As outdoorsmen, we have all had the proclivity to proclaim at one time or another how much better things were back when. After all, some wise old country gent once said “dead bird dogs and past loves are remembered as better than they actually were.”
However, were you to ask Dwight Woodall and his son, Chad, about bass fishing on Lake Allatoona, you would get no such nostalgic look back on history. In fact, according to the father- and-son team, the angling on one of Georgia’s busiest reservoirs just keeps getting better and better.
“The bass fishing on this lake is better than ever,” Dwight told me on a recent trip. “In terms of the quantity and quality of spotted bass, Allatoona is great.”
The Woodalls, who live in Canton, fish Allatoona regularly. Chad owns Chronarch Inc., a company that specializes in recruiting highly skilled technical personnel such as computer programmers and database administrators for a wide variety of companies. Dwight is retired after 30 years as an educator in Cherokee County. Because Chad works from home, he and his father can be a bit more flexible than most when it comes to finding and staying on fish at Allatoona.
Chad has fished the lake with his dad for his entire life. Dwight is no different. When Allatoona was first dammed, he and Chad’s grandfather would fish from a row- boat around brushy banks and downed trees.
“Daddy’s daddy taught us both how to fish on this lake,” Chad said.
Dwight added, “My father used to farm this area. He talked to me about plowing with a mule around here.”
The Woodalls started fishing tournaments together in 1993 when Chad was 18 years old. Since that time, the duo has become prolific in placing in the money when the Monday night team tournament launches out of Victoria Landing. When you consider that this weekly event draws 70 to 100 boats, some of which are captained by guys who have bass fished for a living, you can under- stand just how good the Woodalls are at catching bass on Lake Allatoona. The pair won the Allatoona team tournament standings last year. They finished second the previous year, and they boasted some high finishes in the now-defunct Moby Bass Tournament.
“We don’t always win, but we finish in the money a lot, and that’s the key to being good over a whole season,” Chad said.
Chad and Dwight met me at Victoria on a recent Saturday morning and explained that June is an exciting month to be on Allatoona. The spotted bass, which are the predominant game- fish species on the lake, are in transition this month and can be caught several different ways. What’s more, their tactics are applicable whether you are at the mouth of Little River or all the way down to Sweetwater Creek, so you don’t have to burn gallons of gas to get on fish.
“We don’t run very far from the ramp usually, and the way we fish, we rarely weigh a tournament fish that was caught on anything with treble hooks,” Chad said.
That being said, you can rely on certain plugs this time of year to catch plenty of Allatoona bass, particularly first thing in the morning when a fun topwater bite is usually good.
You might favor a Zara Spook, a Lucky Craft Sammy or any other type of walking bait to catch topwater bass in June. The Woodalls like to stick to a more traditional splashing lure, the Chug Bug. The model Chad had tied on the cloudy Saturday morning when we fished was chrome with a blue back. Because spotted bass are feeding heavily on shad right now, natural colors work well.
Another popular presentation is a weightless fluke that can be skipped and darted across the surface to draw strikes. Any variation of white should make a good choice for Allatoona spots.
The key to getting on the topwater bite in June is to be on the water early. Chad says a fisherman wanting to hook up on some fun and often explosive topwater bites should be willing to fire up the coffee maker extra early in the morning because he needs to be on the water before the sun comes up.
“You definitely want to be out here early because it starts right as it starts cracking daylight, and it doesn’t last too long,” Chad advised.
Dwight said that cloudy days can produce some topwater bites all day long, but typically the action is best during the first part of the day.
“It usually lasts about the first hour, hour and a half of the day, so you want to be here and ready to go,” Dwight said. “If it’s cloudy, it might stay on longer, but most days it’s a really early bite.”
When they start a day on Allatoona in June, Chad and Dwight will be looking for bass in several types of water. Typically the pair finds bass along banks with sand or clay.
“Early in the month, the fish are likely to be on or close to shallow flats, but the warmer it gets, the deeper you’ll find them,” Chad said. “Early in June, you might fish a huge flat, and by the end of the month you need to fish banks where the river channel swings in close so there’s deep water nearby.”
The fish might be right on a point one morning and scattered out along straight stretches of shoreline the next, but they shouldn’t move too far. Because the bass are out of their postspawn feeding patterns, you aren’t likely to find acres of exploding fish schooled up and busting bait. Rather, in Dwight’s experience, the fish are a little more spread out, but still accessible in relatively small areas.
“They aren’t schooled in tight little bunches, but I’ve found that this time of year you can usually catch a fish here and there on one stretch of bank,” Dwight said.
If the fish aren’t coming up as readily in the morning, Chad will often throw a Rat-L-Trap, one of the most effective baitfish imitations ever. You can fish the lure in the same spots as you do the topwater presentations. Colors vary from person to person, but the shad imitations are the best way to go. Also, plugs with chartreuse or purple are popular on Allatoona.
Once the sun is on the water, you can count on spotted bass moving away from shallow water. If the sun is bright, they will likely hunker close to structure from which they can ambush bait- fish without expending too much energy. This is when Chad and Dwight are at their most effective. When the spots move to deep brush, the Woodalls slow things down considerably, relying almost exclusively on soft plastics and jigs to entice bites.
“Dad and I fish so well together because we don’t fish too fast,” Chad said. “There’s no sense in one of us throwing a plug while the other one is fishing a worm.”
Along that line of thinking, the Woodalls do what they call fishing slowly, fast. Doesn’t make much sense you say? Well, Chad explained it simply.
“We have fished here long enough to know where a lot of brush and structure is on this lake,” Chad said. “We might fish 20 or 25 brushpiles in a trip, but we aren’t going to stay on the same one for long if the fish aren’t biting.”
While many anglers are dragging Carolina rigs in June, Chad and Dwight use that tactic more in the spring when fish are schooling on points. This month, they are much more likely to be flinging light Texas-rigged or jig-head plastics at their favorite fishing holes.
Chad Texas rigs simply with a heavy barrel swivel, while Dwight employs a light bullet weight. Both men also frequently include a small bead on their Texas-rigged worms.
Chad also likes to fish a shaky- head worm a lot. The presentation will allow Chad to let the worm slip down into or around brushpiles while the worm stands up straight and reacts to the slightest shake of the rod tip with a mesmerizing wiggle.
“Chad likes to fish a little heavier, but I’ll go with the lightest weight I can,” Dwight said. “I usually use a 3/16-oz. weight.”
Before the sun goes down, Chad and his father will be throwing smaller- profile worms with lighter colors. Finesse worms or small lizards are their likely choices, and they will throw many variations of green or even icicle. After dark, both men switch to dark- colored worms with more mass, so they are easier for bass to pick out.
“We’ll still throw a shaky head or a Texas-rigged Trick Worm in black or black emerald,” Dwight said. “Lots of guys like throwing a big spinnerbait, but this is how we fish.”
If the bass aren’t keying on the Woodalls’ soft plastics, Chad will switch to a jig ’n pig. Sticking almost exclusively with a 1/4-oz. Spanky’s jig paired with a Zoom Mini Chunk, Chad will attack the same brushpiles hoping for the type of fish that can win a tournament.
“I pretty much throw some shade of green,” Chad said. “I have some black jigs, but I usually stick with greens.”
A couple of years ago, Chad and Dwight were fishing a tournament on Allatoona and were able to piece together a limit of fish on soft plastics, but it was Chad’s two kicker fish, both caught on jigs, that put the pair over the top with the winning weight.
“Typically guys fish jigs in the winter, but I’m comfortable with them in the summertime,” Chad said. “You don’t always get lots of bites, but the ones you do catch seem to be good quality fish.”
The brushpiles you want to target in June are going to be in water 20 to 25 feet deep. You don’t have to be a master reader of electronics to find some brushpiles to fish this month. If you fish Allatoona with any regularity, you probably know that finding some wood structure is extremely helpful in finding fish. If you don’t fish the lake a lot, spend a little time riding over the appropriate depths, especially on main-lake points and around reef poles, looking for locations with brush.
The morning we fished, Chad, Dwight and I were literally in a race with the weather. We were fishing a flat near the beach at Galt’s with a squall line racing in over the lake. The sky was cloudy and gray, and the line of storms cut a black swath low across the hills. We were trying to put one more bass in the boat when Chad and I made side-by-side casts out the back of the boat.
We couldn’t have ended the day in better fashion. Chad hopped his worm a couple of times and stopped, almost whispering, “I’ve got a bite.”
About the same time, I felt the familiar thump of a spotted bass eating my worm. Almost simultaneously, the two of us made sure hooksets and fought a double catch of spotted bass to the boat. Only three hours on the water, a trip cut short by the storm, and the Woodalls put nine fish in the boat.
With that, we cranked the big motor, raced back to Victoria Landing and put the boat on the trailer a couple of minutes before what Forrest Gump would call “big-ol’ fat rain” started pounding. Still, I left knowing that what the Woodalls profess about Allatoona could make a great day of fishing for some GON reader.
It’s not rocket-science, rotator-cuff tearing fishing. It’s simple stuff you can do to catch a plenty of spotted bass on Allatoona this month. The pleasure- boat traffic is coming. Get on the water early or late, try what Chad and Dwight do, and you’re likely to have the best day you’ve ever had on Allatoona.