For many years Lake Jackson was known for its big bass. Then spotted bass got into the lake, and it seemed the big lunker largemouths got very rare, but you could catch a pile of keeper- sized spots. Stringers with several 6-to 8-lb. bass are not seen like they were years ago, but 20-lb. tournament catch- es still happen.
Filled in 1911, Jackson is the old- est major reservoir in the state. This Georgia Power Co. lake on the head- waters of the Ocmulgee River covers 4,750 acres, and its shoreline is lined with cabins, docks, rocks and wood cover. Most of its channels are silted in, but there are plenty of sandy spawning coves on the lake.
Barry Stokes grew up near Jackson and fished farm ponds, but he did not get to fish Jackson much. He watched bass boats go by his house headed to the lake and was determined some day to be in a bass boat on Jackson like those guys. He made those wishes come true in the early 1990s and joined the Conyers Bass Pros club. Later he joined the Bear Creek club. Now, Barry fishes as many tournaments on Jackson as he can. He fishes the Berry’s trail, ABA and any other tournaments on Jackson. He also fishes the BFL, HD Marine and other tournaments on Sinclair and Oconee, and he’s fishing the Eliminator Series. Barry is often waiting around on a check after weigh-ins.
Barry now guides on Jackson, as well as Sinclair and Oconee. He knows how to pattern the bass on the lake. On his best day ever on Jackson he landed a 12-lb. lunker and had five fish weighing 30 pounds. In one string of tournaments he won 11 of 13 and had the big fish in all 13.
Over the years Barry has figured out good patterns for March bass. In late February, bass start staging on rock, clay and sand points near spawn- ing coves and feed up on crawfish and baitfish. Barry said he can usually catch them 4 to 8 feet deep on those points.
As the water warms during March, Barry follows the bass from the points into the spawning pockets. Some bass will bed in early March if the water temperatures go up and stay stable for a week, and bass move into the bedding areas in waves all spring. There will often be a lot of prespawn fish on the points, some moving back and even some on the beds this month.
“Details are the key,” Barry told me.
He keeps a variety of baits tied on and also has others ready to try. He will vary details like lure color, depth and speed of retrieve until he finds a key. If the fish quit hitting, he will start varying the details again until he unlocks the new pattern.
Ready to fish this month, Barry will have several kinds of crankbaits in different colors, an Ol Nelle spinner- bait, a Net Boy Baits Jackson Jig, a Net Boy Shaky Head, a Terry Bowden’s Cold Steel Lizard Worm and a Cold Steel Walking Stick. The colors will vary with water color, with brighter colors for stained water and more natural colors for clearer water. But he will vary all the details during the day.
One of the details Barry pays attention to is the speed he works the baits. Too many bass fishermen have a speed of retrieve they are comfortable with when using certain baits and don’t vary it. Barry constantly changes.
As the water warms, the fish will get more active this month and will chase a bait better. But on some cold days they want a fast-moving bait, too. As a general rule, fish slower in cold water and faster in warmer water, but Barry says vary your speed constantly.
Barry and I fished the following 10 spots in mid-February, and bass were already on them. We caught about 25 bass that day, almost all of them on crankbaits, although a few of the bigger fish hit a jig ’n pig. These spots will pay off all month long as fish move up on them then move back to spawn.
No. 1: N 33° 25.195 – W 83° 49.875 — Run up the Alcovy to the cove on the left called “Parker Neck,” and look at the upstream point. There is a small concrete piling on the upstream side right on the edge of the water, and a blowdown runs out off the end of the point. The house on the point is brick halfway up with green wood above.
This point is an excellent staging area. The bottom is rocky, and the pocket on the downstream side, Parker Neck, is a good spawning place. Fish hold and feed out on the point on the rocks and in the blowdown then move into the cove to spawn as the water warms.
Barry starts out on the end of the point at the blowdown and fishes the tree and the rocks with a crankbait, spinnerbait and jig. He will then work the bank going downstream all the way past the cut to the next point with a gazebo on it. Fish the above baits, but also try a shaky-head worm, and a Texas- or Carolina-rigged Cold Steel Lizard Worm along this bank. Work the sand where the bass will be bedding.
No. 2: N 33° 24.301 – W 83° 49.746 — Headed downstream, Price Neck is on your right, and a good rocky point is on your left. The point you want to fish has a small cabin on it with lattice work around the crawl space. There is a white-painted tire lying in the yard. Back in the pocket on the downstream side there is a house that runs right to the water’s edge.
This point runs out shallow toward the downstream side, and there is some brush on the downstream side. The bass spawn in the cut on the downstream side. Stay way out, and fish a crankbait, spinnerbait and jig around the rocks and brush, then work into the pocket with the other baits. Vary your colors and speed until you find what the bass want. One trick Barry uses is to Texas-rig a Cold Steel Walking Stick, a Senko-like bait, and fish it around the cover in the pockets. It skips under docks well and has a different action and look than the jig ’n pig that most anglers will be throwing. This is another example of the detail Barry uses to catch bass behind other fishermen.
No. 3: N 33° 23.035 – W 83° 50.279 — Downstream of the bridge and Berry’s, there is a point on your left heading downstream that has a beige house with a brown roof. There is a three-globe light pole in the yard and a dock on the point with a deck on the bank. The deck has lattice panels around it. There are big rocks on the point, and the bass spawn in the pocket on the upstream side.
Barry says this is a numbers-game point. Spots stage and spawn here, and you can often pick up several fish. Crank the point, then try a spinnerbait. Start on the downstream side, and parallel the point, fishing from near the bank and casting out toward the lake. Then work out around the point fan- casting both baits. It gets very shallow on top of the point, so don’t get in too close. After fishing the point, move into the spawning area dragging a worm on the bottom. Barry likes a green-pump- kin Lizard Worm this time of year, and he dips the tail in JJ’s Magic chartreuse dye to give it some color. Spots seem to especially like the wiggling chartreuse tails.
No. 4: N 33° 22.225 – W 83° 51.113 — Go under the powerlines, and you will see a swimming beach and picnic area for Turtle Cove on your left. There are three buoys in front of the beach, and the point that runs out downstream of it is a good staging area. The point is red clay and rock, an excellent combination for holding bass this time of year. They are often feeding on crayfish on this kind of point.
The point runs at an angle down- stream across the mouth of a cove. Start near the swimming area where the sand transitions to clay and rock. That kind of change often holds bass. Work that transition area, then keep your boat way out and go downstream, fan casting around the point.
There is a really good drop on the inside of this point where the small creek coming out of the pocket runs by it. Fish that drop and the blowdown on the inside of the point. Flip a jig in it, and work a spinnerbait through it. Then work on into the creek for spawning bass. This is an excellent spawning area and holds a lot of bass.
No. 5: N 33° 22.044 – W 83° 51.376 — Go downstream past the next cove, and you will head straight in to a high, bluff bank. The old river channel swings in right by the bank, and it drops off fast. There are three small points along this bluff bank you should fish in March. Start on the outside point at the dock on the rock seawall in front of the series of decks running up the hill to the house.
This point is rocky and holds the first transitioning fish coming up out of the river channel. Stay out and fan-cast it, then work toward the next dock. There is a rock ledge that runs out under the dock. You will see the dock with a walkway that runs behind a tree leaning out. The dock has the numbers “3108” on the walkway. Stay out from the dock on the downstream side, and cast toward the walkway and tree. You can see how the rocks run parallel to the bank coming out. Run a crankbait, spinnerbait and jig along these rocks, then work around the dock and fish the other side. Also drag a plastic bait along the bottom here.
The next point going into the creek is a round, clay point, and you should fish all around it. Then fish into the creek, concentrating on any sand you come to. The Lizard Worm is a good choice on sandy spots since spawning fish will hit it. You may not see the bed, but you can catch bedding fish you can’t see by fishing this worm in sandy areas.
No. 6: N 33° 22.202 – W 83° 51.771 — Go around the point and head into the South River. You will see a sharp, narrow point on your right. It comes out and drops off fast on both sides, but it is shallow on top. There is no house on the point, but you will see four benches on it, and there is a concrete boat ramp on it. There are two pines on the point with black protectors around their bases.
The point is rock and clay, and bass spawn in pockets on both sides of it. It is steep and gives bass quick access to shallow water. They can hold deep and quickly move shallow with- out having to move far.
Start on the downstream side, and work around the point, staying way out. Fish along the upstream bank leading into the next pocket. Rocks, clay and sand along this bank hold bass, and they will move along it feeding and working into the spawning pocket. Barry will usually stop fishing about where the seawall starts unless he is going back into the pocket for spawning bass.
No. 7: N 33° 22.294 – W 83° 61.856 — The next point up also has good deep-water access. This point has a brown cabin, and there was a United States flag flying on the dock when we were there. There are two floodlights on a tree right at the dock. There is a big blowdown on the upstream side and a rockpile out on the point. The wind can be important here and on other spots this time of year. Some wind blowing across the point or into it helps, and Barry will fish wind-blown points as long as he can hold his boat on them. Wind creates current that moves the food baitfish eat. Bass wait on the baitfish.
Start fishing at the blowdown. Then get out about even with the flag pole, and cast across the point, aiming your casts parallel to the bank toward the cove. You will hit some rocks on this point, and that is where a school of bass will often hold.
The downstream pocket is full of wood, and this is a good spawning area. Especially near the end of the month Barry will fish into it, running his Ol Nelle spinnerbait along the wood. He likes a double Colorado blade with a white skirt, especially in clearer water, but he will go with double willowleaf and chartreuse-and- white skirt in stained water. He will also flip a jig around the wood before leaving.
No. 8: N 33° 21.446 – W 83° 51.763 — Head back down the river, and it will narrow down. Straight ahead to the right you will see a pink house with tin roof on a flat point that runs out upstream of a bluff point. There is a green picnic table in the front yard.
Get on the downstream side of the point, and cast in toward the seawall. The bottom is very rough here and often holds a lot of bass. Fish this bank into the pocket, working the dock and fishing to the boat ramp. Be sure to fish this boat ramp and any others you come to before leaving.
No. 9: N 33° 21.393 – W 83° 51.391 — The lake opens up at this point, and the far left bank going down- stream has a creek coming out. In the mouth of this creek is a hump that is marked with three danger buoys. It is deep on both sides, and bass stage on this hump before going in to spawn.
Barry likes to stay out on the lake side and cast up onto the hump, bringing his baits back shallow to deep. Wind often blows in here and makes the spot even better. There are rocks and clay on this hump, and you should fish all the way around it before leaving. Try all your baits in different colors and speeds. Assume the bass are here, and you just have to figure out the details to get them to hit.
No. 10: N 33° 22.047 – W 83° 53.882 – For something a little different, run up Tussahaw Creek under the bridge and up to the last pocket on the right before the weekend no-wake section. You will see a dock with a green- metal roof in front of a brown house. There is a little narrow point here downstream of two small pockets. The point has a cross-tie seawall and a big pampas grass clump on it. Downstream of the point you will see a white cabin with a red roof just past a blue cabin. There are some stumps on this clay point, and the bass will stage on it. Fan- cast all around this point, and try all your baits here. The water is often clearer in Tussahaw, so you may need to change colors to draw strikes.