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Moving Water Draws Blackshear Bass Shallow

Inflow in the backs of creeks and from springs brings warmer water and attracts baitfish, and that attracts Blackshear bass in February.

Ronnie Garrison | January 1, 2010

February can be a frustrating month for bass fishermen. A few warm days hint at spring and make the bass start feeding, and then a cold front shuts them down. But there is a way to temper this frustration — head south to Blackshear where warming temperatures will keep the bass feeding more consistently this month.

Lake Blackshear is on the Flint River west of I-75 at Cordele. It’s an 8,515-acre Crisp County Power Company lake full of cypress trees, grass and bass. The lower lake, below the Highway 280 bridge, contains more open water, but there are also shallow creeks and sloughs with lots of shallow cover. The upper lake is filled with stumps and miles of shallow, cypress-filled sloughs and creeks.

There are a lot of springs on the lake, scattered from the main-lake shoreline to the backs of the creeks and sloughs. These springs produce a flow of water at a constant temperature that is clearer than the river, and these Blackshear springs are often a key to February fishing.

Good news for bass anglers — Blackshear is back! The bass fishing on the lake goes through cycles, and right now it seems to be at the peak of one. You can catch bass of all sizes, and 14-inch keepers are common. Big bass are showing up consistently, too.

Last year in the Blackshear Buddies Bass tournament trail a five-fish limit record was set in March at 23.14 pounds, and that included 8- and 9-pounders in the same sack. A few weeks later that record was beat by five bass weighing 26 pounds, and a few weeks after that a five-fish sack pushing the scales to more than 27 pounds was brought in. It often takes a 20-lb. sack to win one of those tournaments.

This year promises to be even better. In a tournament on Jan. 16, right after the longest, coldest weather we’ve had in years, it took just under 20 pounds to win, and that included a 7-lb. lunker. Second place was 15.5 pounds, and third place was more than 15 pounds. That was on a rainy, miserable day, and there were only 13 boats in the tournament. There were some other limits weighed in that day, too.

Ernie Broughton has been running the Blackshear Buddies Bass tournament trail for 17 years. He lives in Albany and has been bass fishing for many years. He did well on the old Redman Trail (now the BFLs), winning several Bulldog events and weighing in three 10-lb. plus bass in those tournaments.

Guiding on several Georgia lakes gave Ernie wide experience in a variety of conditions, as did competing in the tournaments. Ernie now fishes Blackshear almost exclusively, participating in all his tournaments. Those tournaments are held out of Veterans Park twice a month January through December on the first and third Saturdays, with a Classic in December.

Ernie is the one that set the record last spring with the 23.14-lb. sack. His biggest bass from Blackshear is an 11-lb., 12-oz. monster he caught on a Carolina rig. He knows the lake well and keeps up with the bass there year-round.

The whole lake looks “fishy” with all the shallow grass and cypress trees, but it can be frustrating since there is so much good-looking water to fish. How do you decide where to cast? Ernie agreed to share his methods and some spots to try them to get you started.

“Deep water on Blackshear is 10 to 12 feet deep, 15 at the most,” Ernie said.

The bass on Blackshear will hold in the deeper water but move shallow to feed, and they will feed while holding deeper, too. Warm, sunny days that increase the water temperature will make them move up to feed, as will current.

With all the rain we have had there is often a current in the creeks and sloughs. That will make the bass move in to feed even on a cold day. That was the pattern in the January tournament — find moving water to catch fish.

Springs are a key to February fishing, too. Right now the water from the springs is warmer, which attracts baitfish and bass. The spring water is often a little clearer where the spring enters the lake, making it easier for the bass to see your bait.

“I could just get out one outfit and do all my fishing with a Carolina rig,” Ernie said.

The Carolina rig is his go-to method, but he also throws crankbaits and spinnerbaits at times if conditions call for them, and if that is what the bass want. For his rig, Ernie uses a Zoom Trick Worm on a leader 24 to 30 inches long and varies the weight of his sinker to the depth of the water and the bottom conditions. His favorite colors are green pumpkin, green pumpkin/blue and black with red flake.

This time of year Ernie does most of his fishing from the Highway 280 Bridge to the dam, but the map includes a couple of spots on the upper lake that are worth checking out, too.

He seeks out springs that enter the lake but also concentrates on other shallow cover near the deep-water holes where the bass hold. If there is current, he will go back in the creeks to find moving water and fish the cover there.

Check out the following 10 spots, and give them a try. They are places Ernie fishes that will hold fish now. You can see the kinds of spots that are good and find others all over the lake.

No. 1: N 31º 57.486 – W 83º 55.045 — If you put in a Veterans Park in Gum Branch, you don’t have to go far to the first spring. Go downstream past the no-wake zone at the ramp, and you will see an island on your right. Behind the island is a white-and-red buoy. The buoy marks a spring that is off limits to fishing part of the year to protect the stripers that hold there in hot weather. Don’t pass it up now while you are allowed to fish the area.

On the bank behind the buoy you will see a half-circle indention that marks the spring. There is a sandbar on the upstream side of the spring. If there has been a heavy rain recently, the spring might be bubbling and flowing strong, creating a current.

Fish over and around the spring with your active baits like a crankbait or spinnerbait, and then work a Carolina-rigged worm in the area. Concentrate on the sandbar at the lip of the spring, working your bait from the bottom of the spring up the side. Also cast to the cypress tree just upstream of the spring, and work it carefully.

No. 2: N 31º 59.194 – W 83º 16.361 — Run up above the bridges, following the channel markers until you are even with Conner Branch. There used to be markers to get in to the mouth of Conner Branch, but you need to go slow and idle across the timber field until you get near the mouth of the creek. Then, stay out from the bank, and head upstream.

About halfway between Conner Branch and Limestone Creek is a spring that is back in the cypress trees and right on the bank. The first time you look for it, get on your trolling motor and ease upstream, listening for running water. Ernie says that is the easiest way to find it. You may see some slightly clearer water coming out, and you may be able to see a slight change in the water temperature, too.

Work the cypress trees where the spring water is coming out, running a spinnerbait and shallow-running crankbait by them first. Use a crankbait that will stay just a foot or so deep so you don’t hang up on the roots under the water. You want your crankbait to look like a baitfish coming off the bank with the flow of the spring, easing along like an easy meal for a bass holding on the cover.

Follow up with a Carolina-rigged worm, working with the flow with it, too. When your lead hits cover, pause and let it soak for a few seconds. The worm will settle, and bass often hit the bait while it is sitting still right on the cover.

No. 3: N 31º 58.793 – W 83º 56.744 — Ease back out to the channel, and follow it to the mouth of Spring Creek, also called Tommy Warren Branch. As you go in the mouth of the creek, to your left is Warren Slough. There are a couple of springs in it, and the water stays more stable because of them.

Fish around the slough, and then fish up to the bridge in the creek. Hit all the cover like dock posts and cypress trees, as well as any brush you find. Ernie says this is a difficult area to fish because the bottom is covered with a black, hair-like moss that gums up your bait. A shallow-running crankbait or a spinnerbait kept above the moss works best. If you throw a Carolina rig, use a very light lead and still expect your lead to come in covered with the gunk on every cast.

Although this creek is hard to fish, it holds good bass, and you can spend a lot of time and fish a lot of different cover. You have cypress trees, grass, docks and the rip-rap on the bridge. Also work the deeper water where the channel comes under the bridge. Any current coming down the creek will funnel under the bridge and be stronger, and the bass will position to feed on baitfish moving with the flow.

No. 4: N 31º 57.570 – W 83º 55.910 — Head back down the river past Gum Branch where Veterans Park is located, and go into the next slough on the left. This is Boy Scout Slough, and there are two good springs here to fish. As soon as you go into the mouth of the slough, the right bank curves to the right. There is a spring just inside the mouth of the slough. Work along the bank, hitting the trees, until you find the spring. Fish it like the one in Gum Branch, keeping your boat out away from it and casting up into the spring water. Try all three of your baits here.

No. 5: N 31º 56.588 – W 83º 55.490 — Go on down the bank, and you will see two docks and an opening into the Blue Hole, which is a big spring. The spring has 15 feet of water in it, and it is worth your time to work into the spring and fish all around it. Baitfish often move into the warmer water, and bass will follow. Cast from deep to shallow, and then work the bottom of the deeper water, too. Also work the mouth of the small creek where the spring enters the Boy Scout Slough. Any cover around the mouth of the opening will hold bass ambushing baitfish that move into and out of the spring. Try all your baits here before leaving.

No. 6: N 31º 54.393 – W 83º 54.431 — Run down the river to Cedar Creek on your left. Go back until you see the old railroad causeway running off the left bank. There are docks on your left before you get to the causeway and a big pocket past it, too.

Fish all around this old causeway, working it and the docks and trees on both sides of it. Ernie said this is a good area all the way up to the danger markers, which show where the stumps start. He will fish all the cover here as long as he is getting bites. This north bank gets sun most of the day, and the shallows warm, drawing in bass and baitfish.

No. 7: N 31º 53.433 – W 83º 54.431 — Downstream on the left bank is a small opening that opens up into Wolf Thick, a big, open, pond area with lots of cypress trees. There are trees all around the mouth of it, too. Ernie said on one memorable day he caught 17 keepers off the trees in this area. Fish them all.

When fishing a cypress tree, cast a spinnerbait or crankbait well beyond it and bring it back across the underwater roots and knees. Remember the cypress roots form a donut of cover around the tree that may extend several feet from the trunk, so fish it at different angles to cover the roots. Run the crankbait or spinnerbait over them, and then bump them with the lead on your Carolina rig.

Also try to hit the tree trunk with your spinnerbait and Carolina rig and make the bait fall into the water with no splash. Work it back out from the base of the tree as slowly as you can for fish holding tight to the trunk.

No. 8: N 31º 53.208 – W 83º 56.257 — Run across the lake, and go into Collins Branch. Ernie goes to the back of it where the cypress trees are thick, and there is a lot of grass in the water. Water should move here after a rain, too. The grass is so thick Ernie will switch baits and throw a rat on top of the grass if it has been warm or drop a jig ’n pig into the holes in the grass on cold days. Also hit the bases of the cypress trees with your jig ’n pig, and let it fall into the water at the base of the trunk.

No. 9: N 31º 52.255 – W 83º 55.238 — Go back across the lake to the east side. The next creek is Fort Early, and the mouth of it has good cypress trees and docks to fish. Work all of them with each of your baits. Fish them like the others. Also go back into the creek, and fish the trees there.

This area is where Ernie landed his 11-lb., 12-oz. bass. He cast up near a dock with a two-hook worm rig, and the bass picked it up and ran back under the boat. It is his biggest ever from Blackshear.

No. 10: N 31º 50.523 – W 83º 55.222 — Run down to Swift Creek, which is the big creek entering the lake on the east side right at the dam. Go back to the bridge, and start fishing there. Fish up to the old railroad causeway that comes across the creek from the left. Work all the cover in this area carefully. You can fish rip-rap, docks, grass and cypress trees in this creek.

Ernie said the fisheries biologists doing studies on Blackshear found more 8- to 10-lb. bass in this area than anywhere else on the lake. This is a good area for big bass, so fish it slowly and carefully, hitting every piece of cover you can find. Any cast may produce a wall-hanger.

All these spots are good, but there are many others like them all over the lake. Check these, catch fish on them, and then locate others to fish.

Editor’s Note: Ernie’s tournaments are the first and third Saturdays each month. Entry fee is $60 for a team and $30 for an individual fishing by themself. Pay-back is one boat in five, and $5 is held for the Classic. First to pay is first boat out. Ernie is also hosting four Blackshear Special tournaments this year with a $100 per boat entry fee and $1,000 guarantee for first. Dates are Jan. 30, May 29, July 31 and Oct. 30. Call Ernie at (299)432-9050 to get info.

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