Toby Bass With Houston Co. High-Schoolers
Student anglers fish Tobesofkee in final event of the spring.
There’s an old saying, usually attributed to Confucius, which goes something like, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” There’s an important life lesson in that simple statement, but sometimes it can be hard to walk the talk and put that good saying into practice in the everyday world. However, there are some outstanding outdoorsmen in Houston County who are mentoring young fishermen into the outdoor community. They are all volunteers, parents and very dedicated sponsors. Their efforts are getting noticed and spreading all across this great state. In this article, we will discuss their efforts and also give GON readers some good Lake Tobesofkee fishing insights.
A couple of years ago, Ike Thompson, an AP language teacher at Veterans High School in Houston County, started to explore the possibility of starting a high school fishing team after he and some students started talking about how much they enjoyed fishing. He approached a few like-minded school teachers with the idea. Soon, with the support of Perry High School English teacher Jeff Winston, and Warner Robins High English teacher Ashley Brock, the idea took root. Lowell Brown, principle of Veterans High, and Assistant Principle Chris Brown, also got behind the idea, and soon the Houston County School Board also voiced their support. Then Ike drew up all the necessary papers, and they were in business!
Ike, Ashley and Jeff all had similar thoughts on why a school sponsored fishing club could be a very good thing for the kids. They said all kids can’t play ball sports, so why not give them a wholesome and positive character building activity to participate in, like fishing? Now kids can not only get an athletic letter in football and other school sports, now they can get one in fishing.
Ike then approached Ronnie Blalock, vice president of International City Builders and an expert fisherman who has shared his fishing wisdom with GON readers in the past. Ronnie decided he wanted to give something back to the outdoor community and was pleased to help support the group.
They all decided to form the Houston County Student Bass Angler Federation and keep everything locally focused, so at the present time they are not associated with any state or national fishing groups, like B.A.S.S. or FLW. Once the word got out about the fishing club, some teachers and students at Bonaire Middle School wanted to get in on the action and formed another fishing group headed by teachers Jalanda Goff and Shannon Sanders.
Of course everything costs money, and they did not want to burden the kids with too much cost, so they set the membership at a low $50 per year. Then they started to line up willing sponsors and found several great businesses that offered their support. International City Builders, Speir Heating and Cooling, International Optimist Club, Ambrose Pediatric Dentistry, Cleghorn Cabinets, Perry Sports Center, American Tax Service, Central Georgia Fence, Lowe Toyota, Carrier, Total Imports Auto, ASX Automotive and many more have been all super supportive, says Ike.
The club hosts six annual tournaments in middle Georgia on lakes Tobesofkee, Blackshear and Sinclair. When this writer joined up with them, they were holding their end of the year tournament and cookout at Lake Tobesofkee, often referred to as just Toby, near Macon.
All the kids were fishing in two-man groups. Adult mentors in the boats were not allowed to fish. It was a cold morning with some wind, and the water temperature was 64 degrees. The prospects for fishing did not look too good, and as Ike and I checked the anglers an hour after blast-off, there were no fish in the boats. However, that quickly changed as the sun got up and temps rose.
Young anglers Dakota Gilliam and Casin Cleghorn used their baitcasters to work Zoom Ol’ Monster worms in pumpkin-seed color around every stick-up and grassbed in the small coves north of Mosley-Dixon Road. They were in quick-step tournament mode, and no patch of water lacked attention from their worms. They put several nice bass in the boat.
Fishing around the rip-rap at the Thomaston Road Bridge, Jacob Ringley and Cameron Bass had good luck throwing dark-red colored, auger-tailed worms with light bullet weights. The water was dingy red from all the recent rains, so they sought out actively feeding bass in the shallow water and around the rocks. They also worked every grassbed by slowly swimming worms.
In the mid-lake section, just west of the Sandy Beach Park, Nicolas Joyner and his partner Austin Langford had good luck working a shallow-running shad-colored crankbait along the shoreline around overhanging bush.
Georgia WRD Biologist Brandon Baker, who works in the Fort Valley office, says Toby bass are looking real good right now, with 60 percent of the fish longer than 12 inches in length, based on a 2015 WRD sample.
Many anglers practice catch and release, which helps to keep good-sized bass in the lake. Many tournament anglers release their bass right off the dock at Claystone Park, so if you’re looking to get a quick bass in the boat in the morning, this is a great spot to start. Recently released bass will hang out in the grassbeds and main-lake drop-offs in this area and around the boats at the marina.
The area around the Fish and Pig restaurant, just around the bend from the marina, near Mosley Dixon Road, is another good place to drag a worm. If you get hungry while you’re fishing, you can stop in for a bite to eat.
As Toby warms up, get away from skiers by trying the coves above Mosley-Dixon Road and the shallow sections of the lake above Thomaston Road Bridge.
Brandon says not to overlook the other fish in the lake, which also provide both good fishing and great eating. For example, shellcrackers were in abundance along the shore in 4 to 6 feet of water. Based on WRD’s sample, some of these fish were 8 inches long and three-quarters of a pound.
Hybrid bass also continue to be a major attraction for Toby anglers.
Brandon said stripers were not doing very well in the lake due to a lack of a cool water refuge for the fish in the summertime, so WRD had gone to only stocking hybrids, which have much better survival rates. Recently, WRD stocked 26,250 hybrids in the lake, and with their fast growth rate, they will be between 1/2 to 1 pound by this fall. Hybrids from previous year stockings will be much larger.
The big water in front of the dam is a good place to find hybrids in the summer. Also, target the sandy bottom area just out from Sandy Beach Park. Apparently the suntan lotion and the occasional taco that falls into the water from floating lounge chairs turns on the fish. Try chicken livers on the bottom in this area for hybrids and catfish.
Crappie continue to do very well in the lake, says Brandon. The recent sample showed a lot of big crappie, and although the spawn is over, he suggests that the many newly installed fish attractors will produce lots of crappie and bass in the summer months.
The old buoy attractor sites have been refurbished with new plastic attractors, and lots of new unmarked sites have been added, too. Two easy to find attractors have been placed at the bridge pilings at the Thomaston Road Bridge. To locate all the attractors, go to www.georgiawildlife.com/fishing, click on reservoirs, then Lake Tobesokfkee, and you’ll find the GPS readings. If you don’t see GPS readings, check back soon, as they are being updated now.
To get your high school started in a locally oriented bass fishing club, Ike Thompson is willing to help any school get started with a packet of start-up information. E-mail him at [email protected]
There is also a complete rundown of the federation’s activities at www.facebook.com/HCSBAF/.
The top-three teams for 2015-16 season were: 1) Cleghorn-Gilliam VHS 36-lbs. 14-ozs. 2) Langford-Joiner HoCo 24-lbs. 14-ozs. 3) Martin-Rowell PHS 23-lbs.
Ike has started a great fishing trend that hopefully will spread all across our great state and that would be a very good thing for youth and the future of fishing.
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