Don’t Fear the Heat, Oconee Bass Will Eat

Terry Adams’ techniques produce hot summer bassing on Oconee.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen — and on the water at night. Or fish during the day and dip your cap in the water. Or jump in. Just do something to stay cool while fishing at Lake Oconee this month. The bass are biting, and if you stay home, you are going to miss some great fishing.

Georgia Power’s Lake Oconee, located on the Oconee River upstream of Lake Sinclair, has 18,791 acres of bass-filled waters to fish. Built in 1979, it is one of our newest lakes and has the unusual feature of a pumpback system to return water to the lake from Sinclair.

This means Oconee has more current than most lakes with power generation during the day creating a downstream current and pumpback at night pushing water back upstream.

The constant flow of water makes bass feed more during the summer, and it also mixes the water. That means you will find more active bass in shallow water at Oconee in July than you would expect on other lakes. If you like shallow-water bass fishing, Oconee is your best bet this month.

Terry Adams grew up north of Jackson Lake and has bass fished all his life. He got started tournament fishing in the mid 1990s when he was 14 years old and has done well in local tournaments. Oconee is his favorite lake, and he fishes as many tournaments there as possible.

This year Terry won the BFL on Oconee with five bass weighing 17- lbs., 11-ozs. He also won the Oconee Marine tournament on Oconee in February with five bass weighing just over 19 pounds. In 2006 he and one of his mentors, Jack Brown, won the Berry’s Classic on Oconee and Sinclair. Terry has won several other tournaments on Oconee, including some of the old JR Tournaments. He says Jack and Jimmy Whaley both taught him a lot while he was fishing with them.

After club fishing with the Cotton Indian Club for a year or so, Terry start- ed fishing pot tournaments and the BFL. Next year Terry plans on fishing all the BFL Bulldog tournaments as well as some of the Stren Series tour- naments. His lessons learned on Oconee have helped him become a good tournament fisherman and will give him a good foundation for fishing other lakes.

Oconee is Terry’s favorite July lake because he says anglers can find more shallow bass than in other lakes this month. Terry loves fishing docks, and there are plenty of great targets on Oconee. He even says all the boat traf- fic makes the bass bite better and makes them easier to pattern on hot summer days.

You can find deep bass on Oconee, and Terry will sometimes get out in open water with a big crankbait or Carolina rig, but he prefers to catch bass shallow. The shallow bass relate to cover, and the docks Terry likes to fish give them excellent cover all over the lake. He usually concentrates on the area from the Hwy 44 bridge to the big horseshoe bend below the pipeline.

Current and wind are always good for bass fishing, and both help to position bass on cover like docks. Both cur- rent and wind moving water across docks means bass set up on certain places, but Terry says wave action from passing boats does the same. He will fish enough docks to find where the bass are located and expects them to be in similar places on docks all over the lake.

Terry has a variety of ways to catch bass. He likes to start in the dark fishing lights around docks. If he can run a crankbait under the light, he casts a Shad Rap or other small crankbait in shad color. He will also pitch a big
worm to the lights. Dock lights are inconsistent on Oconee because they get turned on and off. The best bet is to ride the lake, and hit any lighted docks you find.

Early in the morning Terry will hit seawalls and rip-rap with a topwater bait like a buzzbait or popper as well as a spinnerbait. He looks for the shad on the rocks or, more important in July, mayflies. The mayfly hatch is real late this year, and there continues to be some activity from bass feeding on mayflies in the mornings.

As the sun gets on the water and it gets hot, Terry pulls out his jig ’n pig and a big worm. He makes his own jigs and likes a 3/8-oz. black-and-blue jig with a Zoom green-pumpkin Super Chunk on it. He rigs a Zoom Ol Monster green-pumpkin worm on a 5/0 hook and a 1/4-oz. lead. Both baits get their tail tips dipped in JJ’s Magic chartreuse dye. Terry is trying to imitate the bream the bass are feeding on around docks, and the chartreuse tips help.

Both the jig and worm are fished on 7 1/2-foot rods and Daiwa reels spooled with 20-lb. PLine extra tough. Terry says if you go lighter you are going to lose some fish, probably the one that will break your heart when it breaks your line on a dock post.

If the current is running in either direction, Terry will also hit rip-rap with a crankbait. The current moving across the rocks makes perfect conditions for bass to set up and eat shad and other baitfish that come by. Although the rip-rap gets hit hard at Oconee, it is often a good place to pick up a few keepers.

Though it is not his favorite way to fish, Terry does keep a Carolina-rigged Zoom green-pumpkin Trick Worm ready. He throws it on points and humps where the current runs across them, looking for little differences like an eddy that concentrates the bass.

Terry took me to Oconee in mid June to show me his patterns and places to fish. It was very hot, so we started about a hour before first light, hitting lighted docks, and got a 3-pounder off one of them. We then fished topwater and got several keepers, including another 3-lb. largemouth.

As the sun got hot, we went to the docks and Terry got our biggest bass of the day, a solid 4-lb. fish with a 5-lb. head. We caught dozens of bass including two more 3-pounders off the docks. Our best five that day weighed just over 16 pounds, a good day for most, but Terry said it was pretty typical for this time of year on Oconee.

The following 10 spots all produced fish for us on a variety of baits. They will be good all summer.

No. 1: N 33° 23.684 – W 83° 12.877 — Head down the lake past the golf course on your right, past the pipeline, and watch the left bank. It is lined with big houses and docks. Then the docks and houses end. The very last dock on that side sits on the downstream side of a point, and it is a big dock with white columns supporting a twin peaked shingle roof. It matches the beach house up on the point behind it that has a rock foundation, and there is a huge house on the hill that is hard to see.

This dock is typical of the kinds of docks Terry looks for after the sun gets  on the water. It is near deep water on the main lake. Current going up or down sweeps by it, and wind often blows in on it. Terry likes isolated docks like this one, too. They concentrate the bass in an area.

Start on one side, and flip or pitch your jig and worm to every post on the dock. Work around it covering each corner and angle in the dock. Terry does not try to get his bait way back under the docks since he is looking for active fish that will hit a bait falling beside the dock. He says you must be within inches of the dock but not necessarily under it. Pitching way back under a dock means you are more like- ly to hang up and lose any fish that hits.

No. 2: N 33° 23.899 – W 83° 12.692 — Going back upstream you will see a big three-story white house on an inside point on your right. It has tall columns on the front and a gazebo with black shingles. Two weeping willow trees are right on the edge of the water, one toward the lake and one back toward the cove. There was a United States flag flying here when we fished.

The river swings in here, and this is an outside bend with several small creeks running in. The dock in front of the house is a flat, wooden dock with no roof. There are two skidoos on the back side of it on a lift. Start fishing this dock, then fish the seawall down to the next dock that has a green, canvas top. Fish both docks with worm and jig, covering them carefully.

Terry often makes a dozen pitches to a dock before leaving, but he fishes them quickly. He says it is not unusual for him to fish 100 docks in a day, look- ing for that quality, active bass around each one. He says if you fish enough docks, you will catch some good bass.

No. 3: N 33° 24.164 – W 83° 13.712 — Run upstream around the bend past the first golf-course hole on your left. This bank is steep, and there are big houses along it with docks spaced well apart. Start at the dock with a striped canvas top with the numbers P 11-14 M on it. There were two green chairs and a plastic owl on it the day we fished.

Terry got our biggest bass of the day on this dock, a fish with a big head but skinny body that weighed over 4 pounds. It hit his jig ’n pig. All these docks along this bank are good, and Terry will fish them all up to the white dock with a green-canvas top. That dock had two rodholders on it as well as two bird houses. There was also a red-and-brown kids’ slide on it.

These docks are spaced well apart. Terry will turn his trolling motor on high and jump between them, making a few casts to the seawalls as he goes along, especially if he is here early. The bass will often feed along the seawalls then move under the docks to hold out of the sun as it gets bright. Don’t spend a lot of time between the docks, and if it is late in the day you might want to idle between them.

No. 4: N 33° 24.083 – W 83° 23.888 — Just upstream on the left golf course holes come right to the edge of the water. This is a good place to start first thing in the morning. Terry will start on the edge of them where there is rip-rap in the water and work upstream, throwing a topwater bait or spinnerbait working the rocks. Hit close to the bank, and work your bait along the rocks, paying attention to each little point along the bank.

You will come to a cove that has a buoy in the back of it. There are over- hanging bushes along the downstream bank going in, and this is an excellent place to find bass early feeding on bream that are feeding on mayflies. If you see the bugs, work the bushes care- fully with topwater and a jig.

In the back of the cove, the buoy marks the intake for a pump house that irrigates the golf course. Just upstream of it, as you start out of the cove, there are two docks to fish. One of them has two bird houses on it, and one has a green canvas top. Fish both the docks here since they have good deep water under them.

No. 5: N 33° 24.419 – W 83° 14.205 — Across the lake on the right going upstream, right where the river turns back right, is an island. Terry goes in behind the downstream side of this island and starts fishing the first dock on the point. It is a brown dock with a brown-canvas top and the number 61638 M on it. Start at it, and fish all the docks around the small cove up to the flat dock with no roof on the next small point.

These docks are in shallow water, but they are worth a try. Sometimes the bass move onto shallow docks this time of year to feed. If you find them on shallow docks in one area, you should fish more of them, but Terry always starts on deeper docks this time of year.

Work each dock in this line. Terry pitches his jig to the dock, lets if fall and hit bottom, then pops it off the bot- tom about 2 feet. He lets it fall back  and pops it again, then reels in for another pitch. He expects the bass to hit on the fall, so he watches his line care- fully. The popping action on the jig or worm looks like a startled bluegill taking off and will often attract a reaction strike.

No. 6: N 33° 24.233 – W 83° 16.316 — If the current is moving, for a change of pace run up Lick Creek to the first bridge and work the rip-rap with a crankbait. Terry likes a No. 9 Shad Rap, DT 10, DT 16 or other similar bait in shad colors, and he concentrates on the corners of the rip-rap, casting his crankbait up the current and working it back. No matter which way the current is running, position your boat so you can cast up current and work with it.

Bass will often stack up on the bridges on Oconee when the current is running, and all of the bridges are good. You may have to get in line and take a number to fish them, but they are so popular because they produce fish. Current makes them active, and Terry does not fish them unless it is running.

No. 7: N 33° 24.824 – W 83° 14.690 — Come out of Lick Creek, and start up the river. Before you get to the the sharp bend to the left, watch for a red-roofed dock on your left across the cove just upstream of the huge building at the golf course. It has a big outdoor grill to the left if you are facing it, and there was a big kids’ toy near it. The house is wooden, and the dock had two white, wooden chairs on it.

The current hits this dock and the next one with the blue-canvas top, so try them although they are on shallow water. If you catch a fish, keep working docks on into the cove. Sometimes a school of fish will move into an area like this, and there will be good fish on almost every dock. They will be on the outside two docks if they are in the area, so check them first to see if it is worth fishing on into the cove.

No. 8: N 33° 26.356 – W 83° 15.610 — Head up the river toward the Hwy 44 bridge, and watch on your left for a dock on the second point down- stream of the bridge. It has a green-canvas top and a mercury-vapor light on a pole on the walkway. Fish this dock and work upstream, hitting other docks on this point. Current sweeps by them, and these are good, deep docks that hold fish all summer.

If you catch fish on any of the docks on the point, it is worth your time to fish the docks in the big cove downstream and the smaller one upstream. As in hole No. 7, fish will move in and spread out on all these docks, but the key ones are on the point.

No. 9: N 33° 26.511 – W 83° 15.653 — Just upstream, a small point runs way out in front of the bridge on the left. It is the last point before the bridge, and current scours it as it comes downstream. There is a small, brick- and-screen building on the point, and a rock seawall surrounds the point. This is a good place to hit first thing in the morning with topwater and spinner- baits around the seawall.

Later in the day when the current is moving, this is the kind of place Terry throws a Carolina rig. Even with the point, where it sticks out the most toward the lake, there is a rocky sweet spot where the current has scoured the bottom. Bass hold on this spot and feed. Terry will fish a Carolina-rigged Zoom green-pumpkin worm across it, casting from deep water almost to the wall, and working the worm back out across the rocky spot.

After trying this angle, get your boat on the down-current side, depend- ing on which way it is flowing, and cast up current, working your Carolina rig with the current across the point. If you catch a fish at a certain depth and angle, make repeated casts that duplicate it since fish often school up here.

No. 10: N 33° 26.496 – W 83° 15.231 — Across the lake, the last seven docks on the outside bank before you get to the bridge are good. Terry starts at the first one in the line — it has a green-canvas top. It is on a point at a small cove. Work toward the bridge, hitting each dock and seawall in the line. The water is deep here, and this area holds fish all summer.

Terry says he has seen more mayflies here than anywhere else on the lake. The bass won’t be far from the mayflies when they are out. The bass are eating bream feeding on the mayflies, and that is what Terry tries to imitate with his baits on seawalls and docks.

Give Terry’s locations a try, and see what types of spots he likes to fish. There are many other similar places all over the lake.

It’s hot, but the fishing at Oconee is worth getting out in the heat this month.

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