Stay Shallow For Cold Sinclair Bass

Don’t fret the cold, muddy conditions—the Lake Sinclair bass bite has been red hot this winter.

Ronnie Garrison | February 3, 2016

Tournament angler Grant Kelly lives on Lake Sinclair, and he’s been taking advantage of the great fishing there this winter. Grant said there’s a shallow bite no matter how cold the water gets, and the heavy stain this year makes this pattern better.

If you winterize your bass boat and put away your rods this time of year, you are making a big mistake. Winter is one of the best times to catch big bass, and good numbers of quality bass can be caught now, too, especially at Sinclair.

Lake Sinclair has been on fire this winter for 4- to 5-lb. bass, with some even bigger bass being caught.

Sinclair has long been known for good winter fishing due to the warm-water discharge from the power plant. The coal-fire plant was shut down last April, so that warm-water discharge is no longer a part of winter fishing at Sinclair. However, a much warmer-than-normal December led to warmer water temperatures in January, and some of the catches at Sinclair this winter have been amazing.

The second Saturday in January at the Berry’s tournament, 67 of the 135 teams weighed-in a five-fish limit. The top team had 24.58 pounds. Think that was a fluke? Well, each of the top four teams had more than 20 pounds, and it took 13.68 pounds to get a check in 22nd place. Big fish was an 8.28-lb. largemouth.

It was not just the really good tournament guys who fish Berry’s who were catching fish. Even I had a 4.43-pounder for big fish in a club tournament on the day after the Berry’s tournament, and the next Saturday I weighed-in five bass at 17.98 pounds to win another club tournament, and I had big fish again at 5.58 pounds. I had two more bass that weighed more than 4 pounds each.

It was one of my best catches ever at Sinclair.

Buddy Laster also weighed in a 5-pounder in that tournament.

Grant Kelly grew up in Conyers and went to college in Milledgeville at Georgia College and State University. He also attended Southern Polytech, and he was on the fishing teams at both. This year Grant is fishing the Berry’s tournaments, Ram Opens and BFLs.

“Keep it simple in February,” Grant said.

He will have three baits rigged and ready for this month, and they are all he needs. A crankbait, a jig ’n pig and a spinnerbait are all you need to catch fish in the cold water

Grant now works in Milledgeville and lives on the lake near Sinclair Marina. Grant fishes Sinclair a lot, and he’s a great source for our February Map-of-the-Month article on Sinclair bass fishing.

“The bass will feed shallow here no matter how cold the water gets,” Grant said.

The water was still in the low 50s in mid-January, but it is much colder now. Even in the colder water, Grant looks for feeding bass in shallow cover, especially rocks, near deep water.

This year Sinclair was as muddy as it used to get back in the 1970s and 80s, but it did not hurt the fishing. In fact, muddy water warms faster in the sun than clearer water. Grant said his pattern and baits hold up no matter how muddy or cold the water.

Grant marked our map with the following 10 locations. They were holding bass when I fished with Grant in mid January, and bass will still be on them and other similar places all over the lake throughout February.

No. 1: N 33º 10.111 – W 83º 19.255 — Up Little River, an old railroad trestle crosses the lake. Since it is no longer used or maintained, trees have grown up on the causeway, and many trees have fallen into the water. Additional wood washes down the river and hangs up on the rocks, so there is a lot of wood cover along this rip-rap.

Rip-rap is always good, but especially in the winter. The rocks hold heat on sunny days. He will fish the rip-rap here with a crankbait where he can, but most of his fishing here is done with either a spinnerbait or jig ’n pig.

Current coming down the river helps the rip-rap bite, and current also concentrates feeding bass on the corners. Grant said he hits the corners hard with a tight-wobble crankbait like a No. 7 Shad Rap. In the muddy water in January he was catching fish on the solid white color, but he will try different colors and sizes until the fish show him what they want.

Fish the upstream side, especially when current is hitting it, with a crankbait where you can use one, but also fish around the wood with a spinnerbait and jig. Fish all the rip-rap when the sun is on the rocks. The slightly warmer water around the rocks will attract baitfish and bass.

No. 2: N 33º 09.773 – W 83º 19.560 — Go back down the river and around the sharp bend to where Buck Creek enters on your right. Back in Buck Creek is a long rip-rap causeway that is good, especially after the sun has been on it. Grant runs to the right corner of it and fishes all the way across it. There is a pipe under the causeway, not a bridge, so you can not fish the upstream side.

This rip-rap is easier to fish with your crankbait, but a spinnerbait is good, too. Try to keep both bumping the rocks, even though you will get hung up some. Keep your boat in fairly close, and make angled casts more parallel to the rocks to keep in contact with them.

Also fish your jig here. If water is being pulled, you should fish the current coming out of the pipe, too. Your crankbait or spinnerbait will look like a baitfish moving with the current.

No. 3: N 33º 11.381 – W 83º 17.590 — The Highway 441 rip-rap has long been a community hole because it holds so many bass, but it is not as good as it used to be since bigger tournaments no longer fish out of Little River Marina. But you can still catch bass here, and there are a lot of rocks to fish.

If any current is moving, concentrate on the corners. Fish all four corners with a crankbait. Then work down the upstream side with all three baits, especially if current is moving, and then fish the downstream side. Grant says a football-head jig will come through the rocks better than other shapes.

No. 4: N 32º 11.141 – W 83º 16.349 — Going downstream, there’s a big cove on the right where Sinclair Marina is located. On the downstream point of this cove, where it joins the river, are two rocky points marked by white PVC poles. These points drop off into the river channel.

Grant said this is a good crankbait hole, especially later in the month when the bass start to move toward the spawning areas. This is one of the first places they move to, but some bass will feed on these points all month long.

Keep your boat in deep water off the markers, and cast a crankbait to the points, working around the outside one and then around the inside point. Try to keep your bait in contact with the bottom, and slow your retrieve with a lot of pauses if the water temperature is in the low 40s. The colder the water, the slower you should fish.

No. 5: N 33º 10.755 – W 83º 14.613 — Running down the river, you will make a slight right turn toward the dam. On the left bank you will see a red-roofed, Spanish-style house sitting on a flat point. On the downstream side of the big point, a smaller point runs off it to the right beside some big pine trees.

You can see the side point with a good GPS map. Grant works all the way around this side point with his crankbait, staying out in deeper water and casting shallow. Some wind blowing in on this and other places helps, as long as it is not too strong. Current coming down the lake will also make the bass bite better.

No. 6: N 33º 08.827 – W 83º 12.168 — Run down toward the dam past the two big islands on the right. The mouth of Island Creek is on the left. Just before you get to the mouth of Rocky Creek, a series of small coves are on your left. Watch for the cove with a sail boat that has a red pirate flag on top of its mast. There’s a U.S. flag on a small dock and a set of swift-house gourds on the bank.

Grant says there is a lot of brush in front of this dock that holds bass in February. Stay way out from the dock, and probe the cove in front of it with your jig to find the brush. Grant likes a 1/4-oz. black-and-blue jig with a black or blue chunk for the stained water, and he will dip the tails of his chunk in chartreuse JJ’s Magic. The lighter weight comes through rocks and brush better than a heavier bait.

No. 7: N 33º 08.394 – W 83º 12.481 — The dam has a lot of rip-rap that holds bass in the winter. It is especially good after the sun has been on it warming the rocks and water around them. Go to the right corner of the dam, and start there. Work out to the danger sign at the dam. There are big chunk rocks in this area the bass really like. Grant said he caught a 6-pounder here last winter.

This rip-rap is shallower on this side than you might expect, so keep your boat well off the rocks and make long casts to the edge of the rip-rap where it enters the water. Fish it with all three of your baits, but concentrate on the crankbait. As you get closer to the danger sign, move in closer to the rocks and make more parallel casts. The rocks drop off faster there, and you want your bait to stay in contact with the bottom.

No. 8: N 33º 08.779 – W 83º 13.209 — Going back up the river, Reedy Creek goes in behind the two big islands. Bass’s Boat House sits in a small creek before you get to Reedy Creek. As you go toward Bass’s on your left, you will see a group of sailboats anchored in a cove about even with the end of the big island up the river.

The upstream point of this sailboat cove is a round, rocky point that is lined with rip-rap. Stay way off the bank—it runs out fairly shallow—and make long casts with a crankbait and spinnerbait near the bank. Bump the rocks with your crankbait.

With a spinnerbait, slow-roll it, reeling it just fast enough to tick the tops of rocks. Pause it every few feet to make the skirt flare. In the stained water, Grant likes a chartreuse-and-white spinnerbait skirt with two gold Colorado blades for more thump in the water. Fish both baits all the way around the point.

No. 9: N 33º 10.231 – W 83º 15.187 — Go back up the river past the two big islands. Nancy Creek enters the lake on the left before you get to where the river turns back to the left.

Go into the mouth of Nancy Creek, and you will see a danger marker on the downstream point. The sign is marking big rocks. Even when the lake is at full pool, one of the rocks is visible above the water on the point.

Grant goes just inside the danger marker and fishes down the left bank. He starts at the big rock and fishes past the first small cove on this bank. He keeps his boat way off the bank since it comes out fairly shallow, and he says that he catches a lot of bass two boat lengths, about 40 feet, off the bank here.

Make long casts to the bank, and bump the bottom with your crankbait as far out as you can. When you come to a dock here, run the crankbait by it, but also flip or pitch your jig to each post. If you get a bite on a certain dock post, say the front left one, make several extra pitches to the front left post at all other docks.

No. 10: N 33º 10.244 – W 83º 15.381 — Going straight across from this point into the creek is a big round point. There is a fairly big cove on the upstream side of the point, and the main creek goes past it to the right. There are three big pine trees on this point.

A good seawall goes around the point, and it is rocky. Start on the left side, and cast your crankbait and spinnerbait all the way around the point, keeping in contact with the bottom. This is a good point all winter, but later in February more bass will be on it staging to move farther back into the creek.

Grant says once he catches a couple of bass from a certain kind of point, he expects to find them on the same kinds of points in other places. I didn’t catch my good limit on these spots, but I fished similar places with a crankbait, and the bass were there. These locations hold fish you can catch, but they also show you what to look for in other areas.

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