Q: I've lost count, but you must have
caught 30 shoal bass over 4 pounds the last three years. That's
amazing. What's your secret?
Having a strong
passion and love for pursuing quality-sized shoal bass drives me
to put forth the effort and time in that is necessary to catch
these fish. I love being in their environment because itís like
a home away from home for me. I have yet to see an interior
decoratorís work come close to the beauty of a set of river
shoals. Iíd rather be on the river than watching my favorite
football team play.
Trying to be at these good places at
prime times is the icing on the cake. Try to fish in advance of
a front or during times when many positive fish activating
factors are happening together. A good solar/lunar phase coupled
with good localized weather and river levels can often lead to
success, especially if you have the time of year factor as well
(pre spawn and/or fall bite). Proper timing far outweighs angler
ability, lure presentation, and tips from the local tackle shop.
Q: You grew up fishing for smallmouths on
the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Did you find this helped
you figure shoal bass out a little easier or are shoal bass a
completely different ballgame?
A: Shoalies are much more like
smallies than they are trout or largemouths and fishing for
smallmouths in flowing water is a fantastic way to learn about
catching shoalies. Both will teach you about fishing current
seams, eddies, and current breaks.
Q: If you only had one month out of the
year to catch big shoal bass, what month would you choose and
A: Since February weather can be
fickle, Iíd have to pick March. The unpredictable late winter
weather helps to keep the rivers from being crowded and this
helps when stalking the big fish. Typically higher cold season
flows allows the angler to really key in on current break big
fish holding and resting stations. Current breaks are immensely
important during higher and stronger flows especially when the
water is still cold. To me, waiting for lower more comfortable
flows means losing precious oppurtunites for trophies.
Q: February (and hopefully some warmer
weather) is right around the corner. What lures are you most
likely to be throwing during late winter/ early spring (Maybe
talk about three or so)?
A : Spinnerbaits are awesome in cool
and cold water conditions, but usually you must throw them close
enough to where a hawg is waiting to ambush a meal. Practice
trying to read the not so obvious or underwater features.
Spinnerbaits also give you an edge in heavily stained water
because of the lateral line vibrations they give off. Rip the
spinnerbait upwards, reel a little slack, and rip it upwards
again and keep repeating this process. Make it look easy to
catch and vulnerable and let it flutter helplessly downward like
when you finesse fish a curly tail grub.
Next, try any crankbaits that imitate
a large minnow. Reeling it in slow can spell out an easy to
catch meal to a porkster river bass. Make it look vulnerable.
If the bite is tough, try drifting a
Senko or Magic Stik weightless with nothing but a TX rigged
plastic worm hook. Watch your line and if it starts moving in
any kind of unnatural manner, set the hook! Try to drift it
along current seams or near boulders that can harbor huge bass.
Q: You primarily chase shoalies using
spinning and baitcasting gear. What are your main spinning and
baitcasting setups? (Reel models, rod length & action, fishing
A : The Flouroclear P Line in the 12
lb. test is a fluorocarbon coated copolymer line that is
unbelievably versatile. It can be used to finesse fish curly
tail grubs or coax big bass away from timber if need be. If I
could only carry one line on a float, hands down, this would be
it. I like the fact itís virtually invisible to the fish and
thatís where it is way ahead of the braided lines. The copolymer
lines manufactured by P Line are famous for their strength, so
you get invisibility, strength, and versatility all in one line.
Because I kayak fish so much, I like a
6 foot rod because it catches less tree branches as I float
along. If tree limbs werenít an issue, Iíd love to use a 6 Ĺ or
7 foot rod to get a little extra casting distance. For shoalie
fishing, I like a medium or medium lite graphite rod because
itís light and wonít tire me out as much a medium heavy or heavy
I use middle of the road, expense and
quality wise, spin and baitcasting reels because I occasionally
lose one. I have 3 rod and reel combos in both the Flint and
Ocmulgee rivers for a total of 6. Tethering everything to the
Nth degree ruins my spirirt and rythmn so to speak, but I admire
those who can do it. Iíve deemed it a worthwhile tradeoff to
lose an occasional middle of the road priced rod and reel to not
have to endure the bondage of having to connect everything to my
kayak. I try to catch Okuma spin reels and Quantum baitcasters
on sale if at all possible.
Q: You release every shoal bass you catch.
A: The value of the shoal bass, to
me, is in trying to fool it (esp. the trophies) and its fighting
ability. Iíve seen and heard of folks going way past their legal
limits when the species is very vulnerable. Big egg laden
females must feed voraciously and instictively to fatten up for
the stress of the spawn. It takes very little skill to catch
them in this state of vulnerability. Instead of an angler
patting himself on the back, giving himself undue credit, and
throwing all these pre spawn females on his stringer, he should
remember all things are meant to be done in moderation. Like
Bill Dance always encouraged us, keep a couple of meals worth of
fish in the freezer and do not kill anymore until youíve eaten
those in the freezer. Anglers cannot always afford to be on the
take, and I like knowing I am helping to make the trophy shoal
bass fishery better by the way I conduct myself on the water.
Crappie do not fight well, repopulate
profusely, and taste wonderful. Iíll eat these if I want a mess
of fish. Iíve also been known to put a hurtiní on a catfish
restaurant as many have witnessed firsthand.
Q: What advice would you give to people who
are new to shoal bass fishing and just want to catch a bunch
regardless of size?
A: Beetlespins, roostertails, and
curly tail grubs with the occasional small crankbait, like a
Cotton Cordell big O or broken back floating minnow, to round
out their arsenal. Also, bottom bouncing plastic worms and
crawdad imitations can produce very high numbers. Try to cover a
lot of water and realize there are often times that are slow,
but eventually they will feed again.
Q: There are tons of places to catch big
shoal bass in Georgia. If I want to catch a four pounder, would
I be better off trying to fish a bunch of different places or
should I find one or two stretches of river and focus on
learning them really well?
A: I think the person who fishes
reaction baits for aggressive fish would do better covering a
lot of water while the pig-n-jig dude might do better to slow
down and dissect a smaller area. Really, if your timing is right
both techniques can produce good fish. I use both techniques and
alternate between them and both have worked over the years.
Q: Everybody knows the Flint, Ocmulgee, and
Chattahoochee rivers each have great fisheries. What is your
favorite aspect of each river?
A: I love the Flint because of its
quaintness and it is easy to wade and the fact shoalies and
spider lilies are native to it. I like the way the dam releases
on the Ocmulgee provide a sort of protection to the shoalies
breaking the fishing pressure somewhat. I think the upper
Ocmulgee would be less of a shoal bass fishery without the
releases. I also like the abundance deep holes and pools in that
river. I like the fisheries protection that comes from limited
access and hard work required on both these rivers. The upper
Hooch is fun because you just may catch a trout, yellow perch,
or striper while trying to fool a shoal bass. The mountain
atmosphere is relaxing and itís a great destination when its
hotter than Hades below the fall line.
Q: What type boat do you use most of the
Kayak, because itís just too easy to
throw it in the bed of my pickup truck and zip off to the
fishing hole. I also like being able to paddle upriver or
explore new creeks. Kayaks are quiet so you can really enjoy
nature as you move almost without noise on our waterways.
Q: The last couple years, what percent of
your big shoal bass have you caught while wading versus from
I have to give the advantage to the
kayak here mainly because I spend somewhat more time in it than
wading. I guesstimate about 2/3 from the kayak and 1/3 from
wading. However, I often tie the kayak behind me to wade and
fish going upriver. This is an awesome way to fish as you have a
floating tackle box and very large PFD attached to yourself by a
Q: Should shoal bass anglers even bother
fishing flat water? If so, when?
Yes, if there is adequate depth and
current. There may be invisible underwater boulders in that
water you mention. During a severe drought the big shoalies may
have no choice but to be in slack water with very little
current, but they are truly current-loving fish. I value current
even more than rocks, but just slightly unless your fishing the
middle Flint where there are no rocks to speak of. However, I
promise you the middle Flint has current and shoal bass.
I often wonder what is the deepest
water a person has ever seen or documented one of those
fish-eating wading birds hunt fish in? It makes sense to fish in
water deeper than this a good bit of the time. There are a lot
of those birds and a fish wouldnít last long if it consistently
stayed in water shallow enough for it to hunt in. I donít care
how postcard pretty a whitewater shoal is, a fish is in a danger
zone staying there if is too shallow unless it can get under a
Bottomline, your missing out if you
only fish the postcard pretty shoals and/or if your beating the
Q: Are there any lures or techniques you
feel might be effective for big shoal bass that you still need
to work on?
A: I should probably bottom bump more
than I do, but top water is just too much fun. I would also like
to experiment with the drop shot technique for river bass. I
never have attempted it and I really should. Of course, I have a
ton to learn when it comes to fly fishing for shoal bass since I
am relatively new to it.
Q: Last year you really started seriously
flyfishing for shoal bass. How do you like that and what flies
have been working for you?
A: I do like it and I really enjoy
fishing top water poppers on the long rod. I also like to fish
the Rubber Legged Dragon (RLD) which is designed to imitate a
dragonfly nymph. This past December I finally got a feel for
bouncing a wooly bugger off the bottom and picked up 3 river
bass with this technique.
I want experiment with some large
streamers and see how that works.
Q: Do you think Georgia still has any eight
pound shoal bass?
A: Probably a handful if any, but we
may need to take better care of our four and five pounders if we
want to see more 8 pounders. I would be overjoyed to see the DNR
experiment with a trophy shoal bass management program in a
highly pressured area just to see if it made a difference. I
have learned no research or documentation is needed just to try
out a big bass management program. Some harvest can still
legally occur, but it is done in light of producing and
maintaining a trophy river bass fishery.
In closing, I hope the GRF website
will continue to add ethical shoal bass anglers to its
membership. Probably the greatest enemy to Micropterus
Cataractae will be the expected population explosion and need
for additional water supplies. Let the state of Georgia double
or triple its residents and thereís no telling what remaining
rivers and creeks they will want to impound. Impoundments would
destroy what few shoal bass fisheries we have left. Letís hope
we can help keep this from ever happening.