At 6:20 a.m. Sean Capes and I were on a long point halfway back in Woods Creek on Lake Chatuge throwing topwater. Sean was giving a Sammy 100 a workout, and I was walking the dog with a Super Spook.
When the bait was halfway back to the boat, the water erupted around Sean’s Sammy like a brick had hit the plug, and he set the hook.
“Look at that!” he said, as he played the fish near the boat, “There are three or four more fish following it in trying to get the lure away from him.”
Minutes later a spot hit, but missed my Spook; then another fish lunged at it just as I lifted the topwater plug from the water.
If you want to have some fun with aggressive spotted bass blasting topwater baits, put Lake Chatuge on your summertime travel plans.
On May 10, I was on Chatuge with Sean to try out a topwater bite that was just beginning. It is topwater fishing that is one of the main attractions to summertime fishing on the mountain lake for Sean, who lives in Sharpsburg, but owns property near Chatuge. He has been fishing the lake for more than 30 years.
“I love to see a 3- or 4-lb. spot some up out of the clear water to crash a Sammy,” said Sean.
Sean, 38, is a tournament bass angler. He is tournament director for the South Fulton Bass Club as well as for the Delta Bass Club at Delta Airlines where he is employed. He fishes many of the tournaments on West Point, but during the summer months he is often on Chatuge catching spots on top.
“On a lot of lakes the topwater bite is over by 8 a.m. and most guys put up their topwater baits,” said Sean. “Up here you never know — they might crash it on top at noon.”
Sean caught two spots on the point in Woods Creek, and then we moved.
“I like to hit a lot of places,” he said, and we did.
At the second mainlake point on the right as you come out of Woods Creek is a reef marker well off the bank. Between the bank and the marker is a long, flat saddle, then a quick drop into deep water over the river channel.
“This is usually a good topwater point,” said Sean. “The fish will pull up onto the flat to feed. Later on, if the fish go down, you can still catch them on a Carolina rig.”
Our third stop was the southwest end of the rip-rap at the dam.
“Bass like to hang out around rocks,” said Sean, as he cast his chartreuse-shad Sammy. On his second or third cast a short fish smacked the bait. As we eased down the rocks, he picked up three more small spots that were holding within three or four feet of the rocks.
“You always watch for fish coming up,” said Sean. “Usually on this lake if you see fish break and you can get something to the spot they’ll usually hit. You don’t go out without something like a Sammy tied on that you can cast a long way.”
Sean has been believer in fishing with P-line for years, but he is a recent convert to fluorocarbon fishing line.
“Fluorocarbon has low visibility in the clear water,” he said. “It also has low stretch, which helps when you are trying to set the hook after a long cast.”
We motored into the back of Pitts Cove expressly to fish one brushed-up boat dock, and then we cast topwater and Carolina rigs around the public boat ramp in the same cove before Sean put the boat on plane and we headed deeper into Shooting Creek. Almost immediately, we saw several fish breaking close by out over 80 feet of water.
Sean turned the boat, and we eased back to the area where multiple splash rings were still spreading on the surface.
On his first cast with a Sammy, Sean hooked up with a keeper spotted bass. After the first hit, however, the school of fish disappeared, so we continued into Shooting Creek to fish a series of reef markers on the right-hand side.
As we moved from one marker to another, a school of spots surfaced 50 feet from the boat. Nearly as soon as Sean’s Sammy hit the water, a fish ripped at it but missed — then a second later the lure disappeared in a second splash.
“At West Point when you throw to a breaking fish if you don’t get him, that’s it. Up here there are likely to be four or five more fish around,” said Sean, as he unhooked the bass.
Our next stop at mid morning was the northwest end of Brown Island as we started up the Hiawassee River side of the lake. Sean bought his boat off plane well off the point, then eased in on the trolling motor.
“In this clear water I think you can spook the fish, so it is a good idea not to run in on top of the structure,” he said. “There are some rockpiles here that usually hold some fish.”
The wind was up, and there was a good chop on the water. Sean put his Sammy rod down and picked up a She Dog topwater bait.
“A Sammy is fine, but it doesn’t make much noise,” he said. “When there is a lot of chop on the water I like to have something that will make some noise. This bait has the same walk-the-dog action but with a lot of noise.”
The bait, made by MirrOlure, has rattle chambers inside and you can hear the rattling from a long distance as the topwater bait works across the surface.
“It’s heavy enough to throw a long way, too, in case the fish come up,” he said.
The rockpiles are also a good place to try a Carolina rig, said Sean.
His Carolina rig consists of a 1/2-oz. weight, a three-foot-long leader, and a 3/0 round-bend hook for Trick Worms or a 2/0 for finesse worms. Sean said he likes to fish lizards or finesse worms on the rig, but Trick Worms are a favorite. On the mountain lakes, and nearly everywhere else, there is one primary color of plastic worm, and that is green pumpkin.
“I like a green pumpkin Trick Worm,” said Sean. “And sometimes I will dye the tail chartreuse. I like the Carolina rig out on the main-lake points, reef markers and flats, but when you are fishing in brushpiles a 1/8-oz. Spotsticker set-up works better in the brush than the Carolina rig.”
Our next stop was a row of docks on the right-hand bank leading to a utility building on a spit at the end of a point. We had not had a strike in a while, and Sean was ready to change up again. This time he picked up a rod with a Rico tied on.
The Rico, made by Lobina Lures, looks like a sooped-up Pop-R. Sean calls it a “glorified” Pop-R. The fancy popper, which has a slightly smaller profile than the Pop-R, comes with prismatic eyes, a detailed paint job, Gamakatsu hooks, and a real feather tail that is supposed to undulate in the water enticing fish to hit even when the lure is sitting still. You would expect nothing less from a lure that retails for $20, and the spotted bass at Lake Chatuge apparently appreciate high-end baits. On Sean’s first cast to the bank, after about two pops on the surface, the bait disappeared into the mouth of a small spot. Three or four casts later, another spot ripped the bait off the surface.
We continued up the lake, stopping to fish reef markers in the mouth of Bell Creek. We saw a few fish breaking, but the Sammy got no takers. Sean was ready to try to find a midday pattern, so we motored into Hog Creek up to a windblown bank lined with blowdowns.
On his second cast, while bringing his blade down the trunk of a submerged tree, a small spot flashed out and hit the bait. Moments later a fish knocked my spinnerbait sideways but did not hook up.
“We might be on to something, here,” said Sean.
Over the next 45 minutes or so as we fished toward the marina in the back of the creek, we caught four bass and missed several strikes. If there was a good-sized tree trunk laying under the water, there was sometimes a spot laying in ambush under the trunk.
On our way back to the ramp we tested the spinnerbait-on-blowdowns pattern on the eastern end of the island in the mouth of Sneaking Creek. Here the bank is lined with blowdowns that are the remnants of damage done by Hurricane Opal in the mid 1990s. We had a couple of fish strike and miss, and Sean caught our final bass of the day: Fish No. 15.
Overall, we did not see a lot of surface activity in early May, but that should have changed by the time you read this. The fish will be off the bed, beyond the postspawn doldrums and ready to feed. Too, as the water temperature rises, the bluebacks will school tighter out on main-lake points, humps and around reef markers.
One note on boating activity: Lake Chatuge, like most Georgia lakes, gets inundated with pleasure boaters, water skiiers and jet skis during summer. For this reason, most bass tournaments on the lake go to nighttime. Your best bet for avoiding the crowds is fishing weekdays if you can, or early and late in the day on the weekends.
With a Sammy tied on, you are ready to enjoy bass blasting on top. And have a Carolina rig ready. When the fish go down, they usually stay in the same vicinity, says Sean. If you can afford it, a Rico is a good backup to the Sammy, and maybe tie on a spinnerbait for those banks with a lot of blowdowns. With these rigs you are all set for summertime bass fishing at Chatuge.