Oconee’s Pocket Bass

There’s a great shallow bite at Lake Oconee this month as largemouth move to the spawning pockets.

Everybody gets excited about March Madness, but for bass fishermen it has nothing to do with basketball. Big bass move shallow this month, and March is an excellent time to catch a lot of bass with a good chance at a personal best.

Lake Oconee is one of your best bets in the state for this great March fishing. Save your money, bet on fishing Oconee this month!

Oconee is a Georgia Power Co. lake on the Oconee River just south of I-20 east of Madison. The 14-inch size limit on largemouth means there are a lot of quality bass in the lake, and you can catch good numbers all month long on simple patterns.

Ethan Thomas grew up in Adel, but his parents moved to Lake Oconee about six years ago. Last year Ethan enrolled at Georgia College in Milledgeville and joined the bass fishing team. That team is the top-rated college bass team in the nation right now, and Oconee is one of their home lakes. Ethan fishes Oconee often. He lives on the lake, and he has learned to catch bass there year-round over the past six years.

“In March, the bass are moving toward the spawning pockets, staging to spawn,” Ethan said.

A few bass will even spawn this month, so you want to fish the structure and cover leading to the spawning areas and check out the spawning flats, too.

Ethan keeps his lure selection fairly simple this month. For covering water to find active fish, he throws a square-bill crankbait like a Spro Little John in shad or chartreuse, depending on water color, and a silver Rat-L-Trap.

When he gets on a pattern, Ethan will slow down with a Buckeye Jig paired with a Missile Baits trailer in greens and browns in clearer water and blacks and blues in stained water. He’ll also slow down with a 3/16-oz. Big Bite Baits shaky head with a green pumpkin or junebug worm on it. He dips the tails of his worms and trailers in chartreuse JJ’s Magic, especially when the fishing is tough.

We fished in mid-February, a little early for these locations, but we still got six or seven keepers, including a 4-pounder that hit the jig ’n pig. The water was very stained and cold, but the fishing will get better with each mild day.

No. 1: N 33º 28.407 – W 83º 18.797 — Across from Sugar Creek Marina, there is a small cove just upstream of the public ramp. The bank upstream of it is fairly deep. It is lined with docks, and it has some small pockets along it. The bank leads to a bigger cove that is a good spawning area. The bass hold out from this bank and move in to feed, working to the point then into the pocket to spawn.

Ethan starts at the dock with a green canvas top in front of a one story white house with a gray roof beside a yellow house. In early March, focus on the docks and small points along this bank, fishing crankbaits and jigs along the seawall and docks. As the water warms, the bass will stack up on the point, so fish it hard. Then, later in the month, make sure to work into the spawning cove. This area holds bass all during March as waves of bass move up.

No. 2: N 33º 28.309 – W 83º 18.540 — Rip-rap always holds bass on Oconee, and the Sugar Creek Bridge is one of the best because of all the released fish from tournaments held out of Sugar Creek Marina. Ethan fishes it with his crankbait and rattle bait, and then he works the corners of the rip-rap thoroughly with a jig ’n pig.

Current moving under the bridge helps make the bass bite better, so fish your faster-moving baits with any current. Try to barely bump the rocks with the square-bill, and run the rattle bait right over them, ticking the rocks some. You can effectively fish the rattle bait deeper if you find that the bass are holding deeper on the rocks.

No. 3: N 33º 28.011 – W 83º 18.480 — Jacks Creek enters the lake just downstream of the bridge on the right. The downstream point of it comes way out shallow and has a danger marker on it. Bass hold on the point at the danger marker, and then they move down the bank past it to spawn in the pockets and back in the creek.

Ethan starts just inside the danger marker, casting crankbaits and rattle baits over the point, then working it with a jig ’n pig and jig-head worm if he gets bit. As the water warms, work farther down this bank, fishing the three docks along it into the first cove where they spawn.

It’s hard to sight fish on Oconee due to the normally stained water, but Ethan says he catches some bass off the beds by “blind sight fishing.” He will put a creature bait on his jig head and fish it slowly on the spawning flats, expecting to get bit when it comes through a bed.

No. 4: N 33º 25.994 – W 83º 15.401 — On the main lake headed toward the dam, on the right downstream of the Highway 44 bridge the second cove is a small creek with a rip-rap causeway in the back. This is a good spawning creek, and the bass hold on the upstream point before and after moving back into the creek to spawn.

Ethan goes into the mouth of the creek just past the point and starts fishing at the first dock on the right. There is a swift house on the bank beside it in front of the house on the point. Work your faster baits along this bank, throwing right to the seawall and bumping bottom out. Fish the dock posts, too. Slow down to cover it carefully with your jig and jig head.  This shallow, flat bank warms fast since the sun shines on it all day.

No. 5: N 33º 24.849 – W 83º 14.688 — Farther down the river on the same side is another good spawning cove. Go around the big point where the river bends to the right, and look for the second cove downstream of the point. This is a wide cove. Go to the downstream side of it, which is a flat bank, and start fishing at the dock with the red canvas roof.

Bass hold and feed all along this bank as they move in to spawn. Fish all the docks and the seawalls out to about 5 feet deep, bumping bottom with a crankbait. Ethan says he uses those baits to see if the bass show themselves, and when they do, he slows down and fishes the jig ’n pig and jig-head worm in the same areas. The hard bottom here is important. Bass love a hard bottom.

No. 6: N 33º 24.256 – W 83º 16.300 — Go into Lick Creek to the first bridge, and fish the rip-rap there.  Start with your crankbait and rattle bait, and fish all the rocks. Ethan keeps his boat out not far off the rock and casts ahead of the boat, fishing the baits back at a 45-degree angle to cover the strike zone better.

When he gets to the corners of rip-rap, he works them hard with a crankbait, and then he covers them with a jig head and jig. You need to use a light jig and jig head to keep out of rocks, so go as light as you can based on wind and current. Shake the baits along the bottom with small hops on the rocks.

No. 7: N 33º 24.738 – W 83º 16.566 — Go up almost to the next bridge, and stop on the right at the downstream point of the cove, right beside the bridge. Back in the cove is a restaurant. This is a good spawning pocket, and bass hold on the point around the docks and work into the pocket to spawn.

Start fishing at the dock with the blue canvas top, and fish into the cove. There is a small blowdown just inside the point, and it and the docks here will hold bass. Cast a crankbait right to the seawall, and fish it back, bumping bottom to about 5 feet deep.

Work the dock posts, and pay attention to where you get bit. Bass often hold on the same spots on all the docks in an area, so if you get bit on the right outside post, concentrate on that post at other docks. Also be sure to fish the back posts and walkways. Many anglers will not take time to position their boat to cast to these harder-to-hit spots.

No. 8: N 33º 23.988 – W 83º 14.102 — Head out of Lick Creek past the mouth of the main lake. There is a big island on the left side. Across from it, on the right side of the main lake going downstream, there is a huge house up on a high point with rip-rap around it. The point holds a lot of bass, and the short spawning pocket downstream of it is an easy place to check out quickly.

Start on the downstream side of the point, running a crankbait and rattle bait over the rocks. Fish the rocks with a jig-head worm and jig ’n pig, too. Then work all the way to the back of the cove, fishing the docks and seawall and “blind sight fishing” with a creature bait on a jig head.

Slide the jig head slowly along on the flatter bottoms, especially the gravel ones. Be ready to set the hook as soon as you see your line move or feel weight. A spawning bass will pick up your bait but spit it out quickly after moving it out of the bed, just like when sight fishing. But you can’t see them take it.

No. 9: N 33º 24.585 – W 83º 13.386 — Going downstream, the river makes a big turn to the right. On the left side of the outside bend, a creek enters. Part of Reynolds Landing is on the right side of the creek. This is an excellent spawning creek that a lot of bass move into in March.

Start just inside the upstream point. There is a deep channel just off it, so it is one of the first places bass move up to. Start with your boat in 7 feet of water on the end of the point—out from the oak tree right on the water. Cast a crankbait to the seawall as you go into the creek.

After you round the point, there is a small pocket with a green-roofed dock past it. The bottom drops off quickly then comes back up on a second point, which has the dock on it. There is some brush on the inside of the first point as it drops on the back side. If you are out from the oak tree there, about in line with the boat storage on the far bank, you should hit this brush. Make fan casts to find the it.

Run your crankbait over the brush, and then probe the brush with a jig and jig-head worm. Work the brush carefully. Then fish on into the creek, working docks, seawalls and the shallows as you go in. Bass will spawn all along this bank.

No. 10: N 33º 23.046 – W 83º 12.468 — Run down the lake to the big “S” bend. On your right, a fairly big creek enters the lake, not far upstream of Long Shoals Ramp. This is another good spawning creek. Start on the downstream point, and fish the rip-rap on it with crankbait, jig and jig-head worm. Fish the crankbait out as far as you can bump bottom, and then fish the bottom baits out to about 5 feet deep.

Fish the bank going into the creek and around the first small pocket on it. Bass hold here and move in to spawn. Fish fairly fast until you find where the bass are in their spawning movement. Here and at other places bass should be in about the same area, so if they are out on the point in one spot, they should be on points in others. If they are on the docks halfway into the pocket, concentrate on that zone. If they are all the way in the pockets, fish the back most thoroughly.

All these places are good while the bass are staging to spawn this month. Check them out, try Ethan’s baits, and then fish your March confidence baits.

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