Oconee Memories Made Catching Hybrids

Doug Nelms and Mark Smith spent two days fishing with the GONetwork.

Steve Burch | June 1, 2009


Oconee guides Mark Smith and Doug Nelms took these three SEEDS members on a hybrid-fishing trip in April. The lucky kids were (from left) John Thompson, 12, of Moreland, Billy Johnson, 10, of Duluth, and Buck Lawson, 14, of Marietta.

Friends of Dr. Al West would be pleased to recall a recent Saturday on Lake Oconee, and more similar Saturdays to come.

Dr. West had a special interest in helping those with special needs and was particularly fond of taking these special people fishing.

When Dr. West passed away, many of his friends thought it a fitting tribute, with donations in lieu of flowers, to continue his program to take these people fishing.

His friends and family contacted GONetwork, inquiring if we could assist. It was an obvious and perfect fit.

Allen is a resident at the Advocacy Resource Center in Macon. I met Allen, two of his buddies and Lake Oconee fishing guide Doug Nelms at the Long Shoals ramp Saturday morning, May 16 about 6:30.

Buck Lawson caught this Oconee lineside on a SEEDS fishing trip while fishing with guide Mark Smith.

Doug Nelms and the hybrid crew caught their fish at Flag Pole Point.

It was a very comfortable day to fish — smooth, cloudy, light breeze, a risk of showers that held off until the afternoon and not too many people on the water.

Allen keeps two fishing rods standing at the foot of his bed. He also has his own tackle box, and he inventories its contents each evening. If you want to go fishing, Allen is ready.

The morning fishing started slowly as the anticipated frenzy around spawning shad on seawalls did not materialize. Sassy Shad, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and Thing Poppers went through fishy spots unmolested.

By 7:30, we began plan b. We made a quick run to to the Lick Creek Bridge for shad, and four throws was enough. Then, we ran down to Flag Pole Point to freeline shad.

The water was off-color, and the fish did not bite, but they were chasing on top. Finally, we caught our first fish, and it was encouraging.

So we went looking.

First we went to the humps at the mouth of Richland Creek and then to the points on the Greene County side of the dam. We then fished down the buoy line and across to the game-warden dock cove, where we again freelined shad and put out some down rods.

While all this moving and fishing was not productive fish-wise, Allen was loving every minute of it. Never was a rod tip watched with greater anticipation. We did not have to watch the rods; we just watched Allen. When he went on point, we knew something was up.

Finally, I saw a glimmer in Doug Nelms eyes.

“We know there are fish at the Flag Pole,” he said. “Let’s go up there and make them bite.”

Doug unlimbered two heavy Ugly Sticks with large baitcaster reels spooled with 50-lb. test braided line. Each was rigged with a Norman DD22 and two Thing Poppers rigged to run just above the big crankbait.

Doug put them back about 125 feet and began trolling at about 3 mph.

The hybrids and stripers could not stand it. In the next hour, we put five more fish in the boat, missed several and got hung up on the bottom four or five times.

All of this activity, plus the fish it produced, was a real treat for Allen.

Allen had a fantastic time. Dr. Al West’s efforts to take folks with special needs fishing are being carried on by others.

Allen holds the first fish of the morning. This hybrid took a free-lined shad at Flag Pole Point above Long Shoals.

GONetwork was pleased to be allowed to participate in such a worthwhile endeavor.

For more information and to see video of this trip, go to the “What’s GON On” section of the GON website, <>.

SEEDS Linesides Trip: On Good Friday, April 10, Doug teamed up with fishing guide Mark Smith to take three SEEDS members fishing on Oconee. Mark guides mostly on Oconee, but he will guide for stripers on Lanier.

The trip winners were Billy Johnson, 10, of Duluth, John Thompson, 12, of Moreland and Buck Lawson, 14, of Marietta. They won the trip by filling out a coupon in GON and mailing it in. Keep watching the GONetwork coverage in GON for future coupon trips.

The kids had a blast catching fish. We thank Mark and Doug for taking time from their busy schedules to host these trips.

Mark Smith guides full time on Oconee and part-time on Lanier, and his web address is <reeltimeguidese>. He can be reached for guide trips at (404) 803-0741.

Doug Nelms guides on Oconee. In addition to taking folks out for linesides, he guides for Oconee’s big slab crappie, too. Doug can be reached at (770) 354-0300. His website is <>.

This is a very happy Allen at the end of his fishing trip with guide Doug Nelms. At the end, Allen took out his stringer, strung up his fish and put them in a cooler. He was very happy and pleased with the trip.

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