59.216 – W 83º 48.297 — Going out of Long Bullet Creek, Woods Creek enters on the left. Chatuge Woods Park is on the big round point between the two creeks.

There is a boat ramp, and then channel marker 9 is on the bank. Past it going into Woods Creek, there’s an old road bed that comes off the bank and runs across the creek, emerging on the other side of the creek. There are big rocks on the bank at the roadbed, and an old dock float was on the bank when we fished it. Barron said this is where the AOY Championship was won.

Fish around this point, staying out in 25 to 30 feet deep water. Make long casts toward the bank, covering water 10 to 20 feet deep with your jerkbait. The point comes way out, so watch and keep your boat off it. Use your drop shot when you see fish under the boat.

No. 10: N 34º 57.782 – W 83º 45.921 — Go up the river to the Highway 17 bridge. Barron fishes the pilings with a jerkbait and underspin. Bass stack up on concrete bridge pilings in cold water. He says you need to let the underspin sink on tight line, watching your line for a tick indicating a bite. When you find the depth they are holding on the pilings, fish that depth.

As we cast to the pilings near the bank, I saw fish under the boat on the console depthfinder and dropped a small silver spoon down to them and caught a 2 1/2-lb. spot. I had tied on the spoon earlier when Barron said he had caught some on a spoon earlier that week, and I hooked four on it, making long casts and pumping it off the bottom in ditches. That is worth a try.

No. 11: N 34º 58.257 – W 83º 44.946 — Here’s a bonus hole and pattern that’ll work if rain has stained the creeks. But if it has, this will work in all the creeks. Go back in Bell Creek past the island on the right that sits close to the bank. Across and upstream from the island is a shallow bay with chunk rocks in it between two points.

If the water is stained, look for chunk rock and flat bottoms without cover, and fish them with a Spro RKrawler shad-colored crankbait. If it is real muddy, try a crankbait with chartreuse in it. Fish all the area in creeks in 5 or 6 feet of water. Barron says bass roam in the stained and muddy water and do not necessarily relate to cover.

Try Barron’s patterns and baits, and you will find the way to catch good bass at Chatuge this month.

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