Lake Allatoona has a reputation for being super tough and very selfish with its quality bass. Some even go as far as to call it the “Dead Sea,” but it is far from that. Hopefully this article will shine some light onto what the bass on Allatoona will be doing as we look at the types of places you can find them and the lures you can use to catch them.
To start, we need to put ourselves in the so-called “shoes” of Allatoona bass. In the month of March, the bass have their boots laced tight, and the yearly migration march will be on. In their spring migrations, some bass may only move hundreds of yards, while some will move as much as a half mile.
In March, you can’t say with 100 percent certainty that the bass will be in any given location on any particular day. You may find them in a spot one day, and the next day they will be gone. During this month, I consider bass “homeless.”
Here’s a “road map” of where you can expect bass to be on Allatoona this month.
Early March: Beginning in the first part of March when cold fronts are still plentiful and water temps are in the mid to upper 40s, most bass will still be in the 9- to 15-foot range. These fish will be keying on main-lake bait that is still suspended and typically not holding to any cover or structure. This is when I do a lot of idling with my Humminbird 899 with Side Imaging to look for the greatest concentrations of bait and feeding bass.
This part of the month can be tough because these fish don’t stay on any given place for long. But when you find them, you can load the boat. During this early phase, I find that when the lake is muddy, it makes fishing a little more difficult. It seems that fish are more apt to chase bait they can see.
Mid March: Water temps are slowly creeping into the low 50s. The bass are starting to get really active and feeding good. This time of year is the best time on Allatoona to catch a trophy fish. Some of the largest tournament bags are weighed in during this time. Last March, five-fish limits weighing 20 pounds is what it took to win most tournaments.
Long points leading into creeks and sometimes secondary points are where you will find bass staging before the last leg of the journey to the spawning grounds. This stage will last two to three weeks, give or take a week.
I’ll use my Humminbird 899 Side Imaging and the LakeMaster mapping chip to pinpoint sweet spots and locate where the channel swings in closest to the points.
Muddy water in this mid period seems to be a positive thing because it heats up quicker, and fish will move shallower after the sun warms the water.
Mid to Late March: This time of year is very important as bass get within a rock’s throw of their final nesting area. At this point, the water temps are in the 55- to 60-degree range. Bass follow the contours and ditches where they are able to retreat if the weather turns foul and you get a sharp change in surface temps due to cold fronts. Fish will back off and bury up for a few days until temps get right again.
Bass on Allatoona historically go on the bed this part of March, even though the water is stained up as the water levels come up. When water levels fluctuate, I use the water-level setting on the Humminbird LakeMaster mapping chip to give me real time data.
Now that you’ve found the bass, here’s how to catch them.
The Alabama Rig: A few years back, this bait hit the market with full force after Paul Elias won an FLW event on Lake Guntersville. This bait was used to mimic balls of shad and target suspended largemouth. But over time we found this to be a great bait for spotted bass as well. Even though this bait is 100 percent legal in Georgia, it has been banned at some higher-level tournaments, like the Bass Elites and FLW events. It is not a miracle bait, but it is a great tool to have in your bag.
The Alabama Rig is similar to the umbrella rig that is trolled by striper and hybrid fishermen, but this setup can be casted. A main wire has a head on it, and four wires branch out at different angles from the head.
At the end of the main wire and the four side arms are clips that allow you to attach baits, like the 3.5-inch Big Bite Cane Thumper or other shad-imitation soft plastics.
I have found that the addition of small willow blades adds flash and seems to make a great difference when going after spotted bass. Typically when using this bait, you’re not going for numbers, but you are looking for larger bass.
I’ll throw the Alabama Rig on main-lake points and creek mouths during the first part of March. Points allow them easy access to deep water for cold fronts, but they can move up easily on nice warm days.
For my A-rig setup, I use a 7-foot, 6-inch Cashion heavy-action rod on 50-lb. Sunline FX Braid. The heavier setup is needed because of the possibility of multiple fish, stripers or retrieving your bait if it gets hung up.
Once fish and bait are located in the areas of the main-lake points, take the wind into consideration and position the nose of the boat into the wind for better boat control. Make long casts, and allow the bait to either go to bottom or count it down to the depth you marked most of the fish on your graph.
Once you’ve got the bait to the desired depth, begin to slowly reel the bait back to the boat. I very rarely reel the bait fast in March. As you’re reeling the bait, you will get bites, but the fish will not always hook up. When you feel the bite, continue to reel without stopping. When the rod does load up with a fish, set the hook.
Medium-depth Crankbaits: The next bait I like to use in early spring and in prespawn conditions is the medium-depth crankbait. I fish these baits in some of the same areas I use the A-rig (points and secondary points).
Baits like the Spro Little John DD and the Spro Rock Crawler are very important tools to cover a lot of water. Both baits have different actions and cover depths between 9 to 12 feet. Even though both baits imitate shad very well, the Rock Crawler also serves as a good crawfish imitation, especially when bouncing it along rocks on the bottom. Early spring bass are feeding on pretty much anything they can to gain that much-needed nutrition they need before the spawn.
My favorite way to work mid-depth crankbaits this time of year is to parallel the shoreline after locating the depth where the majority of bass are holding. I mix the retrieves from a fast, erratic retrieve to a slow, methodical retrieve, almost like working a plastic worm. Rock or where rock transitions to sand or red clay banks are good target areas.
When fishing these crankbaits, I like a 7-foot, 3-inch Cashion medium CRT cranking rod with 10-lb. Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon and a 5:2 gear-ratio baitcaster.
Jerkbaits: As the water warms into the low to mid 50s, the jerkbait is hard to beat as fish begin to get shallower in the water column. The jerkbait produces numbers as well as size. As stated above, when water temps get into the 50s, bass get active and begin thinking about the spawn. Bass are moving into creeks and secondary points.
I like to throw a Spro McStick 95 and 110 models in dirty bone and cell mate, as well as a Spro McRip in craw.
As the water warms, I am much more aggressive with my retrieve, especially when the water is clear. The retrieve is a jerk/pause cadence, and it is key to point the rod back at the bait after every jerk to ensure the bait gets full range of motion. Fish will hit this bait like a ton of bricks!
For the jerkbait, I use a Cashion CRT spinnerbait rod with 10-lb. Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon and a high-speed baitcaster.
Jigs: Jigs are one of my favorite baits to fish in late March. Fish will be following creek channels and ditches as they near the backs of the pockets and creeks at the spawning grounds.
As I mentioned earlier, sonar and the LakeMaster chip with great contour detail will make a huge difference when locating the sweet spots in these areas. I typically zigzag the ditches until I locate rockpiles, stumps and fish.
Fan cast those areas with a 3/4-oz. Kustom Kicker Red Zone football jig or the Kustom Kicker Freak in brown/brown or brown/orange with a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog as the trailer.
The heavy head allows the bait to maintain contact with the bottom and will stir up silt, which provokes strikes. Drag the bait slowly, and feel for subtle bites. If the fish feels you before you feel them, you will lose the fish before you ever hook up.
For the jig, I like a Cashion Elite 7-foot, 6-inch medium/heavy, fast tip rod with 14-lb. Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line on a high speed baitcaster reel.
Don’t waste a great month of fishing on Allatoona. Just remember to stay on the move all month until you find them because as spring arrives, the bass will be homeless.