Quoted from an article which appeared in the
April 28,2002 edition of the Athens Banner-Herald.

Writing the book on Lake Oconee
written by Ronell Smith

Avid fishermen put their knowledge and persistence on paper

Much of Lake Oconee is familiar to Jerry Whitlock. An angler most of his life, he's lived on and fished this particular body of water several times a week for the last three years. So as he motors his boat up to the wooden sea wall just past Goat Island, Whitlock recites from memory depth, available cover, and likely predators lurking: largemouth bass, white bass, hybrid and maybe even catfish.

"See that mud line? Cast right up in there," he said, pointing to a 4-foot wide swath of red clay-stained water just off the bank during a recent outing. " A lot of times those bass will hang right outside" that line waiting for scurrying shad.

On this day however, the fish aren't cooperating at this spot. No bites. But no problem. He moves the fish-and-ski boat to a cove off the main lake, just one of many choice spots he has found to consistently produce fish. "We've got hundreds of good spots on this lake," he said.

That's no exaggeration. In fact, Whitlock and fellow angler Aaron Batson, of Covington, have written the book on Lake Oconee. Literally. Their recently published book" How to Catch Largemouth Bass on Lake Oconee ... All Year Round" is a veritable manual on how to catch the fish on the 19,000-acre expanse.

Featuring a splashing largemouth on its cover, the book gives anglers a week by week breakdown of the tactics likely to be successful on the lake for the entire year, based on typical weather and water conditions and fish movement. "Anybody can go out with that book and catch fish," said Batson, a manager with AT&T in Rockdale County.

Whitlock, who owns EPM, Inc., an industrial seal and gasket company in Stockbridge, said he and Batson met several years ago on the Internet. After seeing the Newton County resident's name pop up frequently on a bass fishing message board, Whitlock said he pitched Batson an e-mail. "I asked him to give me a few of his spots on the lake," said Whitlock, "but a really serious bass fishermen is not going to do that. But after being "pestered" Batson relented, telling Whitlock several spots on the lake, which, in fact, did turn out to yield fish.

Convinced of Batson's knowledge of the lake, Whitlock hired him as a guide for a day, a trip that got Whitlock's entrepreneurial juices flowing and set the plans for the book in motion. Whitlock pitched the idea for the book to Batson who, while agreeing, offered a pleasant surprise. Batson, 27, who fishes three to four times per week often in local tournaments, had kept copious notes from every excursion to the lake, going back several years. Along with the size of the largemouth caught, Batson kept notes on the tackle, year, month, time of day, barometric readings, weather conditions, water temperature, wind speed and water clarity. To Batson, angling for largemouth is less art than science. "Aaron is a bass magnet," said Whitlock. " Most people go fishing. Aaron goes catching."

The men worked on the project for roughly a year, said Whitlock, a span where Batson's notes were assembled and edited, and made pictures of each lure. The finished product features 128 pages of bass-catching information. For example, May 1 notes show the water temperature likely in the 70s, the shad running and the bass feeding. "I would begin the day early in the morning in Sugar Creek, Lick Creek or the main lake riprap areas," according to the book. "I like to throw a Rapala Skitter Pop in Silver/Black, Shad or Silver/Blue."

Other locations and lures follow on the same page, while a picture of each lure is shown on the page opposite the notes. Apparently, the project was well worth the effort: Batson has already been bested in a tournament by a man who used his own tips to success. The authors contend the book can benefit novice and professional alike.

Unlike other popular lakes, such as Richard B. Russell on the Georgia-South Carolina border, Lake Oconee features thousands of docks and spans of concrete and wood sea walls, a testament to the area's development. For many fishermen, seeing the miles of man-made structure can be intimidating. Said Whitlock, the key is understanding that the structure provides shelter for prey and cover for lurking predators like largemouth bass. With that in mind, the book also details what lures to skip under docks for bass, along with which fish are most likely to be located (shaded areas).

The book, said Whitlock, "shrinks the lake" for most fishermen, providing them with information shown to produce fish. That's the key, said Batson. He said it's important to pick an area of the lake and work it as thoroughly as possible. Batson said he'll work worms, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, or numerous other lures around docks, over underwater humps, along rocks, through brush, and against seawalls in hopes of getting a bite. What is comes down to, he said is putting in the time to find out what works and what doesn't. "Persistence is the key," said Batson.

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