For professional fisherman Timmy Horton, certain lakes are analogous to a classroom.
They provide all the educational tools to increase an angler’s understanding of certain fishing techniques. For Timmy, Lake Seminole in southwest Georgia is such a teaching environment.
Timmy makes a yearly February trip to the impoundment near where the borders of Georgia, Florida and Alabama connect to film his television show, Timmy Horton Outdoors. He goes there with one purpose in mind: to target largemouth bass with lipless crankbaits.
Timmy has fished for money and for fun all over the country, and the Elite Series pro, television personality and business owner said he has yet to find a lake where lipless crankbaits appeal to bass more than on Seminole.
“That’s kind of the cat’s meow as far as the lipless crankbait,” Timmy said. “I literally drive down there every year to film on that lake.
“Over the last two years, we’ve filmed five or six shows (on Seminole) and plan to do at least two more. From Georgia to Alabama to California to Texas, the lipless crankbait dominates the spring of the year. We like to teach our viewers the aspects of how to do it, where to do it, about letting your electronics help you fish it.
“Lake Seminole is the best teaching ground there is. It allows us to go down there and have fun, show our viewers some big fish, and teach them how to use the lipless crankbait as well.”
Timmy, who lives in Muscle Shoals, Ala., suggested that Seminole might be even better than Lake Guntersville, the famed north Alabama reservoir known for its winter “trap” bite. While Guntersville receives more national attention, Seminole boasts an equally impressive combinations of elements that make fishing lures patterned after the Rat-L-Trap and other old-school lipless crankbaits a must-fish option.
His preference is the Azuma Shaker Z, a product of Timmy’s lure company, Profound Outdoors, which is making more and more of an impact on the fishing world. The Shaker Z comes in three models, each of which finds a spot in Horton’s arsenal on Lake Seminole.
All Shaker Zs weigh 5/8-oz., but what separates the three models is sound. The standard is a regular rattling model, while the Shaker Z also comes in a one-knocker version called the Knock Knock and a silent version called the Mime.
“I guess the biggest thing that has changed for me personally has been sound,” Timmy said. “To me what dictates which one I choose is the amount of fishing pressure. Early in the year, I like the standard Shaker Z. It makes a little more noise of the three. The Knock Knock has more of a ‘thud’ chamber to it, and, of course, the other one is completely silent.”
On a given day, Seminole largemouth may prefer the sound created by the Knock Knock model, but Timmy has a specific purpose for the Mime. He likes the stealthy approach of the silent lure on pressured fish, whether it be later on in the fishing season or during a second stop on the same spot on the same trip.
“Early in the year, those fish have not seen or heard those lipless crankbaits as much as they have later,” Timmy said. “If you go to any of the lakes (along the Chattahoochee) like Seminole or Eufaula, those fish are really active. They are aggressive. They are in a pre-spawn mode and are feeding up. They really react to that lure.
“If you start getting into mid-season or I come back to a place that I have fished earlier in the day, let’s say I fished it early in the morning, catch a few fish, and come back to it later. They’ve quit biting earlier. I come back to it two or three hours later, and then I’m going to throw the silent version. That’s kind of how I mix up the different versions.”
On Seminole, Timmy normally starts an outing with a standard model in the Aztec color, which he calls “by far my favorite, especially in the spring of the year when the water is slightly stained or even dirty.”
Stained water is common on the lower parts of the three Seminole arms, and the red, black and orange combination of the Aztec Shaker Z stands out and generates strikes regardless of the clarity.
His other favorite colors are bone white, a shad pattern that works well on more natural-colored reservoirs along the Chattahoochee, like West Point or Eufaula; silver night, a chrome base with a gold cheek and black back; and blue Bahama, a standard chrome with blue back.
Fishing the lipless crankbait demands a tackle package that can “really launch it.” Timmy’s choice is a 7-3 medium-heavy White Ice Duckett rod, a Team Lew’s Pro baitcaster with a 6.4:1 retrieve, and 16-lb. Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon.
“You’ve got to be able to launch it, and you can do it with that rod,” Timmy said. “It’s got a soft tip that helps to make the long cast, but it has good backbone to rip it out of the grass, which is important to be able to do.”
Timmy said he will occasionally use braided line when the grass is particularly thick, normally later in the year. Those conditions are rarely present in February, however.
“(The fluorocarbon) is limited on stretch and works really well with the lipless crankbait,” he said. “It handles just about anything at this time of year.”
Timmy mainly focuses on the lower third to half of the three arms of Seminole, the Chattahoochee arm, the Flint River arm, which pours in on the eastern end of the lake, and Spring Creek, which connects near the middle of the main reservoir. Even more specifically, Timmy looks for grass left over from the previous year or any new vegetation that is starting to emerge.
Seminole spreads over 37,000 acres. In a banner grass year, almost half the lake is covered with matted grass. Even in those years when the grass is not as widespread, Seminole still boasts thousands of acres of mats.
“What happens is in these grass lakes, you have from all of the summer months, from when the bass spawn out until the summer months and on into the late fall, they just have canopies,” Timmy said. “I would say Seminole is at least 10,000 to 15,000 acres of matted vegetation at that time of year.
“Then in the winter as it dies off, you have maybe only a couple a thousand acres of vegetation that has died off or is starting to grow. All those fish that had all those places to hide are now condensed to certain areas. They get in big huge schools, and when you find them, it’s as good as it gets.”
While Timmy relies on his electronics to locate likely spots at times, much of his approach is trial-and-error.
“It’s basically getting out there and going,” he said. “Occasionally I can see it on my Raymarine depthfinder if I’m using Side Vision. But, for the most part, I get on those flats and try to focus on the breaks. For instance, on Lake Seminole, on most of the lower half of the lake unless you are in Spring Creek, the grass grows out to about 8 or 9 feet, 12 to 14 on Spring because it is so clear. You will find them on the break, but where you really find them is up inside of that break a little bit, say 10 to 15 feet.
“You just have to fish it. When you find them though, nine times out of 10, what’s going to be there is a clean spot. When you get really dialed in to where that clean spot is located, I can run that lipless crankbait through there, let it drop, and then rip if off the bottom. That’s when you get the strikes.”
Timmy re-emphasized finding the clean spots, what he called gaps in the grass patches.
“Early in the year on these great lipless crankbait lakes like Seminole or maybe Eufaula—and those are two great lakes for lipless crankbaits—you can’t really see an edge,” Timmy said. “The grass had died off in the wintertime. It might be starting to grow back, but mainly what is left is dead grass under the water.
“When the water cools, it kills off the grass. If we get a lot of rain, the water muddies up and that pulls out even more grass as it continues to die because it’s not getting sunlight. Well, you end up not having a real good edge. What you have to do is fan cast, fish slow, and try to really pinpoint that spot, an area maybe the size of your boat, the hood of a car where there is a bare spot there, and that’s where you find those big schools of fish.”
Once such a spot is located, the retrieve becomes a vital part of the equation. Timmy suggested that a retrieve that more so resembles a worm or jig retrieve works much better that just casting and winding.
“So many people just throw it out there and reel it back in,” he said. “They will even give it a few twitches, but I pump it. I fish it almost like I am worm fishing with the grass as the bottom. I get a feel for it. I don’t want to go down into the grass, but I want to stay consistent all the way back to the boat.”
Timmy added that he keeps the rod tip about “10 o’clock to 12 o’clock.”
The design of the Shaker Z is one thing that makes it so effective on that retrieve and in those bare spots in the grass.
“The thing about the Shaker Z is that it has a wider belly than most other lipless crankbats,” Timmy said, “which really gives it a cool action, and the way it’s weighted, when it falls, it shimmies down without going nose first.”
Seminole boasts an unusually large number of boat ramps. Timmy said the facilities at Seminole State Park or at Jack Wingate’s Lunker Lodge give him easy access to the areas of the lake that he likes to fish.
“It’s the most magical lipless crankbait fishing in the country,” he said. “Guntersville is right there with it, but Guntersville is definitely not ahead of Seminole. If you really want to fish a lipless crankbait, that’s the best lake in the country. It’s just fantastic.”
To see all of Timmy’s Profound Outdoors products, go to www.profoundoutdoors.com. To learn more about Timmy Horton Outdoors episodes, go to www.timmyhortonoutdoors.com. Details about the show and also about TV schedules are listed there.