Oconee Bass Primed For A Great Prespawn Bite

Muddy water will warm fast this month. Here’s a map to 10 prespawn holes.

Ronnie Garrison | February 27, 2020

Prespawn bass hitting your baits in grass and around wood cove—that simple pattern will catch largemouth this month at Lake Oconee. The bass at Oconee will move to the spawning flats and feed heavily before bedding.

Lake Oconee is 19,000 acres of water near Eatonton. The Oconee River and Richland Creek make up its two main arms, with many smaller creeks and coves in both. The smaller creeks and coves are where the bass spawn, and they are moving to them now. Some of the biggest bass in the lake will be on the bed in March, earlier than many realize.

Pumpback at the dam keeps Lake Oconee at full pool, allowing water willow grassbeds to grow in many areas. Bass hold and feed around this shoreline grass all month, and they use the many blowdowns and bushes in the water, too.

Cole Hopson grew up near Lake Lanier, fishing with his uncle in farm ponds before fishing on the Rivers Academy High School Fishing Team with his brother. Two years ago, he started school at Georgia College in Milledgeville and joined the bass team there.

Cole Hopson with an Oconee largemouth caught before endless winter rains turned the lake into chocolate milk. Water color be darned, the largemouth are getting ready to put on the prespawn feed bag.

“Being on the team at Georgia College has exceeded all my expectations,” Cole said.

He rooms with four other team members and has learned a lot about fishing Oconee from them and from time on the lake. Last year he was the points leader on the team, meaning full funding for his fishing this year.

“Oconee has a lot of good banks and points near or leading into spawning areas,” Cole said.

The fish get much more active as the water warms, especially when we have nights that are consistently warmer than the lake water temperature. He likes the lower end of the lake near the dam and Richland Creek, since water is usually a better color in those areas in March.

“For prespawn fish, I fish fairly fast, offering as many bass as possible something to eat, and they are feeding a lot this time of year,” Cole said.

He likes to fish a crankbait, spinnerbait and a ChatterBait around rocks, grass edges and wood. And he flips a creature bait into the grass when he finds some fish. When fishing is slow, he will also try a jig ’n pig and a shaky head.

We fished the following places the second week in February on a very warm, cloudy day. The river was extremely muddy all the way to the dam from all our rain this year. Richland Creek had better color water for fishing, but it was still heavily stained, much more than normal. We were a couple of weeks early for fish to be on these places like they are in March.

No. 1: N 33º 21.455 – W 83º 10.399 — Upstream of Lawrence Shoals Park is a big creek that runs back to your left as you’re going upstream. As you go into it, a narrow cove with a dock is on your left right at the mouth of the creek. The upstream creek point of this cove has big boulders on it and is a good staging area right now.

Stop out on the point with your boat in 10 to 12 feet of water, and run a crankbait over the point. Cole likes a DT-6 in the Caribbean shad color. Bass sit on this point and ambush shad as they move across it. Also drag a shaky head or jig ’n pig in the rocks before moving down the bank.

Around the point and upstream the water gets more shallow, and there are grassbeds along it. Fish them with a bladed jig and spinnerbait, and slow down and flip a creature bait into it, especially if you get a few bites showing where the fish are holding. Fish up to the big rock shelf.

No. 2: N 33º 21.431 – W 83º 10.123 — Go back out to the swimming area cove and stop on the upstream point in front of the bathhouse up on the bank. Fish from there into the cove to the back. The bank going in has rock and clay sections between grass patches.

Work the rock and clay with your crankbait, and then run a spinnerbait and bladed jig through the grass. Cole likes a 3/8-oz. double willowleaf blade War Eagle spinnerbait with two silver blades and a white skirt.

Also flip the grass. Bass will feed and bed in the water willows. Especially later in the month, some big bass will bed in the grass down this bank and in the back. The water will likely be too stained to see them, but they will hit a bait dropped into their bed.

No. 3: N 33º 21.315 – W 83º 09.987 — Across the cove on the downstream side of the swimming area, a short rock breakwater runs out from the bank. There is grass on both sides of it. Fish the end and both sides of it with a crankbait, spinnerbait and bladed jig, and then work the grass in the corners.

Fish up the bank out to the main-lake point. Fish will hold and feed along it. If current is moving either way, from generating at the dam or pumping back in the morning, work the current with your crankbait and spinnerbait. Position your boat so your bait moves with the current in a natural movement. Current moving on this bank and point and other places helps the bite a lot.

No. 4: N 33º 21.010 – W 83º 09.985 — Go downstream past the ramp into the cove on the other side of it. There is some grass along the right bank going in, and Cole will try it, especially if he has been getting bites in grass. But his favorite targets here are the bushes and wood in the water on the downstream bank of the cove.

The bank on this side is deeper, and bushes hanging into the water line the bank here. Bass like to hold in these bushes and feed as they move into the cove to spawn. Cole flips a ZCraw behind a 3/8-oz. sinker right against the bank where the base of the brush enters the water, as well as dropping it down into the middle of the cover.

Cole likes 17-lb. Trilene fluorocarbon to get the fish out of the cover. He uses a green-pumpkin bait in clear water but goes to a black-and-blue bait in stained water. Like in grass, he lets the bait hit bottom, jiggles it a few inches up off the bottom a couple of times, and then pulls it in to flip to the next target.

No. 5: N 33º 21.534 – W 83º 09.510 — Go across the lake, and start upstream. The first big cove on your right has two rip-rap causeways in the back with a rock point with a pavilion between them. This is a private Georgia Power Park. Go to the upstream bank of this cove, out near the point, and stop in front of the dead pine with the osprey nest in it.

This bank is fairly flat and shallow with some small secondary points on it. There are grassbeds along it where bass hold and feed. Stay out in 6 to 7 feet of water, and cast your spinnerbait and bladed jig to the grass. Cole uses a 3/8-oz. white-and-chartreuse ZMan ChatterBait with a silver blade and jerks it through the grass.

Also flip your ZCraw into the grass. Try hitting edges of cuts, little points and the thickest places in the grass. Look for a pattern within the grassbed, and it should hold on other places. Also look for little openings that might indicate beds and probe them.

No. 6: N 33º 21.455 – W 83º 09.375 — Go to the back of the cove, and fish the rip-rap and grass on the left side facing it. The rocks are covered by silt, but the grass in front of them holds feeding and bedding fish. Work it with moving baits, and flip it, too.

Fish around the point, casting to the small blowdown and ramp on the left side. Cast right to the seawall going out to the point, working a crankbait and spinnerbait over the rocks on the bottom, and then hit them with a shaky head or jig. Cole likes a green-pumpkin or junebug Trick Worm on a 3/16-oz. SpotSticker head.

Fish the dock on the point and the big boulders there. Then work down the right side of the point.

When you get to the rocks on that side, parallel them with a crankbait and spinnerbait. Wind blowing in on them helps.

No. 7: N 33º 24.825 – W 83º 11.221 — Run up Richland Creek past the two small islands in the middle until you see houses and docks on your left. On your right, one big boulder sits off the bank. Just upstream of it a good pocket runs back with a lot of blowdowns along the left bank that hold fish. Start out on the point, and flip all the wood cover all the way to the back.

Your boat will be in about 10 feet of water just off the ends of the trees. Watch your electronics for baitfish, that is always good sign fish will be in areas like this feeding. Use both a ZCraw and jig ’n pig to catch fish around the wood here. A spinnerbait run along the tree trunks is also effective.

No. 8: N 33º 25 442 – W 85º 11.352 — Farther up Richland Creek a big creek enters on the left side, the first big one on that side. Across from it on the right side is a small double cove. The middle point between the coves is very deep and has rocks on it. There is a small white sign with purple and green writing on a tree behind a green bush that reads “Castins Loser Cove” or something like that.

Stay out in 15 to 20 feet deep, the point drops fast, and fish a crankbait and spinnerbait over the rocks. Run both down the sides of the point parallel with the bank, starting right against the banks, and then out more and more each cast until you cover water 10 feet from the banks and 10 feet deep.

Then work them with shaky head and jig ’n pig. Out on the point watch for some tall stumps and brush—they often hold fish waiting to move up. Fish there with your jig and shaky head.

No. 9: N 33º 23.778 – W 83º 10.373 — Going back down Richland Creek past the two small islands, there’s a big open area on your left. New houses are quickly filling the old field. There is a small cove on your left, and the downstream point of it has big boulders on the bank. The bank downstream of the point has rip-rap in front of a wooden seawall.

Stop on the point and fish all over it with all your baits. Bass hold on the point before moving into the cove to spawn. Then parallel the outside bank rip-rap and seawall, casting all your baits to a few inches of water and fishing them back at an angle out to 6 feet deep. A DT 6 is good for bumping the bottom at that depth.

Hit grass patches along this bank with your flipping bait. Fish down to the boat house, and fish it with all your baits before leaving. Hit each post of the boat house with your flipping bait and crankbait. Docks like this one with no others near it are good.

No. 10: N 33º 23.305 – W 83º 09.793 — Go into Double Branches past the danger marker pole that’s on a hump off the bank on your left. Behind it another danger marker is on a big boulder just off a point. Go to that point and fish into the cove upstream of it.

This small creek has it all. There are big boulders, rip-rap, seawalls, points, ditches, brushpiles, stumps, docks and gravel bottoms to hold fish in March. Fish can move from cover to cover from the point to the back to spawn, or spawn along the bank in the cuts and pockets.

You can fish all your baits on all the cover here, spending a lot of time picking apart the small creek to find exactly where the fish are and what they are preferring that day.

Give these places a try in March. Bass are feeding good in all of them, and then you can find similar prespawn areas all over the lake.

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