Quality Winter Bass At Lake Burton

Big spotted bass and chunky largemouth can be caught in surprisingly shallow water this month. Bring a drop shot, but be ready to catch ’em on a jerkbait.

Ronnie Garrison | January 8, 2018

Rocky points and brushpiles full of quality spots and largemouth feeding on shad and blueback herring. No, not Lake Lanier, but a little farther northeast at Lake Burton. Located near the mountain community of Clayton, Lake Burton produced the state-record spotted bass, an 8-lb., 2-oz. monster, in February of 2005.

Winter is a great time to catch big spots on Burton, and it has a surprising number of quality largemouth, too. Mixed winning tournament bags will often weigh more than 25 pounds, and the bass are easy to pattern and catch in January on this small lake.

Lake Burton is a 2,775-acre Georgia Power reservoir on the Tallulah River in Rabun County with 62 miles of steep, rocky shoreline. Big houses and double-decker boat houses line the lake, and there is a lot of wood cover like blowdowns and logs on the bank. Every point will also have man-made brushpiles, so there is good cover and habitat for spots and largemouth.

The illegal introduction of blueback herring has made the bass grow big and fat, and so far doesn’t seem to have hurt the bass populations. Trout in the lake provide another excellent source of high protein food for both species of bass. And there are plenty of shad for smaller bass to eat and get big enough to feed on the bigger baitfish.

Joe Thompson grew up and still lives 5 miles from the lake. He graduated from Young Harris College, where he was on the fishing team. Joe really likes to fish Burton, and he likes competitive fishing. When 9 years old, he started fishing tournaments with a junior bass club, and he started competing against adults at age 11 with his dad. They have done well in many tournaments on the lake and Joe fishes pot and benefit tournaments in the area.

For the past few years, Joe has fished BFLs and Costa Series tournaments, qualifying for the FLW Tour this year. In the past two years, he won as co-angler in the Costa Series at 1000 Islands and placed second as co-angler at Lake Chickamauga. He also has a third place and two seventh place finishes as a pro in BFLs, as well as a seventh-place finish in the Costa Series as a pro.

Joe Thompson shows off a quality largemouth and a beautiful spotted bass caught during his trip with the author last month.

“By January, most of the bass on Burton are holding deep, feeding on shad, trout and herring,” Joe said.

But he added that you can always catch some shallow, and those are the ones most actively feeding. They can be caught around rocks, docks and tree tops. You won’t catch as many fish shallow, but they are likely to be quality spots and largemouth.

For January, Joe will have his go-to cold-water bait, a jerkbait, ready to cast to shallow cover. A crankbait is also good if there is not too much of the slime moss that covers a lot of shallow cover. These two baits are much better when there is some wind blowing in on the cover.

For deeper water, an underspin, drop shot and shaky head will all catch fish. The shaky head and drop shot are also good for fishing more shallow cover when the water is flat.

We fished the following 10 places in early December, the week we had an early snow, and fish were biting on most of them. Now that the water is colder they will be even better.

No. 1: N 34º 48.726 – W 83º 32.970 — At the mouth of Murray Cove, a danger marker sits on a hump well off the bank on the upstream point. The channel swings by it, and there are stumps and seven or eight brushpiles on it that can hold bass. There is even a sunken boat on it that will hold fish. Since many tournaments are held at the Murray Cove Boat Ramp, released fish re-stock this area.

Start on the cove side, and work around the outside of the hump, keeping your boat in 30 feet of water. The big spots will feed, especially early in the morning, between the top of the hump and 25 feet deep, so cast an underspin like the Super Spin with a Berkley 3.5-inch swimbait in white or shad color toward the top of the hump, and run it just off the bottom back to the boat. Joe fishes his Super Spin on 12-lb. fluorocarbon line on a 7-foot Abu Garcia Fantasista rod and a Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel.

Watch your electronics for brushpiles, and fish them straight down with a drop-shot worm. After fishing around the point deep, get in a little closer to the top of the hump, and work it with a jerkbait, especially if there is any wind blowing on it.

No. 2: N 34º 48.333 – W 83º 32.752 — Going toward the dam, on your left upstream of Perrin Cove, there is a small main-lake point between two rock boat houses. The point is rocky and drops off fast, and there is brush around it. Stop well off the bank, and cast to it with a jerkbait. Watch for brush.

If there is wind blowing in on this bank and point, also cast a crankbait right to the bank. Joe starts with a Berkley Pit Bull and then goes to a Wild Thing, adjusting the depth the plug runs so it just ticks the bottom. With no wind, he will work a 3/16-oz. shaky head with a Bottom Hopper worm on it. Joe likes to dip the tails of his plastic baits in chartreuse JJ’s Magic.

Hop the bait down the rocks and through the brush. Also, fish brush under the boat with your drop-shot worm. Work all between the docks with different baits.

No. 3: N 34º 48.321 – W 83º 32.493 — A little downstream on your left Perrin Cove runs back from the lake.

In it two power lines make a “V” over the water and a single line is further back. Stop between the first set of the powerlines on the ditch, and work into it, casting your underspin ahead of the boat.

Early in the morning, bass will hold and feed in this ditch. After fishing it, try your shaky head around the wood cover on the bank if it is calm. Try a jerkbait in front of them and along the sides if wind is blowing in on them.

No. 4: N 34º 48.165 – W 83º 32.481 ­­— On the left side of Perrin Cove going out of it, there is a gray house on a round point with a small dock on the downstream side of it. There is a small spur of rock running out on this point. Stop a long cast out from this spur of rock.

Cast a crankbait and jerkbait to the point, and fish over it from both sides and the end. Joe fishes a Berkley Cutter 110+ to get down a little deeper with it. He likes the blue color with black back. Try different cadences with your jerkbait to see what the fish want.

Work over the point with a shaky head if the water is flat and calm. There is at least one brushpile on the left side of the rock spur, so probe for it.

No. 5: N 34º 47.984 – W 83º 32.825 — Across the river Cherokee Creek enters the lake. The upstream point of it is a round rock point with red-and-white bird house on the bank. The first dock upstream of the point on the lake side is a green two-story boat house. Stop near the dock at the green boat house, and fish downstream around the point.

There is a good bit of brush 6 to 7 feet deep with the lake at its normal 10-foot low pool in January. You will see some of it sticking above the water, but there is a lot more under the water.

Work a jerkbait over it when there is some wind, and fish a shaky head through it if it’s calm. On the point, right where it goes into the creek, a big tree lays under water on the creek side drop, so watch for it and fish it carefully.

No. 6: N 34º 48.727 – W 83º 33.274 — Back up the river across from the mouth of Murray Cove, a round point with a rock seawall and rip-rap is just downstream of a dock with white lattice panels on it. There is brush all around this point that holds fish. It drops off fast, and there is visible brush sticking out of the water with a lot more under the water.

Fish a jerkbait and crankbait out from the brush, and then fish your shaky head through it. The brush is very thick, and you will get hung. Joe sometimes switches to a light Texas-rig worm to lessen hang-ups.

No. 7: N 34º 49.452 – W 83º 33.495 — Going upstream, on your left on the downstream point where Moccasin Creek opens up, a round riprap point is just downstream of a dock with white lattice panels on it. There is a wood house with a green top on the point and a “No Wake” sign a leaning tree on the bank.

This point is flatter, with a hard clay bottom and scattered small rock. It is a good cranking point and even better when wind blows on it. The flatter bottom lets you keep your crankbait ticking the bottom longer. Try a shaky head on this point, too, especially if there is no wind.

No. 8: N 34º 49.765 – W 83º 33.766 — Going into Moccasin Creek on your left a very small island sits just off the bank. It has a rock wall around it and one pine tree sticks above the brush on the island. The channel is not far off the bank.

There is a good brushpile in 16 feet of water off the point of the island. Fish all around the point with a crankbait and jerkbait if wind is rippling the water, and fish a shaky head and drop shot if not. Joe will cast his drop-shot worm up into more shallow water and work it back down the slope, as well as dropping it straight down into brush. For water less than 15 feet deep, casting the drop shot is better than dropping it straight down so the boat doesn’t spook the fish. Joe ties a small hook about 16 inches above a 3/8-oz. sinker and puts a smelt color Berkley Twitch Tail worm on it. He says the Twitch Tail has excellent action for drop shotting. His main line is 15-lb. Fireline Braid and he uses a 8-lb. test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon leader about 15 feet long.

No. 9: N 34º 50.235 – W 83º 34.797 — A state trout hatchery is in the back of Moccasin Creek, and trout are released here, offering a good food for bass. Going toward it, a bay is on your left. It is the last open water to your left before the bank runs straight to the hatchery. The upstream point of the bay is rip-rap and an open boat house is on the bay side of the point.

Stop out from the upstream side of the point, and work around it with crankbait, jerkbait and shaky head. Going downstream, past the dock there are a lot of blowdowns on the bank that hold fish. Joe fishes his jerkbait out in front of the trees and then works his shaky head through them.

No. 10: N 34º 49.828 – W 83º 34.092 — Going back out of Moccasin Creek two small points are on your right where the creek is narrow. The upstream point has a US flag on it and a Captain Morgan pirate statue on the bank. Joe says they call this “Captain Morgan Point” for obvious reasons.

The upstream point is deeper and is better for a jerkbait. There is less of the slime moss on the downstream point, so a crankbait can be fished on it more easily. Fish around both with faster-moving baits when it’s windy and a shaky head and drop shot in calm water. There are also brushpiles on the points, so watch for them. These places were holding good fish a few weeks ago. Check them out now, and they will have even better fish on them.

You can see the car Joe found at Murray Cove Ramp with his Lowrance units and underwater camera the day we fished and following his fishing by search for him on Facebook.

Visit to get an eBook or CD with an article for each month of the year on Clarks Hill and Lanier.

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.