Shallow Summer Bass On Lake Sinclair

Fish grassbeds early and then hit the shady docks for sunburnt bass.

Ronnie Garrison | June 29, 2022

Niles Murray likes to catch bass shallow, making Sinclair’s grassbeds and docks favored destinations for a July trip.

Catch July bass early on seawalls and in grassbeds, and then get them under docks when the sun is bright. That simple plan will put bass in your livewell consistently on Lake Sinclair in the hot summer sun. Two other potential patterns that can sweeten your day are bedding bream and hatching mayflies. Find the right bream bed or mayfly hatch, and you can catch a lot of good bass fast, even in the hot sun.

Sinclair is a 15,330-acre Georgia Power lake on the Oconee River that is lined with docks. There are lots of seawalls and water willow grassbeds between docks, and both offer good habitat for bass. Hydrilla has spread throughout the lake in the past few years, really helping the largemouth population.

Bass are mostly ambush feeders. They love to hold in grass or on the rocks along a seawall and wait on food to swim by. Seawalls allow bass to pin the bait against the wall, making for an easy meal. Bream and crawfish, some of their favorite foods, live in rip-rap rocks, too.

Bass do not like bright sun—their eyes have no iris to control the amount of light entering. Many bass head to deep water to reduce light, or they can seek low-light areas like shady banks or, even better, docks. Not only do the numerous docks on Sinclair offer shade, they offer cover like posts and brushpiles, and food is readily available around docks.

Niles Murray grew up in Griffin and owns Murray Realty.  For most of his life he was an avid bird hunter, but that got frustrating with lower quail populations in our state. About 15 years ago he joined the Spalding County Sportsman Club and got hooked on bass tournament fishing. He soon joined the other two Griffin bass clubs and now fishes most of the three clubs’ monthly tournaments. Niles also fishes the ABA/AFT Division 72 tournaments on Sinclair and Oconee and some of Tony Couch’s tournaments.

“I like to fish shallow for bass,” Niles said. 

He concentrates on main-lake and primary creek seawalls and grassbeds early, and then he goes to docks when the sun gets bright. Shady banks will also draw some casts all day long. And he is always watching for bream beds or mayfly hatches for targets of opportunity.

For fishing first thing in the morning, Niles has a topwater popper, a toad, a frog and a weightless worm ready. Once the sun gets up, he’ll fish squarebill and lipless crankbaits, a Texas-rigged worm and a shaky head under and around docks and bream beds. And the popper and lipless crankbait are always good on bream beds and mayfly hatches, as are the other topwater baits and the weightless worm.

We fished the following 10 spots the week before the ABA Championship, and Niles caught about 15 keepers before lunch. Most hit before 9 a.m. when he could fish fast and cover shallow water. We did not find any kicker fish and, unfortunately, that held up for him in the ABA tournament.  But he still placed 16th overall out of 43 of the best fishermen in the area.

No. 1: N 33º 12.161 – W 83º 16.117 — Go up the Oconee River past the powerlines at the mouth of Rooty Creek. Watch for a point on your right with two danger markers. Go to the downstream side of this point and start fishing where you can cast to the seawall on the end of the point.

This is an excellent place to catch bass early. It is on the main lake with deep water nearby and has grassbeds and rip-rap on the seawall where bass feed. Niles will start with a 1/2-oz. silver Pop-R and cast it within a couple of inches of the wall. Be ready, sometimes a bass will grab it as soon as it hits the water.

Work the popper back to the boat with quick snaps, moving it fast. When you get to the grass, switch to a frog or toad and fish them through the grass.  Also try a weightless Trick Worm, working it to the edge with quick twitches. Then at the edge of the grass pause and let it fall a little.

Fish three-quarters of the way into the cove, and then go to the other side. The downstream side is best. Niles says he has never had much luck in the back of that cove. He concentrates on the seawall and grass on the outside three-quarters of the point on each side.

No. 2: N 33º 13.299 – W 83º 17.356 — Go up Rooty Creek to where a big creek enters on the right. Across from the mouth of it, on your left, a concrete seawall goes around a point. A small dock on the point has a lion statue on both sides of the walkway. Start at that dock and fish upstream.

Cast your popper right against the wall, fishing to the first grassbed.

Also try your weightless worm, casting it so it falls against the vertical wall. Rocks along the bottom of the seawall hold the food and bass, so cast close, let it sink a little, and then twitch it back to the boat.

Niles rigs a bright Zoom Trick Worm about 24 inches behind a big heavy swivel. He uses a heavy swivel to make the worm sink. He fishes it fast, working it deep enough that he can barely see it, but where he can see the flash of a fish grabbing it.

When you get to the grassbed, fish it with frog, toad and weightless worm.  Skip the worm under docks along the bank. There are a couple grassbeds and more seawall to fish. Work to the second main point upstream.

No. 3:  N 33º 13.791 – W 83º 17.793 — Go upstream to the main point on the right where the creek makes a sharp turn to the left. This big flat point has a rock seawall with scattered grass clumps. Fish the rip-rap early with topwater and a Trick Worm.

Although this point is shallow, bass will sit up against the rocks and wait on food to move. Try to hit as close to the bank as possible, bass often face the bank and if you hit behind them, they will either spook or ignore the bait.

When the sun gets up, go to the dock on the upstream side. Niles says this is a magic dock that always holds fish. He caught a keeper here by running his squarebill alongside it bumping the posts.

Niles likes to bump the posts on docks with a white, 1/4-oz. squarebill for reaction strikes. Also skip a shaky head and Senko back into the deepest shadows under it.


No. 4:  N 33º 13.979 – W 83º 17.815 — Go back into the next pocket to the right. It splits near the back. The right bank going into the right pocket is steep and drops fast into deep water. There is a brown dock with an anchor-shaped sign saying “Dasher” on it in front of a big white house. There are rocks on the bottom all the way from the dock around the next point in the cove and some overhanging bushes, too. There was a good mayfly hatch here when we fished.

Start at the dock fishing your squarebill, shaky head and Texas-rigged Senko around the dock. Skip your shaky head and Senko as far into dark places under the dock as you can.

After fishing the docks, fish down the bank around the point, keeping your boat in 14 feet of water and covering the rocks from the bank out to 12 feet deep.

Bounce your shaky head along the bottom and drag a Senko along, trying to hit every rock.

Here and other places, if mayflies are in the overhanging bushes, cast your popper under them and work it like a bream eating bugs.

That should draw a strike from any bass feeding there.

No. 5: N 33º 13.996 – W 83º 17.113 — Go back downstream to the big creek across from hole 2 and go back to the small cove on the right where it doglegs left. Start at the pocket and fish the bank on the right going in as you go out. Niles likes to idle to the back, and then fish out since it is easier to cast over the front of the boat.

Fish the seawall, grassbeds and docks as you go out to the second small cove. The first point has grassbeds on it as well as wood in the water. Fish all the wood carefully here and anywhere else.

Niles likes to try both a toad and a popping frog—sometimes one gets bit better than the other. He rigs a white Zoom Horny Toad and fishes it steadily, making it gurgle as it swims through the grass.

Fish out to the next small cove on this bank.

Fish all grass, seawalls, wood and docks. Watch for patterns within the pattern. Are you getting bit on a certain post on different docks?

Or on a point in the grass? If so, concentrate on those spots.

No. 6: N 33º 12.642 – W 83º 16.011 — Go back out and start up the river. Watch for an old dock on the upstream point of the third small cove on your left. It is in front of a cement seawall. The old dock is covered, offering more shade, and there is a smaller walkway dock on the upstream side of the covered dock.

Stop downstream of the dock and fish the grassbed there, then work up the seawall to the dock. Since this is right off the old river channel there is good deep water close by for bass to move to quickly. Old docks like this are especially good, since they usually have lots of underwater cover, and most of the cover will have algae on it that attracts baitfish.

Skip your shaky head and Senko under the dock into the shadows after running your crankbait down the posts.  Niles got a keeper here on his Senko. He rigs a 1/8- to 3/16-oz. sinker ahead of a green-pumpkin 5-inch Senko, and he puts a bobber stopper ahead of the sinker to keep it in place.

Hit the deepest shade and also bump every post. Niles likes boat wakes hitting the docks, they seem to confuse the baitfish and turn on the bass, and you will have them in July so take advantage of them. Wind on any of these places also helps as long as it is not too strong. Docks are better in bright sun since it concentrates the fish.

Fish into the cove, hitting grass and any other cover. Watch for bream beds here and other similar places. If bream are bedding, there is a good chance a bass is hanging around waiting on an easy meal. A popper, frog or toad will draw strikes, as will a weightless worm worked over the bream beds.

No. 7: N 33º 13.936 – W 83º 18.038 — Going up the river it makes a slight turn to the left. Just before the turn starts a three arm is on your right.

Go to the point between the downstream arms where a red runabout hangs under a brown dock.

There is a wooden seawall around the point and grass is in front of it. Start fishing at the dock.

Fish the dock then work the grass. Fish around the point into the upstream arm, working all grass and wood cover. Fish the docks in this pocket around to the main-lake point on the other side.

Watch for mayflies and bream beds.

One trick Niles uses is to run a lipless crankbait like a bream-colored Red Eye Shad fast through the beds to draw reaction strikes. Sometimes bass will hit a fast-moving bait when their bellies are already full.

No. 8: N 33º 14.128 – W 83º 14.990 — Go to the upstream point of the upstream arm of this bay. Start fishing down the bank about halfway where a big old blowdown runs out across a grassbed.

Niles says he has not caught much here, but it looks too good to not hold fish at some point, with grass and wood cover on a deep bank.

Fish past the small ditch to the dock on the other side of it.

Niles says he had caught a lot of bass here from the docks and grass around them to the back of this arm.

Use your topwater and weightless worm in the grass and fish squarebill, weightless worm, shaky head and Senko on the dock.

Niles rigs a green-pumpkin Trick Worm on a 3/16-oz. head, and he dips the tail of it and his Senko in chartreuse JJ’s Magic.

That color looks like the flash of bream fins in bright sun and helps get bites.

No. 9: N 33º 16.902 – W 83º 13.885 — Run up the river past Crooked Creek through the sharp turn to the left. When the river turns back to the right, go straight ahead to the split creek.

Head to the back of the right split and start fishing back out at the dock that has a silver tin roof—the one that’s downstream of a red-roofed dock.

It is shallow back here, but bass feed along this bank all summer. Niles told me in one tournament he came in here with an empty livewell with just a couple hours left to fish and caught a limit working his way out.

Fish all the grass, seawalls, docks and any other cover with the appropriate baits. Your boat will be in about 9 feet of water out in front of the docks while casting to them.

Work out until the bank gets real shallow and there is less than 3 feet of water on the front post of the docks. A bream-colored popping frog will work on every kind of cover you fish as well as bream beds and mayfly hatches.


No. 10: N 33º 16.165 – W 83º 13.438 — Go back down the river and stop at the dock on a steep bank with a double wall on the bank above it on your left.

One wooden wall is on the water and the one above it retains the steep bank.

The water is deep along this bank all the way to the next small creek on that side.

Start fishing at the dock, hitting grass, seawall, rocks, wood and any other cover with the most suitable baits to fish it.

Fish about 200 yards down this bank to the mouth of the next creek.

These places were producing keepers a few weeks ago and you can catch them there, now. Give them a try for July Sinclair bass.




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