Sinclair Summer Bass On River Ledges
Mike Blackshear marks a map for cranking Lake Sinclair ledges for August bass.
You just know August bass fishing after a long, hot, dry summer is going to be tough. You probably don’t think of Sinclair as a good place to go, unless you are planning a night trip to fish lighted docks. But Sinclair may surprise you.
Mike Blackshear and Rick Compton brought six bass weighing 16.7 pounds to the scales the second Sunday in July to place second in a Southside Tackle Team Tournament. That’s right, almost 17 pounds and only second place. Their biggest fish was just under four pounds, so all of the fish they landed were quality bass.
The patterns they used to catch those bass will hold up right through August. Mike and I fished Sinclair the Tuesday after that tournament, and we found bass on his pattern in several places. If you follow his advice about how to fish, and then check out some of the places he marked on the map, you will have a good chance of catching bass there.
Mike moved to the Macon area in 1978 and started looking for places to fish since he had grown up fishing the Cumberland River and Old Hickory Lake in eastern Tennessee. He joined the Macon Bass Club and fished with them for about eight years. Then he started concentrating on the local pot tournaments and money trails and did well enough to move into the bigger tournaments like Red Man and Everstart. And he does well in them. He and Rick have been fishing as a team for about eight years now.
Mike and Rick seem to be stuck in second this year — they placed second in three of the four R&R Central Georgia Trail tournaments this year. Two of those second-place finishes came on Sinclair. Their consistent catches gave them the points championship by 10 pounds for the year. This is the old Albany Herald Trail and tournaments consistently draw 70-plus boats.
They also finished second in a Southside Tackle Team Tournament at Sinclair, as mentioned, and the next weekend, July 15 and 16, 2000, Mike and Rick won a Sports South Tournament on Saturday and placed third in an Angler’s Choice tournament on Sunday! From these tournament results you might get the ideas that Mike is a good bass fisherman and knows Sinclair well, and you would be right. They can be expected to be in line to get a check on any tournament on the lake.
Lake Sinclair for years has been known as a good winter lake, a good night lake because of all the lighted docks, and a good place to catch a limit of small bass. David Fritts opened many fisherman’s eyes when he did well in several big tournaments on Sinclair by deep cranking. That pattern is an excellent way to land some quality fish this time of year.
When Lake Oconee was built, the release of water and pumpback created almost constant current in Sinclair, changing the fishing. It made the ledges come alive for bass fishing, and many people have learned to take advantage of this activity. The flow of water makes the bass easy to pattern in hot weather, and if you can read a depthfinder you can locate them.
Fishing up the Oconee River at Sinclair is a good way to find bass in August. There is a lot of shallow cover, making the morning bite good, and there is more current, improving the ledge fishing most of the time. Mike has two good patterns for fishing up the river that he showed me.
Shallow-water fishing early in the morning in the river is a good way to start. Mike and Rick caught two good fish in the R&R tournament early on top. Mike will run a buzzbait and spinnerbait around the grassbeds and wood cover, and also pitch a worm and a jig ‘n pig to the cover for a quick early bite.
Mike keeps a topwater popper tied on and ready. If he sees any feeding activity he will make several casts with it to draw a strike. It can be fished slowly and the noise and activity will often draw a bass to it.
As the sky gets brighter, Mike switches to a jig ‘n pig or a worm, and he flips docks, brush tops and blowdowns. The fish will move into the cover for shade and hold tight on it as the sun gets on the water.
He likes a Zoom Magnum Worm in junebug or green pumpkin, and he drops it into any cover he can find. For the jig ‘n pig he likes a black/blue jig and puts on a green pumpkin Zoom Chunk. The jig ‘n pig is especially suited for pitching way under docks into the shade, and Mike is good at it.
Ledge fishing can be tough, especially with a big crankbait, but fishing up the Oconee River where the ledges are more shallow is a great place to learn. The bass up there are usually feeding in eight to 10 feet of water rather than the 18 or more down on the lake. The ledges are easier to see on a map and locate on a depthfinder, great for learning how to do it. And the almost constant current helps position fish consistently.
For cranking the ledges, Mike ties a Poe’s, Mann’s 20+ or Norman DD-22 on 10- or 12-lb. line and makes long casts across the ledges holding the fish. He varies the crankbait and line depending on the depth the fish are holding. There is no set direction to fish a ledge, you have to adjust for the current and position of the fish.
It is best to fish with the current, but at times the position of the fish makes it better to fish across it. If the bass are holding on the top lip of the ledge, position your boat in deeper water and cast shallow. If they are holding on the slope of the drop, it is better to sit in shallow water and cast to deep water so the plug will be digging bottom as it comes up the slope past the fish.
The current in the river can be a problem. It is often so strong you cannot fish either shallow or deep. Especially during the week, early in the morning when the pumpback is running full blast, and late in the afternoon when the generators at Oconee are turning at full capacity, you often cannot hold the boat on the fish.
The pumpback usually stops between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., and that is a good time to hit the ledges. Often the bass will turn on as the current slows, stops and turns around. Watch for this change. You can fish a couple of the shallow holes that are out of the current while waiting, if it is too strong to fish the others marked.
We saw only about six boats all morning. Weekdays are good if you like a calmer lake, but weekends can be good, too, because the current is more gentle.
Head to Sinclair’s shallows and ledges up the Oconee River for an interesting trip this month. The shallow ledges are great for learning how to fish big crankbaits. There are ledges all over the lake that are good, but these are easier to fish. Give them all a try.
These spots marked on the map will give you good places to start early in shallow water, then spots on the deeper ledges. Pay attention to the current; it positions the fish and makes a difference how to fish the spots. It also means some places are better on pumpback and others when the current is flowing downstream, and Rick noted on most of them which was best.
No. 1 on map: This bank in the big turn below Oconee Springs Park has overhanging bushes, grass, brush and fish. Like the other banks that Mike likes to fish early, it drops quickly with relatively deep water near the shore, but does not drop straight down. He likes a little slope to the bottom.
Going upstream, start at the small cut on the right and work up the river. Run a buzzbait or spinnerbait through the grass and past every stick you see. Watch for dark spots in the water and fish them, they are probably stumps or brush tops. Remember bass like to hold out of the current in the eddy behind a stump or brush, and ambush bait moving past, so fish your bait that way.
Also watch for action in the water like swirls or baitfish jumping. Cast a popper to any movement like that you see. Work it slowly to give a feeding bass a chance to move to it. You can hook some good bass — Mike and Rick caught their first two fish in the R&R tournament this way.
2. This bank has docks, brush and grass. Going upstream, start on the left bank just before the little point with a pocket upstream of it. It is more of a hump in the bank than a point. Fish all the way to the two covered docks side by side on the upper end of the bank. Just past them there are big piles of dirt where they are working on something. Flip every dock carefully. If the sun is on the water, get your bait as far under the dock as you can. Work every post. These docks are not real deep, but many have brush around them and the bass move in here to feed. The current can be very strong here when moving either way. When pumpback is running, there is a swirling effect near the point, and bass will take advantage of it. Right at the point the water is deep near the bank with brush and bushes.
3. The long, straight bank across from the three islands on the north side is good, if the current is not too strong. Work from the little cut north of Log Dam Creek all the way to the dock on the small point below the island. There are several trees lying in the water here, and they can be real good. Try to fish every branch, and be careful, they run way out. Don’t let the current push your boat into them before you can fish them. Fish the posts and the scattered brush around the docks.
4. The point on the east bank below the Hancock County Boat Ramp has some big boulders showing above the water. They continue under the water and draw bass in to them to feed. There is also overhanging bushes and wood in the water. Mike likes to pitch a jig ‘n pig to this bank and work it down through the rocks very slowly. It is an excellent place to hook a big fish. He starts downstream of the point and works all the way to the small island just below the boat ramp. Fish feed here when the current is moving both directions. Since it is close to the Oconee Dam, it can get very strong. Try to fish it as the current changes.
5. Just below Oconee Dam on the east bank are several wing-walls to break the flow of the current. Bass love the eddies and change of direction this rip-rap creates. Hold your boat out at the end of the rock ridge and fish the downstream pocket behind it — and that changes sides depending on which way the current is flowing. A spinnerbait fished fast over the rocks is good if the fish are aggressive, but a jig ‘n pig is even better. Crawfish hide in the rocks and bass love them. Go to a light jig to avoid constant hang-ups.
6. Back down the river, the mouth of the creek that enters behind the three islands holds fish. Going into the pocket, be careful since the water gets shallow fast. Work the left bank going in. It has a line of docks and brush around them. You can work far into this small creek, and it is a good place to fish if the current on the river is too strong. Since it is behind the islands it is protected and gives you a break from the running water. Fish every post and stick you see, the bass will be in there getting away from the current, too, but might now be feeding actively. Talk them into hitting your bait.
7. This is the first of four ledges to try. Going downstream past the three islands and the mouth of the creek in hole No. 6, watch for a small cement boat ramp. About 100 yards down the bank a big house is under construction. On a good map you can see the channel hitting that bank and turning out toward the other banks. Check both channel lips for fish. Also watch for brush and stumps on the bottom. When you see fish or likely-looking cover, throw out a marker near, but not on top of it. You need a good reference point, but don’t disturb the bass.
The current can be too strong here. Mike threw out his marker here about 9:00 the morning we fished, and we watched the current unroll all the cord and then pull the float under! We had to wait until about 9:45 when the current slowed to come back and get it. This ledge is a good place when the current is flowing both ways, as long as it is not too strong. The lip tops out in five feet in several places, so it is easy to get a crankbait down to the bottom. Bass can be feeding anywhere along the ledge.
8. Mike says this is a good “limit” hole, but the fish are usually smaller. At the upstream point of Log Dam Creek the river channel comes almost to the bank and turns back out. The ledge on the outside bend here is an excellent place to find a school of bass stacked up. Also check the inside bend of the old river bed. Sometimes the bass like its sloping bottom more than the sharp drop on the outside bend. This is another good place to try no matter which way the current is moving.
9. The big round point across from Cattail Creek has a good ledge on the downstream side. It is very rocky and you will lose a lot of baits here, but the fish are there. On a map you can see the channel leaving the bank near the point and creating a flat between the bank and the channel. The lip of the channel all the way to the bank can be good since there are so many rocks on it. Although Mike prefers a crankbait, he does switch to a Carolina-rigged worm when the fishing is slow or the cover is so heavy the plug cannot be worked through it. Mike often uses a junebug Trick Worm on a 30-inch leader, with a 1/2-oz. lead, to get reluctant fish to bite. Pumpback current is good here — it comes up the drop and hits the bank behind it, creating uneven flows the bass like. The rocks also break the current, so give it a try when the pumpback current is not too strong.
10. Downstream and around the next bend, just upstream of Hole No. 1, the channel comes close to the point and swings away from the bank. The ledge has some stumps and brush on it, and the bass feed here when the current is moving in both directions. Look for two docks on the bank with yellow slides on them. The lip of the channel is about 100 feet out and is good all between the docks. Sit in deeper water and cast upstream. Put your marker on the drop where the fish are holding. Mike caught a couple of fish here and lost a good fish that threw his crankbait the day we fished. The fish were stacked up on the lip of the ledge, almost even with the upstream dock. Our marker was about 90 feet off the dock and we were sitting about 50 feet outside of it, casting to the bank.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy