No Summertime Blues For Blackshear Backwater Bass

The Lake Blackshear cypress trees and other shallow cover provide a surprisingly good shallow-water bite for August bass.

Ronnie Garrison | August 1, 2005

Lake Blackshear has a split personality — too far north to be a true south Georgia lake with all shallow water and swampy conditions, but far enough south that cypress trees line the banks and lily pads and hyacinths fill the shallows. Even in the hottest weather you can catch bass in all kinds of places on Blackshear, from river ledges to docks to cypress trees.

Located about 20 miles west of I-75 between Cordele and Americus, Blackshear is about three hours south of Atlanta and two hours north of the Florida line. There is good access at Veterans State Park where a double ramp and adequate parking is available. Camping, cabins and motel rooms are also at the park.

At 8,515 acres, Lake Blackshear is not a huge lake, but so much of it is shallow water that it fishes bigger than its actual size. In much of the upper lake you can fish miles of swampy, backwater that is all like fishing shoreline. You can usually get away from pleasure boaters and skidoos in those areas even when the lower lake is a madhouse of activity.

The Highway 280 bridge and railroad causeway split the lake into two very different parts. The lake downstream of these bridges is open, and you can run it easily. Docks line the shoreline, and the Flint River snakes across flats with good drops and deep cover. Above the causeways you run the marked channel — or hit stumps. There are docks here too, but much of the shoreline disappears into cypress swamps. Everywhere you look you see shallow cover that looks like it holds bass.

Lake Blackshear can be hard to fish since there is so much visible cover that looks fantastic. But there are some keys to finding Blackshear bass, and some patterns pay off better than others this time of year. Knowing where to start will give you an advantage if you make your first trip to Blackshear.

Brad Borland lives in Douglas and fishes with the Satilla Bass Anglers club. At the 2004 Top Six, Brad finished eighth overall, and his club team won the coveted spot as top team in Georgia. Bradʼs club fishes Blackshear two or three times a year. He often fishes the local trail put on by Ernie Broughton.

Brad Borland said cypress trees are the No. 1 cover most of the year on Lake Blackshear. They provide excellent cover for bass, with overhanging limbs creating shade and the roots giving bass places to hide and ambush prey.

Early in the morning Brad likes to fish lighted docks that also have brushpiles. Fishing at night can be an excellent way to catch fish, and if you arrive at the lake before daylight you can fish the dock lights. Another excellent pattern early in the morning, and really all day, is fishing the rip-rap on the bridges that cross the lake. Brad said cypress trees are the No. 1 cover most of the year on Blackshear. They provide excellent cover for bass, with overhanging limbs creating shade and the roots giving bass places to hide and ambush prey.

When the lower lake gets busy from pleasure boaters, Brad will head up the river and fish visible cover there. Outside bends of the main river channel are his favorite places, and cypress trees on them sweeten the spot. He usually does not go into the backwaters and creeks that enter the lake, although bass are there. He prefers to stay on the main channel where some current will make the bass more active.

Early in the morning Brad will throw Zoom Super Flukes, Shad Raps and Rat-L-Traps around docks and rip-rap. He will also mix in a white Zoom Trick Worm fished weightless. As the sun gets above the horizon, he will fish the Trick Worm more, and heʼll also pitch a Texas-rigged worm to the cypress trees and other cover.

Brad and I fished Blackshear on a miserably hot day in early July. We started fishing about 30 minutes before daylight and quit just after lunch. During that time we landed 10 bass and about half of them were keepers. Our best five weighed about nine pounds and was anchored by a 3 1/2-lb. fish. The lake was very crowded, and there was an Ernieʼs tournament that day, so lots of folks were fishing.

Brad and I fished the following spots and caught bass on several of them. Check them out to see the kinds of spots Brad looks for on Blackshear, and then you should be able to find others like them that produce fish for you.

No. 1. N 31º 56.636 – W 83º 55.401 — If you put in at Veteranʼs Park and arrive before daylight, hit a few lighted docks. Come out of Gum Creek and go downstream to the next creek on the same side, Boy Scout Slough. As you enter Boy Scout, on the right you will see two lighted docks, both on posts as are most Blackshear docks. Both docks have several boat slips. Stop a long cast out from the edge of the light and ease in on your trolling motor.

Brad likes to start with a Fluke worked under the light, fishing it like a baitfish attracted to the light and swimming around erratically. He will follow up with a Trap and a Shad Rap, fishing all around the lighted area. Be sure to work under the light, but make some casts to the edge of the lighted area. Bass will often hold right in the edge of the light to ambush baitfish.

Watch for baitfish and bass under the light. If you donʼt see any activity, donʼt spend much time on that light, move on to the next one. If you see shad swirling under the light or bream moving, bass are likely to be nearby. Sometimes you will see a big bass just hanging there, tempting you. They can be hard to catch, but it is an exciting way to fish.

No. 2: N 31º 57.025 – W 83º 55.337 — Run out of Boy Scout Slough and head downstream. You will see another lighted dock on your left about 200 yards downstream. It too has posts in the water and is a good spot to fish. Fish it like the docks in hole No. 1, trying a variety of baits. Spinnerbaits also can be good under the lights, as are Texas-rigged worms. The key is seeing baitfish. Fish it hard if shad are present.

No. 3: N 31º 57.667 – W 83º 55.417 — As daylight breaks, run back up to the railroad causeway. Brad likes to start where the causeway hits the lake on the downstream side toward Veteranʼs Park. There is a lot of wood cover and grass here, and the rocks start as the water gets deeper. A buzzbait is a good choice in the corner, and you can follow it up with a Fluke or Trick Worm. Fish from the corner all the way out to the bridge — if you are getting bites. If you fish for a hundred yards without a bite, crank up and idle out to the corner of the bridge. Fish both corners with Flukes and crankbaits, and also try a Texas-rigged worm. Brad caught a 3-lb. shoal bass off the corner of the rip-rap on the west side in a club tournament there last summer.

No. 4: N 32º 02.031 – W 83º 57.674 — We left the bridge and headed up the river as the sun was getting above the horizon. As soon as you go under the highway bridge you will see stumps and standing timber everywhere. You have to stay in the channel and take it easy if you are new to this area. A few channel markers are not in exactly the right spots, and the double markers at the mouth of the channels to each small creek can get real confusing. Stay in the marked channel if you donʼt want to hit something.

Run up the river until the channel markers stop. You will be in the river there, and the channel is fairly easy to follow on up. Just past the end of the channel markers is a bank Brad likes to fish. There is a point on your right just past the markers, and the opening goes back into the Glory Hole area. Start on the point and work upstream, fishing Trick Worms and Texas rigs. Brad got the first fish of the day here, a 14 1/2-inch keeper that hit his Trick Worm at the base of a cypress tree.

There are a lot of willows along this bank, plus cypress trees, grass and blowdowns. Hit every likely looking place, skipping your Trick Worm under overhanging limbs. Some current here helps, and you are likely to find moving water even if they are not pulling water at the dam. Fish this bank to the next point, past the dock at the cabin and work the upstream side of the point before leaving.

No. 5: N 32º 02.146 – W 83º 57.755 — As you leave the upstream point at No. 4, the river will make a sharp bend to the left going upstream, and there is an idle-speed-only area there marked by two buoys. The left bank straightens out past these buoys, and you will see a ditch entering from the flats behind the river ledges. There is a cypress tree in the middle of this ditch, and Brad says this is the ideal cover in this area.

Start downstream of the ditch, and fish upstream. Hit all the cover, including the grass and cypress trees. Brad and I both got throwbacks on this bank on Texas-rigged worms. He likes to rig a big worm like a Mag 2 in darker colors like junebug, redbug or june-bug/red. He sticks with the lightest lead the current will allow, starting with 1/8-oz. but going to a 1/4-oz. if the current is stronger. If the current is really running, heʼll pull out a flipping stick with a 1Џ2-oz. lead to get it down to the fish.

No. 6: N 32º 02.339 – W 83º 58.121 — Just upstream the river bends back to the right, and the point on the right just above this bend has a opening going back into big flats. All around the opening are cypress trees, blowdowns, stumps and logs to fish. The stumps run out a long way from the bank, and there is a double cypress tree on the right side of the ditch. There is also a smaller ditch running off the bank. Fish all the visible cover with Trick Worms and Texas rigs.

Work the current on this spot and all others in the river. Brad says to cast upstream and work your bait back with the current, giving it a natural look. Bass will position themselves in eddies behind stumps and logs, using anything that breaks the current as a holding area to wait on food. Cast your bait upstream past these holding spots, and fish it back with the current just like food washing to the bass.

No. 7: N 32º 02.550 – W 83º 58.527 — Follow the channel as it swings right then left again. A creek enters on the left on the bank after the channel straightens out, and then the river swings to the right just above it. Brad starts at the mouth of this creek and works upstream, fishing the cover along this bank. About 100 yards upstream from the creek mouth there is a shelf running back from the river channel that is covered in cypress trees. This is ideal cover for Brad. The river channel is just off the shelf and is on an outside bend. The trees are in water three- to five-feet deep, and you can get your boat back into this flat and be completely surrounded by trees to fish.

When pitching to the cypress trees, start out by trying to hit the trunk of the tree, and allow your worm fall straight down. The roots of the tree form a donut-shaped root ball, and bass will be right up against the trunk as well as holding out from it in the roots. Hitting the trunk makes your bait enter the water naturally, and it will fall to the base of the tree. Move it slowly and carefully along the bottom through the roots. Sometimes the roots will be five feet or more out from the tree, and bass can be in any of them.

No. 8: N 32º 03.141 – W 83º 58.702 — For a little different kind of place to fish, run upstream until you see cabins on your right. Look for a wooden seawall in front of a wood house with a big screen porch on it. There is a weeping willow right at the start of the seawall. Start fishing the wall upstream at the willow. There is a small deck right on the water here with red, green and blue chairs on it.

Brad likes to throw a crankbait along this seawall and the rock seawalls upstream of it. He usually throws a Bandit with a square bill in this area since it seems to come through the brush and trash that washes in here. He will keep his boat near the bank and make casts angling upstream, keeping his bait in the productive area longer.

No. 9: N 32º 03.649 – W 83º 58.625 — Just upstream you will see the Hwy 27 Bridge. Go under it, and watch for the old bridge on your right where part of it is still standing on the bank. Across from the bridge, on your left there is concrete rubble in the water from where the bridge was torn down. If the river is down a little, you will see it. Stop downstream of this rubble and cast upstream, working your crankbait or Trick Worm across it. Try a Texas-rigged worm with the lightest lead you can throw. You will get hung up in the rocky rubble, but bass will hold in it. A lighter weight helps, but you will probably get hung with anything you throw, but you should hang a bass or two.

No. 10: N 32º 03.889 – W 83º 58.764 — As you go upstream around the bend above the bridge rubble, a creek will enter on your left. The banks are sandy here, and there is a pine tree across the creek not far from the river. The downstream side has some blowdowns on it, and the upstream side has standing cypress trees. Start fishing the downstream side, and fish into the creek. As you come out of the creek, fish the cypress trees. The day Brad and I fished, he worked into these trees, and I dropped a Texas-rigged Mag 2 redbug worm straight down into some brush washed up against one of the trees. A 2-lb. bass grabbed it as it sank, but did not move off, it just felt mushy — when you feel something but definitely not the weight in contact with the bottom. After landing that fish, I rigged up another worm just like the one the bass had torn off and dropped it into the next pile of brush. Again it felt mushy, and I set the hook on another keeper, this one a little smaller. It is not unusual to find schools of fish in the cypress trees, so if you catch one there may be more nearby.

You can go up the river for miles fishing outside bends. One of Bradʼs favorites is a few miles above hole No. 10, and there are many others. The channel gets narrower and the current stronger, but the bass are up there.

Give Blackshear a try. You will love the way it looks, and the cover will keep you busy. Fish enough of the great-looking cover, and you will get some summertime bites.

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