Carters Lake is a classic mountain reservoir. At only 3,200 acres and reaching more than 400 feet in spots, this small lake boasts an amazing spotted bass population. The lake-record spot is an impressive 7-lbs., 3-ozs., and five-fish stringers of 18 to 20 pounds are not uncommon in tournaments.
Louie Bartenfield, of Chatsworth, is a full-time guide on Carters, and while he will chase other species for his clients, big spots are his passion.
“I spend more than 250 days a year on Carters,” said Louie. “I don’t guide anywhere else. And most of that time I’m chasing spots.”
Louie describes his approach to catching spotted bass in the summer months as a system.
“Spots go deep in the summer, and they can be hard to locate,” said Louie. “I have a system I use to find and catch spots and reproduce the approach at multiple locations.”
Louie’s system has six facets that are all critical to produce consistent results.
In June, the bass have moved off the bed and are heading for deep water. They use long flats and points from the shallows to get to their summer haunts. Early in the month, fishing these flats in the creeks can be very productive as fish transition to deeper water.
“When the transition is complete, I fish depths from 18 to 45 feet for the rest of the summer,” said Louie. “I tend to work shallower areas in the morning and go deeper as the day progresses.”
Once the fish are in the summer pattern, Louie fishes the main lake and no farther back than a quarter way into the creeks. Flats in the 18- to 20-foot depth range hold fish, as will steep drop-offs and brushpiles. Louie likes it when the sun is high and the temperature is hot.
“Bright sun is the best thing for the deep bite,” said Louie. “It makes the fish concentrate near structure and shadows and therefore easier to locate and catch.”
Louie stops the boat about 75 to 100 feet before he gets to the cover he wants to fish and fishes his way in. Spots often range out from the structure feeding on bait. If you run right up to the cover, you may miss a large percentage of the catchable fish.
During the heat of summer, fishing vertically over the cover shown on the graph is the best bet. But earlier in the season, casting over deep flats, points and drop-offs can be very productive. Wide clear areas of consistent depth can also be very good. Have several spots located and make a cycle.
“I hit the spots I have pre-identified as many as three times on a trip, working a circuit, said Louie. “The fish will move in and out of these spots throughout the day.”
Also, he advises to pay attention to the conditions when you get bites. Wind and sun direction can make a difference and can be the basis for a pattern to use at other location.
Having good electronics and knowing how to use them is probably the most important factor in deep-water success. These tools have become so sophisticated they can help you locate places to fish, mark them to return later, and understand whether fish are actively feeding or not.
The water in Carters during the summer is deep and clear. Sub-surface visibility can reach 15 feet or more so that means a subtle approach is in order.
“Spots like small baits and subtle movement,” said Louie. “So my go-to baits in the summer are small and light.”
Two of his favorites are a drop-shot rig and a shaky-head worm. Small worms in natural colors are preferred on either setup. The drop shot is rigged with a small barrel swivel at the top of about an 18-inch leader to a small No. 4 Gamakatsu Octopus drop-shot hook and another foot or so of line below the hook to the weight at the end of the rig.
Big Bite Shaking Squirrel worms or Cane Sticks in shad or bream patterns are great choices on either the drop shot or shaky head. A crawler-head jig with a Spot Sticker Hula Grub is also a favorite.
As far as tackle is concerned, spinning gear is by far the best choice. Louie chooses a 6-foot, 9-inch medium-light, extra-fast action St. Croix Avid series rod for the drop shot and couples it with 5-lb. test Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon. For the shaky head, he moves up to a 7-foot medium-fast action rod of the same series with 7-lb. fluorocarbon. Both rods are fitted with 2500 size spinning reels.
“I like the slightly bigger reel because it helps with the performance of the fluorocarbon,” said Louie. “On small spools, the fluorocarbon tends to loop and knot.”
In addition, the reels must have excellent drag systems. These spots pull hard, and a good drag is a must to prevent break-offs with the light line.
Cast and Retrieve
When casting to an area, Louie will roam around and make casts from different angles. Fish may face different directions due to current and light conditions, so it is important to work a spot thoroughly. If there is an incline to the bottom, Louie recommends that you fish up, down and across it.
“You never know what the fish are going to do, and it is a good idea to give them options,” said Louie.
A slow retrieve is the key to this type of fishing. Pull the bait along with the rod tip not the reel. And for the drop shot and shaky head, subtle movement of the rod tip is best.
“You don’t have to move the rod much,” said Louie. “The fast tip of the rod will provide plenty of movement of the bait to attract strikes.”
If you think you are moving the bait too slowly, slow down a bit, and you will probably be about right.
The deep-water action at Carters will start getting really hot this month. So head out to the lake, and try your luck at tempting a trophy spot. Louie’s “system” is a proven method on this body of water, so make use of it.
Check out Louie’s website at www.carterslakeguideservice.com or give him a call at (706) 218-6609 to book a trip. You are likely to catch a bunch of Carters spots, maybe even a trophy, and improve your angling skill in the process.