March is a great month to go fishing just about anywhere in Georgia. Warming waters turn fish on, and they move shallow and feed. With so many great choices, it can be hard to pick one place to go. Consider Bartletts Ferry, also known as Lake Harding, on the Chattahoochee River just south of West Point, which offers a variety of ways to fish for both spots and largemouths and is hard to beat right now.
Bartletts Ferry is a 5,850-acre Georgia Power Lake that was filled in 1926. The waters near the dam are deep and rocky, while up the river above the Halawakee Creek junction, Bartletts is mostly river channel with some big creeks and several old oxbow lakes off the channel. Either a Georgia or Alabama fishing license is valid on all waters of the reservoir.
Nick Roberson fishes Bartletts Ferry often. For the past few years he has fished with the West Georgia Bass Club, a team-tournament trail that fishes a variety of west Georgia and east Alabama lakes and is Triton Gold certified. Nick fishes other area tournaments as well.
Last year Nick and his partner won the West Georgia Bass Club tournament on Bartletts with 14 pounds and ended up fifth overall in the point standings for the year out of 170 teams. His best Bartletts bass was an 8-lb., 8- oz. hawg caught in a tournament, and his best five fish in a tournament weighed more than 22 pounds.
“Last year I found fish on the beds in February here,” Nick said.
After a warm winter, bass were spawning up the river in oxbow lakes in February, and Nick expects to find them there every year from late February to early March. He says bass in the river spawn a lot earlier than most folks realize. Nick says bass on the main-lake spawn a little later, but he normally finds bedding fish there by mid to late March.
Nick plans his fishing on Bartletts Ferry around the spawning bass. He will start in the mornings on the main lake, hitting points and banks near spawning pockets for the prespawners and will always watch for spawners, too. Then after lunch when the sun has been warming the water all morning, he will head up the lake to fish. In the river he goes into spawning areas and fishes for bass on the beds, and he also fishes for any bass that are cruising the spawning areas.
A variety of baits work well on the lake, and Nick will have a Jawbreaker jig ’n pig, a jig-head worm, a spinner- bait and a crankbait tied on. He will also throw a topwater bait much earlier than most folks, and a jerkbait rounds
out his Bartletts arsenal in late February and March.
Up the river, Nick relies on Senkos and spinnerbaits. Most of the oxbow lakes are very shallow and full of grass, so the Senko works best most of the time. He will pitch and cast the bait to visible beds but will also work the grass, dropping the Senko into holes where a bass might be bedding. That works best when the water is murky, and you can’t see the beds as well.
Nick fishes all his lures on baitcasting outfits, and his reels are spooled with Suffix line. He often fishes with Tommy Gunn, maker of Jawbreaker jigs, and he likes Tommy’s jigs and jig heads. For the jig ’n pig, Nick uses black-and-blue combinations with a black or green trailer. His favorite worm for the jig head is a Zoom scuppernong Trick Worm.
Colors for crankbaits and jerkbaits depend on water color, with natural colors being best in clear water, and bright colors when the water is stained. Nick uses a pink spinnerbait a lot and says it is his best color. He likes two gold willowleaf blades on it.
A Boy Howdy, an old topwater lure with spinners on both ends, is Nick’s favorite. He surprised me by throwing it in early February in 50- degree water temperatures and catching a bass on it the day we fished. He says bass hit on top even in the winter if you fish the right bait the right way.
The following 10 holes will produce bass from now through the end of March on Bartletts Ferry. We fished the lower-lake spots the second week of February on a cold, rainy day, and fish were already on them and will be on them even better now. We landed about 20 bass that day, and our best five would have weighed between 11 and 12 pounds. For us to catch that many on such a bad day shows Bartletts has a lot of bass in the 2-lb. range. The bass had not moved into the spawning areas up the river in early February, but they will be there now.
No. 1: N 32° 41.321 – W 85° 08.142 — This main-lake point and bank is a good place to start. Nick won a weekly tournament here, and it holds fish year-round. Heading down Halawakee Creek from the bridge, the creek bends back to the left. Straight ahead the bank runs out from your right, and you will see a point with a seawall around it. To help identify the spot, the trees on the bank have “faces” on them, and there are posts with ropes around them and black, metal light poles.
Start on this point, and work to your left. There are three good docks to fish, and bass hold on them and on the block seawall. The first dock has three metal park benches on it. Fish the seawall then the dock and the pocket behind it. Be sure to hit the rails coming from the boathouse. Bass often hold on rails like these.
This pocket runs out to a natural- rock point that holds fish, too. Fish it and the next two docks. Try your jig ’n pig and jig-head worm around the docks, probing for brush, and fish the rocks and rails. Run a crankbait or spinnerbait beside the docks and along and then drops off. There are some stumps and rocks around this point that hold March bass. Start out in front of the small upstream dock, and work a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm slowly down the bottom. Cast up near the seawall, and make short hops. When you hit a stump, pause it there for a few seconds, and then hop it away from the stump. Sometimes a bass holding by the stump will react as the bait jumps away from it. Work all the way around the point, and then try your crankbait and jerkbait over it, too. Jerkbaits work better when the water is clear, and this creek is usually clearer than the river or the main lake.
No. 3: N 32° 40.893 – W 85° 06.636 — Run down past the mouth of the river, and watch for a rocky point on your right. It is between two long deep coves, and a brown-topped gazebo sits under a big pine on the down- stream side. The upstream side of the point has a big pine and a big hardwood leaning a little over the water. Start at the small wooden seawall on the upstream side at the leaning pine, and work around the point and into the downstream pocket a short distance.
There are a lot of big rocks under the water on this point, and bass stack up on it all during the winter. They will start to move into the coves to spawn, but some will be out here throughout March. As you fish past the gazebo, there will be rip-rap on the bank and a house with a screen room on it. Fish around the rocks down the steep bank. Keep fishing down this bank, working the rip-rap and docks. Some of the docks have brush around them, and there is a lot of brush around the dock in front of the big house a short way down the bank. Nick says he has caught some big bass from this brush over the years. Fish all your baits, but the jig is the best bet for bigger bass.
No. 4: N 32° 40.299 – W 85° 04.650 — Run into the big creek to your left that is near the dam. Toward the back there is an island in the middle with a house on it, and it is before you get to the condos in the back of the creek. Just before you get even with the downstream end of the island, you will see a small pocket on your right. Start fishing at the pocket, and work toward the condos. The first little pocket will hold bedding bass, as will the next one, and other bass will hold on the steep bank around rocks, docks and brush. Nick and I both caught bass in this area in February. Work all your baits here, running a crankbait beside the docks and off the rocks on the bank. Hop a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm down the bank. Fish the rails coming out of the boat- house and brush around the docks.
As you work into pockets here, fish slowly and watch for signs of bedding bass. You may see a light spot marking a bed or just see the black tip of a bass’ tail. If you spot a bass on the bed, throw a jig into the bed and let it sit. Fish slowly with a jig for bedding bass you don’t spot. Nick says bass will bed in this pocket even in early March. Work all the way to the little peninsula with the picnic stuff on it at the condos. Nick says you should catch a limit of keepers along this bank in late February or March.
No. 5: N 32° 40.568 – W 85° 04.668 — Run across the creek on the upstream side of the island, and you will see a big cove on the other bank. On the right going into this cove is a seawall then rip-rap on the outside of a small cove. Start fishing at the end of the seawall, and work around that little point into the cove. Fish around the cove, watching for bedding bass and fishing slowly for the ones you don’t see. If you spot bass on the bed, work all the way to the back of the pocket. Fish past the dock that has a wench and crane to pull in a fish barrel. There is some brush around that dock to fish.
No. 6: N 32° 44.477 – W 85° 06.688 — Head up the river to Blanton Creek, and go to the boat ramp on your right. Bass move in here first as they start moving back to spawn up the river and hold here until everything gets right. Start fishing where the rip-rap starts just outside the ramp, and work around the pocket past the three docks out to the point in the campground. There is some brush and rocks here for the bass to hold on as they move up the creek. Nick likes to work a jig ’n pig slowly through the rocks and brush for bigger bass. This is the spot where he caught his 8-lb., 8-oz. fish. He says there will be quadruple the number of bass here than down on the main lake. Nick says he will work this bank several times. If he catches a fish on the first pass, he will go back over it with the same bait. If he doesn’t catch one on the first pass, he often goes back over it with a different bait like a spinnerbait to offer a different look.
No. 7: N 32° 44.672 – W 85° 08.053 — Come out of Blanton Creek, and head up the river. When the river makes a bend to your right, straight ahead on the outside bend you will see a house on your left, and then no houses. A good oxbow starts here and runs up parallel to the river. You can enter near the last house, but you are better off going upstream a little and finding the opening that is not much wider then a couple of boats. Be careful in this area — there is a hump off the bank that is under water when the lake is high. You can idle in if you are careful, or put your trolling motor down and work your way in. When you get back in the old oxbow, there will be lots of shallow water and grassbeds. This spot and others here are better if the lake is full. The day Nick and I looked at it the lake was almost 2 feet low, and it was hard to get in here. Nick likes to pitch a Senko to visible bedding bass or work holes in the grass with it if he is not seeing beds. Fish both sides of this oxbow all the way to the upper end. Nick says he gets most of his hits from the middle opening up to the upper end. Water can run in up there, too, but you can’t get your boat in there.
No. 8: N 32 45.109 – W 85 08.219 — Across the river and upstream a bit, you will see two openings within a few feet of each other. The downstream one has a tree on the downstream side across the mouth of it, so be careful going in. Nick says some folks start fishing here, working the outside edges with crankbaits and jigs, but he usually goes on back into the backwaters. As you work in, you will go downstream parallel to the river. This ditch is not very wide, but not far from the opening is a small ditch on your left. Go through it, and the oxbow opens up. Both sides join together, and this oxbow opens up downstream, so there is a lot of water to fish in here. Work both sides, and watch for grassbeds and stumps. There are a lot of stumps to the left when you go through the ditch.
No. 9: N 32° 45.108 – W 85° 08.255 — Just upstream of the opening to hole No. 8 is another opening. Get across the shallow flat at the entrance, and you will find deeper water to fish. In this oxbow and in others, fish until the bass tell you where they are holding. The river sides of the oxbows will be more shallow. The shallow sides usually have willows and grass. The bank side will be deeper and often has wood cover to fish. Work both sides until you find where the bass are holding and bedding, and they usually are in similar places in all the oxbows.
No. 10: N 32° 46.000 – W 85° 08.275 — Up the river on the left bank, just as the channel goes slightly to the right, is another small opening. As soon as you go in the opening, you can go into a lake to your right. The channel also runs straight ahead, and the point between the two is covered with stumps. Go into the right lake, and work around it hitting the grass and stumps. If you go straight back in the channel, you will go a good ways in a ditch, and then it opens into another lake. The Senko is Nick’s best bait up here this time of year, but try a spinner- bait, too. The bass will sometimes be active enough to hit it, and sometimes they will give their location away by swirling at it without taking it. You can then work a Senko around that spot to catch them. Also watch for movement in the grass or baitfish jumping.
These spots give you five to fish on the lake and five up the river. Nick will be fishing them this month, and they are all good places. Check them out, and then you can find some more similar spots, especially on the lower lake, to fish. The West Georgia Bass Club fishes west Georgia and east Alabama lakes. For the club’s schedule and rules, go to www.westgeorgiabassclub.com.