All bass fishermen dream of April, when the bass are shallow and biting. The fish are in all stages from prespawn to postspawn, and add the shad spawn this month for some incredible fishing early in the morning. The fishing is great everywhere, but if you want a chance of catching a 7-lb. spot, with 5-lb. spots fairly common, Carters Lake would be an excellent choice.
Carters is a small but very deep, 3,200-acre TVA lake near Chatsworth. It has undeveloped shorelines and very clear water, making it unique and fun to fish. The steep rocky shorelines are an ideal habitat for spots, and the blueback herring and alewives there are a perfect food source. The lake has a good population of largemouth, too.
Brian Drain has lived near Carters most of his life and has been fishing it since 1985. He loves tournament fishing and has competed in several tournament tails. He seldom misses a tournament on Carters and also fishes with the Cherokee Bass Club.
In the late 1990s, Brian and his son won the Georgia Like Father, Like Son Trail in Georgia and came in third in the national championship. Although he fishes many lakes, Carters is his favorite for a good reason. He has had some great catches there. Last year in late February and March, he had catches in tournaments on Carters ranging from 19.75 to 23 pounds four weekends in a row.
Big spots are the fish Brian targets this time of year, and he has honed his methods of catching them. Brian will have several baits rigged and ready for April on Carters. A Nichols spinnerbait, a Staysee jerkbait and a jig ’n pig are his go-to baits for big fish, but he also keeps a drop-shot rig and a spoon ready for when he sees fish on his electronics under the boat. A shaky head will catch fish, but he does not use it much unless the fishing is tough, since he expects to catch bigger bass on other baits. This year he has been experimenting and catching fish on an Alabama Rig, too.
“Most of the bass at Carters are moving near the spawning areas by early April, holding on points and channels, ready to move in to spawn as soon as the temperature gets right,” Brian said.
Some bass spawned on the full moon in late March, and those fish are moving back out right now, holding in the same areas. The backs of cuts, coves and creeks are the kinds of areas he targets during April. He will start on the points and channels, and then work in until he finds the fish. He also keeps an eye out for bedding bass. The clear water makes it fun to sight fish for them, but many of the big spots in Carters bed too deep to be seen, so he fishes where he expects they will bed with a bait they will hit even if he can’t see them.
Brian took me to Carters in mid-March to show me his methods and 10 good places to fish this month. We fished one place and caught six keepers, and then checked out the next. Unfortunately, his motor blew going to the third spot. He was able to give me GPS coordinates for them and describe them and how he fishes them, but I could not get pictures of each location.
Check out the following 10 locations, and you will catch bass.
No. 1: N 34º 36.316 W 84º 39.424 — Put in at the Damsite Ramp, and you don’t even need to crank your motor. Brian likes to fish the back of the cove behind the ramp. There are a lot of recycled bass here that are released after tournaments. Many of these bass stay in this cove. This is where we caught six keepers first thing in the morning. They were holding on a drop between 20 and 30 feet deep.
Brian starts at the corps ramp across from the public ramp and fishes the ramp and a hump off it. He then works on around the cove, casting a jerkbait and jig ’n pig and working a spinnerbait around any wood cover. Fish all the way back to the public ramp.
Largemouth will usually spawn earlier than spots in early April. Then the spots go to the beds in mid to late April. All month long there will be some bass on the beds in the cuts and pockets back in this creek and others. Working a jig ’n pig or jerkbait around the cuts will produce bites.
No. 2: N 34º 37.221 – W 84º 39.715 — Run across the lake into the mouth of Fisher Creek, and watch for the second cove on your left. This cove is narrow and runs straight back. There is a good ditch in it that the bass follow in to spawn, and they stop on the points before and after bedding. There is also brush along the bank to hold them.
Brian starts on the point on the right. It runs way out to the creek channel and is the first place the fish move to when they start into the cove. Start way out on it with a jerkbait, and then fish it with a jig ’n pig.
When you get to the shallow end of the point, pick up your spinnerbait and fish it through any visible wood cover like blowdowns and brush. In the areas without visible cover, throw your jerkbait. There will be some deeper wood, but you can fish your jerkbait over it to get bit. Watch for bedding bass in the little cuts along the sides and in the very back of his pocket. Fish all the way back to the point on the downstream side of this pocket.
No. 3: N 34º 36.897 – W 84º 39.074 — On the upstream side of Fisher Creek, a big island has a long, narrow arm running downstream toward the dam. The pocket between this arm and the big island on the lake side is a good spawning place, especially for big spots.
Start on the upstream side of the pocket on the big island, and work around it with jerkbait and spinnerbait. Fish the very back of the pocket and down the downstream side, working visible cover with both baits. This is also a good area to fish a shaky head if the fishing is tough.
When he fishes a shaky head, Brian likes a 3/16- to 1/4-oz. head with a green-pumpkin Trick Worm on it. He will dip the tip of the tail of the worm and his jig ’n pig trailer in chartreuse JJ’s Magic for added flash and scent. Spots seem to love a flash of chartreuse and the garlic scent.
Before you leave, check the middle of the pocket for brush in about 20 feet of water. Brian once caught back-to-back 5-lb. spots on this unmarked brushpile. Work a jerkbait over it, especially if the fish are suspended over it, and then work through the brush with a jig ’n pig.
No. 4: N 34º 37.221 – W 84º 38.599 — Go into Woodring Branch, and about two-thirds of the way to the back there is a big bay on your right where the creek bends to the right. This is another good bedding cove, and there is some brush in the middle of it in 20 feet of water to fish, too.
Brian starts about halfway back into this pocket and fishes around it like he does the other pockets. When fishing his Nichols spinnerbait, Brian slow-rolls it to get it down out of sight and works it back with a steady reel, hitting limbs of brush and blowdowns. He fishes the bait slow enough to drop with the contour of the bottom, keeping it near the bottom. When it hits a limb, he lets it fall a little after coming over it. Brian’s favorite spinnerbait has a 1/2-oz. head with a blue-glimmer skirt and trailer. His bait is rigged with two silver willowleaf blades that have blue glitter on them. The blue flash of the skirt and blades looks like a blueback herring to the spots.
No. 5: N 34º 35.624 – W 84º 37.873 — Across the lake and upstream, Camp Branch runs off to your right. About two-thirds of the way in, a big cove will be on your right. It’s the last one on that side. This cove has hard-bottom flats where both spots and largemouth spawn, and there is a channel for them to follow. Be careful of the standing timber. Bass hold in it, making the area better, but you don’t want to damage your boat. Fish around the cove with a spinnerbait and jerkbait. Brian fishes the Staysee fast, so the bass don’t get a good look at it. He is expecting a reaction bite. He says he “jerks the dog snot out of it, winds fast, and jerks it again.” Keep it moving fast the whole retrieve.
No. 6: N 34º 35.700 – W 84º 37.553 — Across the creek there are two small pockets with a rocky point between them. Brian says this is one of the first places the bass move up on as the water warms, and bass spawn in the pockets, too. Brian’s main targets here are the points between the coves. There is hard bottom and rock on them, and the fish will hold in about 20 feet of water. A jig ’n pig or shaky head are your best baits on these points.
Start on the upstream point of the upstream cove, and keep your boat out in deep water. Angle your cast so most of your retrieve is in about 20 feet of water. Work your jig ’n pig along the bottom, hitting the rocks here. Fish around all three points. They all hold fish, but the one between the pockets is usually the best. A 3/8-oz. football-head jig is Brian’s choice, and he likes natural colors but wants some purple strands in the skirt. He rigs a Yamamoto twin-tail swimming grub to make it fall slower and give it more action, and he dips the tails. Try crawling it slowly along as you work it back.
No. 7: N 34º 36.250 – W 84º 36.971 — The next creek upstream is Harris Creek. Run back in it until it narrows and bends to the right. On the left side in the big bay formed by the bend there are a series of five small rocky points that are similar to the ones in hole 6. Bass moving up this creek also move to these points early and are one of the first places to catch them as they move. Fish all five of the points with jig ’n pig and jig-head worms. Brian sticks with the jig ’n pig if possible because it catches the bigger bass he needs in tournaments. But if the fishing is tough, the jig-head worm will catch some keepers. Try different ways to fish the jig head to find out what the fish want. Fish it slowly, letting it sit when it hits bottom, and then shaking your rod tip and moving it slowly. But also try fairly big hops, pulling the bait a foot off the bottom and letting it fall back. When the head hits bottom, imagine it sitting there with the worm sticking up wiggling a little, driving the bass crazy.
No. 8: N 34º 37.069 – W 84º 36.869 — Go upstream around the long point on the upstream side of Harris Creek and head into Carters Creek. The first small creek on your left that splits off Carters Creek is Coley Creek. It is just off the main river, and fish move into it to spawn. Brian goes into the mouth of Coley and starts fishing, working all the way to the back, then fishing the other side coming back out. This creek has a good hard bottom, and bass key on hard bottoms for spawning. There are a lot of rocks in here, which spots love. And the bottom comes up from 40 to 20 feet deep quickly, making a good transition to attract bass.
Always keep a spoon or drop shot ready to catch fish that are still out deep. Keep an eye on your depthfinder for fish under the boat, and drop a spoon or your drop-shot worm down to them. That is how we caught fish the day we fished on hole 1, and this creek is similar. The bass will hold on the transition from deep to relatively shallow water until moving on up, and you can catch them.
No. 9: N 34º 38.049 – W 84º 37.075 — Start up the river, and there are two islands on your left where the river makes a big swing around them. There is a small creek entering the lake on the downstream side of them, and it is a good spawning pocket for the fish that hold around the islands. It is deep with a lot of wood cover on the sides.
Start at the mouth of it, and fish all the way to the back of it and back out the other side to the other point. Fish your spinnerbait and jerkbait around the wood cover, and work your jig ’n pig through it, too. Also watch for bass on the bed in this area.
Brian sight fishes for bedding bass with a jig ’n pig or white tube or Texas-rigged lizard. He is also starting to fish a short drop-shot worm in the beds. By casting the drop shot to the bed and raising your rod tip, you can make the worm suspend just off the bottom and wiggle right over the bed, which the bass can’t stand.
No. 10: N 84º 39.038 – W 84º 36.582 — Farther up the river, Fir Creek is on your left. Ridgeway Ramp is in the back. Brian runs to the ramp and starts fishing there, and he fishes all the way to the very back of the creek. The hard bottom in this creek attracts spawners, and there is a lot of rock for them, too. Wood cover gives them feeding spots. And the creek is protected, something that makes it a very good spawning area. Fish all the way to the back with all your baits.
These places all are holding fish right now as they move in, and you can catch fish in them all month. Fish them, and you may land a wall-hanger spot like the big one Brian got, but even if you don’t you will catch some big spots and largemouth, and good numbers of them, too.
Editor’s Note: Ronnie Garrison’s popular Map-of-the-Month articles are being compiled and published in digital eBook format. The first collections for Lanier and Clarks Hill are now available at fishing-about.com.