Little Ocmulgee State Park Bass Fishing Summer Baits

This south Georgia state park lake looks like a little Lake Seminole.

Craig James | May 1, 2023

Georgia is blessed to have a smorgasbord of state parks littered across the state in just about every possible direction.

Little Ocmulgee State Park is such a place, located in south Georgia just outside of McRae-Helena. It has about everything you could expect from a top-notch weekend destination.

Originally founded in the 1930s, this property spans over 1,000 acres and boasts a lodge, swimming pool and is also the home of Wallace Adams Golf Course, considered by many to be one of the very best golf course options in the area.

All great amenities no doubt, but it is the 265-acre lake that is the true gem of this area. At first glance on a map, this diamond in the rough doesn’t look to be any different than any other lake of comparable size. But hidden in tannic, grass-filled waters are some of the best bass fishing opportunities you will find in the Peach State.

A concrete boat ramp is available for launching boats, and you can fish this lake efficiently out of anything from a small kayak all the way up to a brand-new 23-foot Ranger bass boat. Due to the lake’s layout, it fishes really big as you can literally catch fish from one end to the other. Even with its modest size of only a few hundred acres, I get lost in the tranquility of the grass-filled waters and often feel more like I’m somewhere floating on Lake Seminole as opposed to a small state-park lake.

The bottom line is that this is a place you want to fish this month. Regardless of your preferred style of bass fishing, you shouldn’t have a problem getting bit during the month of May. Here’s a quick breakdown of the lake and some of the techniques that can be effective during the summer months.

Brady Shaw with a big bass he caught at Little Ocmulgee earlier this spring.

Buzzbait: It’s a good gamble to go big first thing in the morning and to try and cover a bunch of water in a hurry. A black or white buzzbait in the 1⁄4- to 3/8-oz. size is hard to beat, and fishing one with a gold blade will get you bit more often. Start on the side of the lake directly across from the fishing pier and fish that entire side all the way to the upper end.

Several different types of grass and lily pads are present and will vary in thickness. Make long casts toward areas of thick vegetation, and work your buzzbait back to the boat through less dense areas of grass. Pay attention to areas where one kind of grass transitions to another and fish these locations thoroughly.

When you do get bit, it’s important to pay attention to where the bass was holding and what kind of grass was present. Normally, other bass will be holding in other similar areas. Another key tip is to keep a black weightless worm on the ready as many fish will miss a quick-moving buzzbait in the grass. When a fish blows up and doesn’t eat, quickly fire your weightless worm in the spot, and more often than not, you can pick up the fish.

ChatterBait: A white ChatterBait can be hard to beat during summer months, and it pays to keep one tied on. Once the sun gets up a little, use this bladed swim jig to cover lots of water in a hurry. In most areas of the lake, grass comes out from the bank 100 yards or more as it slowly tapers off into deeper water.

Focus your efforts in the sparse areas of vegetation you will find farther off the bank. Many areas of the lake have grass that grows under the water and stops a few inches below the surface. Bass will hold in this grass, and a ChatterBait worked through it will often draw a reaction strike.

Little Ocmulgee’s 265-acre lake is a grass and lily-pad filled paradise for bass.

Stick Worm: A stick worm, or as many know it, a Senko, is the bread-and-butter lure of this lake. Fished slowly through and around vegetation, this lure will draw more strikes day in and day out than any other. The key to catching bass on a stick worm is to make sure you’re fishing it right.

I learned this lesson the hard way during a kayak tournament on the lake. My buddy Jason Lee and I were both fishing the same black-and-blue worm on different ends of the lake. When the tournament ended and the smoke settled, I hadn’t caught a single fish, and he had caught more than 20 bass on his way to a fine finish in the event. Same worm, so what was the difference? It’s all in the rigging.

I had opted to fish mine weightless using a standard Texas rig on the way to a disappointing finish, while Jason had opted to fish his weightless and wacky rigged, and he nearly won the tournament in the process.

You’re probably wondering how to fish a wacky rig around such dense vegetation. To solve this problem, Jason fishes a special weedless wacky hook with a heavy monofilament weed guard that helps the rig glide through the grass. There are several different brands that all work well for this presentation.

The best color stick worms on the lake are black/blue glitter, green pumpkin, watermelon seed and junebug. Plain black is also a hard color to beat.

More important than color is the speed that you fish the worm. If you think you are fishing the worm slowly, fish it even slower. Make long casts with a medium-action spinning rod spooled with 12-lb. monofilament line to and around vegetation. Give your worm 10 to 15 seconds to make it to the bottom. Use your rod to give it a little twitch, and wait 10 to 15 seconds before you do it again. Repeat the process until you make it back to the boat. Pay careful attention to your line since bites will often be very subtle. I’ll be the first to tell you that this style of fishing is about as boring as watching paint dry, but it will put fish in the boat consistently.

Three of the author’s favorite lures for the lake are a buzzbait fished early, a swimbait fished over the pads during midday hours and a weedless wacky-rigged worm.

Pads and Sunshine: When the big Georgia sun starts getting high around 11 o’clock or so, bass will make a move to the lily pads, and anglers should follow suit. Move into the thickest areas of lily pads and look for areas with 2 to 4 feet of water. There’s a really good section of pads across the lake from the fishing pier. There are small trees standing scattered through the pads. Be careful around these trees! They are often covered with wasp nests that can turn a good day fishing bad in a hurry.

To fish through these pads efficiently, anglers will do best in a kayak or a boat equipped with a strong enough trolling motor to cut through the vegetation. In my opinion, a kayak works much better due to its ability to quietly navigate over pads without resistance.

With the pads being so thick, they cover the top of the water, and it creates shade and cooler water that the bass will hold in. There are two effective ways to fish them, and both require a heavy-action baitcasting setup and either braid or heavy monofilament line.

The first way to attack the pads is to use a creature-type bait or worm and a heavy tungsten weight in a 1-oz. size or larger to punch through the pads and into the dark water beneath. Pick your lure up a few times and sit it down before flipping to another spot. Be sure to pick apart the pads and spend an extra few minutes thoroughly fishing transition areas in the pads. This style of fishing is slow and methodical but tends to draw some really big bites.

My favorite way to attack the pads is going directly over the top. I use a small, minnow-style swimbait that is about 2 1/2 inches long and rig it weedless and weightless. The bait crawls well over the pads and has great tail action as it buzzes across the tops of small sections of water in the pads. When you get bit, a good hard hookset is demanded to bust the fish free of the nasty vegetation. This style of fishing enables you to be able to fish large mats of pads quickly, and once you locate where the majority of bites are coming from, you can come back and punch the pads to pick up more fish.

Cranking: Another method for putting some big fish in the boat during summer months on the lake is to crank the lake’s channel. Anglers can find it with a depthfinder near the middle of the lake, but it’s closer to the boat ramp side of the lake. For kayak anglers who don’t have a depthfinder, the easiest way to locate it is to watch the many crappie fishermen who troll minnows and jigs through the channel constantly through the day.

The lake isn’t very deep, so a big-billed super deep-diving crankbait isn’t required. Find one in a natural shad or chartreuse color pattern that runs in the 5- to 7-foot range and fish it on 12-lb. fluorocarbon to help it get to its intended depth. Make long casts across the edges of the channel, and let your crankbait swim down into it. During summer months, the majority of the fish will be holding tight to the edges of the channel.

Finesse Tactics: When all else fails, a simple finesse rig will get you bit. A black, green pumpkin or junebug 4-inch finesse worm on a 1/0 hook Texas rigged with a 1/32-oz. weight will get finicky fish to bite. Stay away from all the super thick stuff and focus your efforts on isolated grass patches and single sections of pads that stand alone near deeper water. The key here is to fish slow and thoroughly from different angles in order to be sure you’ve let a bass look at your worm several different ways. Often times it may take several casts before you make a fish decide to eat.

Regardless of how you decide to fish it, Little Ocmulgee State Park is one of the best bass fishing destinations you’ll find in Georgia during the summer months. Whether you decide to fish it for a day, or maybe bring a tent or get a room at the lodge and bring your golf clubs for the weekend, it’s worth a look. No matter what, it’s sure to be a good time.

Crappie fishing on the lake can be excellent during the summer months. The author snapped this photo of successful anglers during his latest trip to the lake.

Crappie Fishing At Little Ocmulgee State Park: Though I haven’t fished for the lake’s crappie myself, I see anglers on the water every time I go, and they seem to be getting bit pretty regularly. Most of these anglers start about midway up the lake in the channel and troll back down toward the dam. Black and chartreuse jigs and minnows trolled under corks are both local favorites, and some anglers will also fish the channel by fan-casting white Rooster Tails and Beetle Spins. 

From talking with and observing anglers on the lake, it seems as if 15- to 25-fish days of three-quarter-pound and larger crappie are pretty common, not bad at all for a state park lake.

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