Small Lake Profile: Wayne County’s Lake Grace

It’s been 25 years since GON reported on this lake. It’s time to catch y’all up on a solid—and improving—bass fishery.

Capt. Bert Deener | February 27, 2020

Southeast Georgia has many iconic blackwater fisheries, such as the trophy bass in Banks Lake, crappie in Lake Mayers, fliers in the Okefenokee and redbreast sunfish in the Satilla River. But, the quality bass that roam the grassbeds of Lake Lindsay Grace near Odum have flown mostly under the radar, except to local anglers who have pieced together the puzzle. 

One such angler is Trevor Brown, of Patterson. Lake Grace, as it is called by locals, is one of his home waters, and he has been honing his angling skills there for decades. While the biggest bass ever documented from the lake pulled the scales down to 15-lbs, 4-ozs. for Charles Carter in 1980, Trevor’s largest was a 26-inch monster that he did not get a weight before releasing it. He has caught multiple fish in the 8- to 9-lb. range from the lake.

I was fortunate enough to hop in Trevor’s Triton in mid-January. We had been waiting for an extended warm spell for the trip, and we got what we were looking for. We made plans to fish the warm afternoon as a cold front was approaching from the west. I pulled into the parking area at the lake, and before I could crack the back hatch to grab my rods, I saw Trevor swing a bass over the side. I could see a minnow plug hanging out of the fish’s mouth as he swung it.

He pulled up to pick me up with a big smile on his face as we both mused that it did not take long to boat one. We joked and took a photo of the little guy just in case he was all we could muster. Fortunately, he was not the only bass we got our hands on that afternoon.

As I settled into the back deck and readied my gear, Trevor talked a little bit about bass fishing at Lake Grace.

Trevor Brown, of Patterson, with a Lake Grace largemouth that he caught last year while fishing with a topwater frog. The bass weighed in the 8-lb. range.

“Lake Grace is my go-to spot when the rivers around here are too high or too low to fish from a bass boat,” he shared.

The 234-acre lake has enough water to fish all day if you want to, but it is perfect for a morning or evening trip. The lower end has a lot of open water, and water-skiing and jet skis are numerous during warm weather. The whole upper end is grassbeds and stumps, and that is the area where Trevor concentrates most of his efforts. 

“One of the tough things about this lake is that there is so much cover in the upper end that a bass could be anywhere,” he said.

And, I could definitely confirm his description. As we fished our way up the edge, we cast to several types of grasses, water hyacinth and lily pads the entire way. It did not take long before Trevor laid into another fat, sassy 1-pounder while flinging a black back/gold side/orange belly Smithwick Rogue, one of his go-to lures in the blackwater. A few photos and a release later, we continued casting. 

Trevor said, “You can get skunked, but you usually catch several that size and generally catch a couple of the slot-sized 3- or 4-pounders per trip if they are biting at all.”

Trevor cast his favorite plug to the base of a cypress tree and let it pause. As he began to alternate pauses and jerks, he loaded the rod into a 2-pounder. He worked it to the boat, hoisted it for a photo, then released it.

“I will catch a few more of these and then swing for the fences,” Trevor added.

When quizzed what he meant, he explained that while he catches numbers of bass on the hard jerkbait, he has caught most of his biggest bass with swimbaits or topwater frogs. The LIVETARGET version in a bluegill color is his favorite frog. The water temperature was barely below 70 degrees, so he picked up that rod and worked it.

“I like to make the frog jump out of the water with quick flicks of my wrist,” he said.

He alternated between the frog, jerkbait and a 3.8-inch shad-colored swimbait rigged on a jig head, while I settled for the jerkbait as we worked our way up the shoreline. We got to a shallow flat when he described his biggest catch from the lake.

“Here is where I caught my largest bass ever from this lake, a 26-incher. This area is usually covered in coontail during summer. That hot day I was working a swimbait around the coontail beds when the big fish just stopped it,” he said.

The whole upper end of the 234-acre Lake Grace is grassbeds and stumps. “One of the tough things about this lake is that there is so much cover in the upper end that a bass could be anywhere,” Trevor said.

His biggest bass from the lake in 2019 was an 8-pounder that inhaled a frog. Topwaters did not work the day we fished, even though the surface temperature was high enough that they should have chewed them. If he misses a blow-up on a topwater and the fish does not hit again on a follow-up cast, he will fling an unweighted, Texas-rigged green-pumpkin stick worm to try to get it to bite. 

The other plastic that he uses “when he has to” is a black Trick Worm. He does not like working that lure down a shoreline because it is such a slow way to fish, but it will produce fish when they will not chase faster-moving options.

We continued working our way uplake along the shoreline and around the shallow vegetation and cypress trees, picking up a fish here and there, but the big fish eluded us that day. We ended up catching seven bass up to 2 pounds, and all of them ate our hard jerkbaits. When I got home I checked the weather, and the strong cold front came through about the same time we were launching the boat, so the pressure was rising the whole time we fished. Had we gone in the morning while the pressure was falling, we would have had better conditions for a big fish. Generally on blackwater lakes, the best bite is as the pressure is dropping while a front is approaching.

Trevor said that in March you will find bass in all stages of the spawn. He suggested starting your search in the shallows around stumps and vegetation for spawning fish, but do not expect to actually sight-fish in the tannic water. If you see multiple disturbances in an area, then work that spot thoroughly in case it is a big female spawning, but you will be blind casting for most of the time. To find postspawn fish, check out the pads, stumps and vegetation in the middle of the upper end. They often move to those areas after spawning in the shallow water.

Trevor caught this bass on a jerkbait last month while fishing with the author.

As far as gear goes, your standard equipment will work fine. Keep in mind that the blackwater does not have much visibility, so light line is not a necessity. In fact, fish will bury in vegetation and you will break off if you use too light of line. For most applications, 12- to 20-lb. line is appropriate, and you can even use heavy braid and get away with it if you are punching hydrilla or fishing worms in vegetation.

Lake Grace has a protective 15- to 22-inch slot limit. You can keep up to 10 fish per person per day, and they can be smaller than the slot and include only one fish per day over the slot. Any fish in the slot must be released immediately. 

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division conducted an age and growth study on Lake Grace bass in 2010. It was determined that a slot limit would work best because the lake has a relatively slow bass growth because of the high population of small bass, bass reproduction was high, a good population of larger forage is in the lake and the overall bass longevity revealed that bass were living up to 14 years in the lake. In addition, it was known that anglers will harvest bass to eat.

Modeling from the age and growth study determined that the number of large bass would increase by implementing the slot limit. This slot limit has been a success, as recent electrofishing samples have shown an increase in the slot-sized bass in the lake since the limit was enacted. 

Trevor confirmed that data, stating that he has noticed his catch rate of the medium-sized bass increase over the last few years. Anglers can still keep bass below 15 inches, so you can still bring home supper…. and have trophies, too. 

Another food fish that is very popular in the lake is crappie. During winter and spring, the lower end of the lake is dotted with jonboats drifting minnows and trolling plastics. While not generally considered a trophy crappie lake, most of what you catch will be 1/2- to 3/4-lb. specks—perfect size for fileting! 

My favorite way to target slabs in blackwater lakes is to longline troll with four poles and move along contours and deeper water at about 1 mile per hour. I vary the speed as needed. I usually use single- or double-rigged 1/32- or 1/16-oz. heads and Assassin 2-inch Curly Shads. The shad or chartreuse hues usually work best for me. 

Here’s WRD Fisheries Biologist Tim Bonvechio with two Lake Grace bass from a February 2020 electrofishing sample. A quick photo was taken before these fish were released. The bass on the left is a 6-pounder and is in the protective slot limit, while the 9-pounder on the right is above the slot limit. Tim is the biologist who did the age and growth study in 2010.

During late spring and summer, the lake also provides good bluegill fishing from boats and the bank. Hand-sized coppernose bluegill are commonly caught by anglers pitching crickets under a float or flinging artificials. Beetle Spins, small Rapala minnows, poppers or your favorite panfish lures will produce the beautiful purple-cheeked rascals. If you can find a spawning area for bluegills, you will have a blast! 

Wayne County has invested significant time and resources in managing the lake. Since 2010 the county has controlled maidencane by burning it back and removed vegetation in choked-out areas to improve fishing access. There are three concrete ramps on the lake, one on each side about halfway up and the main two-lane ramp beside the dam. All ramps are free. You can operate gas or trolling motors on the lake. 

Lake Grace provides great bank angling access, as county roads ring the lake. You can pull off and fish around most of the lake. To access the primary two-lane boat ramp from Screven, take Odum-Screven Road for 5 miles. At the first four-way intersection (GA Hwy 203), turn left. Continue 1 1/4 miles to Griffis Road and turn right. In a half-mile, turn right into the boat ramp area.

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  1. Peazy521 on April 29, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Does anyone have any information on what Lake Grace will be back open to surrounding counties?

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