When GON asked me about doing a bass fishing story on a young man named Garrett Guinan, a junior at Lassiter High School and an aspiring professional tournament angler, I was excited to spend a day on Allatoona learning from a young Millennial.
Garrett has been fishing with his dad since he was a young boy. His passion for the sport and experiences with his dad fishing tournaments around the state inspired Garrett to help start a youth bass fishing club in partnership with the Marietta Bassmasters. Marietta Bassmasters II is the first youth and high school level club of its kind in the metro Atlanta area.
Garrett, who fishes high school bass tournaments with B.A.S.S. Nation and FLW’s The Bass Federation, considers Lake Allatoona his home lake and fishes the lake very often.
Prior to our day on the lake, Garrett recommended various hard baits, like Strike King’s 3XD crankbait, a Strike King J200 KVD jerkbait, as well as a Red Eyed Shad, which is a shallow-running lipless crankbait. He also recommended bringing some jigs and a few shaky-head jig heads for any lethargic fish we might encounter.
After breakfast with Garrett and his dad, Mike, our day on Allatoona began at the Kellogg Creek ramp where we put in just after sunrise. As Garrett began to get his gear ready, he showed me a shaky head made by Chattahoochee Jig Company that had an offset eye to allow the bait to have a better hook-up ratio than standard shaky head designs. He paired it with a Zoom Trick Worm, nodded his head and said, “That’ll catch one for sure.”
We started in the upper end of the creek in very stained water that was 6 to 10 feet deep. Garret and his dad both started with St. Croix Avid X spinning rods with braided line tied to a fluorocarbon leader and a shaky head with a Zoom Trick Worm in black to entice bites in the stained cold water. As the sun climbed in the sky and the water temperature warmed, we began fishing with moving baits in search of actively feeding fish during the early morning hours of our trip.
“April is among one of the best months to fish Allatoona,” said Garrett. “The water is finally beginning to warm, and fish are preparing for the spawn. The spawn usually occurs from the late part of March to the end of April. Depending on weather patterns and springtime rains, it can sometimes go on into May as well.”
Garrett said the month of April can be split into three distinctive periods: the late prespawn, from the end of March to the first week of April; the spawn from mid-April to the latter part of the month; and the postspawn, extending from the end of April to the beginning of May. Weather patterns, spring rains and fluctuating water conditions can determine the phase the fish will be in on any given day. Paying attention to the weather is incredibly important to the success of fishing Allatoona during these spawning periods.
As the first of April comes along, the fish on Allatoona are very close to spawning. Many fish can be found in the shallows. Buck bass are making beds, and the females are closely behind. The majority of fish are staging for the weather and moon phases to begin spawning.
“The first of April is usually a great time to catch lots of numbers with good size mixed in,” said Garrett. “The fish are hungry, fat and ready to spawn, making for some great action. At this phase, some fish may already be on bed, being the first of several waves of spawning fish, which is nature’s way of protecting the fish population.
“Bass follow points and channel edges to find their way back into the spawning bays and pockets that are innumerable on Allatoona. These channel swings, points and shallow flats make great staging areas for fish preparing to spawn, while they wait for the right weather conditions to trigger them to spawn. By targeting these areas that fish use as highways and staging areas, the odds of a great catch go up considerably.”
Using a high quality topo map or a topo chart found on many of the new electronics is an important part of finding these areas. Without such maps, finding these areas is difficult. The map above is designed to give anglers a start at the types of places Garrett seeks out.
“When looking for staging areas, the best places to look are deep points, channel banks and areas of deep water with shallow water close to the deeper water,” said Garrett. “This may be in the form of a flat that may extend 300 yards from the bank and runs into the channel or a point with a sandy flat area behind it. Staging areas are not difficult to find and offer the most stable fishing during the spring spawning periods.”
Several different patterns and techniques work well during the prespawn phase.
“During the early morning hours, many fish will be feeding heavily on shad,” said Garrett. “Starting out with a Nichols Pulsator spinnerbait in white or a similar shad pattern is one of the best patterns on Allatoona in early April and produces some quality bites. This pattern is usually improved with a light wind to encourage baitfish to move into areas where the fish are staging, but the pattern can be just as good without the wind.”
Garrett said to also cover these areas thoroughly with a crankbait, like a Strike King Series 3 or a Bandit 200 and 300 in chartreuse and shad patterns. A 3/8-oz. Painkiller Jig by the Chattahoochee Jig Company and a 1/4-oz. Chattahoochee Jig shaky head rigged with a watermelon-seed Zoom Trick Worm are staples this time of year.
“Carefully drag the jig and shaky head across the bottom like you’re polishing the rocks, making sure to cover the water column completely,” said Garrett. “Pay close attention to the areas that produced a bite, as this is generally the spot within a spot in any given area. Focus on water depths from 6 to 10 feet with softball-sized chunk rock and transition rock-type banks with some deeper water nearby.
“Throw all your baits in these general areas, using them to cover the water column from top to bottom. Make a milk run of these spots. They can replenish with fish throughout the day.”
As the water warms and the days get longer, most fish will start to bed. This phase can be a hit or miss period. If most fish are on beds, the fishing can suffer as a result, unless you can find a few fish shallow enough to sight fish. However, these fish are some of the biggest of the year and can be rewarding if caught in a tournament.
When Garrett thinks a good wave of fish are locked on the beds, he’ll start by looking in the same staging areas as mentioned earlier.
“Many of the staging areas on Allatoona offer spawning areas, as well, and many fish simply move from the deeper edge of an area to the shallow part of a point or flat,” said Garrett. “It is important to know the bottom composition of these areas. There are several ways of doing this, either by using your electronics, physically seeing the bottom and its composition, or by using baits that will contact the bottom to feel what is on the bottom.”
Spots prefer to bed on areas of small chunk rock and gravel banks in 6 to 12 feet of water. However, if these areas have some sort of cover, like blowdowns, bank grass or a small row of stumps, it will be an added appeal.
“Largemouth in Allatoona prefer flat, sandy bottoms in 1 to 3 feet of water or more. Dense cover nearby could help,” said Garrett. “Sight fishing sometimes requires making a fish mad by repeatedly throwing over its bed and luring it to strike. Catching these fish requires patience and the flawless presentation of a bait. If sight fishing for bass on Allatoona, several patterns work well.
“If looking down the bank for spawning fish, throw a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper Texas rigged on a 3/0 wide-gap hook with a 1/8- to 1/4-oz. sinker pegged to the bait. Throw the bait parallel to the bank, and slowly reel it back with a steady retrieve and an occasional twitch and pause varied into the retrieve.”
This method often allows Garrett to see a fish and find a bed he would not have normally seen.
“Once I locate a bed, I prefer to use a white Zoom Baby Brush Hog with a 3/8-oz. weight and a 3/0 hook, Texas rigged,” said Garrett. “I carefully pitch my bait to the fish I see, using the white color to see the fish take the bait. If fishing deeper for spawning spotted bass, many times simply dragging a Zoom Baby Brush Hog or a Zoom Trick or Finesse worm on a shaky head in watermelon red flake works very well. The red flake in the color is important, as spawning fish are triggered into biting by the color red.”
As the month progresses and the first waves of spawning fish are over, the postspawn phase begins. For the first two to three weeks after the spawn, many fish begin to recuperate and feed for the dog days of summer ahead. Many remain shallow, guarding the fry of the spawn. As the end of the month comes along, the first stages of the shad spawn begins.
“This is a magical time beginning from before daylight on until shortly after sunrise,” said Garrett. “Getting up early and having your topwater and Zoom Fluke tied on are great ways to catch the fish that take advantage of the shad spawn. Shad spawn on rocky points, bluff walls, rip-rap and just about and hard surface they can find. Topwater at this time is key, using walking-type topwaters like a Lucky Craft Sammy, Heddon Spook or other walking baits are very good choices.
“As far as colors, anything that resembles a shad does very well. As the day progresses and the sun rises, a subsurface lure, like a Zoom Fluke, functions equally well when worked just below the water’s surface.”
Garrett encourages anglers to take advantage of the early morning bite. At times, the fishing can get tough after the first hour or two of daylight.
“After the sun is high, take a shaky head, jig or crankbait, and once again fish the areas that the shad were spawning on earlier,” said Garrett. “As the shad spawn ends, many fish still hover around the same general areas. Allatoona fish stay in many of the same general areas all month long. By changing the depth, angle or presentation of the lure, it can be a great way to load the boat and have fun in the great spring weather.”
Garrett said he wouldn’t enjoy bass fishing today if it weren’t for adults who took the time to teach him.
“I owe much of my experience to support from mentors like Nick Wallace, a fishing coach of Marietta Bassmasters II,” said Garrett. “Nick gives of his time and resources to teach our club members not only how to fish but how to be great sportsmen and great people. Other mentors like Jamie Koza and Craig Miller of The Dugout in Marietta have helped me build company relationships and have given me guidance in working toward future sponsorships. My greatest mentor is my dad, who has inspired me to follow my dream of professional bass fishing and does so much to make the most of my opportunities. Blessed with this level of support I am optimistic about realizing my dream of professional bass fishing.”
If you know of a high school fishing team in your area, Garrett asks you to consider giving up some time to be a boat captain or a coach. Bass sportsmen must preserve and protect the future of our sport, and the best investment is in teaching the next generation of youth anglers.