Sinclair Bass Shallow In May
Chad Carver picks apart docks and seawalls to put together a May pattern for shallow bass.
Chad Carver, a longtime GON reader from Baxley and a Lake Sinclair regular, is a master of catching reservoir fish shallow year-round.
I’ve been trying to nail down a story on Lake Sinclair with Chad for a couple of years now, but between his schedule and mine, it took us a while to finally get things worked out. Chad is a pretty busy fellow. During the day, he’s the unit general manager at the Waycross Pepsi Plant, and in the evenings and weekends, he bounces from softball practices and ball games with his daughter to being a boat captain for his son Fisher, who is a high-school angler on the Appling County Pirates Bass Fishing Team. Throw in church and other family activities, and it’s a wonder he ever gets to wet a line.
I met Chad and Fisher in Hazlehurst on a slightly cool April morning. We proceeded to make the approximate two-hour ride to Lake Sinclair with Chad’s Ranger 518 and Mercury 175 Pro XS in tow. Just as the sun was starting to peek over the horizon, we turned into Lakeside Bait and Tackle off of Highway 441. After paying the $5 parking fee, we backed down the ramp.
“They are calling for a bunch of clouds today. Normally, when you’re bass fishing that’s good news, but not for what we’re doing. The sun is your friend for the pattern we’re gonna be working today, “ Chad said.
With a quick turn of the key, Chad’s Mercury roared to life, and we made a short run to our first stop of the day.
As we idled up to a point, Chad dropped the trolling motor and began firing a KVD 1.5 crankbait to the seawall lining the point. He worked it quickly back to the boat.
“When I’m fishing on Sinclair in May, I’ve got two things on my mind—docks and seawalls. This lake has what seems like a million of each, and the fish will relate to both this month,” said Chad. “That’s what makes the sunshine your friend. It’s going to heat up the seawalls and create shady areas under docks. Both will draw bait, and in turn, both will draw bass. The key is figuring out what’s holding the fish when, but it doesn’t take long to do that if you pay attention.”
We spent the remainder of the morning fishing several areas of the lake, catching several fish after the sun finally came out after a slow and cloudy morning. Here’s a breakdown of the elements involved in Chad’s pattern on the lake.
With no telling how many miles of seawalls there are on Sinclair, the first thing Chad said anglers need to realize is that not all of them hold good numbers of fish, and you have to know what to look for when fishing them.
“I like a seawall where the water is about 1 to 3 feet deep up against the wall, and I like the bank to taper off slowly to about 10 to 12 feet of water at the end of any nearby docks,” said Chad. “This gives fish the ability to change water conditions with little strain or effort. They can move around to stay comfortable and that helps keep them there year-round.”
Chad says that when you’re focusing on fishing seawalls, you also need to pay attention to what material the wall is made of. He says that some days it seems like the concrete walls will hold more fish and some days it will be wood ones. Once you pinpoint which is holding more fish, you effectively eliminate roughly half of the cover your targeting.
“It’s simple power fishing, but the details are what help you put fish in the livewell on tournament day,” said Chad. “When you catch a good fish, or even when you miss one, ask yourself these questions. What kind of wall was it? How deep? Was there structure or a dock in the vicinity? Was the sun beating down or was it shaded? The quicker you get the answers to those questions, the quicker you find your pattern,” said Chad.
I couldn’t tell you how many hundreds and hundreds of docks are currently on Lake Sinclair. Like seawalls, Chad says not all docks are created equal, and time of day factors in heavily to Chad keying in on them.
“The sun is your friend on Sinclair. If the shallow-water fish aren’t pulled up against the seawalls, you can almost bet your boat they will be holding in the shade under the docks,” said Chad.
Chad said the key to putting a dock pattern together is figuring out which part of the dock they are holding on and why.
“Once you get that first bite, you have to pick it apart,” said Chad. “Was he way up under the very back tucked in the shade? Was the fish holding on the last post? Was there a brushpile present? Are there bream beds in the area? What made that fish be where it is? These are the questions you have to figure out, and anyone can do it if you pay attention.”
Chad opts for three main lure presentations during the month of May, each offering a different way to work the cover and conditions he is fishing.
If the shad spawn is going on in the lake, or if bream are bedding shallow, Chad opts for a KVD 1.5 squarebill crankbait and likes several different color patterns, preferring colors that mimic shad, bream or crawfish.
“You want to choose your color based on the water clarity and what the fish are feeding on,” said Chad. “If I’m seeing lots of bluegill bedded shallow, I’m going to throw a color that mimics those bluegill. If most of my bites are coming in deeper water out near the end of a dock, I’m going to throw something in more of a crawfish pattern.”
When fishing seawalls, Chad makes long casts up against the wall, working the lure back to the boat with his rod tip down digging the crankbait into the bottom to create a disturbance. When fishing docks, he casts accordingly so that he can bring his lure as close to the posts as possible, banging it off of posts as he goes.
“You can throw a crankbait past a dock post two times, but on the third if you slam it into that post, it will help to draw that reaction strike. You want to put that crankbait in 4-wheel drive and really fish it rough,” said Chad.
Chad fishes the squarebill on a Lews Mach 1 combo spooled with 12-lb. fluorocarbon line, citing its ability to hold up to all the rough contact it is making against the docks and seawalls.
Another favorite weapon in Chad’s arsenal is a floating crawfish that he has custom poured in several colors by Wicked Fish Customs, a company based in the Baxley area.
“We have started using Wicked Fish Customs a lot for custom colors for a bunch of the high school tournaments Fisher competes in, as well as other tournaments we fish together,” said Chad. “The owner, Chris, can really get you what you like and need on the water. They are on Facebook, and I’d encourage anyone who is into custom baits to check them out.”
Chad uses spinning gear loaded with 30-lb. braid to make long casts under docks and works the craw like a buzzbait rigged weightless on a light-wire 2/0 hook. This enables him to skip the lure much farther under the dock than he could a traditional buzzbait.
“Most of your bites you won’t see, but when you hear that splash and feel that line go heavy, it’s on,” said Chad.
Chad’s final and favorite presentation for fishing Sinclair in May is none other than an old faithful plastic worm.
“It’s what I’m going to have in my hand on Sinclair 90% of the time this month. It’s simple and it catches fish,” said Chad.
Chad said a standard Trick Worm or a finesse worm works great, but he feels like the custom-poured baits he gets from Wicked Fish Customs give him an extra advantage fishing the heavily pressured lake.
“We throw red bug, green pumpkin, and other natural colors most of the time, and it’s nice when Chris can get the color just the way we like it so we can show the fish a little something different. I’ve really been liking a paddle tail he’s been pouring for me lately, as well,” said Chad.
Chad fishes the worm on a 1/4-oz. or 1/8-oz. shaky head, depending on the depth of the water he’s fishing. However, he did say the 1/8-oz. is hard to beat for the slower fall rate it gives the worm. He uses the worm to fish slowly around seawalls and docks until he finds what they’re holding to.
Chad fishes the worm on medium spinning gear spooled with 30-lb. braid, rarely opting for a leader unless the water is super clear, which isn’t very often on the lake.
“This setup will help you feel those subtle pick-ups on the worm and put a few more fish in the boat that you wouldn’t have otherwise,” Chad said.
Chad mentioned in closing that though bass can be found throughout the lake this month on the docks and seawalls, the section of the lake between Nancy Branch and Rooty Creek often will have the best water clarity, since other parts of the lake can quickly get heavily stained if there is abundant rainfall.
“We’re ready to get out and enjoy some great fishing on Sinclair this month,” said Chad. “Fisher and his high-school fishing partner, Jack Reeves, qualified to fish the Georgia High School Championship on May 8 at Lake Lanier, so we’re busy getting ready for that, but when we get back, we’re ready to do some shallow-water bass fishing on Sinclair.”
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