What I Did Wrong at High Falls

On Saturday April 6, Peach State Kayak Anglers (PSKA) held the third event of their season at High Falls State Park in Jackson, Georgia. Fed by the Towaliga River and, to a lesser part, Buck Creek, this 650-acre impoundment in middle Georgia holds a lot of big largemouth bass. A recent DNR shocking survey showed that 1/3 of the fish sampled were between 15-25 inches, and 8lb+ fish are weighed in regularly during the weekly john boat events.

Overall, High Falls is fairly shallow, with a lot of the lake being less than 10 feet deep. One creek arm is a stump field against the creek channel, where they cut the trees to stumps before damming the river. Across the main lake, the other creek arm is more a long wide flat, also full of stumps. The lake is surrounded by homes and docks, with most docks sitting in less than 4 feet of water. The water clarity is at best stained; if any rain falls in the watershed, the lake muddies up fast and takes several days to clear.

The morning before the event, a good hard rain fell in a line from middle Georgia north, so I knew the lake was gonna be dirty. I expected fish to be holding tight to wood (stumps and dock posts) as well as being right up against the bank looking looking for anything to get pulled down into the water by the rising water. With the dirty water and fish holding tight to cover, they’d be using their lateral line to locate fish so my plan was simple – bang reaction baits off the wood and chuck them right up against the bank to elicit strikes. My three primary lures were a noisy squarebill, a spinnerbait, and a chatterbait, with the chatterbait mostly planned against the bank.

This is a good plan when the water gets muddy and high and it’s produced for me plenty of times in the past. I had full confidence in it, but on this day, maybe I had a little too much confidence in it. I had so much confidence in this plan, that I tried my hardest to shoehorn it into working. I started off by paddling clear across the lake to fish water I didn’t expect other anglers to choose. I fished my strategy into the creek arm along one side and back out the other without a strike.

This is the point my day went sideways. I chose not to read the water. I chose to ignore the fact that my plan wasn’t producing. Instead, I decided to begin covering water, paddling hard, pin-balling across the lake, looking for cover that would made my “pattern” work. The result? Over 5 miles paddled and one tiny little perch to show for it. When I slowed down and started working a jig, I picked up a nice 15” fish, but it was too little too late to impact my day.

Obviously not a good day fishing, but a great day from a learning experience. I knew to read the water and fish the conditions, but I ignored that and tried to force the fish into doing what I wanted. This is definitely not the way to a win, let alone a productive day on the water. For sure this was a hard lesson to learn, but I’ll be a better angler for it.

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