Select Page

Last Saturday my good friend Jon and I hit the Ocmulgee River here in Georgia with hopes of catching some quality fish. It was actually the first time in a long time that either of us has actually spent some quality time on the Ocmulgee so we didn’t know what to expect.

We were after bass, specifically shoal bass. Shoal bass, or shoalies as nick named by anglers, are part of the black bass family and have only been scientifically recognized as a separate and distinct black bass species since 1999. The world record is 8 pounds 12 ounces, however shoal bass anglers agree that any shoal bass over 6 pounds is a “once in a lifetime fish.”

Shoal bass are native to the Apalachicola River basin and therefore are only found in a small geographical area of Georgia, Florida and a very small area of Alabama. Although native only to the Apalachicola basin, shoal bass have been stocked (sometimes illegally) in other nearby rivers such as the Ocmulgee River. Further limiting their range is the fact that shoal bass cannot live in impounded waters and therefore are only found in rivers.

Preferring rocky rivers where the current is often quite swift, shoal bass position themselves in the current to ambush its prey. It’s this expert use of the river’s strong current that make shoal bass such powerful fighters. Below is a prime example of a nice shoal bass – this one measured 5 pounds 8 ounces.

5 lbs 8 oz shoal bass

We got on the river around daylight, give or take, and spent the better part of the next hour paddling our kayaks to a set of rocky shoals that we felt was going to be productive. Once we got there we noticed the water was up a little, but still within normal spring time levels. Being a little high meant the water was also slightly stained. We both saw that as a good sign as the shoal bass we were after wouldn’t be as skittish in stained water as they would be in crystal clear water. Our hope for a great day grew and images of big shoal bass started racing through our heads. We both hopped out of our kayaks, tied them to our waists, picked up our rods and started working the shoals.

A few moments later Jon drew first blood with a white spinnerbait fished through a shallow pool. It wasn’t a bruiser at only 2lbs, but it was still a nice shoalie and our expectations continued to grow.

Here’s Jon getting ready to get back to work after making the release.


Like I do every spring and probably every river fishing outing, I started out fishing a 5″ swimbait. I caught one small spotted bass on the swimbait, but my confidence in it quickly waned. After only a few minutes, I decided it was time to switch over to a white chatterbait. I usually fish a chatterbait when the water is stained slightly or more, like it was on that day. So the decision to switch was easy, especially when Jon made the comment early on that he felt the chatterbait would be the go-to lure of the day.

I tipped the white chatterbait with a small paddle tail swimbait to give it more bulk and because the paddle tail helps put out even more vibrations, helping shoalies, or any bass, to find it in stained water.

It only took a few casts with the chatterbait to find out that it was the right move. At the top of small shelf of shoals, I felt a nice size shoalie grab a hold of my chatterbait. After hitting my chatterbait, the shoalie quickly started running down river, using the river’s swift current to the shoalies advantage. Trying to keep the line tight, but not too tight, I quickly rounded up my Jackson Cruise, jumped in it and followed the shoalies lead. We went down the small set of shoals and into a small pool where I finally wrestled it into the boat.

I brought to hand a solid 3 pound shoal bass. Shoal bass in the 3 pound range oftentimes fight harder than shoal bass, or any bass, twice its size.
shoal bass

After subduing this nice shoal bass, the rest of the day just fell into place. I ended up catching 25 plus fish, all on the chatterbait. Jon added another 15 or so. Included in the tally were a handful of nice sized shoal bass in the 3 lb range with a kicker 4 1/2 pound plus shoalie. In addition to the shoal bass, I also added some nice largemouths, spotted bass – one measuring 20 inches – and a nice sized 12 inch plus redeye bass. A great day on the river, with a great friend and fisherman.

My battleship for the day – the Jackson Kayak Cruise 12
Jackson Kayak Cruise

Nice shoal bass
shoal bass

Releasing a small largemouth
river largemouth

A nice 20″ spotted bass

Shoal bass sure do have some pretty markings
pretty shoal bass

4 1/2 pound shoal bass – the big fish of the day
4.5 lb shoal bass

Sean “Bruiser” Brodie