Sinclair Summer Bass, Sunburnt And Shallow
One of Georgiaʼs top Young Guns on the tournament circuit is Kip Carter, and he doesn't miss a beat on his favorite lake during the heat of summer.
The forecast called for the hottest day of the year so far — high 90s. This mid-June trip to Lake Sinclair was going to be a test of endurance, but the young man I was to fish with assured me that those Sinclair bass still bite during the heat of the summer.
I was to meet my partner for the day, 22-year-old Kip Carter, at 6 a.m. We were both 20 minutes early, and that turned out to be quite fortunate.
It was dark when we headed across the lake, and Kip pulled into a pocket where there were several dock lights burning.
“We might as well fish some of these lights while itʼs still dark,” Kip said.
He motored toward the back of the deep pocket, put the trolling motor down, and eased toward a big, wooden dock where a large light turned the black into day. Moths and an assortment of small bugs fluttered under the light, occasionally dropping to the surface.
“I didn’t plan on getting started so early. I donʼt even have a crankbait tied on,” Kip said, picking up a baitcasting outfit with a Texas-rigged Ol Monster worm.
I was trying to quickly tie on a Shad Rap when I heard Kip grunt, and I looked up to see him swing and his rod load up. His line cut through the water — a good bass on. The sound of a fish splashing across the surface broke the pre-dawn quiet, and Kip reached down and lipped a fat 3-pounder.
“That takes some pressure off!” he smiled.
This was Kipʼs first magazine article, and he wasn’t shy about letting on that he was a bit nervous. Not that he didn’t have confidence in his ability, especially on Sinclair, but Kip has been reading GON long enough to know that even a top angler can have a tough day with a writer in the boat.
Even at his tender age, Kip is one of Georgiaʼs better tournaments fishermen. Three days before he and I fished, Kip and his fiancé (their wedding was the following Saturday) placed first in a couples tournament on Sinclair.
“It was the first time I fished that trail, and it was my fianceʼs first tournament. I thought the limit was five. Turns out it was six, but we still won with about 18 pounds.”
This is Kipʼs fifth year fishing the BFL trail, and heʼs 14th in the Bulldog Division standings. He should easily qualify for the regional, and that will make three out of five years that heʼs done so on the BFL trial. He and his partner finished second in the season points in the HD Marine circuit, and they won the two-day HD tournament on Sinclair last year and took home a boat.
“Fishing competitively is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” Kip said.
Next year, he plans to move up to the Everstart trail, just one step away from bass fishingʼs major-league circuit — the FFL.
As soon as daylight began to break, Kip put down the Texas-rig and picked up a white buzzbait.
“A lot of times in a tournament Iʼll have a couple of pretty good topwater bass in the boat right away,” he said.
Kip worked quickly, casting the buzzbait parallel to the seawalls and also next to the docks in the pocket. I was a bit surprised that we were still in the back on a long pocket. Most of what you hear about summertime fishing talks about main-lake stuff, close to deep water.
“In general thatʼs true,” Kip said. “This time of year your channel docks are going to be better. If you do get bit on a dock up on a shallow flat, thereʼs usually a channel not far off. A lot of times the best areas are where a channel meets a flat, where it swings in and swings back out. Those will be real good docks.”
Kip had one good swirl on the buzzbait as he pulled it in front of a dock, but the fish didn’t eat it. The sun wasnʼt anywhere near hitting the water when he picked up his summertime bread-and-butter — the Texas-rigged Ol Monster on his favorite flippinʼ outfit.
If you canʼt flip and go to Lake Sinclair where permanent, wooden docks often sit inches from the surface of the water, you are seriously handicapped compared to people who can really flip. Like Kip Carter.
We could do an entire article on the art of flippinʼ (in fact GON editor Brad Gill wrote the definitive magazine article on the technique in the July 2003 issue), but we donʼt have room here. The general concept is to hold your bait in your off hand and the rod tip low, then release the bait as you give a little back-handed sweep with the rod toward the target. It takes practice, but once mastered you can send a worm or jig or tube or any other bait low across the water so that it will skip far up under the shade of the docks.
Good equipment helps.
“Iʼm not that tall. I use a seven-foot rod. Some guys will do better with a 7 1/2-foot rod. The longer rod helps with getting some distance on the flip, and it helps on the hook-set, too,” Kip said.
He prefers a heavy-action rod, and he uses a high-quality 6:3:1 baitcasting reel like a Chronarch. His first choice of baits for flippinʼ on Sinclair in August is a 1/4- or 3/8-oz. Texas-rigged worm.
“A lot of times I use pretty basic baits. You canʼt hardly beat a green pumpkin Ol Monster worm. Thatʼs not a secret on this lake, and as popular as they are, they still catch a lot of fish. This time of year the smaller threadfin shad move out deeper to the open water. The forage under these docks is usually bream and the bigger gizzard shad. I think thatʼs why these bigger worms are so good.”
Kip emphasized that this time of year you need to experiment with different baits. Heʼll also have a rod rigged with a 1/2-oz. black/blue Olʼ Nellie jig with a green-pumpkin Zoom chunk.
“Sometimes a tube gets good if the flippinʼ bite is tough. Sometimes they wonʼt hit anything but stupid stuff, like a basic U-tail worm. A spinnerbait is really hit-or-miss, but sometimes it can produce a big fish if you can roll it up under the right dock.”
If you go to Sinclair and donʼt know how to flip, or if youʼre just itching to catch some numbers of smaller bass, then you need to get out on the main-lake points and humps and pull a Carolina-rigged worm.
“Thereʼs no doubt that a Carolina rig is going to produce the most bites this time of year,” Kip said. “Most of the fish are going to be smaller, but you can have fun catching them.”
He likes a green pumpkin Trick Worm on the Carolina rig, and he said a key depth to look for on Sinclair is a point or hump that tops out at 12 to 15 feet with a nearby drop into deeper water.
“If theyʼre moving water, then you can fish the same stuff with a crankbait and probably catch some better quality bass,” he said.
Kip likes a DD22 crankbait in either lavender shad or a blue/chartreuse pattern.
“Thereʼs no doubt that the dog-days are a tougher time of year,” he said. “The tournament weights lighten up. But itʼs really more tough on the fishermen. When it gets 90 degrees out, you just cut a tournament field in half.”
The bass are still eating, and you can still catch them. Try some topwater early, and then work on getting a worm or jig up under some of those Sinclair docks or you can move out on the main lake and work those points and humps with a Carolina rig or a crankbait.
Oh yeah, you might try getting to the lake an hour early. Nothing like a Sinclair dock light to get the day started right.
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