For many years, Lake Allatoona has been jokingly referred to as “The Dead Sea.” Some anglers will recount stories of frustrating days on the lake with little or no bites. Having never visited Allatoona, I wondered if the rumors surrounding the lake were true.
I joined Jason Mullinax, a Cartersville native, who serves as a guide on Allatoona and also competes in the Costa FLW Series circuit. We met at the Cooper Branch boat ramp shortly before daylight on a brisk morning in mid-March. After we boarded the boat, Jason lowered his trolling motor and headed toward a patch of rocks just 50 yards from the ramp.
“Most people pass right by this spot, but it’s one of my favorite places on the lake to fish,” said Jason.
On my first cast, I felt a familiar tug shortly after my bait sank to the bottom. After reeling in and throwing in the same location, I hooked into a beautiful spotted bass—the first of many that we would catch that day. All notions that this lake would be barren were quickly dispelled as I landed another spot just a few casts later.
“I always laugh when people call it the Dead Sea,” said Jason. “Anyone who actually fishes out here will tell you that the Dead Sea is alive and well.”
Jason has been fishing Allatoona for more than 20 years. He knows the lake as well as any angler.
Lake Allatoona is located in southwestern Cherokee County and southeastern Bartow County. The rising hills surrounding the lake’s shoreline create one of the more scenic freshwater fishing destinations in the state.
April is a magical time to fish Allatoona as most of the lake’s bass are either spawning or preparing to spawn. Jason says the water temperature dictates this process, and anglers should look for a lake temperature of 62 degrees. Warmer weather in March can also prompt bass to spawn earlier than normal.
“Once they begin their spawning process, they are committed to it, and they won’t go back to deeper water—even if the water temperature drops back down into the 50s,” said Jason. “Unlike the largemouth, the spotted bass will stay and guard their bed, even if the water temperature drops back down.”
The water temperature was a cool 57 degrees during our mid-March outing, but the bass bite was as hot as ever. Jason and I were able to enjoy warmer weather later that day as the temperature climbed toward 70 degrees while the sun rose higher into the sky. A cold front was on its way toward Allatoona with a considerable amount of precipitation.
While attentively watching and learning Jason’s technique and tactics for Allatoona bass, I got in plenty of fishing time myself. I used a Picasso 1/8-oz. Tungsten Ned with a 3-inch Roboworm Ned Worm in Aaron’s magic color. The Ned rig is typically suited for a spinning rod and reel combination. Throughout the day, I used an iROD Air IRA6102A 6-10 medium rod with a Shimano Ci4 2500 spinning reel, spooled with 16-lb. Sunline TX1 braid with a 6 feet of 7-lb. Sunline FC Sniper Fluorocarbon leader.
“The Ned rig is a great all-around bait for Allatoona—and any lake for that matter,” said Jason. “You can pick up bites when they are really turned on, or when the action is a little slower and the fish are more sluggish.”
Jason stressed the importance of using a fluorocarbon leader as waters in Allatoona tend to be very clear, even during April when heavy rains often diminish visibility.
When asked about his go-to bait of choice for Allatoona, Jason responded without hesitation.
“Jigs. Those are what I usually throw out here throughout the year, especially in April,” said Jason.
Throughout our trip on Allatoona, Jason threw a few different bait-and-rod combinations, but he would work the jig thoroughly at each stop. Jason uses a Picasso 1/4-oz. green-pumpkin Tungsten Football Jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. in green pumpkin with the tips dipped in JJ’s Magic chartreuse dipping dye. He cast this bait on a Irod Air IRA703C 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a Shimano Metanium MGL 150XG spooled with 10-lb. Sunline FC Sniper Fluorocarbon.
Our day on Allatoona offered plenty of excitement and hooksets as we landed more than 50 bass—the majority of which I will admit were Jason’s catches. My time on the water with Jason was as educational as it was enjoyable. He stressed that there are five different types of locations he focuses his efforts on to produce both quantity and quality of bass in April.
“For someone just wanting to catch a lot of fish, you’ll want to concentrate on the places that bass will pull up and hold and feed,” said Jason. “These are what I would call transitional locations where they are moving from deep water to where they are going to spawn. You will increase your chances of running into those fish as opposed to just heading straight toward the shallows and pounding away.”
Jason says that anglers should first focus on points as the lake is brimming with an abundant spotted bass population.
“Points would be first,” said Jason. “That’s based on the natural tendency of spotted bass. That’s where you’ll usually find them. I typically start on points first, and I’ll throw Ned rigs and tungsten shaky-head lures. I use all tungsten because you will break off a lot, and I don’t want to break off a lot of lead in the lake. The tungsten is so hard that it transmits the bite much more efficiently. It may not seem like such a small detail is so important, but those things are the difference in a five-fish day and a 50-fish day.”
Jason says to look for both long and tapering points, as well as the shorter and steeper points that will hold schools of spotted bass and an occasional largemouth. The key to fishing these points during the month of April is to focus on southern-facing points that offer protection from northerly winds.
“Spotted bass really love the harder-bottom locations, so pay attention to points that have pea gravel, boulders or red-clay bottoms in the spring,” said Jason. “Spotted bass love a good, hard bottom, and pea gravel creates an ideal surface for them to spawn on. They will fan a bed out in the pea gravel. Look for the southern-facing banks because the water will warm faster during the day. You also don’t want to be in a spot with a lot of current because that would sweep the eggs away.”
Another combination Jason likes to try on these locations is a Picasso 3/16-oz. Tungsten Shakedown Shakey Head with a Pro Point Lures Junior Bug in natural craw orange. He will throw this on an Irod Air IRA702C 7-foot medium rod with a Shimano Curado 70XG spooled with 8-lb. Sunline FC Sniper Fluorocarbon.
Second to points in Jason’s list is fishing around the many marker poles on Lake Allatoona. These marker poles are designed to warn boaters of dangerous areas underwater, such as reefs and rocks. Jason noted that the poles are installed by pouring concrete, which creates large concrete flats that offer perfect spawning habitats for bass. He said these tall, white marker poles often hold schools of bass or spawning fish and are a prime location in April.
“The key to fishing around these poles is to not get too close to them,” said Jason. “Most of the time, these poles will be in the middle of a very wide, shallow area, so if you pull right up on it, you’ll spook any fish off before you can get a cast in.”
During our trip, these marker poles became one of my favorite hotspots. The Ned rig is especially appealing to the spotted bass that hold on shallow-rock formations, and I was able to get plenty of bites by slowly working the rig over and around these rocks and flats.
Next on the list is pockets. Jason says he will look for pockets that may be several hundred yards long, but he says don’t overlook the short pockets either. Jason and I located one spawning bass in a medium-sized pocket during our trip. The number of spawning bass in these areas will explode during the month of April as several waves of fish will be spawning.
“The key ingredient to a good pocket is bottom composition,” said Jason. “Pockets with lots of silt that has covered the bottom holds very few fish. Good pockets are usually narrow and have good depth from the back to the front, often in 5 to 15 feet of water.”
Some of these pockets are ideal locations to find big largemouth on the lake. For anglers looking for bigger fish, seek out pockets that contain large boulders or blowdowns. These structures will hold both largemouth and bigger spotted bass.
Fourth on Jason’s list of Allatoona hotspots is cuts. These are well-defined cuts in bluff-bank areas that provide vertical structure that will offer irregularities along the bottom that hold spotted bass. Spotted bass will often spawn on the small, flat, rock ledges that protrude out of the cut walls.
“Most people focus on the larger flat areas to find spawning bass, but these spots only need a small area to go through their spawn,” said Jason. “Sometimes, you’ll find them along a very steep cut area that you might not ever expect to see a spawning bass.”
Last—but certainly not least—on Jason’s list are ditches. Anglers should seek out narrow creeks that meander back into the backs of large, flat spawning pockets.
“Early in the spawning stage, female spots, as well as largemouth, will congregate and hold in these ditches while they wait for the perfect temperature to move up and spawn on the nests the males have made,” said Jason. “After the spawning is complete, they will also pull back into these same ditches and recompose from the laborious spawn.”
Jason says these locations are often a two-way street as there will be fish waiting to go up into the spawning areas, as well as bass that are returning after completing their spawn. The best ditches on Allatoona contain boulders and stumps. Stumps aren’t very plentiful on the lake, as most of them have deteriorated since the lake’s construction in the 1940s. If anglers are able to find a ditch that contains stumps, Jason says it’s a sure bet that they will be holding plenty of fish.
As an added bonus, Jason says the month of April on Allatoona can be a great time to take a youngster fishing for shellcrackers.
“Search the backs of long, shallow, sandy pockets in water depth from 1 to 4 feet,” said Jason. “Shellcracker beds will glow bright white in contrast to the bottom color. They can be easily spotted from the bank if you have no access to a boat. You can often smell them before you see them as they congregate in large numbers to spawn in very small areas, and the fish smell will be strong.”
Jason says that any simple rod and reel option is enough to catch plenty of shellcrackers during this time.
During the latter part of our trip on Allatoona, the rains moved in, and Jason and I soon grabbed our raingear and hastily put them on. Despite the heavy downpours, Jason and I kept fishing and continued to catch fish. While this was my first outing on Allatoona, it certainly will not be my last.
I would encourage any angler to try these locations and baits on Allatoona, and see for themselves that The Dead Sea is certainly alive and well.
Most of the tackle mentioned in this article can be purchased locally at Nature’s Tackle Box in Hiram or Gable Sporting Goods in Douglasville. Purchase online at www.picassooutdoors.com, www.irodfishing.com, www.biteclubsoap.com and www.propointlures.com.