Hopefully by now you’re 2 bass into your Georgia bass slam. If not, the good news is spring weather should start pushing through winter’s last gasp. This week, we’ll take a look at how you can nail down a Suwannee bass with some help of former fisheries chief, John Biagi and fisheries biologist, Tim Bonvechio.
How Big Do They Get?
- Between: 6 to 16.5 inches
- Preferred size: 12 inches
- Memorable size: 14 inches
- Trophy size: 16 inches
Where You Can Find Them
Suwannee bass are found in several South Georgia rivers that drain into Florida. The Lower Alapaha, Ochlocknee and Withalcoochee all contain some Suwannee. Electrofishing surveys and angler reports show that the Withlacoochee River has by far the largest numbers of Suwannee bass. The Ochlockonee river Suwannee bass population is smaller but what it doesn’t make up in numbers, it makes up in size. Georgia’s state record Suwannee bass comes from the Ochlockonee River and was caught by Laverne Norton on October 6, 1984 and weighed 3lbs 9 ounces.
Public Access Points
There are several public boat ramps on the Withalcoochee that can get you right into the heart of their habitat. The following bridge crossings provide public access; Knights Ferry Road, Clyattville-Nankin Highway and Georgia Highway 31. Floats are possible between these access sites, but they are long trips. There is 6.4 miles between Knights Ferry Road and Clyattville-Nankin Highway. A float between Clyattville-Nankin Highway and Georgia Highway 31 is even longer at 9.1 miles and requires both a Georgia and Florida fishing license as the Withlacoochee meanders back and forth across the state line. Small jon boats or canoe/kayaks are best suited for this river.
There are three boat ramps on the Ochlockonee River that hold the keys to access to some nice Suwannee Bass water:
- Thomas County Ramp located off of Highway 19
- Highway 193 (Grady County)
- Hadley Ferry Bridge (Grady County).
All three locations also offer shoreline bank fishing opportunities and canoe access.
The Statenville, Highway 94 boat ramp on the Alapaha River is a spot where you may encounter a Suwannee. Biologists have not found Suwannee’s north of the Highway 94. A float trip isn’t recommended for the Alapaha River. The next boat ramp below the Statenville ramp at Highway 94 is at the Highway 150 bridge in Pinneta, Florida, which is 10.5 miles between take out points.
How to Fish Them
Suwannee’s prefer deep sweeping bends. Larger adults prefer to hang out in woody cover similar to the way a largemouth does. Target structure in the river such as Cyprus trees, boulders or laydowns. Don't be afraid to cast out in the middle of the river channel for Suwannee's as they can be anywhere in these smaller rivers.
Lures You Should Use
Suwannee bass are known for their love of eating crawdads, so jigs or crayfish imitating soft plastics will do the trick. If you’re a bait caster/flippin' stick basser, dark colored plastic crawfish and brush hog imitations rigged Texas style with a ¼ ounce bullet weight are a sure bet. Just make sure not to go any heavier than 10–14lb test, or that will take away from the incredible fight the Suwannee bass will give you. Small spinners like Rooster-tails and mini crank-baits work well on light spinning gear filled with 8lb test. Fly rod anglers can use streamers and poppers and anything else that works on largemouth bass.
“I have targeted Suwannee bass several times on the Withlacoochee River, fishing upstream of the highway 31 bridge, just south of the town of Clyattville, GA. You can put in with a jon boat, kayak or canoe from this location. This is a simple trip and you can fish the 3 or so miles above the ramp until you get to a un-passable by motor boat rocky shoal. This shoal can be portaged by, if using a kayak or canoe. Just be careful of the sharp edges that the limestone rocks may have. Getting above the shoal will get you into less angler-pressured water. I have been successful using Texas rigged plastic crawfish imitations. I prefer a smaller 1/0 or 2/0 style J hook. The bullet weight will need to vary depending on the flow. I tend to use ¼ ounce in low flow conditions and 3/8 ounce when the flow is abbreviated. I use dark colors, like junebug, black, purple grape, red shiner, and even watermelon red. Locals have told me that if the water clears up then switch to lighter color like regular watermelon or green pumpkin instead of watermelon red. Fish a smaller plastic bait to target any size Suwannee bass to get a bite, but if you want to target a sure enough 1.5 lb + fish, I like to keep the bait size large”.
So you want to catch a bass slam in Georgia. Learn about the Georgia Bass Slam.