Sinclair Bass Red Hot In April

Ricky Layton marks a map with 10 GPS spots to set your pattern.

Ronnie Garrison | March 27, 2020

The bass spawn, shad spawn, seawalls and grassbeds—March Madness didn’t happen this year, but pay attention to these “Final Four” at Sinclair this month, and you can have a personal best catch of bass. Sinclair had been on fire this year for quality fish, with five-bass limits in the low 20s just placing, not even winning, in tournaments.

Sinclair is a 15,330-acre Georgia Power Co. reservoir on the Oconee River near Eatonton.  It’s directly below Lake Oconee.

For years a coal-fired power plant warmed the water in the winter, and bass clubs flocked to Sinclair in January. The power plant is gone now, but another change had made the bass population go from tournament catches that used to average 10 pounds to double that.

Hydrilla got in the lake about the same time the power plant stacks came down. Although it is sprayed aggressively, hydrilla has increased the cover for young bass and the food available to them. Shoreline water willow and dollar pad beds are still also widespread and play a major role in April fishing as they always have on Sinclair.

Ricky Layton with a Sinclair bass caught at location No. 2 on his April map.

With all the rains this year, the river has been very muddy, and creeks that are normally clear are heavily stained. But it has not slowed down the bass. In the Berry’s Feb. 1 tournament, it took 25.44 pounds to win. Third place was 19.85, and big fish was 6.48 pounds.

Ricky Layton lives in Macon and has worked for the Cocoa Cola Company for 34 years. He started fishing tournaments when he was 17 years old and was a long-time member of the Procasters Club in Macon. Over the years in the club, Ricky made the State Federation Team seven times.

In the Federation National Championship a few years ago, he finished fourth overall and only one spot away from qualifying for the Bassmasters Classic. Fishing other tournaments, he has won two boats over the years and was the top-finishing Ranger Cup angler in the Federation Nationals in 2001. Last April, he and Justin Lanier won an April Berry’s tournament with five fish weighing a little over 19 pounds.

“April fishing keys on the shad spawn,” Ricky said.

April is the best month of the year for catching bass on Sinclair. No matter what your skill or experience level, you can catch a lot of bass—with some big ones—this time of year.

At the end of March, many bass are moving to the spawning pockets. Some will be on the bed in early April. Many will spawn around the full moon April 7, so you will have prespawn, spawning and postspawn fish all during the month.

“The full moon early in the month means a collision of longer days, warmer water and shallow-water fishing,” Ricky said.

The bass start spawning when the water hits 62 degrees, and the shad spawn between 60 and 70 degrees, so both prey and predator are shallow this month.

Since bass are already up shallow on their spawning cycle, they are ready for the shad that spawn. Seawalls and grassbeds near points are key shad spawn areas, so look for those kinds of places near bass spawning pockets. The shad will spawn early before the sun gets on the water, but the bass will be in those areas all day.

“We have not had the real cold weather this year for a big shad kill, so there should be an abundance of them spawning, producing better than normal April fishing,” Ricky said.

This year should produce some great April catches.

Ricky has several go-to baits for April based on the shad. A spinnerbait, topwater plug and swim jig are all excellent for catching bass around spawning shad. He will also have a bladed jig for working grassbeds when the fish want something a little more subtle, especially after the sun gets up.

“The early morning bite is fast and furious,” Ricky said.

Many tournaments are won the first two hours in April. After the sun gets up, it is transition time. Ricky likes to fish docks, walkways and seawalls for bass on the bed. Although the water is likely to be too stained to see the fish, they will be there, and you can catch them.

For those fish Ricky will rig a Senko, Trick Worm or Ultravibe worm on a jig head or light Texas rig and skip it under docks and around seawalls. Even after they spawn, bass will hold under the docks, not moving much as they regain their strength, and they will hit a bait skipped to them.

Ricky took me to Sinclair the first week of March, one of the few sunny days around that time. A hard cold front came through the night before with high winds, usually a killer for fishing, but we had an incredible day. We caught a bunch off these places, and Ricky’s best five bass weighed a conservative 28 pounds. These locations will be even better now.

No. 1: N 33º 10.055 – W 83º 15.367 — Go into Nancy Creek to the second big point on your left. There are two big houses on it, one brown and one beige. There is a UGA flag on the point and a wood seawall runs around it. This round point between two spawning pockets is the perfect set-up for bass feeding on shad this month.

Start on the right side of the point, casting spinnerbait, topwater and swim jig right to the wall. Ricky says it is important to hit the wall with your bait. Bass seem to sit there facing the wall and will not hit your bait if it lands behind them.

Work down the seawall to the flag, and then watch for grassbeds going into the pocket on the downstream side. Run your spinnerbait, bladed jig or swim jig through the grass. Shad will spawn in it, too. After the sun gets up, skip your worm under the docks, hitting every post.

No. 2: N 33º 10.275 – W 83º 15.438 — Across the creek and a little downstream, another round point with good spawning pockets near it is in front of a big house with a rotunda-style center section. There is a “For Sale” sign on the point surrounded by a wooden seawall where shad spawn.

Start near the sign and work into the pocket on the downstream side, casting right to the seawall. Ricky likes a four-bladed spinnerbait during the shad spawn and goes with chartreuse and white in stained water but more natural colors in clearer water.

Cast right against the wall and reel your bait out a few feet from it, pausing a couple of times to make the skirt flare, and then quickly reeling in to cast again when the shad are active. During the shad spawn almost all your bites will be within a couple feet of the wall. Make fast casts.

Work into the cove, hitting grass along the banks. If shad and bass are active, keep working downstream, hitting the other seawalls and grassbeds. Ricky got two nice fish here, one about 5 and the other about 6 pounds, the day we fished. Those females were early spawners already moving in.

No. 3: N 33º 10.795 – W 83º 15.126 — Go out of Nancy Creek and head up the river. A few hundred yards upstream a green house and garage are behind a cement seawall on your left. Two short spawning pockets are on both sides of it. This is a main-lake spawning area for both bass and shad.

Work the seawall for the shad spawn. Although you don’t see it unless the water is low, most seawalls have some rip-rap at the base of them. The bass hold on these rocks and eat shad moving down the seawall spawning.

Fish around the point into the coves. Bass will be on the seawall and docks spawning, so hit them with your worm. Ricky likes a green-pumpkin Trick Worm with a 1/16-oz. sinker to skip under walkways and docks. He will also try a Senko or Ultravibe rigged the same way on a 3/0 hook.

No. 4: N 33º 10.871 – W 83º 15.147 — The next point up is a flat one with a yard running out to the cement seawall. There is a swing on the bank near the dock with a yellow slide on it on the upstream side of the point.

Fish all the way around this point and into the coves for spawning fish. Some wind blowing on the point helps as long as it is not too strong. Wind ruffles the water and breaks up the ability of the bass to get a clear vision of your bait, and they are more likely to hit it.

Fish any grass you find here and on all other places. Bass like to hold and spawn in it and will hide in it when the sun gets brighter. Ricky will work a weightless Trick Worm by the seawalls and in the grass, too, especially if he thinks most of the bass spawn is over.

No. 5: N 33º 11.507 – W 83º 15.549 — Run up the river and start around the big left bend. There is an island on the left with danger markers downstream of it. Across and a little downstream of it, a dock with an orange and red roof is on the upstream point of a cove. Stop at the dock, and fish into the cove past it.

Fish hold on the main-lake point at the dock and move into the cove to feed and spawn. The left bank going in has seawalls, grass and docks to fish. Here and other places, notice where you get bites. Try to focus in on the area the fish are in that day.

The day Ricky and I fished, he quickly focused on the outer half of the pockets, not going all the way back. That can change daily, and shad spawning on the seawalls will move the bass around, but try to set a pattern on the area of the coves and creeks where you’re catching fish.

No. 6: N 33º 11.748 – W 83º 16.569 — Run up past the mouth of Beaverdam Creek to the point on the left just downstream of the big powerlines that cross the river. Stop off the wood seawall a little downstream of the big oak tree on the end of the point. Work around it with your shad spawn baits.

A topwater like a small Whopper Plopper or Yellow Magic Popper worked right against the wall can get more bites that other baits at times. The disturbance gets the attention of feeding bass even several feet away. Ricky says at times the Yellow Magic Popper, a premier Japanese bait, is amazing.

Fish on into the cove upstream of the point to catch bass moving in to feed. If there are a lot of fish in this area, it is worth checking the downstream cove, too. Like most good places, this seawall point has good spawning pockets on both sides.

No. 7: N 33º 11.892 – W 83º 16.421 — Go across the river to the point where the powerlines come out on that side. The upstream end of the point the lines are on has a wooden seawall in front of a big brick house. Start in front of the house, and fish the point, working downstream around it.

The small cove on the downstream of the point has a big grassbed running from the point into the cove past the dock on that side. Fish it with your grass baits. One of Ricky’s favorite ways to fish grass is with a swim jig.

Tie on a 3/8- to 1/2-oz. swim jig in natural shad colors in clearer water, but go with dark or very bright in stained to muddy water. The bass are feeding mainly on shad but will eat bluegill in the grass, too. Ricky puts a small matching soft plastic swimbait on the jig for better action.

No. 8: N 33º 12.248 – W 83º 16.023 — A little ways up the river, there are some danger markers way off a point on your right. The next point upstream of the markers sits between two good spawning coves, and shad spawn along the seawall on the point. In the upstream cove, a house with a green roof and dock are on the left bank.

Stop in front of the big gray two-story house on the point. Fish around this point like the others during the shad spawn, hitting the wall and rocks at the base of it. Fish into coves on both sides for spawning fish.

When Ricky thinks bass are on the bed, he will try to hit every post on a dock with his worm, letting it sink to the bottom right beside the dock. This is slower fishing than chasing the bass munching on shad, but it will produce from now right on until the bass move out to their summer holes.

No. 9: N 33º 12.508 – W 83º 16.834 — Go down the river to Rooty Creek and head up the creek. It makes a turn to the right and then back left. Before the left turn, on the left bank before the point there is a yellow and white house on a flat round point.

Ricky called it “Bulldog Point” because of the big Georgia Bulldog statue on the bank behind the wood seawall.

This point is like the others, with a good shad spawn on the seawall and spawning pockets around it. Fish the point early, and then move into the pockets, fishing docks and grass for spawning and feeding bass.

No. 10: N 33º 12.018 – W 83º 16.848 — Going out of Rooty Creek, before the powerlines over the river, there’s a steep hillside on your right that leads into a cove. There is a train caboose on it. Across from the caboose, danger buoys outline an old water pickup for the steam plant. The round wood seawall behind the buoys has marker lights on it. This is another good shad spawning area.

Fish around the seawall, and then fish the pockets around it. Fish the grass and docks. Ricky took his son Justin to Sinclair on Saturday, the day after we fished, and they got a 7-pounder here.

Big fish are biting on this pattern at Sinclair right now. Head there to get in on some of the best fishing of the year.


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