Paradise PFA Bass Great For 2003

Lakes Patrick and Bobben are not the lunker producers of days gone by, but at this rate those days could return sooner than you think!

GON Staff | March 26, 2003

Paradise Public Fishing Area (PFA) is still and always will be one of the jewels of Georgia’s PFA program, even if its glory days of monster-bass fame are history for now. But this spring the PFA is well on its way to reclaiming that honor.

When Paradise PFA was first purchased by the state in 1989, its 76 lakes totalling more than 500 acres were already notorious for big bass. Fish over 10 pounds were not rare, and 13-pounders were showing up now and then. Under DNR Fisheries management, the quality of the public fishing improved. In March of 1995, GON reported on six bass over 10 pounds caught in a three-week period, including Jack Chandler of Kathleen’s 13.85-lb. monster, a 12.75-lb. sow caught by Ronnie Wynn of Warner Robins, and other huge Paradise bass.

All of these fish came from the PFA’s crown jewel, 112-acre Lake Patrick, the largest lake on the property. At 61 acres, the next largest, Lake Bobben was also a big-bass producer. But at the time there was bad news brewing: the dams and drain structures on both of these large lakes were extremely old, and major leaks were developing and growing larger. To avoid a complete blow-out, DNR was faced with the necessity of draining both lakes and making major repairs to the dams.

In late 1998, the job began. Many of the very largest bass in Lakes Patrick and Bobben were removed with electrofishing equipment and transported alive to 46-acre Lake Paradise. But otherwise the wonderful bass fishing in Patrick and Bobben would be wiped clean. After being refilled and restocked, the lakes reopened to fishing last May. Because they were no longer the monster-bass producers of old, some anglers grumbled that DNR had ruined the PFA with their management.

DNR says that they had no choice. The repairs had to be made. And secondly, the changes will ultimately make better lakes of both Patrick and Bobben.

“The nicest thing about those lakes now is that they hold water,” said PFA manager Charles West. “Before the repairs, going into the spring we’d have a lake that was full pool, and we had so many leaks in the drain structure by the end of the summer, the lake would be down three feet or more, and that would encourage the weeds to grow in the upper end of Patrick especially. A lot of the bass fishermen like to have some good weed cover, but this was to the point that you couldn’t fish the upper end of Patrick, and the water level would get down to the point that the average depth in that upper end was only a couple of feet.”

Now, Patrick and Bobben hold water, as long as it falls from the sky. Despite the drought, both lakes refilled, and according to Charles all of the lakes on the PFA look the best they have looked in four years.

In both Patrick and Bobben, the bass population is growing fat on an ample food supply.

“Bobben initially was slow to fill, and it was not in as good as shape for fish population as Patrick was when we opened it in May,” said Charles. “We had water on Patrick earlier, and the fish did a little better. But reports from fishermen are that the fish are in good, healthy shape in both lakes, they look like they’ve got plenty to eat.

“I’ve weighed some fish that would go seven pounds out of Patrick,” he added. “There were some nice fish caught that would go five pounds when we first reopened in May of last year. I’ve seen some fish come out of there just recently, in February, that were six pounds. I had a couple come up here with some fish they wanted me to weigh, and they were five and six pounds. This spring, there’s not going to be many caught much bigger than that.

“Initially the fishing was really good in both Patrick and Bobben. The bass seemed to bite anything they’d throw at them, but that’s typical when you first open a lake. That was a good time of the year, too. This will be the second spring that Patrick has been open, and I’m anxious to see how fishermen are going to do. The bass may not be as willing to hit a lure as they were last May, but there are plenty of them and they are growing.”

Local angler Jack Hooper had the same thing to say about Patrick — the bass are fat, healthy, and growing, and it’s amazing that the lake is already producing fish in the 6- to 7-lb. range.

The fact that Jack fishes at Paradise is testament in itself to the quality of the fishing there. He’s only a local for four to six months a year, when he resides at a nearby RV park and fishes the PFA almost daily. The rest of the year he’s at home — in Devizes, Wiltshire.

That’s in England.

Jack and his wife Doreen discovered Paradise PFA on one of their RV tours around America several years ago. They like the bass fishing they found so much that they return annually before Christmas and stay until May, just to fish Paradise.

When GON talked to Jack in late February, he had just had a fair day on the lake, catching “plenty of fish in good condition, up to about 2 1/2 or three pounds,” he said.

“Patrick and Bobben are in beautiful shape,” Jack said. “When they drew those lakes down the natural vegetation grew up, then they flooded them again, and the fish put on weight quickly. But we like the smaller lakes. There’s plenty of big fish, and they’re in fine condition in those lakes.”

Jack said he and Doreen have caught bass at Paradise PFA up to eight pounds, but they are still searching for their 10-pounder.

“There’s a couple of the smaller lakes which are really set up for specks and catfish and bream,” he said. “Horseshoe One and Two, you can catch the odd bass out of them, but when you get on to Horseshoe Three, Four and Five you’re getting into good bass fishing. There are some big fish in Horseshoe Four. And Lake Russell is good bass fishing. Of course, there are some big, old fish in Lake Paradise, which is where you have a 24-inch limit instead of a 14-inch limit on bass. There are still some good fish in there.”

Charles was less inclined to name the best bass lake.

“If I say one of those lakes is better than the other, and y’all print that, it’s going to push a lot of people in that direction,” he said, laughing. Then he offered a few picks, which were similar to Jack’s: “I’ve gotten some good reports off of Horseshoe Three, but I wouldn’t weigh it any better than Four or Five.”

Charles said there are occasional unverified rumors of a really big bass coming out of Lake Paradise. Whether or not any of the “imported” monsters were ever caught, Charles doesn’t know. When the fish were moved, speed was the key to ensure survival, and no one took the time to tag or mark the bass.

Jack said that when we talked to him, the water temperature in most of the lakes was still cold enough to make the deep-water bass fishing more productive than the shallows, but he said it wouldn’t be long before the bass would be up shallow looking for beds.

Jack’s approach to bass fishing at Paradise is simple: he sticks with a Texas-rigged plastic worm so that he can fish the extensive wood structure and vegetation found in most of the lakes. He likes standard colors like pumpkinseed and red shad.

“The thing is to vary the retrieve,” he said. “Some days you’re going to haul it back pretty quick and get them smashing at it. At the moment the water’s still pretty cold, and they’re not chasing anything. You need to fish slow, and you can feel the fish hit, but they’re not picking it up and hauling it across the lake yet. But they’re there and they’re feeding.”

If crappie or bream are more your style, Charles said that Lake Patrick is also producing good catches of crappie as you read this (Remember you’ll have to use jigs only — no minnows allowed on the PFA). The bream fishing was also excellent last year on Patrick.

Paradise PFA is a great place to take the family or young children for fishing. There are picnic areas, hiking trails and plenty of easy bank-fishing access for youngsters. Most of the lakes are well stocked with bream and catfish for easy success.

Paradise PFA is located eight miles east of Tifton. Follow Hwy 82 from Tifton and look for signs directing you to the PFA. The area is located off Brookfield-Nashville Road.

Nine of the 68 lakes open for fishing have a boat ramp, and at all of the lakes bank-fishing access is excellent. A few of the regulations you should be aware of include:

• Outboard motors are allowed on fishing boats but may not be run above idle speed.

• Anglers may not fish with more than two poles at one time (No spider-rigs for crappie!)

• Live fish may not be used for bait, including minnows and shiners.

• Daily creel limits per angler are 30 crappie, 15 bream in any combination of species, five largemouth bass, five channel catfish and 15 pickerel. There is a 14-inch length limit on bass, except in Lake Paradise, where no bass under 24 inches can be kept.

• In addition to a fishing license, anglers over 16 must possess a WMA stamp. This requirement is waived for a one-day fishing license.

The PFA is open sunrise to sunset all year.

For more info, here’s a 2012 feature article on fishing at Paradise PFA.

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.