Lake Laura S. Walker Springtime Bassin’
This 120-acre jewel in south Georgia offers good largemouth and crappie fishing. Check out the Okefenokee while you’re there.
Craig James | April 9, 2019
When you think about bass fishing in Georgia, the old and faithful destinations quickly come to mind. Seminole, Eufaula, Lanier, Blackshear… we literally could go on and on. Georgia has no shortage of bass fishing opportunities.
But, what about the lesser knowns, those lakes that are here and there across the state that seem to fly under the radar?
Laura S. Walker State Park is home to such a place and a top-notch fishery at that. Lake Laura S. Walker has been on the rebound for several years, and many local anglers believe that 2019 is going to be a breakout year for the fishery.
Situated deep in south Georgia, just outside of Waycross and just a short ride from the Okefenokee Swamp, this grass-filled blackwater lake sprawls for roughly 120 acres inside of the beautiful Laura S. Walker State Park.
For years, the lake has remained popular with boaters, skiers and jet skiers, but the last couple of years, the area is beginning to become a hit with bass and crappie anglers.
Bert Deener, WRD Region Supervisor in the Waycross Fisheries Office, had the following to say when GON sat down to interview him.
“It is a classic, swampy, blackwater lake. If you like fishing heavy vegetation, this is the place for you,” said Bert.
He went on to say that though not heavily populated, the lake boasts a solid amount of fish in the 7- to 9-lb. range.
“When we shock the lake, most of the fish we are seeing are either 13 inches or less or bigger than 7 pounds. We feel like there are a good population of middle-size fish, but they just haven’t showed up as much in the shocking surveys we conduct at random times throughout the year,” said Bert.
Bert went on to say that numerous bass fishing techniques seem to work well on the lake, but it is hard to beat a topwater frog first thing in the morning or just before dark.
“Try fishing it slowly around the grassy areas in the upper end of the lake, especially if you are looking to try to get on a big bite,” said Bert.
“One other thing I want to be sure to mention is the crappie fishery is improving lately. There is a good population of fish spread here and there throughout the lake. Anglers who like to catch them can do well by slowly trolling minnows or jigs near the lake’s dam.”
Father and son Kevin and Luke Steedley, of Waycross, say the fishing last year was solid, and the pair rarely had a bad day on the lake, especially in April and May.
“I mainly just tag along, Luke is the real fisherman in our house, He can tell you how to catch them,” joked Kevin.
At only 15, Luke can’t drive to the boat ramp alone yet but is already a seasoned bass angler in his own right. Luke fishes a local tournament trail out of Waycross, where he has had several finishes in the last year where he has managed to land in the money against some of the best anglers in south Georgia.
“I like when me and dad come out to Laura Walker and fish. It’s tough at times, but when you figure them out, it’s not too hard to get bit,” said Luke.
Luke said in April you can expect fish to be in postspawn patterns and relating to shallow areas adjacent to deeper water.
“First thing in the morning, I’m looking for a quick bite on my frog near some grass. The frog is a good way to put a good one in the boat quick,” said Luke.
Luke’s frog of choice is a Booyah Poppin Pad Crasher frog that he fishes on a heavy-action Vexan rod equipped with a high-speed Lews baitcasting reel spooled with 50-lb. Power Pro braided line. Luke alters his frog by trimming the legs short, saying that it helps improve hook-up ratio tremendously, keeping bass from aiming too far back on the longer legs the frog comes out of the package. Though he will walk it some, Luke prefers to fish the frog slower with a more subtle action to make fish strike.
“I like the edge near the dam that runs back to the bridge. There are some trees that hang over the water that bass will hold under, especially after the spawn. If you can skip your frog under and work it back slow, they just can’t turn it down,” said Luke.
If the frog fails to produce, Luke says another solid topwater choice is a Heddon Zara Spook Jr. in any of the shad patterns.
“I like to throw it along the dam and in other shallow areas, and I work it much faster than the frog to try and draw reaction strikes as I work it back to the boat,” said Luke.
Like the frog, he also fishes the Spook on braid to make it easier to walk the bait as he quickly covers water.
As the sun continues to climb in the sky, Luke begins to probe deeper in the lake’s water column.
“When they aren’t relating shallow to timber or holding near grass, you can almost always find some fish holding along the dam. The key here is to make a lot of casts and cover a whole bunch of water in a hurry,” said Luke.
Luke’s favorite lure for fishing along the dam is a Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill crankbait in the sexy shad pattern. He fishes it on 15-lb. monofilament, and he likes to position his boat as far from the bank as possible, making long casts and working the crankbait back down the slope coming from the dam into deeper water.
“If you hold your rod tip down, you can make your crankbait stay between 3 and 5 foot. This seems to be the sweet spot for postspawn fish that are trying to fatten back up a little,” Luke suggested.
Once he fishes the dam, Luke will also fishes the same bank he probed earlier with a frog to see if he can draw a reaction strike from the squarebill.
“Right around midday, you can go back to the frog for a little bit. If you look under the overhanging trees, you will notice a good deal of shade. When the sun is shining bright, bass will move way up against the bank and will often react to the frog,” Luke said.
One of Luke’s final go-to baits is a simple but effective black and blue flaked ribbon tail worm. Luke says he fishes several brands, and they all tend to work well if they are in the 7- to 10-inch range.
Luke fishes the worm Texas-rigged with a 4/0 hook and a 1/8-oz. bullet weight on medium-heavy baitcasting tackle with 15-lb. monofilament line.
“I fish it the same places as I did the frog and crankbait, but I fish it slow, really slow,” said Luke.
After making a long cast and letting his worm settle, Luke likes to wait 10 to 15 seconds before slowly lifting and shaking his worm on the bottom. Then he repeats the process, working the worm slowly back to the boat over a period of several minutes.
“If you think you’re fishing it too slow, go slower. When you fish a worm out here, you have to make them eat it,” Luke said.
Luke also likes to fish the worm along grass edges throughout the lake to target fish that are often staged on the edge, especially right after the spawn in April. He keys on areas of isolated grass and slowly works the edges with his worm to tempt less-aggressive fish into striking.
“It’s really a great fishery that more south Georgia anglers should get out and give a try. It will really surprise you,” said Luke.
The lake is open from 7 a.m. to sunset for boats. There is a 10-hp restriction in effect except between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time). Boats with motors greater than 10 hp are allowed on the lake during the restricted hp times above, but they may only operate the trolling motor.
Park waters are open for legal fishing throughout the year. A fishing dock and boat ramp is provided. Bank fishermen not registered as overnight visitors must be off the park no later than closing time. Bank fishing is allowed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information on Laura S. Walker State Park, go to https://gastateparks.org/LauraSWalker.
For anglers wanting to stay the weekend, the park has a large campground that has plenty of campsites and cabins available at reasonable rates. The nearby Okefenokee Swamp Park is also worth a trip for those who have never made the venture to south Georgia to see it.
Though not a well-known powerhouse like some of the larger more popular reservoirs in Georgia, Laura S. Walker Lake is definitely worth a trip this month. With some of Luke’s tips you are bound to have a bent rod in no time at all.
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