Pitch Docks For Lake Oconee Winter Bass

Ronnie Garrison | December 29, 2023

Conner Lopez with a 4.66-lb. Lake Oconee largemouth caught at location No. 9 while fishing with the author for this article.

Start your new year right pitching jigs around docks to catch some quality largemouth on Lake Oconee. The 14-inch limit at Oconee means there are many 2-lb. bass to give you a good fight in the cold water, and there are many bigger bass, too.

Lake Oconee’s 19,900 acres formed by the Apalachee and Oconee rivers right in the middle of our state has 374 miles of shoreline. It is hard to find much of that shoreline that is not lined with private docks with seawalls behind them. Since docks and seawalls are the predominant shallow cover on the lake, bass feed around them daily.

Oconee is unusual in having pumpback at the dam, as well as a new oxygenation system. Water flows downstream when power is being generated, but then flows upstream when water is being pumped back from Lake Sinclair. This almost constant current can make the bass feed more consistent.

Conner Lopez is a junior at Houston County High School and is in his second year on the bass fishing team. Although he did some pond fishing, YouTube videos got him interested in bass tournament fishing a couple years ago.

Conner’s dad Scott agreed to get a boat and start fishing with him, as well as being his boat captain, and Conner has done well, winning the Bass Nation High School tournament on Oconee in October. In addition to his high school tournaments, he also fishes local tournaments like the six-man team tournament on Oconee, and Conner does well against adult competition. He has learned Oconee well.

“Bass are feeding up for the winter in early January and still feeding when they get an opportunity all month long,” Conner said.

He wants to fish where the bass set up to chase shad early in the month, and they will be in the same areas later waiting on an easy meal.

Conner’s tackle selection is fairly simple. He has a jig, shaky head, jerkbait, bladed jig, crankbait and craw ready to fish. Those baits will cover any condition he encounters and allow him to fish any type of structure.

Docks are definitely Conner’s main targets, and he skips a jig, shaky head or Texas-rigged craw as far under them as he can. Between docks he can catch bass off the rip-rap on bladed jig or crankbait.

Conner recently showed me the following spots where he catches January bass. I was impressed how well he knew the lake and what to do. He did not have to have a boat captain give him constant instructions.

Although we were a bit early for this pattern, docks on Oconee always hold bass, and Conner landed several good keepers, including a 4.66-lb.kicker.

No. 1:  N 33º 23.276 – W 83º 12.847 — Going up the river from Long Shoals ramp, stop at the upstream point of the last small pocket on your right before going around the bend where the river makes a right turn. Start fishing at the dock with a blue canvas top, two jet skis and an iron rail fence behind it.

This is the kind of place Conner likes in January. The dock has posts to hold bass, the bottom drops quickly into deep water on the main river, and rip-rap lines the bank. All those give bass cover and feeding places where shad go up and down the bank.

By January most shad have moved to the main lake where they feed on plankton around docks and rip-rap. The docks also hold bluegill, and some crawfish will still be active so there is a variety of food for the bass.

Pitch your jig to every post you can hit, letting it fall on a slack line to the bottom. If you don’t get bit, shake it a little and then reel in for another cast. Bass don’t like to move far in cold water, so try to put your bait right in their face.

No. 2: N 33º 23.180 – W 83º 13.312 — Go up the river around the bend where the river makes a right turn. Watch on your right for the first small pocket and start fishing at the dock with no top. It is on a small point with rip-rap around the edge.

This is another good place with all the conditions Conner likes. Pitch a 7/16- to 3/8-oz. Spring Craw Sliderite jig with a Georgia Baits craw to each dock post on this and the next three docks upstream.

Use the heavier jig if current is moving either way, but use as light a jig as you can in the cold water. A slower-falling bait is often better, but if you’re not getting bit, try the heavier faster-falling bait for a reaction bite.

Current moving in either direction will help the bite, so adjust your boat position to fish your bait with the flow.  Conner caught a good keeper bass on his jig here when we fished. Also fish the rip-rap between the docks with a crankbait or bladed jig as you move between docks.

No. 3: N 33º 24.080 – W 83º 14.140 — Run up to the last big point on your left before the river opens up at the mouth of Lick Creek. This point is across from a small island and has natural rock as well as rip-rap around it. Start fishing the point by casting your jerkbait, squarebill crankbait or bladed jig to the rocks at an angle, and fish them to cover water from a foot to 6 or 7 feet deep.

Conner likes a Tennessee Shad Megabass 110 jerkbait and casts it very shallow, working it back with different cadences until the bass show him what they want. Clear water is important for the jerkbait, and he will go to a crankbait or bladed jig if the water is stained.

Fish into the cove on the downstream side of the point to the docks, and then fish them with your jig, shaky head or craw. The first dock has good deep water and may be best, but on sunny days the docks back in the cove may have warmer water that attracts the bass, so check them, too.

 No. 4: N 33º 23.765 – W 83º 14.778 — Go toward the marina in the mouth of Lick Creek, and stop downstream of it on the docks upstream of the small creek. These docks look like they are in shallow water, but they are deep enough to hold winter bass. Start at the white dock with a blue canvas top covering a pontoon and with blue chairs on the dock.

Fish upstream from this dock into the small ditch at the condos. Hit all the docks and rip-rap between them. Run a bladed jig like a chartreuse and white Z-Man Jackhammer in clear water, or a black and blue one in stained water, on the rip-rap from right on the bank out to 6 feet deep. A bladed jig allows you to cover the rip-rap quickly but efficiently in the cold water.

When you get to the point just before the condos, stay way out on the upstream side of the dock. An old roadbed runs out to 5 feet deep about even with the end of the dock and drops almost straight off. The top of it from the seawall out to 5 feet deep is rocky and rough, and you may get hung, but it holds bass.

No. 5: N 33º 24.519 – W 83º 14.379 — Go up the river to the first small cove on your right. It is just past the main point at the right turn at Lick Creek and the island at the turn. It has a dock with a black canvas cover in front of a house with a screened-in two-story turret on the left end facing it.

Start at this dock and fish upstream, hitting all docks and rip-rap. This is another area that is slightly shallower and warms from the sun, so it can be better when the water is very cold. The sun may warm the docks and rip-rap, but bright sun still pushes bass under the docks and positions them.

Current helps when it is running either way on these and other docks, and a little wind blowing on them can help, too. Position your boat to make casts and pitches taking advantage of wind and current. Also skip your baits as far under each dock as possible to take advantage of the deepest shade.

Between the docks, try a jerkbait, bladed jig and squarebill crankbait, and Conner will also swim his jig on the rocks. Keep it moving above the rocks and shake it constantly to make it “jitter.”

No. 6: N 33º 24.174 – W 83º 13.652 — Going back downstream around the bend to the left, watch for the start of a golf course on the right. Stop in front of a big three-story house with a balcony around the second story. The seawall in front of it is rock with rip-rap at its base. It and the docks along the bank downstream are good.

Fish them like the others. If the bass under docks are not hitting your jig, try a shaky head for a more subtle bait. Conner likes an Owner 3/16-oz. head and puts a green pumpkin or junebug Trick Worm on it. The Trick Worm skips well and falls differently than a jig.

Let the shaky head fall beside the dock posts, and then shake it in place when it hits bottom. The bases of dock posts are often set in concrete, and bass like that hard spot, so fish it carefully.

No. 7: N 33º 24.428 – W 83º 13.005 — Go across the lake and downstream past the marina to the small creek with the golf course in the back. Stop on the upstream point of this small creek at the dock with the gray canvas cover over a big black pontoon.

Fish the dock with your jig, shaky head and craw. Conner caught several bass on this and the next few docks. They are all good ambush points where bass hold and eat shad as they move back out of the creek as the water gets colder.

Also try bumping posts on the docks with a squarebill, as well as bumping rip-rap rocks with the crankbait. Conner will run a crawfish squarebill bait along the rocks and down the dock posts. A Shad Rap will work for this, too, but it will not bounce off posts and rocks like the squarebill will.

No. 8: N 33º 23.681 – W 83º 12.894 — On the next outside bend where the river turns back to the right going downstream, stop on the dock between two coves. There is a big house up in the woods and a big dock on the downstream side of it. Going into the cove past the dock, there are bushes that overhang the bank.

Fish the rip-rap on the point and then fish the dock. Also work into the pocket, skipping your jig under the overhanging bushes. Conner caught a nice keeper skipping his jig under overhanging bushes like this.

Anything that provides shade, from docks to bushes to a high seawall, can improve the bite. Even in cold water, bass often seek out shade as a feeding ambush spot, so never pass it up. But remember they may be on sunny rocks and docks where the sun warms the water a little, so check out sunny banks, but try to find small shady places on them.

No. 9: N 33º 23.232 – W 83º 13.357 — Go downstream to the big boat storage barn on the right before the river swings back to the left. Stop on the dock just downstream of the forklift boat launch dock, and skip your jig, shaky head and craw under it and under the next few docks going downstream.

These docks are shallower and get sun most of the day, so they do have water a little warmer than other areas. This is where Conner caught the best fish of the day, a pretty 4.66-lb. largemouth.

A Texas-rigged craw like a green-pumpkin 2.75 Jr Express Craw with some orange highlights can be good. Sometimes a more realistic plastic bait like this craw will fool a bass better than a jig, especially in clear water. Pitch and skip it under docks and around posts just like your jig.

No. 10: N 33º 22.381 – W 83º 13.864 — Go downstream past the next small double bay, and fish the docks and rip-rap from the downstream point of it. Work those docks like the others, hitting each dock and the rip-rap between them. These docks are not very deep, but they do have about 12 feet of water off the ends of them, a good depth for January.

Fish downstream and keep working these docks as long as you are getting bites.  A school of bass will often move into a line of docks and scatter to feed, so you can catch fish on multiple docks on a bank.

Try Conner’s methods, and then adapt them to the way you like to fish. There are docks all over Lake Oconee like these that hold bass during the winter months.

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