Small Lake Profile: Lake Bennett At Marben PFA

Lake Bennett at the Marben Farm Public Fishing Area offers good bream and bass fishing opportunities. Hereʼs how you can get in on the action.

Brad Gill | May 1, 1999

Lake Bennett is one of 22 lakes scattered within the boundaries of the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center, also known as Clybel WMA. The 70-acre lake is the second biggest on the area, second only to the popular and heavily-fished Lake Fox. Bennett offers good bream and bass fishing. One of the attractive things about Bennett is that it gives you an outside chance that you will hook into that wall-hanger bass you’ve always dreamed about.

Bennett sits just below Lake Margery, the very waters where the second and fifth largest bass ever recorded in Georgia came from. When Margery was drained for dam repair in 1996, about 50 to 75 of Margery’s bass were put into Bennett. “The largest I can remember seeing was one we estimated to be 15 pounds,” said DNR Fisheries biologist, and former biologist for all the Charlie Elliott lakes, Scott Robinson.

GON decided to check out the lake, so on April 19 I fished Bennett with Scott. Besides being the former biologist of the lake there was another reason I asked Scott to be my guide for the day on Bennett. In April of 1997, Scott entered a 9.63-pounder in the GON Fishin’ Contest that came Bennett. It didn’t win the week, but I don’t think you’ll be hearing any bass angler complaining about putting one of those big boys in the boat.

When I met Scott at daylight at the boat ramp located at the north end of the lake, we weren’t greeted with the best of weather conditions. A cold front had just blown through. It was a cold morning with temperatures in the high 30s and the lake was literally covered with heavy fog. We knew right away that what we had hoped for, a Fluke or buzzbait bite, wasn’t going to be too effective on this morning.

We began fishing the channel in front of the boat ramp with Texas-rigged lizards and medium-sized crankbaits. Scott felt like the cold front may have pushed some of the fish back out from the banks. This was my first time on Bennett and my thought after about 10 casts or so with a lizard was “this lake feels like it’s just covered in all kinds of structure.”

DNR Fisheries biologist Scott Robinson with a sample of what you may catch on Charlie Elliottʼs Lake Bennett.

Scott told me the lake is full of stumps, stick-ups, logs, blowdowns and brushpiles from one end to the other, some underwater and plenty of visible brush. Although I could feel this cover with just about every twitch of my lizard, it wasn’t until we rounded the first point south of the boat ramp and the sun was burning through the fog that I saw what Scott had been talking about. Minus the hydrilla and a gator, I thought I had been warped down below Bainbridge and was floating on Lake Seminole. There were trees coming out of the water everywhere. “Yeah, there’s plenty of cover in here for the bass and bream,” said Scott.

Area No. 1 on the map is a cove on the backside of this point where Scott has traditionally caught bass in the past. Also, the mouth of this cove is the one place on the lake that Scott has caught more crappie than anywhere else on the lake. There is plenty of room out there for everybody to grab a tree and fish a minnow or jig. They’re not the slabs you see on Oconee, but you can load the boat on the right day.

Area No. 2 produced our first bass, about a pounder, an hour later on the eastern bank near the first wood duck box. I was throwing a Texas-rigged sand/chartreuse lizard and she nailed it as soon as it hit the surface. “That fish was probably on bed,” said Scott.

One thing Scott mentioned about slapping banks at Bennett is not to get too close to the banks. If you don’t fish the channel or down by the dam, the lake is relatively shallow and on several occasions throughout the day we saw a cloud of mud where our boat had spooked a fish. For the most part we threw at banks all day and I saw the depth finder stay consistently between 3-6 feet of water. Just get your best-throwing rod and stay as far away from the bank as you can and still be able to hit it.

Before we arrived at Area No. 3, near the second duck box, on the eastern bank, we had two more small, non-keeper bass decide a lizard was what they wanted for breakfast. Bennett is listed as a Public Fishing Area (PFA), which means there is a 14-inch minimum size limit on bass. Refer to pages 18-19 of the Georgia 1999-2000 Sport Fishing Regulations booklet for additional PFA regulations.

It took us several hours to work down to the big cove on the eastern shore. You can’t miss it, it sits just east of the dam. We both made a switch and started trying our luck for bream. I tied on a pink jig and Scott had a yellow/red combination. It sure didn’t take long to catch a few of these eager-to-bite fish. Although there was not much size to the bream they are always fun to catch and the lake is loaded with them. This cove is covered with plenty of places for bream and bass to hide.

Another good place to try your bream luck is Area No. 4. On your left when you come out of the cove by the dam is a point that extends about 100 yards out into the water. “People come down here and sit on that point with a worm on the bottom and catch plenty of bream,” said Scott.

Another good summer opportunity for all species of fish that can be accessed easily by bank or boat is the dam. With a deep drop-off you’ll find fish up on the banks early and you should be able to catch them on topwater baits. When the sun gets up, look for the fish to back off into the deeper water. For bass try a Carolina-rig or a crankbait and for bream a cricket or worm on the bottom should catch fish. Although there is not much visible brush by the dam there is plenty of it just under the surface. Bring a stocked tackle box when you fish Bennett. From personal experience, I can tell you that you’ll be forced to snap your line a few times.

We spent most of the early- to mid-morning trolling down the eastern bank, but we decided to crank up the big motor and go on over to the western bank and work back up toward the boat ramp. On Bennett you can have an outboard of any size on your boat, but you can only run it at idle speed, so make sure you have a charged-up trolling motor battery. Scott offers a word to the wise, and that is you may not want to back your $30,000 shiny, new bass boat in this lake. We were constantly bumping into underwater brush with Scott’s jon boat.

Coming up from the dam on the west side you’ll notice two stumps that stick up out of the water about 20 yards apart and they are 30 yards off the bank. This is Area No. 5. You can’t miss it because the biggest stump has an old wasp nest on it. There is a hump that lies right between these two stumps. On the first cast across the hump with a crankbait Scott caught a small bass. It was the only fish produced off the hump, but we did miss several fish on it.

It wasn’t until fishing this hump that we encountered our first fishermen of the day, a pair of bank fishermen that decided it was a perfect day to skip work. Being only an hour from Atlanta and just a few minutes from Covington, Bennett can be a tough lake to fish because it receives a good bit of pressure, especially on the weekends during the spring and summer. However, if you can get out there on a weekday as we did, you may have the lake to yourself. We only encountered one other boater on the lake during our trip and a small handful of people that were bream fishing on the dock located across from the boat ramp. By the way, they were catching them left and right using worms and a bobber about a foot above their hook.

After fishing the hump we continued fishing up the western bank a few hundred yards until we came to Area No. 6, three small cuts. This area was noticeably shallow, and we had to stay a good distance from the bank, actually fishing outside the mouths of the cuts. Scott had switched over to a Carolina-rigged cherryseed-colored lizard. It paid off when he hooked into our big fish of the day, a healthy four-pounder. After a short battle, we had her in the boat. Her tail was worn out from fanning a bed and her belly was just busting full of eggs. After a few photos, Scott carefully placed her back in the water and let her go back to her business. “That’s more like a Lake Bennett bass,” Scott said. “I can’t emphasize the importance of catch-and-release enough if the lake is going to continue to produce big bass.”

If you go to Bennett to bass fish you need to realize that more than likely you’re not going to catch a load of bass, but there’s always a chance that the next strike could be a lunker over 10 pounds. “I know there’s some in here that big,” said Scott. “I don’t catch a lot of bass, but the ones I catch are usually quality, in the 2- to 4-lb. range.”

We continued fishing the west side in search of another good bass, but the next strike wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. “It feels like another pretty good fish,” said Scott.

A minute later we were both laughing after he pulled a bullhead catfish in the boat that bit his Carolina rig. The lake isn’t known for its great catfishing, but obviously a few call it home.

If you want to fish Bennett take Hwy 11 south through Mansfield. Continue for 2.7 miles and take a left on Marben Farms Road. There is a sign-in board several hundred yards down on the right where you must sign in to fish. Continue on Marben Farms Road several miles and take a right on Murder Creek Road. Go about a mile until you come to Dairy Road. Go several hundred yards and take a right on Lake Bennett Road. This will take you directly to the northern part of the lake, which includes the boat ramp and a fishing dock.

If you’ve never visited one of the 22 lakes at Charlie Elliott, this summer provides you an opportunity to do so, and Lake Bennett is a great one to start with. Pack your bream and bass gear, load up with plenty of extra tackle and go see what Lake Bennett has to offer you. Who knows, maybe that 15-pounder is still lurking just below the surface.

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