Stuckey’s Lake In Wilkinson County
A small-lake paradise for big bass, crappie and bream.
Private pay-to-fish ponds come and go across the Georgia landscape, and many have disappeared over the years. However, Stuckey’s Pond in Wilkinson County near Irwinton and Jeffersonville has withstood the test of time and is still going strong. In fact, Chris Bailey, of Houston County, says Stuckey’s Pond is one the best places in Georgia to tie into a trophy bass.
He should know, as he has pulled hundreds of 10-lb. plus bass from the lake since 1971 when he started fishing there. Chris is a retired lieutenant with the Warner Robins Fire Department and now gets to hunt and fish on a more frequent basis, and Stuckey’s Pond is his favorite fishing hole.
He’s almost an honorary member of the Stuckey family, and one of his big bass, a 13-lb., 4-oz. lunker, hangs in the Stuckey’s living room. Chris and I stopped by the house on March 13 to check in, and I got to meet the fine southern lady of the house, Sharleen Stuckey. I knew I would like her before I met her because she had a “God Bless America” wreath in red, white and blue on the front door and a small American flag flying on a flag pole next to their Stuckey’s Fish Pond sign. Love of country, love of the outdoors and fishing run strong in the Stuckey family.
Sharleen says fishing is $10 per day and on the honor system. Visiting anglers can slide the money into the metal pay box near the front porch. Fishing is allowed from sunrise to sunset 365 days a year. No hunting or shooting is allowed around the lake, and only trolling motors can be used on the 100-acre lake. Camping is allowed for $35 a night for tents and $50 for full hook-up RVs.
Sharleen says the lake was built in 1953, and the dam washed out in 1968 during a strong storm, but that’s ancient history. Some fill dirt was scooped from the lake bottom to fill in the dam, and the long trench remains on the lake bottom just out from the campground. So, if you want to fish some good structure for bass, drag a Texas-rigged worm through that area. Also, when the lake was down, stumps and debris were piled up in a line along the old stream channels to add more fish structure.
The lake is fed by two small streams, and several springs provide good clean water. The lake is shaped like a turkey track with three main coves. For a good bird’s eye view, go to Google Earth and type in “Stuckey Boone Lake, Irwinton, Georgia.” Sharleen says that she and her husband Wendell take good care of the lake and lime and fertilize it often to keep the fish growing and healthy.
Chris and I had in mind to try for a lunker bass, but he had fished the day before on a trial run and only got a few hits. He did hook into a big bass he estimated to be about 12 pounds, but it broke off after a short fight. Just before our fishing day, a cold front had passed through, and we faced a steady wind that put the lock jaw on the bass. We did see several bass beds along the bank, but nearly all of them were empty of spawning bass. Of course, we had to give them a try but got no takers.
Later we tried Texas-rigged worms in the main lake but only got a few small bass. Chris said that the bass had moved out to deeper water and would be back on the beds after a few days of sunshine and warming temperatures.
Chris’s biggest bass have come from spawning females in March, but some will linger into early April. He likes to tie on a 1/4-oz. Arkie jig dressed with a brown or green-pumpkin pork rind. For line, he uses 50-lb. Spidewire. He uses Abu Garcia Revo baitcasting reels paired with Allstar 6-5 medium-heavy rods. He fishes out of a 14-foot Weldbilt aluminum boat.
Casting for bedding bass is a straight forward process, says Chris. First, you slowly work your boat about 20 feet out from the bank and try to spot bright sandy areas where the big female bass are cleaning out a depression to lay their eggs. Often the female will be hovering near the center of the bed with the smaller male cruising nearby. The female will usally outweigh the male by quite a bit. When you see the bass on the bed, it will often swim off, but not too far, and it will likely return soon.
After the bass is spotted, Chris will move off about 20 to 30 feet and anchor down his boat, and the waiting game begins. The goal, says Chris, is to wait until the bass eases back to the bed, and then the jig is worked directly into the center of the bed. Chris tightens the line and waits for that gentle peck as the bass picks up the lure to remove it from the bed. That pick-up tap could take one minute, 30 minutes, or it might never happen.
Getting the bait close works with hand grenades but not bass bed fishing. These bedding fish are not interested in feeding but only in removing a potential predator from its bed, so make sure it’s in the center.
Chris suggests that a good pair of polarized glasses can help solve the mystery as the bass moves around, but cloudy water or a wind can make it more difficult to tell what the bass is doing. Sometimes the bass will just stare at the jig for long periods of times and not touch it. But a gentle tap of the line could draw a reactionary strike. He says if you wait for a strong tug on the line, you will be disappointed and will probably miss your chance to set the hook. So, once you tighten your line, set the hook on that first tap. Time and experience are the best teachers, and once you have been successful a few times, you become more successful, but it’s rarely easy.
Chris says a Carolina- or Texas-rigged worm in green pumpkin or junebug is a good starting point. Fish anywhere along the cuts in the bank or under the overhanging branches. Once the sun gets high, try the same baits in the middle of the creek channels, the submerged ditch in front of the campground or the submerged trees that stick up in front of the dam.
Chris has had good luck with a chrome Rat-L-Trap in the lake. A few years ago, he used a Rat-L-Trap in front of the campground and caught 10 bass that weighed 10 pounds each, or better, over a few hours. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not a misprint, but Chris says it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. If you visit the lake, pack a chrome Rat-L-Trap.
With the bass fishing being slow, we didn’t hesitate to switch to crappie fishing and were well rewarded for our efforts. In about three hours of fishing, we put a two-man limit of 60 nice crappie in the boat for an upcoming fish fry. With the water temperature being around 67 degrees and the dogwoods in bloom, the crappie were on the banks spawning, so now is the time to hit the water. We used 1/24-oz. Hal-Fly jigs about 18 inches below a small cigar cork to get our limits. Our preferred color was white heads, yellow bodies and white tail feathers. Using spinning reels loaded with 6-lb. line, we cast the Hal-Flys up to within 5 feet of the banks and immediately started a short jerking action to impart a little action into the jig. The crappie were steady for a few hours until we had our limits. Chris says the bank action will continue until the middle of April, and then the crappie can be caught along the main channels by casting or trolling jigs or minnows.
Bluegill are numerous in the lake and popular with anglers. Try crickets along the bank during April and May as the bream start to bed. The backs of coves are always good, and the beds are easy to spot. Don’t be surprised to pull in a few catfish, too.
It’s easy to reach Stuckey’s Pond. From Jeffersonville, at the intersection of Highways 96 and 80, follow Highway 96 east for 7.4 miles until you reach Stuckey Road on your right. Turn right, and go 5.3 miles until the road splits. At that intersection you’ll see the white-framed Stuckey home on the left with the metal pay box near the front porch. Once you deposit your $10, take the dirt trail around the metal barn for one-half mile to the lake, and go fishing. You’ll be glad you discovered Stuckey’s Pond.
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