Shoreline Cover For Bartletts Ferry Winter Bass

Ronnie Garrison | January 1, 2007

West Georgia Bass Club tournament anglers Kevin Phillips (left) and Robert Medas show off the four largest fish from their cold- front catch on Bartletts Ferry. The house in the background is the big house mentioned in hole No. 10.

Cold weather and cold water make many bass fishermen stay home this time of year. That is one reason you should be on the lake. You will have much less competition from other fishermen and pleasure boaters are almost non-existent. Best of all, you can catch bass, especially if you choose a lake like Bartletts Ferry.

Located downstream of West Point on the Chattahoochee River, Bartletts Ferry — also called Lake Harding — is a 5,850-acre lake lined with docks and cabins. It is a very old Georgia Power lake, created in the 1920s, but there is still a lot of wood cover and rocky banks. You can find humps and drops to fish, but the shore- line-related cover holds a lot of bass.

Robert Medas moved to LaGrange when he was 10 years old and met Kevin Phillips, who has lived there all his life. In high school they became friends, fishing local ponds and creeks together. About seven years ago Kevin bought a bass boat, and they tried local pot tournaments and liked them. In 2005 they joined the West Georgia Bass Club, a team-tournament trail, and came in fourth for the year.

In 2006 they won the points standings in the club. West Georgia Bass Club had 143 teams last year, and most tournaments had about 70 boats in them. They pay one out of seven boats entered. Kevin and Robert got checks in eight of 12 of the tournaments last year, quite and accomplishment for two young fishermen.

Kevin and Robert live just up the road from Bartletts and fish it a good bit. Robert fishes a lot of pot tournaments on it and other lakes in the area, and Kevin joins him when he can. Robert has done well this year in other tournaments, too.

January is a good month to fish Bartletts Ferry. The water is more stable than on some other small lakes because West Point Lake upstream moderates the inflow. It is small enough that you can fish it and not be far from the ramp if the weather gets bad, and Bartletts Ferry has a lot of good winter structure and cover to find bass holding in this time of year.

On December 7, Kevin and Robert shared some of their tactics for catching January bass at Bartletts Ferry. That was the day the coldest weather in two years hit Georgia and, with a strong cold front moving in, I really did not expect a very good trip. Yet we landed about a dozen keepers and half that many short fish, and Robert had a largemouth that went 5.4 pounds on Kevin’s scales. They could have weighed in an 11- to 12-lb. five- fish limit that day, not bad under those conditions.

Bass are holding fairly deep in brush and on other structure, waiting on shad this time of year. Kevin and Robert expect the water to be around 50 degrees in January, but it was already in the low 50s when we fished, and some real cold weather in late December may make it colder. The bass will still be in the same places, but will be more sluggish and harder to catch.

Robert and Kevin try a variety of lures for winter bass. They fish as a team and try different things until something clicks. Robert usually fishes faster, throwing crankbaits and spinnerbaits, while Kevin follows up with a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm. Robert is also learning to jig a spoon for deeper fish and likes to try that when he spots schools of baitfish with fish under them out on deeper points and humps.

Kevin Phillips shows off the best spotted bass of the day.

Although Robert usually runs the trolling motor, Kevin will jump on it while Robert reties or changes equipment. The whole time they are fishing they discuss what the bass seem to be doing and where they should fish. They bounce ideas off each other, trying to come up with a good pattern and things to try. They compliment each other in their fishing and work together well, making a good team.

We fished each of the following 10 holes in December and caught fish on many of them. Kevin and Robert said these are all places they fish in tournaments.

No. 1: N 32° 42.449 – W 85° 06.899 — If you put in at Idle hour Park, head down the river to the two big rocky points on your left where the river opens up. The upstream point has a tree on it with two gray rings painted around it. There is a narrow cut between these two main-lake points, and the water is deep all around them.

Start fishing on the upstream side of the upstream point and fish all around it, working your baits through the big rocks under water. When you get even with the downstream side of the point, keep your boat out in about 16 feet of water and go toward the next point. There is a ledge across the mouth of the cut, and bass often hold on it. You will be sitting in about 16 feet of water and casting up into seven or eight feet. Kevin and Robert have taken some good bass off this ledge.

Fish across to the next point, and work it like the upstream one. You can continue down the bank on the down- stream side, and there is a good blow- down to fish. That is about as far down this bank as Kevin and Robert go.

No. 2: N 32° 41.183 – W 85° 06.085 — Run down to the creek behind the island with the standing chimney on it. This creek is on the Georgia side, and there is a sailboat club in the mouth of it behind the island. Idle in past the sailboats to the point on the left on the other side of the club. There is a brown brick house with a white dock and white gazebo on the point. Start fishing at the dock.

This bank is on the north side and is protected by the island. The sun hits this bank, and there are rocks under water along the wooden seawall. This is a good January pattern, hitting places like this where the sun warms the water. Robert and Kevin like to start with a spinnerbait here and on similar places, casting right up against the sea- wall, looking for active bass.

As you work down this bank into the creek there is a good bit of brush out in deeper water. Bass often hold in this brush and move in to feed. Watch for brush on your depthfinder or probe for it with a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm. Fish it slowly and carefully when you hit it. Also, hit the docks and blowdowns along this bank. Robert picked up our first keeper here the day we fished.

Don’t go way back in the creek, instead jump across and fish the docks on that side. There is a good rocky point before you get across from the sailboat club where Robert and Kevin landed bass at the same time.

No. 3: N 32° 41.646 – W 85° 08.269 — There are several humps Robert and Kevin like to fish, and this is typical of them. Head up Halawakee Creek, and go past the power lines. Straight ahead of you, the bank on the right runs way out as the creek bends to your left. Go straight toward the bank ahead of you, and watch your depthfinder. About 150 yards off this bank, a ridge runs parallel to the bank in front of a cream-colored cabin with a green, steel roof and matching dock.

Idle around this ridge, and look for bait and fish holding off the side of it. It tops out at about six feet deep and drops off fast into deep water. Robert caught a small hybrid and spot here when we fished, but said earlier in the week he caught a good largemouth on it.

When you spot fish holding near the bottom, drop a spoon and jig it up and down on them. Also try a jig-head worm. Try to stay right on top of the fish, and fish your bait vertically, imitating a dying shad.

No. 4: N 32° 41.483 – W 85° 08.873 — The rip-rap and pilings on Long Bridge get a lot of fishing pres- sure but still hold a lot of bass. Robert and Kevin like to start on the right side going upstream, on the downstream side of the bridge. There are some big rocks here, and they fish them with a variety of baits, and then work under the bridge and fish the upstream side.

After fishing the rocks, fish the pilings as you move across to the other side. You can run spinnerbaits and crankbaits by them or let a jig-head worm or jig ’n pig fall down to them slowly. When you get to the other side, fish the rocks on it, also. We caught several keepers, including the biggest spot of the day, and some throwbacks on the rocks and pilings.

No. 5: N 32° 41.751 – W 85° 09.740 — Upstream on the right some condos are being built where Chambley’s Marina used to be. Go past them and into the creek just above them. As you go into it, you will see a steep, rocky point coming out from the right side. There is an old, run-down cabin on top of this steep point and part of an old dock half floating in the water. The water drops off fast here, and the rocks hold bass.

Start fishing to the right of the old dock, and fish out to the point. The point runs way out toward a no-wake buoy, so stay back and make casts across it. Try some fast-moving baits like crankbaits or spinnerbaits here, especially if the sun has been warming the water, but also crawl a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm down the rocks. There is some brush on the downstream side, too.

Fish around the point and watch carefully. There are a couple of blow- downs in the water on this side that run way out, and you can barely see them. Find them and fish them thoroughly.

Work down to the dock on this side before leaving.

No. 6: N 32° 41.750 – W 85° 09.785 — Jump across the mouth of the cove to the point on the right going out. It is across and out a little from the steep, rocky point on the other side. Start fishing at the black dock near the for-sale cabin, and fish into the creek. Stay way off the bank; there is good brush out from the docks all along this bank. Fish down to the dock with the light on it.

Stay out and work a jig-head worm or jig ’n pig through the brush. Robert caught the 5.4-lb. largemouth here on a jig-head worm rigged weedless. Robert and Kevin like the Davis Shakey Head jig head because the spike on it holds the worm and keeps it weedless. It also has a good hook on it. They use Bite Me jig heads, as well.

No.7: N 32° 41.248-W85° 10.107 — Come out of this creek and head upstream. You will see an old rail- road trestle crossing the lake. Stop on the point below it on your left heading upstream. The bank between this point and the trestle is an outside bend of the old creek channel, and there is a steep rock wall that drops off fast. There is a lot of wood cover along this bank, as well as rocks on the bottom.

Work this bank slowly and carefully. If there are two of you, one can try crankbaits and spinnerbaits for active fish while the other works a slow-moving bait like the jig-head worm or a jig ’n pig. Try to bump cover and shake your bait in it. Watch for blowdowns that run way off the bank here, too. You can be on top of them before you realize they are there.

No. 8: N 32° 41.157 – W 85° 10.373 — Either fish under the trestle or idle under it and look to your left. There is a rocky point on the down- stream side of a cove just above the trestle. Start fishing this point, staying out and making long casts to it. There are good rocks on it, and Kevin took a largemouth just over two pounds off of it on a jig ’n pig the day we fished.

Fish the point then work around the mouth of the cove. The point on the upstream side has a lot of brush cut down into the water, and it is a deep bank with rocks, too. Work it and the dock then fish up to the next dock. You can fish all the way up to the next point with the cabin and sign that reads “Rocky Point,” especially if you have caught fish in this area.

No.9: N 32° 41.156-W 85° 10.705 — Cross to the right side going upstream, and go up to the point just downstream of where the lake opens up. There is a house with a green, steel  roof behind a dock with no top, just pilings and walkways. Upstream of the dock toward the point is a tree in the water you can see. Kevin and Robert start at this tree that is in the water way off the bank and fish down the bank.

Fish all the way down to the point with the dock that has some gourd and block swift houses on it. There is a lot of wood out in the water along this bank to fish. There are also some areas that are shallow and others that are deep. This bank offers a good variety of kinds of places for bass to hold.

No. 10: N 32° 41.287 – W 85° 10.565 — Either fish into the creek past the dock with the bird houses or idle into it. The first dock on the left, in front of a wood house with a black roof, has brush under it, and the bank past it is rocky. Fish the dock and bank. Robert got a keeper on a spinnerbait off this bank. Try spinnerbaits and crankbaits, but also probe for brush with slower-moving baits along this bank.

In the back of this creek is a huge house, probably the biggest on the lake. Fish around past it and past the next few docks, working out of the creek. The water gets shallow just past the last dock, and Kevin and Robert usually stop fishing at that dock. It has green floats and is in front of a small gray house.

Fish were holding on these spots in early December, and they will stay on them through the winter. Hit them this month and you should catch fish. You can transfer this pattern to other places on the lake that are similar. With a good mix of spots and largemouth, you are likely to have a good winter trip at Bartletts Ferry.

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