Short-Pocket Docks: Danny White Talks June Bassing On Lake Sinclair
One of Lake Sinclair's best competitive anglers details his patterns for early-summer bass.
Like an aging prom queen, as a reservoir matures it goes through changes… and some aren’t so pretty.
Some are subtle and take years to impact fishing patterns. Other changes occur almost overnight. The anglers who know a lake best — that proverbial “like-the-back-of-your-hand” knowledge — are the ones who can catch fish when the old standby pattern isn’t working anymore.
At Sinclair, the old stand-by pattern for post-spawn, early-summer bass is fishing the deeper, isolated grassbeds. Bass-in-the-grass is a Sinclair standard, but this year that prom dress isn’t fitting just right. If you head to your old grassbed honeyhole, not even a GPS is going to help you find it — the grass ain’t there.
An extended drawdown of lake levels last fall and winter killed off most of the grassbeds. Don’t worry, they’ll grow back, but more than likely they won’t be back this summer.
Danny White of Milledgeville is one of those Sinclair anglers who knows the lake well enough to have back-up patterns to his secondary back-up patterns. As a successful tournament angler, he has to be able to adapt, or he’s not going home with a check.
Danny works for Georgia Power Co. at Plant Harley-Branch. For 14 years and until just recently, he lived on Lake Sinclair, and he’s been fishing tournaments there for more than 20 years. His success on Sinclair led Danny to try competing in bigger trails, and success at that level gave Danny the confidence to go for the major leagues of competitive bass fishing — the BASS circuit. In the past two seasons, Danny had three second-place finishes in BASS Eastern Open events. One bad tournament this year cost him a spot in the BASS Masters Classic.
“It was a terrible thing that it happened the way it did,” said Danny, who was in first place in the Eastern Open standings going into the final tournament at the Potomac River. “Fishing is unlike any other sport because of the variables. There comes a time when things are not going to work. I had found the fish. Found what they were biting. I just couldn’t get the bites I needed.”
Now that the BASS season has ended, Danny is back home and spending time on his home lake. In addition to competing in Sinclair tournaments, Danny and partner Ron Sims are running tournaments — the Sinclair Team Tournament Trail that fishes out of Little River Park.
“Sinclair is a changed lake from last year,” Danny said. “The water level was down long enough that a lot of the grass died. The fish are relating to wood and docks more than when the grass was there.
“There are still a few patches of grass, but not the good ones that are next to deeper water. Those were the really good patches that attracted the better bass this time of year,” he said.
“It doesn’t look like the grass will be back by June this year. Maybe this summer we’ll see it come back some, and certainly by next spring it will be back.”
We asked Danny to walk us through how he would approach a day on Sinclair this June.
“Starting out the day, the best thing right off the bat at daylight is to spend the early part of the day fishing rip-rap,” Danny said.
You’ll find rip-rap along some of the newer seawalls at Sinclair, but your best bet if you don’t know of those spots is to hit the bridges first thing in the morning.
“Little River Park is excellent,” Danny said. “Up the Little River, the railroad bridge is really good, and the rip-rap at Twin Bridges is good. Up the Oconee, the bridge right as you’re going into Crooked Creek is good.”
This is a good way to roll a bigger bass, and Danny has three baits he likes to throw on the rip-rap this time of year — a buzzbait, spinnerbait, and a crankbait.
On the buzzbait, Danny likes a small-profile lure, usually a single blade 1/4-oz., or maybe a 3/8-oz.
The spinnerbait he throws depends on the water color, but usually it’s a white/chartreuse 3/8-oz. spinnerbait with a chrome Colorado blade and a gold willowleaf blade.
“There’s a local guy making good spinnerbaits and buzzbaits — Bob Williams who I know through the Baldwin Backlashers club. He’s really got it together. He’s not selling them yet, just making them for himself and a few friends,” Danny said.
“The 200 Series Bandit is probably one of the best crankbaits there is on Sinclair this time of year. It goes down about six feet. The chartreuse with the blue back is the one I use. It also comes with the good hooks on it, so you don’t have to change them out.”
The rip-rap bite isn’t going to last very long.
“That is early. Once the sun comes up at all, it’s over, and then I’m going one of two ways, either up Little River or up the Oconee. I let the clarity of the water determine that. If we’ve had a lot of fresh rain, a lot of my stuff up the Little River area gets too muddy to fish, so I’ll go up the Oconee.”
I asked Danny how far up the rivers he’s talking about.
“It just depends. I let the fish determine how far up I’m going,” he said.
Generally, Danny said he’s going above the big bend in both rivers — up Little River the big bend is just before the railroad bridge, and up the Oconee it’s at Crooked Creek.
“Sometimes the fish are in the pockets before you get to the big bend up either river,” he said, but he emphasized that it is not how far you go up the rivers, but what areas you fish when you get up there.
“I go up the rivers and get in the smaller pockets off the main river. I’m not going all the way in the backs of the bigger pockets, just the little pockets right off the main lake,” Danny said. “The fish are spawned out. They’re still shallow, but they’re adjacent to something a little deeper.”
This is Danny’s primary pattern for June bassing on Sinclair, especially this year with the lack of grass.
“Once the sun gets up, I go to those little, short pockets go to flippin’ and pitchin’ to the docks.”
Danny will pitch a 3/8-oz. black/blue Bob Williams custom jig, or, if the bass aren’t taking the jig, he goes with a more-subtle presentation.
“A lot of times we finesse it down a little bit,” he said. “This time of year they might not be on the jig as good as they will be in the fall. They want a little lighter presentation. In that case I’m throwing a 1/8-oz. weight, pegging it Texas-rig, and using a screw-in Gambler weight with a rattle in it. It has a little point that screws down onto the worm to hold it. I use a Zoom Finesse worm, usually in green pumpkin. I also throw a 1/4-oz. Texas-rig on an 8-inch ribbon-tail type worm. Sometimes you just have to play with them and see. Everything will hit that Finesse. It will catch more of the smaller bass, but I’ve had plenty of good bass hit it, too.”
Danny said the key is the boat docks in the those short pockets that are off the main run of the lake.
“This might give away more than I should, but the key for me on this lake has always been the older docks,” Danny said, “the ones that have been there forever, the ones that are run-down and trashy-looking. The age of the docks is 90 percent of my success. Most of the times these older docks have trash and brushpiles under them. I’ll go right by a new dock — doesn’t matter how big or how much shade it has.”
Danny said there’s a pattern within the docks-in-the-short-pockets pattern, and that’s where the bass are relating to the docks in an area of the lake.
“If you find them on a certain post, more than likely that’s going to be your pattern. The fish might be out on the front post, but most of the time you have to get a bait back to them on the center or back post. But if you find them on a certain part of the dock, keep that in mind as you fish other docks.”
Getting a jig or a Finesse worm to the center or back post of a dock is much easier said than done. You need to learn how to pitch: the basics are to hold the jig in one hand with about a rod-length of line out, then use an underhand motion with the rod to send the bait low to the water with enough force to fly or skip way up under the dock. Like I said, much easier said than done. Practice in the yard.
Danny said a good rod makes pitching much easier, and he’s a man who knows something about rods.
“I started building fishing rods when I was 13 or 14 years old,” he said. “Where I grew up in the Miami area, the fishing was unbelievable. As kids we were wanting to throw bass-type tackle, and we were catching 100-lb. tarpon. Back then, if you went to buy something in a store, it was a kingfish rod. Nobody made bass-type tackle, so I starting making my own.”
When Danny settled in Milledgeville, he starting making and selling Bass Angler Custom Rods (I still have a couple), but the professional tournament circuit doesn’t leave him enough time to make his own anymore. Now he uses Lamiglass Handcrafted Fishing Rods. He matches the rod with a Castaic Flippin’ Reel. He uses 20-lb. Trilene Big Game line.
“You’re also going to have the groups of fish out on summertime structure that you can catch on a Carolina-rig,” he said. “I fish the same little areas, but on the points adjacent to the little pockets right off the main river. If I fish a couple of my prime pockets and don’t get bit, that’s when I move out and start throwing a Carolina-rig on the adjacent points.”
Danny’s Carolina-rig is a 1-oz. weight and about a 3-foot leader. “A Junebug Zoom Finesse worm is about the best all-around Carolina-rig bait. Redbug is also good. In clearer water, stay with the green pumpkin.”
“Most of these fish will likely be in six to 12 feet of water. Have the boat in 14 to 20 feet. Most of the points have something washed in or planted by fishermen. Those are the points that are holding the fish. They do get on the nothing clay points, but if there’s trash, that’s a plus.”
For some quality bass on one of Georgia’s better bass lakes, try Danny White’s June plan. Start on the rip-rap, then head up one of the two rivers and fish the older docks in the short pockets. And if that doesn’t work, you can always drag a Rig.
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