Shoal Bass

by O’Neill Williams

It was just a very pleasant trip. It was a hot summer day ahead, but the water was cool as it made its way down river from the dam. The pull of the paddles was easy and rhythmic and silent except for the water drippings at the finish of every stroke. We rose up high in our seats to see the first set of shoals, knowing that the first bites from the little fighters would not be far away. Shoal bass are like that, grayish green with stumpy bodies just full of fight. The world record is only about 8 pounds or so. Do not worry though; they make up for being a bit short by being aggressive and fearless.

The Ocmulgee River exits Jackson Lake in central Georgia and quickly makes an about face from summer’s boating, skiing and crowds. Gentle, quiet, private, indeed almost lonesome in its journey south, this river harbors a target for the fisherman most prized, the shoal bass.

My fishing buddy, Glenn, and I are veteran fisherman. Glenn is retired from Georgia Power and an excellent angler. In this case, Glenn is more the tutor, I am the more the student. However, surely we have harvested enough finny rascals from Southeastern waters to make us a bit jaded as to what is a sporty goal. That is why we both really enjoy this river and its chunky bass. Using small crankbaits, spinnerbaits and an occasional plastic worm on light tackle, we catch and release twenty-five or so of the little fighters in half of a day.

From a canoe, and wading the shallow rock filled cascades, one can be close to the action. It feels new every time. I recommend it most highly for a departure from the regular reservoir and pond routine. On your first trip, it will take more time than you think. Each pool next to the thousands of rocks and wood looks like it will hold bass. Take it from me, you cannot get to every one on the first try.

I am told the upper Chattahoochee holds shoal bass. I know the Flint River does. I have not had a chance to try either, but I will just bet I do soon, maybe in the fall before the first frost.

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