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When Lucas Lake Opened To Public Fishing, GON Was There

The 625-acre Macon Water Authority reservoir had just opened to public fishing.

Daryl Kirby | May 1, 2005

Here we were, finally, with a boat in the water and geared for bass, making our first casts into the unknown waters of Lucas Lake. The anticipation we felt was similar to when Black Shoals Reservoir first opened to fishing — both were trolling-motor-only reservoirs that opened to public fishing after years of delays.

No, we didn’t get a hit on the first cast. The first bite took more like 20 minutes, and the bass was only about 12 inches long. Our first trip to Lucas Lake was starting out a bit slower than Brad Gill and I had expected.

An hour into the morning, we had worked to the right up the creek from the boat ramp, past the bank-fishing area, and to the very back of the left-hand pocket. The pocket was littered with small, dead, flooded pine trees, and at the very back of the pocket there was flowing water that spilled over some rocks into the lake. Large boulders were just beneath the stained water. It was as fishy-looking a spot as you’ll ever see.

Brad Gill with a hard-fighting chunk caught on a white Trick Worm at Lucas Lake on April 6, 2005. Of 23 bass caught and released by Brad and the author, all but two weighed between 1 1/2 and 3 1/4 pounds.

Brad was throwing a spinnerbait, and I had picked up a chartreuse/blue Norman’s Middle N crankbait. I made a few casts down the middle of the pocket, digging the crankbait off the bottom and bouncing it off a big rock. Before leaving the pocket, I threw the plug up close to the bank and began to crawl it through a flooded pine. When the bait climbed up over a limb near the surface, I watched as a bass shot out from the tree and ate the crankbait. This was a better fish, about a 3-pounder, and seeing that fish come up to eat gave us our first clue to figuring out a pattern — a pattern that would end up making this a great day of fishing.

Lucas Lake, originally known as Town Creek Reservoir, is a 625-acre water-supply reservoir operated by the Macon Water Authority (MWA). The lake is located in Jones County just northeast of Macon, and it was opened to public fishing on March 28, 2005. However, MWA employees had been allowed to fish the lake for several years, so unlike at Black Shoals when it first opened, the bass at Lucas Lake had at least seen some fishing lures.

Construction of Lucas Lake began more than a decade ago. About 90 percent of the $125 million construction cost was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto flooded Macon’s existing water treatment plant. After the storm, MWA was one of several utility companies in Georgia eligible for federal disaster assistance. State funds paid for another 5 percent of the construction cost.

In 2002, when MWA board members granted full fish- ing access to all MWA employees, they called it a first step toward opening the lake to public access. Three years later, that access was finally granted, and as quickly as we could get it on our schedule, Brad and I pulled a jonboat down to Lucas Lake.

Small pine trees are common along the shoreline out to about six-feet deep, and many of the pockets at Lucas Lake are covered with the small trees.

Our timing was perfect, arriving at the locked gate 10 minutes before the 7 a.m. opening time. We were first in line at the gate, and we were alone for about 10 minutes. With no sign of any other anglers, and no sign of an MWA employee, we began to wonder if “open daily” excluded this particular Wednesday. At 7 a.m., vehicles pulling small boats begin to line up, and soon the gate was unlocked.

By our third hour of fishing, the tally was only one spinnerbait fish and one crankbait fish. We had just fished around the big, main-lake point between the Town Creek arm and the creek where the boat ramp is located. The wind was only blowing about 10 mph, but it was coming across a lot of open water and made fishing difficult out on the points. We ducked into the first short pocket on the right bank — one of the big powerlines crosses Town Creek here. Thinking back to the 3-lb. bass we had caught shallow in the back of a pocket, we tied on a couple of Trick Worms, lemon shad for me and white for Brad.

Brad’s Trick Worm was about 10 feet off the bank when a bass suddenly shot up and turned on it. A good hook-set, and we had our third bass of the day, and this one was a 2-lb. chunk. Two casts later a bass hit my Trick Worm, but the hook-set came up empty.

Brad and I shot a knowing glance at each other. We were about to have some fun.

Since they first hit the bass-fishing scene a decade ago, soft jerkbaits — often called floating worms, especially when they first came out— have been No.1 on my list of favorite ways to catch bass. I love to see a bass come up and eat a Trick Worm or a Fluke. The term floating worm isn’t used as much these days, probably because these baits were never designed to actually float. They sink more slowly than a standard plastic worm, but they are fished under the surface, often where the angler can see the worm and see a bass hit. Bright colors like white, bubblegum, and merthiolate are popular.

Brad and I were both throwing the Trick Worms on baitcasting outfits, with the worms rigged Texas-style on 4/0 Gamakatsu XWG (extra-wide-gap) hooks. Brad had a swivel about 18 inches up the line, while I fish a Trick Worm without a swivel despite the inevitable line twist when you don’t use one. Without a swivel, I feel you can get better action, and I can pause it longer without the weight of a swivel.

Brad and I decided to milk this pattern — Trick Worms in the backs of pockets — and we kept the trolling motor on high between the pockets. It was as close to run-and-gun as you can get with a 70-lb. thrust trolling motor.

The rest of the day was a ball, one of the better public-water trips I’ve had in years. We caught and released 23 bass, and all but two of those bass were at least 1 1/2 pounds. The biggest bass we caught weighed a tad over three pounds, and the vast majority were between 2 and 3 pounds. They were healthy, and they fought great. We saw, missed, lost, or broke off at least another dozen good bass.

Where we really had some fun, and found some good concentrations of bass, was in the pockets that were covered in a maze of small, flooded pine trees. Imagine a patch of thick, 6- year-old planted pines on some deer- hunting property. Now put about 5 feet of water in the trees. We had to pick our way into the trees, and casts were extremely difficult, as were hook-sets, but the bass were in there and eager to eat. In one pocket alone we boated seven bass, all of them between 2 and 3 pounds.

The author with our only crankbait fish, a 3-pounder caught in 2 feet of water as the crankbait was crawled through the limbs of a flooded pine tree.

The day we fished, the water was slightly stained. We were able to see about three feet down. We got away with 14-lb. test line while fishing the Trick Worms in the trees, and we only broke off on two. However, reports are that Lucas Lake is typically very clear. Fishing the trees when the water is clear means lighter line may be needed, spelling out more of a challenge. Even fishing quickly, we only saw about 25 percent of the lake. When you’re limited to a trolling motor on 625 acres of water, it’s going to take several trips just to see all of the lake, much less begin to learn some of its fishing secrets.

When I go back this month, I expect to throw lots of topwater until the sun hits the water — or all day if it’s cloudy — and then I expect Trick Worms to produce all day, as well as Carolina-rigged worms on the secondary and primary points. May should be a great month on this lake, while summertime may get a bit tougher in the deep, clear water.

Steve Schleiger, a Senior Fisheries Biologist with WRD, took an electro-fishing boat to Lucas Lake on April 18. He said the lake appears to be very similar to nearby Lake Juliette — both receive pumped water from the Ocmulgee River, have very clear water and are relatively infertile lakes.

“Our sampling indicated lots of bass, with catch rates comparable to or better than most middle Georgia reservoirs,” Steve said after his shocking- boat trip to Lucas. “The largest bass was 6 1/2 pounds. One aspect that kind of bothered me a little bit was that we picked up some very small-sized bass, typically what you would see in the fall from the same year’s spawn. These bass were less than four inches, and they were spawned last year. This indicates that the smaller size grouping of bass are showing slow growth. The larger fish were in excellent condition. It is obvious that the lake is not very fertile, which is the main factor owing to slow growth on smaller bass.”

Other things turned up by the electro-fishing outing: Some very large shellcrackers up to 1 1/2 pounds, but very poor numbers of bluegill and redbreast and probably not good for growth either; low numbers of threadfin shad and minnows; no hybrids or stripers; crappie — about which Steve said, “The ones we sampled were large, about 1 1/2 pounds. Folks indicated they had caught crappie up to 3 pounds.”

Overall, Steve said an infertile reservoir like Lucas Lake has the potential to produce trophy fish, “but over time it just won’t produce numbers of fish like Sinclair or Oconee.”

MWA has characterized this initial public access at Lucas Lake as a trial period. Initially, the lake will be open for fishing seven days a week, except for the months of December, January and February, when it will be closed due to seasonal weather and maintenance. MWA will review how public access has gone at a later date, and then decide if the hours and dates should be adjusted.

Currently, the hours of operation for Lucas Lake access are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Anglers must register with a security guard and pay $5 per vehicle or $10 for a vehicle pulling a trailer. Bank fishing is allowed in a specific area that has been cleared and is maintained. Anglers can also fish two small ponds in the bank-fishing area.

While on the lake, no more than two persons are allowed in a boat and no more than two poles are permitted per person. No boat equipped with or containing a diesel or gasoline motor will be allowed on Lucas Lake. Life preservers must be available for each boat occupant, and all boats must return to the launch area upon the sounding of an air horn, approximately one half hour prior to closing. Visitors are not allowed to possess or consume alcoholic beverages while on MWA property or Lucas Lake. All visitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

For more information, call (478) 464-5600. Directions: From Hwy 129 in Macon, turn onto Shurling Drive, (toward Walgreen’s) and go 0.1 mile, turn right onto Clinton Road (changes name to Upper River Road), go GO 4.5 miles to 150 Broach Lane.

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