Paradise PFA located just outside of Tifton offers up some of the best bass fishing in the state this month. With 68 lakes and ponds totaling 525 acres of water, the fishing possibilities are endless. And, you can bet as temperatures plummet and we get hammered by cold front after cold front, the fish will be biting. To take advantage of this action, you will need the right presentation.
No one knows the January bite better on Paradise than Davey Allen, of Naylor. I actually met Davey for the first time on a cold and windy day at Paradise about a year ago. There were two tournaments going on with approximately 40 boats total. Davey and partner Kevin Brantley finished the day in second place, but more impressively, I watched them land more than 30 fish when many anglers struggled to even get a bite.
When I approached Davey about doing an article for GON, he was super excited to share his techniques with readers.
The morning we set to do the story, a cold front blanketed south Georgia. As I pulled into Paradise, my dashboard read 31 degrees, not what most of the south Georgia crowd would call good bass fishing weather. As Davey jumped out of his pickup truck smiling, he seemed more confident than myself.
After launching his 18-foot Skeeter bass boat into the Horseshoe 4 pond, we idled out to the lake’s island and killed the engine. Davey opened his rod box and grabbed a spinning outfit.
“If you want to catch a lot of fish at Paradise, you have to change your techniques. These fish get hammered through the warmer months and see a pile of lures. And during winter, the bass just don’t eat as much, so you have to show them something they just can’t refuse,” said Davey.
Davey grabbed a couple bags of worms out of the storage box, and I quickly recognized his secret weapon: the Ned Rig. Not so secret throughout the midwestern states, this simple mushroom jig head and tiny worm has been winning tournaments on highly pressured lakes for the last several years.
“It’s a do-nothing rig. The fish are used to seeing all kinds of lures, but when this thing comes through, they just can’t take it,” Davey said.
Davey uses a Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ jig head and likes the 1/10-oz. size best. He threads on a Z-Man Finesse TRD worm on to complete his rig. His color selection is also simple, preferring to fish either a green pumpkin or pb&j.
As we began to work around the lake’s lone island, Davey kept a steady eye on his electronics.
“I look for areas with 7 to 9 feet of water, and I like areas that drop off quickly. This enables fish to move up and down in the water column with very little effort,” Davey mentioned.
After a quick lap around the island with no results, we began to ease down the bank working our worms from 2 feet of water down to about 8 feet deep. As we made it to the lake’s drain pipe that is approximately 100 yards to the left of the boat ramp, Davey picked up our first fish of the day, a spunky 1 1/2-pounder.
“I don’t know what it is about this drain pipe, but the fish are always here. Regardless of weather conditions or water temperature, I always seem to pick up some fish here,” said Davey.
For the next 15 or so minutes, the success continued as Davey slowly worked around the pipe. Using long casts, Davey allowed his rig to slowly fall through the strike zone and worked it back with short hops followed by 10- to 15-second pauses. Davey mentioned that you want to try to make your lure look and move like nothing else the fish have seen.
“Another must when you’re fishing this Ned Rig is good fluorocarbon line. I like the 8-lb. Seaguar Red Label best because it handles better on spinning reels and doesn’t seem to tangle as much. Without (fluor), you will miss a lot of subtle strikes,” Davey said.
Davey prefers light spinning tackle with a 7-foot-long, medium-action rod for this presentation. This enables long accurate casts and increased sensitivity. As we continued catching fish, I noticed Davey was fishing his worm with a lot of slack in his line.
“Whenever this rig is falling you want it to be on slack line. Anything else messes up the action. The same goes when you are working it back. Most bites are going to be subtle pickups, and if the fish feels tension in the line, he’s gonna spit that worm out,” said Davey.
After picking up eight fish in all of 20 minutes, we worked our way back to the island. After making another circle with no results, we fished the underwater ditch between the island and the lake’s bank. The ditch yielded no results, and Davey elected for us to return to the drain pipe.
“I believe the fish are stacking up really tight today due to the front. There are some rocks down around the pipe, and I bet the sun is heating that area up a little quicker than other areas,” said Davey.
As he landed another fish on his first cast to the structure, he explained that often when he fishes tournaments at Paradise, he will return to the pipe throughout the day to find the fish biting again. Over the next few minutes, we boated a couple more keeper fish, bringing our total to 11 off that single piece of structure.
“I can guarantee you in Horseshoe 4 that the fish will be in one of three places during January: the island, the area between the island and the bank or the drain pipe. The key is figuring out where they are that day, and focusing on that structure,” Davey mentioned.
We then loaded Davey’s boat on the trailer and made a move to Lake Patrick, the area’s largest lake. After launching the boat, we idled out to one of the lake’s many buoys and began to cast around it. Davey then got hung almost immediately on the underwater structure.
“That’s the only downside to the rig’s exposed hook. It hangs easy on wood. When I fish heavy cover, I like to throw a weedless finesse worm,” Davey said.
After tying on a 1/0 Owner worm hook and rigging a black Zoom Finesse worm weedless with a 1/32-oz. weight, Davey made another cast to the structure. Before the worm made it to the bottom, Davey had a spunky 2-lb. fish on the line. After a brief struggle, Davey was able to lip the fish. We then spent the next hour fishing the visible buoys, picking up a few more fish as we went.
“Lake Patrick has structure all over the place, but for me, fishing the buoys is simple and fun. I don’t have to try to locate structure with my electronics; I can just pull up to them and fish. As obvious as they are, most anglers don’t seem to fish them,” said Davey.
There are several buoys spread throughout the lake, marking structure, humps and drop-offs. A quick idle around the lake reveals their whereabouts.
As we ended the day, our final tally came up to 14 quality keeper fish in just under 3 1/2 hours. That’s not bad for anywhere, anytime of the year.
If you get ready to make a trip to Paradise this month, you won’t be disappointed. The area has 68 different ponds, clean restrooms and tent camping available for $10 a night. For info on the area, you can call (912) 285-6094. For those who would rather stay in a hotel, Tifton is located less than 10 miles away.
When I spoke with Don Harrison of the Waycross Fisheries Office, he was also high on the January potential at Paradise.
“We manage all the lakes and ponds and do our best to keep both the population and size of fish at optimum levels. Expect to catch a lot of fish in the 2-lb. range with some bigger fish mixed in. January is definitely a good month to give the area a try,” said Don.
Hopefully you can make it down to Tifton this month and give the Ned Rig a try. If you can deal with the frigid cold temperatures, the action is sure to be red hot!
Crappie Fishing Bonus At Paradise
If you make a trip down to Paradise, be sure to bring along a couple crappie fishing outfits. If frontal conditions or temperatures turn the bass off, the crappie are still likely to bite. Small 1/16- to 1/32-oz. jigs in various colors work great trolled behind the boat slowly. The same buoys that hold bass in Lake Patrick also harbor large populations of crappie. Troll slowly past the buoys, and get ready for the rod to bend. These hard-hitting wintertime fish are icing on the cake to a great day at Paradise.