Seminole Hard-Bottom Spawning Bass
Knowing where to find spawning bass on Seminole is half the battle. Butch Tucker shares his keys for springtime success.
In south Georgia, the month of March can take on many different faces. One day shows signs of beautiful, spring-like weather. The next day, you will swear we are still in the firm grasp of “Old Man Winter.” All things considered, one thing is for sure: March is a month of change. The days are getting longer, and the nights are getting a little warmer. This causes water temperatures to slowly creep up. All these factors add up to one thing — spawning time for largemouth bass.
Catching largemouths on Lake Seminole during all phases of the spawn can provide some real string-stretching action. But finding where bass are bedding on a big lake with so much fishy-looking water can be a challenge to say the least. Butch Tucker breaks down Seminole so that even newcomers to the impoundment can get in on the March fishing action. The key is learning what structure to look for, and which baits provide the best odds for landing fish that can go from voracious feeding habits to lethargy and back again in the matter of a few days.
Lake Seminole is located in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Because of its geographic location, Seminole begins to feel the effects of spring much sooner than other lakes throughout the state. While some spawning activity will begin in February, things usually hit full stride in March, making this month a prime time to catch a trophy largemouth. Big, egg-laden females will be prowling the shallows in search of nesting sites, making them more vulnerable now than any other time of year. This is what makes Lake Seminole one of the most sought-after spring fishing destinations in the entire country.
Butch, a professional tournament angler from Moultrie, has credentials second to none, with many notable achievements coming on Seminole. In 2002, he posted an impressive win on Seminole with a five-fish limit weighing 27 pounds in the Wal-Mart BFL Tour event held in late February. In 2004, he registered another top BFL finish on Seminole, a second-place catch totaling 20-lbs., 7-ozs. Proving he is a versatile angler, Butch won yet another BFL event last year on Lake Oconee. Simply put, Butch knows how to catch fish and win tournaments. Not just on Lake Seminole, but wherever he fishes.
Butch competes primarily on the BFL Tour, where he has racked up winnings in excess of $15,000 in the last five years alone. He also competes on larger stages, having participated in both Everstart and B.A.S.S. Open events in past years. Read on as this very accomplished and highly respected angler explains how he fishes Lake Seminole during March.
Lake Seminole is a big, sprawling reservoir featuring deep channels, shallow flats and many protected backwater ponds and sloughs. Cover is abundant in the form of standing timber, stumps and the non-native grass, hydrilla. For the newcomer visiting Seminole, these characteristics can be both confusing and overwhelming. Knowing what to look for and where to find it is paramount to an angler’s success. As previously mentioned, March bass will be in some phase of the spawn. Spawning bass on Seminole, as well as on other lakes, will be seeking a hard bottom on which to build their nests and lay eggs. Finding this hard bottom, particularly sand, is the first and most important step in locating bass.
“You need to look for backwater areas that have some sand patches, ideally with some deep water close by. There are areas in Fish Pond Drain that have a lot of good bedding features, especially back in Ray’s Lake. There is also some good spawning water in Chimney Islands, especially around Joe’s Island. Saunders Slough and Carl’s Pass are also very good,” Tucker explained.
Fish Pond Drain and Ray’s Lake are easily found on a lake map, however the other areas mentioned require a little explanation, especially if you are not familiar with the lake.
The Chimney Islands area is located to the west of Fish Pond Drain. Looking at a lake map, find the point where the Spring Creek boat run intersects with the Fish Pond Drain boat run. Directly west of this point, you will see an expansive shallow area dotted with many islands. This is Chimney Islands. This area features shallow flats covered with stumps, hydrilla, reeds and lily pads. The area also has some sink holes or depressions where you will find deeper water. Sandy spots or sand bars are the key features that will concentrate spawning bass.
Saunders Slough is west of the Chimney Islands area, and it can be accessed from Chimney Islands. The easiest way to get back into Saunders Slough, however, is to enter off of the Chattahoochee River. Looking at your map, the entrance to Saunders Slough will be the marked boat run running northeast at the southern most intersection of the new and old Chattahoochee River channels. This run will allow you to navigate all the way to the very back of Saunders Slough. This area is much like Chimney Islands, and you will be looking for the same features here. Enter any of the ponds or pockets off of the boat run, and begin your search.
Carl’s Pass is a maze of islands and backwater ponds located between Spring Creek and the Flint River. It lies between the Georgia Duck Refuge Island and the Fort Scott Islands, marked as such on any lake map. The easiest access is from the Flint River side. There are no marked channels, and only anglers with extensive knowledge of Carl’s Pass should ever attempt to navigate here with their boat on plane. This area, as with the others mentioned, offers shallow water with vegetation, timber and deep-water depressions. Again, the key element that concentrates spawning bass are areas with sand.
Now that we know what to look for and where to find it, how do we go about catching some fish?
“I like a light Carolina rig for fishing the sand bars. A 3/8-oz. weight and a short (12- to 18-inch) fluorocarbon leader. I usually use a six-inch lizard in green pumpkin, watermelon seed, or watermelon/gold flake. A Zoom Baby Brush Hog or Trick Worm in the same colors are also good choices. I also like to fish a 3/8-oz. spinnerbait. White, white/chartreuse or smoke are the skirt colors I prefer. For the blades, I like either a double willowleaf or a No. 2 Colorado and willowleaf combination,” Butch says.
These baits and techniques are most effective when the bass are in pre-spawn mode. However, the same tactics will catch fish that are actually on spawning beds that can’t be seen. The best sand bars for this application are usually five- to seven-feet deep.
Keep in mind that these sand bars or spots don’t have to be very big to be productive. A sand spot the size of your television set can produce several fish.
In addition to spawning on these spots, the fish will also use them as feeding zones. Bass will hold in the grass adjacent to sandy-bottom areas where they can hide and ambush prey that swims across open water. These areas will hold fish as soon as the water warms into the mid-50 degree range, and bass will remain here until well after the spawn. Areas that have depressions with deeper water are magnets for the bass when the lake is blasted by cold fronts. Instead of leaving the area, the fish will just congregate in the depressions where deeper water can be found.
When all of the conditions get just right, the fish will move onto beds to spawn. Most of these fish will be in water that is three-feet deep or less, but some will bed in water that is five- to seven-feet deep. The deeper fish may not be visible, but they can be caught with the Carolina rig or spinnerbait as mentioned. The shallow fish, on the other hand, will most likely be visible where sight-fishing tactics will work.
“If you are sight fishing for bedding bass, a jig is hard to beat. I like a heavy jig that will stay in the bed, like a BassStalker. It will sit up in the bed, and you can shake it. When you are around beds or in a good bedding area, and the fish aren’t locked on, you need to be throwing a paddle-tail worm, like a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm. You can’t beat them in clear water. Sometimes the big females will be sitting just off of the beds either before or after spawning and they will nail the swimming worm. You can also get strikes by swimming the jig back to the boat after fishing a bed. Don’t just reel it back in fast, swim it back. This can produce some big strikes.”
Topwater lures, such as Bang-O-Lures and buzzbaits, can also be productive, especially early in the morning or on cloudy days. Under these low-light conditions, bass will usually roam around and not relate tightly to spawning beds.
There are countless areas on Lake Seminole that offer the ingredients that will attract spawning bass during March.
The Flint River arm all the way up to Bainbridge offers many backwater ponds and sloughs where bass will spawn. The sloughs and ponds off of Spring Creek are good, as are the ponds off of Wingate’s run that connects the Flint River to Spring Creek. The Holly Isles area between Fish Pond Drain and Spring Creek is also worth checking. You could spend an entire month on the lake and not investigate all of the potential spawning areas. The areas outlined are just places to get you started and to show you what to look for. After investigating these areas and seeing what to look for, you can go and find your own hot spots. All it takes is a little time and effort.
In early-February, the fish weren’t yet on this pattern, but they are on their way. Although we had experienced some warm weather, the cold fronts had blasted the area and the water was still cold. In fact, the water temperature was 47 degrees! Cold water, especially water this cold, really acts to shut down the Florida strain bass that inhabit Lake Seminole. But by the time you are reading this article, the backwater areas mentioned are likely to be warm and full of big bass ready to attack your baits. Try to schedule your trip during times of stable, warm weather. Also keep in mind that the strongest spawning occurs around both the new and full moons.
“This time of year can be feast or famine. But when the water, moon and days are right it can be unreal. There are tremendous numbers of 4- to 6-lb. fish in Seminole right now. It’s simply a matter of timing during this time,” Butch said.
That’s sage advice from one of Seminole’s best fishermen. Take his advice, along with the tactics outlined in this article, and use it to unlock the potential of one of the best bass lakes in the country.
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