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GRF's GUIDE TO GEORGIA'S SPRING-TIME WHITE BASS ACTION

    Early each spring, about the time the dogwoods bloom, white bass make their annual pilgrimages from Georgia's many reservoirs up the rivers and creeks that feed them in order to spawn. This usually begins in late March or early April and sometimes will last through May, depending on how quickly the weather gets warm and stays that way. If you can time it right, a float trip or excursion upstream from one of these reservoirs can lead to some unbelievably fast action from these silvery battlers that normally range from 1/2 to 3 pounds.

Anybody interested in catching 100 or so of these bad boys in a day? It can and does happen in Georgia rivers every spring. They won't all be this big, but a couple might be bigger!

LOCATING WHITE BASS

    There are literally hundreds of places in Georgia that offer good white bass fishing during the spring, but the best bets are the larger tributaries that feed reservoirs. If you can pinpoint these waters and figure out how far these bass will realistically be able to travel upstream, you can find an area that should produce every spring. Areas below dams and large shoal areas will stack up schooling whites in the spring, and locating and accessing these spots can take a good deal of scouting and persistence in some instances. Smaller feeder creeks can provide untapped bonanzas because they often get really small just a short distance upstream of the reservoirs they feed, stacking up lots of white bass in a tiny area. While these smaller feeder creeks rarely possess the numbers of whites found in the major tributaries, you will often have them to yourself.

    There are white bass populations that live in rivers year-round, and these fish will head upstream in the spring just like the rest. If your home river does not connect to a major reservoir, you might still be able to get in on the action. One of my best days fishing for white bass occurred in college on a stretch of river that had small dams up and downstream. We sat on the bank of a creek that entered this river and proceeded to haul in about 50 white bass that I doubt anyone else knew were in there.

TACTICS FOR WHITE BASS

    Fishing for whites is not complicated. They will stack up below dams and shoals, in creek mouths, on sandbars, in eddies, and can be found anywhere an object breaks the flow of the current. If you catch one, cast back to the same spot, because there will likely be others there. While some folks catch whites with minnows under corks or bottom fishing with cut or live shad on the bottom, most people go after them with artificials. Whites will occasionally hit topwater lures, they generally hang out in the lower half of the water column, and prefer a moderate but steady retrieve. The classic white bass lure is a 2-3" white or chartreuse curlytail grub on a 1/8 to 1/2 ounce red jig head (depending on current strength). White, red, or black spinners are also effective as are small suspending jerkbaits. My personal favorite lure for whites is a small crankbait (like the Rapala Shad Rap) in silver or gold finish. A great thing about whites is that they are easily caught on fly tackle with the most popular offering being a white or chartreuse Clouser Minnow.

This healthy stringer of whites (plus a hybrid or two) was taken on the Oconee River upstream from Lake Oconee.

USING THIS GUIDE

    This guide is meant to serve as a starting point for people to begin their search for springtime white bass. There are some areas I know well, some I have never seen, and others I am not even aware exist. If you are expecting to find the names of all the good creek mouths and access points on the Oostanaula River, you are going to be disappointed. If you want to find some waters that get a pretty good visit by whites in the spring, I think I can help.

    This guide is organized by watershed from points upstream to points downstream, so the first thing you'll need to do is figure out which watersheds are convenient. Most of Georgia's white bass spend the majority of the year in reservoirs, so the focus will be on the major rivers that feed them. Anglers that live near one of these reservoirs might want to buy lake maps so smaller tributaries can be located. These are my favorite areas to fish because relatively few people take the effort to explore them. For access information, find a good road map or check out GRF's "Links and Resources" page to find a listing of all publicly maintained boat ramps in Georgia. Other than that, you simply need to get out, fish, and explore!

    THE COOSA SYSTEM

    The Coosa River Watershed covers a lot more area than most people realize. The Conasauga, Coosawattee, and Etowah Rivers are the first big feeder rivers that all hook up when the Etowah and Oostanaula meet in downtown Rome to form the Coosa River. Major reservoirs in this system include Lake Allatoona, Carter's Lake, and Lake Weiss. 

 

Lake Allatoona- Allatoona is not well-known as a tremendous white bass fishery, but a pretty good run exists up the Etowah River arm. Whites can be found upstream past Dawsonville, but most fishermen concentrate their efforts between the lake and Canton. The Little River is another feeder stream that may be worth a look.

Carter's Lake- Carter's Lake is fed by the Coosawattee River. While Carter's contains a decent white bass population, the spring run is stymied by shoals that exist at the lake's headwaters. This area below the shoals would be the area to focus in on during the spring.

Lake Weiss- Located on the Georgia-Alabama line, Lake Weiss might boast the most dense population of white bass in the state. The vast majority of the whites will journey up the Coosa River arm, but a few venture up Big Cedar Creek, just off the lake. One of the state's best-known white bass holes is the area below Mayo's Lock and Dam near Rome (there is a boat ramp and bank fishing available from atop the lock). Expect a crowd here during the run. The whites stack up here by the hundreds of thousands every year, and many will keep heading upstream after a short stay. These fish will either make a right or left when they reach the Rome city limits and head up the Oostanaula or Etowah Rivers. Action on both of these rivers can be fast, as there are some great creek mouths in each. Whites heading up the Etowah can make it no farther than the low-head dam near Cartersville. Oostanaula whites can head north up the Conasauga or east up the Coosawattee all the way to the tailrace of the reregulation dam behind Carter's Lake. The fish in these rivers are probably not as numerous as they are farther downstream in the Coosa, Etowah, and Oostanaula rivers. The reregulation reservoir itself contains whites, which might head up Talking Rock Creek a short distance.

THE CHATTAHOOCHEE WATERSHED

    The Chattahoochee system begins in the northeast Georgia mountains above Helen and contains eight reservoirs, the last one being Lake Seminole near Bainbridge in southwest Georgia. The lakes that line up down the Georgia-Alabama border all have good to excellent populations of white bass and most have at least a couple large feeder streams that will welcome good numbers of whites every spring. Below each of these lakes are tailrace areas that require caution and good judgment on the part of boaters. The riverine sections of the Chattahoochee between some of these lakes have some great spots to catch white bass, with numerous creek mouths where they like to stack up. Also remember that if you head off the Chattahoochee's main channel into Alabama, you need an Alabama fishing license.

Lake Lanier- Lake Lanier, located in northern Georgia near Gainesville, boasts a massive population of whites. These fish will head up the Chattahoochee arm north of Belton Brige Rd., and the best fishing is normally found from here downstream to Lula Bridge. Many of Lanier's whites will head up the Chestatee River arm and normally do not go much farther than the GA 400 bridge. Both the Chattahoochee and Chestatee runs receive a good bit of attention from anglers on spring weekends.

West Point- The white bass run out of West Point is also legendary. Anywhere from State Highway 219 all the way up to the shoals near Franklin can produce 100-fish days if you catch it right. West Point also has some smaller tributaries that may be worth a look.

Bartlett's Ferry (Lake Harding)- Whites run out of Bartlett's Ferry and can be found below the dams at Riverview and Crow Hop. There are some great feeder streams in this part of the river, too!

Goat Rock- If the white bass spawn has just ended in most places, it is probably just getting started good at Goat Rock. The cooler water temperatures here will normally delay the run up to the Harding dam (behind Goat Rock) from one to three weeks. Don't forget to check out some of the major feeder streams here and in the other Chattahoochee lakes as well!

Lake Oliver- The main run of white bass in Oliver (located in Columbus) will occur upriver as far as the tailwaters of Goat Rock dam. A few whites can probably be found in Standing Boy Creek.

Walter F. George (Lake Eufala)- There is a lot of river between the headwaters of Lake Eufala and the Oliver dam, but whites will show up behind the dam regardless. The stretch between Eufala and Oliver has some outstanding creek mouths that provide good action for those willing to find them,

Lake Andrews- Lake Andrews starts immediately below the Eufala dam and is really not much more than a wide spot in the river extending 30 miles or so downstream to the Andrews Dam. The best place to catch whites in the spring is right below the Eufala dam, and the fishing is normally very good. You also have a chance at tangling with a big striper here.

Lake Seminole- Located in extreme southwest Georgia at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, Lake Seminole does not have a reputation as a white bass hotspot. There are good numbers of whites in Big Sem, though, and can be found in the Chattahoochee all the way up to the Andrews dam. Up the Flint River arm, the first impassable obstacle is the dam below Lake Chehaw in Albany. A good number of whites show up here every spring, but lots are also taken in areas farther downstream. It's quite a haul upstream from Bainbridge to Albany! A few whites may travel up Spring Creek as well. For those interested in Florida river fishing, the Appalachicola below Woodruff Dam (which forms Seminole) is supposed to be an outstanding fishery.

THE FLINT RIVER WATERSHED

    The Flint and Chattahoochee are both part of the Apalachicola system, but the Flint begins south of Atlanta while the Chattahoochee begins in the mountains. The reservoirs on the Flint include Blackshear, Chehaw, and Seminole (which has already been mentioned).

Lake Blackshear- Located near Cordele, Lake Blackshear traditionally has a pretty good run of whites up the Flint. There are no man-made obstacles to speak of upstream of Lake Blackshear, and some white bass are caught every year as far north as Thomaston. The fishing will usually be best within 10-15 miles of the lake, however.

Lake Chehaw (Worth)- While the Chehaw whites primarily run up the Flint as far as the Blackshear tailrace, Kinchafoonee and Muckalee creeks probably also see some action. 

THE TENNESSEE RIVER WATERSHED

    Georgia has three reservoirs that are part of the Tennessee River watershed: Lakes Blue Ridge, Chatuge, and Nottely. All are mountain lakes, and the primary tributaries all see white bass activity in the spring. Given the small, swift nature of these mountain rivers, trying to run up them from the lakes can be tricky, and the fish cannot travel 30 miles upstream like they can in other areas. For this reason, the best action is usually found closer to the lakes.

Blue Ridge- Located near Blue Ridge, Georgia, Lake Blur Ridge probably has the best white bass run of the three lakes. Whites will run a few miles up the Toccoa River before shoals hamper their progress. Lots of whites can be found here.

Chatuge- Located on the Georgia/NC border near Hiawassee, Lake Chatuge contains whites. The problem is that all of the major feeder streams are rather small, so finding huge concentrations of whites is probably pretty tough.

Nottely- Near Blairsville, Nottely is fed primarily by the Nottely River, and this is where the best springtime white bass action will be. Lake Nottely also has a tailrace area, but I am unsure if whites can be found in it.

THE SAVANNAH RIVER WATERSHED

    The Savannah River watershed drains the Tallulah and Chattooga Rivers out of the mountains before absorbing numerous other rivers and creeks farther south. Information on white bass runs in the Tallulah lakes (Burton, Seed, Rabun, Tallulah Falls, and Tugalo) is pretty scarce, probably because many of these lakes are connected with little or no river habitat between them. The Savannah River reservoirs, however, are loaded with whites and offer great springtime runs.

Lake Burton- The white bass in Lake Burton are known for being rather large (3 pounders aren't uncommon) and head up the Tallulah River as warmer weather approaches.

Lake Tugalo- Located near Tallulah Falls, the best run of whites occurs up the Chattooga River. A few whites also may congregate at the point where the Tallulah River enters the lake.

Lake Hartwell- Located on the Georgia/SC border, Lake Hartwell is loaded up with white bass. The best run occurs up the Tugaloo River all the way up to the dam behind Lake Yonah. The stretch between Highway 123 and the Yonah dam is the best.

Lake Russell- The primary white bass run in Lake Russell occurs up the Savannah to the Hartwell tailrace and is traditionally pretty good. There are a couple tributaries on the Georgia side that may be worth a look as well.

Clarks Hill- The run of whites up the Broad River is legendary, and whites are caught every year upstream and in the South Fork of the Broad. Another great, but lesser known run occurs up the Little River on the Georgia side. Another hotspot for whites, though not really a riverine environment, is at the tailwaters of Lake Russell.

THE ALTAMAHA RIVER SYSTEM

    The Altamaha watershed drains most of central and much of northeast Georgia. The Yellow, South, Alcovy, Apalachee, Oconee, Ocmulgee, Oconee, and Towaliga rivers are but a few of the waters that the Altamaha eventually deposits into the Atlantic. Despite its large size, the Altamaha only has three major reservoirs on it: Oconee, Sinclair, and Jackson.

Lake Oconee- Lake Oconee boasts one of the best white bass runs in the state up the Oconee River between the lake and Barnett Shoals Dam, 15 miles or so upstream. This run can be outstanding and access is good, so expect a crowd on the weekends. A lesser known (and less accessible) run occurs up the Apalachee River. This run occurs largely through a swamp and is stopped by a large set of shoals south of GA 129.

Lake Sinclair- Lake Sinclair has nowhere near the number of white bass as Oconee, and no big rivers for them to run into ever since Lake Oconee was built just upstream. Some whites do run up the Little River and Murder and Beaverdam creeks, however. Some folks will catch whites in the Oconee tailrace behind Wallace Dam, though this is not river habitat. The tailwaters of Lake Sinclair also see some whites every spring.

High Falls Lake- High Falls is located southeast of Jackson, Georgia and has a good run for a couple miles up the Towaliga River. The Towaliga gets small pretty quick, so while there are not a huge number of whites here, they are crammed into a small area.

Lake Jackson- Lake Jackson has a decent population of whites that will run mostly up the South and Yellow Rivers. In the South River, the whites can make it to the base of Snapping Shoals below the Highway 81 bridge. In the Yellow, the first impassable obstacle is the dam at Porterdale, also below Highway 81. In the Alcovy, a few whites will congregate below the shoals where the Alcovy enters the lake. Any of these rivers can provide action, but none is widely regarded as a hotspot. 

Ocmulgee River- Though not associated with any particular lake, the Ocmulgee River gets a visit from the whites every year in the stretch below the dam at Juliette. These whites live in the Altamaha system and get their progress blocked by the dam. 

 

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