Paradise PFA January Ghost Town Bassin’

The crowds go away, but the bass don’t—and they like to bite!

Craig James | December 29, 2023

Mike Spampinato and Robert Weeks with three Paradise PFA bass they caught while fishing with the Southern Bass Busters Tournament Trail.

As another 30-something-degree morning has arrived in south Georgia, and as I stare out my kitchen window, I can see the last of the daily frost slowly melting away. Beginning to peck at the old keyboard, I think it’s fair to start this story off by saying that January has to be as bad as it gets when it comes to fishing in Georgia. Cold, colder and coldest pretty much sums up the current situation in the Peach State, and probably will for the next month or two. Yes-sir, it might just be time to give up the fight, kick back the recliner and turn on the Bill Dance reruns until the warm days of spring are upon us again.

But… just know by doing so, you might be missing out on some of the best fishing of the year.

Paradise Public Fishing Area, just outside of Tifton, becomes a ghost town during winter months, and the normally very busy and heavily pressured PFA is more like a silent sanctuary for those willing to brave the cold. More than 60 lakes and ponds of various sizes that total up to several hundred acres of water are present, and for those willing to put on a jacket—OK maybe two jackets—the reward can definitely be worth the effort.

It’s been six years since I’ve ventured down to Paradise for a GON story, and I was pleased to find the area in as good or maybe even better shape than when I last left it. From the time you turn off the highway, well-manicured ponds and lakes are present in seemingly every direction. From ponds that a bank angler could nearly cast across to lakes that you would need binoculars to see clearly to the other side, this area literally has something for everyone.

Since it had been a while since my last visit to the PFA, my first move was to reach out to Dean Barber, WRD’s area manager for the PFA. Dean has been working at Paradise for the past 11 years, and he’s been the manager for the last five or so. He says the fishing now is as good as it’s ever been.

“We’ve got a lot going out here, and we’re always looking to improve something. Whether it’s doing fish surveys, putting in fish attractors or making sure anglers have ample bank access, we’re always working to make things better,” said Dean.

Dean said that anglers targeting both crappie and bass should have success this month by targeting isolated structure in deeper water.

“Every lake has brushpiles and different structure scattered all over the place. Of course, you can find them with electronics, but a big majority can be easily located by PVC pipes that anglers can see protruding out of the water,” said Dean.

For bass anglers, those simple PVC pipes protruding from the water are the ticket to get bit this month. By keying in on visible targets and fishing methodically, success can be had. Here’s a breakdown of a few of the best places to look for fish this month and the lure I like to use to catch them.

The Lure: Anglers will do well with traditional cold-water offerings at Paradise this month. Suspending jerkbaits, deep-diving crankbaits and slowly fished soft plastics all get the nod. I like to keep it simple, and pretty much all I’m going to throw in January is a weedless Ned-style jig head with a tiny stick worm. There’s a hundred different brands, and any of them will work. I do highly recommend the weedless jig head to effectively fish the heavy brush. When it comes to color, I like black with blue flakes, pb&j and anything along the lines of green pumpkin.

A tiny weedless rigged worm is the author’s go-to lure this month at Paradise.

Horseshoe 5: This pond has long been a favorite of anglers who visit the area, and it has a large population of fish in the 12- to 14-inch range. Start your search by pushing off from the boat ramp and heading to your left. You’ll see an isolated white PVC pipe protruding near the corner of the pond by the road. Fish the pipe slowly, and try to stay as far away as you can comfortably cast to avoid spooking fish. Be sure to circle the pipe and present your lure from as many different angles as possible. If it fails to produce, head back toward the ramp and you will see another protruding pipe just out from the ramp. Repeat the same process as before. This pond has PVC marked brushpiles all over it, and I like to work my way around in somewhat of a circle, doing my best to work each and every one. An important note is if you catch a fish, give that spot at least another 10 to 15 minutes before moving on as they will almost always be schooled up during winter months.

The pond has a few small islands that are also worth fishing, especially during warming trends as fish will move up on them as water temperatures rise. I like to use my kayak to get up next to the island, then make long casts to deep water, and then work my lure back slowly. It’s important to work all the way around each island as fish will move around day to day.

Directly behind the islands there is a long, thin peninsula that stretches out into the water. Be sure and make long casts up to it, and then work your lure back to deeper water. The PVC pipe to the right of the peninsula almost always holds some fish and is definitely worth making some extra casts to.

Lake Russell: This lake doesn’t get the local notoriety of other ponds at the PFA, but it’s worth dropping the boat in and making a lap. When you look out from the boat ramp, toward the far left there’s a pocket that normally will have some lily pads in it, and that’s where I like to start my search. Fish the PVC pipe in the middle of the pocket first, and then fish the small point adjacent to it. If that fails to produce, make a milk run fishing the other PVC pipes as you work your way around the lake. It’s important to note that the very back pocket of the lake is lined with lily pads that come a good ways out from the bank. If we get some warm January days, fish will hold on the deeper pad edges. I like to position parallel to the pads and make the longest cast I can to effectively work the edge. When you finish fishing the back pocket, there is a peninsula on your left as you’re heading back to the ramp that will often have fish holding directly in front of it in deeper water.

Lake Paradise: Often referred to as the “trophy lake,” it is catch-and-release only for bass. This large, open lake is littered with some standing timber and other structure. Lake Paradise averages about 6 feet deep all the way across and doesn’t have the deep water of the area’s other lakes. Fish anything and everything you can see slowly, and hang on, because there are some big fish in this pond. As a side note, avoid this lake on windy days as it is located in the wide open and is tough to fish when winds are strong.

Lake Patrick: Known by local anglers as “The Big Lake,” at 112 acres Patrick is the largest body of water at the PFA. The same PVC pattern applies and anglers will do well bouncing around and fishing the brush below the white protruding sticks. The islands are also a good place to look, and during the occasional crazy warm January weather, big female fish will move up and hold into 6 and 8 feet of water as they transition into prespawn mode. Another good place to put a fish or two in the boat is the boat ramp itself. Especially on sunny days, the ramp will hold heat, and fish will hold in the deeper water out in front of it.

Lake Patrick is the largest body of water at Paradise PFA. In January, focus on the PVC pipes, which mark brushpiles and fish attractors around the lake.

Horseshoe 4: As the old saying goes, I saved the best for last, at least in my opinion. Everything I know about Paradise, and especially Horseshoe 4, can be credited to my good friend Davey Allen. If that name rings a bell, you may remember the Paradise PFA story I worked on with Davey in the January 2017 edition of GON. It’s worth taking a look at if you have the time, and you can find it in the archives at

Horseshoe 4 is littered with the same PVC pipes marking structure as the other lakes mentioned, but Davey says as of late the fish can be found directly out from the boat ramp.

“The area all around the island is all good, but the channel between the island and the road is always going to hold fish,” said Davey.

He recommends working your lure slowly down the side of the island, making long casts from the island to the road. “Work it real slow from one end of that channel to the other. If you don’t get bit, put on a different colored worm and go back through there. Fish are always going to hold there,” Davey said.

The back section of pads in Horseshoe 4 will hold fish later in the month, and as we transition into February, there will normally be some quality prespawn females holding on the deeper edges of the pads.

It’s cold—no doubt about it—but the fishing at Paradise PFA can be red hot this month. Grab a jacket and a thermos of coffee. The fish are biting, and those Bill Dance reruns and the recliner will be waiting for you when you get back!

The author’s favorite place to fish this month is directly out from the Horseshoe 4 Boat Ramp. He says the area between in it and the road is a great place to get bit.

Cold-Water Crappie At Paradise PFA

The same structure that holds bass this month will often hold crappie. A chartreuse jig under a cork is hard to beat when fished slowly around visible PVC pipes. Anglers can expect plenty of fish in the 3/4- to 1-lb. range, and a few weeks before going to press, a monster 2-lb., 10-oz. fish was caught off the Lake Patrick pier.

“Anglers typically do pretty well fishing off the pier in Patrick.  We have a bunch of cover that’s sunk out there in about 9 feet of water, and anglers fishing minnows and jigs 4 feet or so under a cork often catch some nice crappie,” said Dean Barber, area manager.

Dean said trolling jigs in Lake Paradise and Lake Bobben is also productive, and though the crappie in these lakes run a little smaller, they’re present in pretty impressive numbers.

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