Sinclair’s June Bass Bonanza
Jerry McClure bags Sinclair bass in June using simple tactics you need to know. Here's how he does it.
We had run the boat for only a couple of minutes, scarcely reaching above idle speed as Jerry McClure rounded a bend into a pocket, the back of which ran along a road. Jerry dropped the trolling motor and maneuvered the Ranger into water that seemed too shallow for such a big boat.
“This used to be the first spot I came to in tournaments because I knew I could have a limit of fish in 15 minutes,” Jerry said. “Then I could spend the rest of the day culling fish.”
Jerry worked the boat parallel to the rip-rap bank, casting just inches from the rocks and pulling his spinnerbait back to the boat. As I took notes, Jerry started class, teaching me how to catch bass on Lake Sinclair this month. On the third or fourth cast, Jerry set the hook on a largemouth. A couple of casts later, he landed another fish. Then another. Then another.
Before I ever picked up a rod, Jerry had boated four fish. There were no lunkers in the bunch, but it was a great start nonetheless.
Jerry said several tactics will work on Sinclair in June to put more fish in your livewell. The topwater bite should be good early in the morning, and as the day progresses, dragging Carolina-rigged worms, fishing deep-diving crankbaits, and pitching around Sinclair’s numerous docks should keep you on fish.
Jerry knows what works, having been a very successful tournament angler since 1987. Jerry has fished some B.A.S.S. events over the years. He has made four regionals and was a Red Man All American in 2000. Jerry has won a Tournament of Champions and was Angler’s Paradise Angler of the Year in 2002.
Jerry fishes Sinclair about 50 days a year, sometimes for fun, and sometimes in tournaments. Jerry finished second in a recent Bassmasters Georgia event on Sinclair, and he placed fifth in a BFL Bulldog tournament held there in March. He currently stands in second place in GON’s Individual Power Rankings (page 94-97).
The morning Jerry and I went to Sinclair, we were trying to find some spawning shad. Though screwy spring weather has slowed the fish down by three or four weeks, the spawn should be over by June, meaning fish will be ready to eat.
“So much depends on water temperature. It made the fish spawn later this year, but if it stays warm like this for much longer, the water is going to heat up in a hurry,” Jerry said.
Jerry made a couple more casts with his spinnerbait, and turned to me, smiling.
“When you see shad under your spinnerbait, that is a good sign,” he laughed.
We moved down the lake and fished a seawall around a small point, Jerry sticking with his spinnerbait, and me throwing a buzzbait. Jerry said the buzzbait bite will be good in June. In fact, any topwater lure should produce from dawn until the sun gets above the trees.
“The best thing to do is look for the mayfly hatch and throw buzzbaits or Pop-Rs first thing in the morning. On cloudy days, you can stick with that pattern sometimes all day long,” Jerry said.
Because June means post-spawn fishing, you can rest assured that bass will be scattered instead of schooled. Some bass will be close to the sea walls in very little water.
After the sun gets up in the sky, Jerry likes to switch to a tried-and-true method for catching bass: the Carolina-rigged worm.
Citing the slow nature of fishing a Carolina rig, Jerry said, “It’s probably my least favorite way to fish, but if that’s what they’re biting, that’s what I’ll be throwing,”
Jerry Carolina rigs with a 3/4- to 1-oz. weight above a swivel. He advises using a leader of no longer than 2 1/2 feet. Jerry likes Carolina rigging with a Trick Worm, a Finesse Worm or a French Fry.
“This time of year, it works well to use worms that have a very subtle action,” Jerry said.
Jerry looks for specific type of cover when he’s throwing a Carolina rig. He likes to fish 10- to 15-feet deep on long, flat points points on the main lake or on secondary points in pockets.
When he wants to speed up his fishing, Jerry moves to main-lake humps and throws a crankbait, like a deep-diving Spro plug.
Jerry likes to find humps that come up to within eight or 10 feet of the water’s surface. He fishes on the current side of the hump, because he knows the movement of the water will push baitfish to bass waiting on an easy meal.
“Sometimes you can fish all the way around the humps, but when water is moving, the side where the most current is will usually hold plenty of fish,” Jerry said. “Humps are especially productive if they are right on the edge of a channel.”
After we hit several pockets and coves, throwing spinnerbaits around docks and seawalls, Jerry switched tactics. With medium-action rods and baitcasting reels spooled with fluorocarbon, we went to work pitching Sinclair’s abundance of docks.
For pitching, Jerry likes to head up the Oconee River. He is, by trade, a shallow-water fisherman. And in the summertime, the fish up the Oconee River can generally be found holding in shallower water.
“It’s just how I prefer to fish. Some of the fish will be a little deeper, but they are easy to find if you know what to look for,” Jerry said.
I have known about pitching to docks for years. Anybody who has read anything about bass fishing knows of it. But few know how to do it as well as Jerry, who says he learned to use the technique out of necessity.
“To be successful on Sinclair or Oconee, you need to be able to pitch docks. If you are fishing in tournaments and you aren’t doing it, you can bet you’ll get beat by someone who is,” Jerry said.
The premise behind pitching is simple, according to Jerry. “The key is being able to put your bait right in front of fish when other anglers can’t,” he said.
Because of summer’s rising temperatures and often-unbearable sunlight, bass will move underneath docks during daylight hours. The shade there keeps water cooler and helps fish stay more comfortable. However, because fish are often under these hulking wooden structures, getting them to bite takes some work.
To effectively pitch a worm or a jig takes some practice. To get as proficient as Jerry takes lots of practice.
I had to confess to Jerry, I had long wanted to learn how to pitch docks, but my lack of patience with picking out backlashes has made me apprehensive. And if you have never pitched before, you will spend some time picking backlashes out of your line.
It’s like the old adage, “if you ain’t getting hung up, you ain’t fishing.” You have to learn to pitch accurately, which sometimes means squeezing a bait between the bottom boards of a dock and the water, just inches below. On occasion, you will hit the side of the dock, and if you aren’t prepared to stop the spool with your thumb, you can mess up.
After a little while, I could make casts a few inches under a dock without much trouble. Meanwhile, Jerry was putting plastic lizards so far under the dock we could just hear the splash when they landed.
Jerry said confidence in your ability to pitch is key. And you have to understand that it takes lots of trying for a beginner to get the hang of it.
“I used to pitch at a coffee can I would put on the living-room floor under a hanging plant,” Jerry said. “As I got better, I would move the plant lower. I probably respooled that reel 8,000 times.”
Jerry likes to use reels that are filled only about halfway with line when he pitches because it makes it easier to control the bait. He pitches with a Cold Steel lizard and a 3/16-oz. bullet weight.
To pitch a lure, Jerry clicks the button on his reel and holds the spool with his thumb. He lets out about three feet of line and holds the lure in his left hand. Then, with the rod tip held up, he flicks his wrist and sends the bait low over the water, thumbing the spool of his reel just before the bait hits.
When he casts the Texas-rigged lizard, Jerry will let it settle before shaking it a couple of times. He then works the lizard back to the boat in short hops, feeling for any subtle feeling that might be a striking fish. If Jerry has any inclination that a fish is biting his lizard, he sets the hook hard.
Most of the time, Jerry was right, always making a vicious hookset as soon as a fish struck his hook. My approach was to let a fish pick up my worm and run a little before setting the hook. Jerry caught and released several fish on his lizard. In the back of the boat, I was mostly releasing fish.
As we entered a pocket with a concrete-block seawall down one side of it, Jerry said we were about to start catching fish. More correctly, he was going to be catching them, I was going to be missing.
The Cold Steel lizard, which looks like a worm with arms and a wide tail, has been a hot bait on Sinclair. Jerry guesses that the bait’s different tail makes it irresistible to fish.
“Something about the way it falls just seems to get the fish fired up,” Jerry said.
But it is a little denser than other plastics meaning a fisherman has to really set the hook to keep a fish on. I had five fish on — and then off — the hook over the next half hour. However, in all the laughing and kicking myself, I picked up on a couple more helpful hints for fishing Sinclair.
First, Jerry said to look for little differences along the seawalls. Anywhere the wall makes a slight turn or any feature that looks different than the rest of the wall could be holding fish. Jerry pointed out a set of steps that led down from someone’s backyard, saying it was exactly the kind of place bass like to hold in the summer.
“Around those steps right there, and right over there where the wall makes a tiny point, there should be a fish,” Jerry said.
Fish were piled along the concrete-block seawall where blocks made small pillars along the edge of the wall. By pitching my lizard right up next to the little corners, I was drawing a lot of strikes. So was Jerry.
As we fished around a dock, pitching around posts and under the boards, Jerry advised me to make a cast to where the dock made a turn. Like clockwork, a bass struck my worm as it fell, and my hookset was solid, boating my first fish of the day.
Jerry continued pitching his lizard around the docks and said anglers need to key on the shady side of cover on a bright, sunny day. He also advised setting the hook whenever you feel a strike.
“Sometimes big fish make very subtle strikes and sometimes little fish really kill a bait so you have to always be ready,” Jerry said.
Jerry said June is a great month on Sinclair because fishermen can use many different methods to catch bass as they prepare for the dog days of summer.
“Sinclair is a lot of fun to fish in June because there are so many different ways to catch bass then,” Jerry said.
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