April may be the best month of the year to pull in a limit of Lake Blackshear bass, says fishing expert Sam Moody of Leesburg. Warming temperatures pull the bass out of the deeper ledges and channels, then moves them into the more shallow coves around the cypress trees, and Sam targets them with soft plastics. His fishing career has humble beginnings, but today he is one of the best bass anglers on Blackshear.
Sam, 44, didn’t get the opportunity to fish much as a child, but a sup- portive spouse and father-in-law got him really interested in fishing more than 20 years ago. He says his interest in fishing has become serious in the past 10 years, and he’s fishing a tournament or getting ready for a tournament just about every weekend. In fact, during 2005 he was home only three weekends, so that’s a lot of water time chasing after bass across the southeast and Georgia.
He is tournament director for the Dixie Bass Masters out of Albany and routinely competes in state and regional tournaments. Recently he earned the privilege of competing in the Bassmaster Series at Kerr Reservoir in North Carolina and made the Top-Six statewide bass team, so he knows how to put bass in the boat. When Sam’s not fishing, he’s working at his own business “Awnings Plus” that specializes in commercial and residential awnings and supportive hard- ware for many applications. If you need a specialized boat cover, Sam will fix you up!
On March 12, Sam and I met at the Arrowhead Grocery in front of Veterans State Park. After picking up a delicious ham-and-egg biscuit, we quickly unloaded the boat into Gum Creek at the park and soon started fishing the cypress trees near the west end of the Hwy 280 bridge. Sam says these trees, due to their proximity to the bridge pilings and the old Flint River channel, always hold a few bass. Although the cypress-tree roots look solid on the surface, underneath the water the roots break up and create open pockets where baitfish concentrate, says Sam. Hungry bass patrol the perimeter of the roots, looking to strike any minnow that wanders too far from the sanctuary of the roots.
The key to catching bass around the cypress roots, according to Sam, is to get a weightless worm very close to them. He uses a technique he calls “knocking on wood” because the worm often gently ricochets off the cypress tree, just above the water line before it drops into the water.
Sam often uses an underhand cast to propel the worm up under the over- hanging limbs, even sometimes skipping the bait farther back into the “inner sanctum” that rarely sees a bait. He prefers a weightless Slug-go type or Texas- rigged worm for the cypress trees, and lets it settle softly to the bottom, with a few gentle twitches
to entice a strike. The mission is accomplished with a baitcasting reel, medium-action graphite rod and eight- to 10-lb. monofilament line for easy castibility
of the weightless worm.
With hundreds of cypress trees in Lake Blackshear, where does an angler narrow down the the best chances of success? Sam says his favorite locations are Swift Creek, Collins Branch, and Gum Creek on the lower lake. Swift Creek normally runs clear most of the year, which is a plus, and the best fishing is found upstream of the railroad trestle, an area with plenty of cypress trees. Sam says the upper ends of Collins Branch and Gum Creek are also good, but he suggests that you keep moving from tree to tree fairly quickly after two to three casts if you don’t get your line stretched.
You are basically playing a percentages game where only certain trees hold fish, and you really never know which ones will, so visit as many as possible to have a good chance of success at the end of the day.
On the north end of the lake cypress trees become more numerous, which is a good thing, but the wealth of trees tend to spread out the bass more, so you’ll give your wrist a good workout. Sam suggests Cannon Branch, Limestone Creek and the Smokehouse area as some of the best cypress-tree locations to cast your worm on the upper lake. Most of the water in these locations is five- to seven-feet deep, so any time your lure hits the water, any bass close by will know it. Getting the fish to strike is another matter however. The bass were fickle on the day Sam and I visit- ed, but we caught some short fish, less than the 14-inch legal size limit, that were quickly returned to the lake, from the areas mentioned above.
Sam says versatility is the key to catching bass on any lake, and this also applies to Lake Blackshear. This is why he has at least eight fully rigged rods and reels, each with a different lure, laid out neatly on the casting deck of his 21-foot Triton bass boat.
If the bass are slow to take the weightless worm, Sam recommends a 3/8-oz. white/chartreuse spinnerbait with tandem copper-colored Colorado blades for the back waters of Blackshear’ s creeks and coves. When the bass are cruising between the cypress trees or along the creek ledges on stumps, the vibrating action of the spinnerbait is very effective, especially in stained water. Sam says there are numerous good brands of spinnerbaits on the market, but he enjoys making his own from readily available kits and spare parts.
Another reliable Blackshear bass pattern is to use a green floating frog across the numerous grass and lilly pad areas. Our best bass of the day, a healthy 2 1/2-lb., fat fish that struck with gusto, came to a weightless plastic frog fished in the back of Gum Creek.
Although top- water fishing with a plastic frog is generally regarded as a dawn or dusk fishing technique, it some- times works well during midday as the bass seek the shade of the floating vegetation, says Sam.
He often casts a frog around the open pockets of vegetation and works the edges slowly, giving any bass some time to track the lure down for a strike. He says that the first strike sometimes misses, so make sure the frog disappears below the surface before you set the hook. Although the plastic frog is effective in any of the previously mentioned locations, it is especially effective in shallow water in the Smokehouse Slough or Parker’ s Slough areas.
Be forewarned that sections of Parker’ s Slough can be narrow and very shallow, which can be tough for a big bass boat, but just right for a flat- bottomed jonboat. But watch your speed in the shallow areas to avoid prop damage.
Another good thing about the upper end of Lake Blackshear (above Hwy 280) is that it has much less recreational traffic due to the sub- merged timber and shallow areas, so on a busy weekend, this may be the place to go for some relaxing fishing.
Sam says if you like fishing docks, few lakes are better than Lake Blackshear. With more than 1,200 houses around the lake, there are more docks than you could ever fish, so pick an area and concentrate on locating the best docks, Sam recommends.
There aren’t many docks on the northern third of the lake, but the main lake is covered with docks, as is every major creek channel. Some of the best docks can be found off of Scenic Route Road and Lake Shore Road on the east side of the lake, and along Cedar and Swift creeks. On both of these creeks, concentrate your efforts above the old train trestles for the best April bass action.
Notice on the topo map that there is a small hump near the end of the old train trestle on Swift Creek, so try a few casts there as you move through the area. Since most docks are shallow, Sam recommends a black Texas- rigged worm fished with a light 1/4-oz. bullet weight. Use an underhand pitch or cast to get the worm up under the dock if possible, and let the worm settle to the bottom before you move it.
Normally the first cast has the best odds for a pick up, so after your worm hits bottom, take up the slack then feel for a strike. If nothing happens, slowly inch the worm across the bottom structure to entice a wary bass.
Center your fishing efforts on the lighted docks since those dock owners usually have gone to the trouble of adding bottom structure to their locations to attract and hold fish. Fishing docks is a lot like looking for Easter eggs. If you don’t get bit fairly quick- ly, move on to another dock and don’t spend too much time at one location. If you catch one bass from every three to four docks, you’ re doing pretty well.
If the daytime fishing is slow, wait until the sun goes down and hit the lighted docks to finish out your limit. But don’t be surprised to catch hybrids, white bass or stripers if you throw a small crankbait or curly-tail jig.
The DNR fisheries report for 2006 says Lake Blackshear should provide better bass fishing for this year than in 2005. The harvest should be dominated with bass in the 12- to 16-inch size, but with a 14-inch legal minimum keeper limit, those short fish will be returned to the lake.
Over time, the 14-inch limit will contribute to larger bass in the harvest. This is already being reflected in fish- ing reports from the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation, compiled by Carl Quertermus, Ph.D. at the State University of West Georgia.
The 2005 returns are not available yet, but for 2004, results from 20 tournaments showed that Blackshear had the lowest weight in catch rate among all Georgia reservoirs and 45 percent of tournament anglers failed to weigh in a keeper fish.
Undoubtedly those anglers were catching bass, just not keepers, since the statewide size limit is 12 inches, but 14 inches on Blackshear. On the plus side, the average Blackshear bass weighed 2.20 pounds which puts it firmly in the top third for average bass weight for all monitored lakes in this survey.
Another positive for Blackshear was that the average largest bass from the tournaments was 4.60 pounds, ranking Blackshear at number three out of 16 reservoirs for big bass. The bottom line is that to catch larger bass you have to let the bass grow and the 14-inch size limit protects smaller bass. That being said, the fishing gets better each year and the future looks bright for bassing on Blackshear.
Expert anglers like Sam Moody love to fish Lake Blackshear because it’s a local lake that over time they can learn well and produce fish on it with consistent results.
The fact that it’s close to home and does not require much gas to get there is a bonus! Next time you visit, give Sam’s cypress trees, boat docks and grassbeds a good workout, and you to can catch some Blackhear bass.