Lake Seminole's rebirth


Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

It spreads through the remote piney woods of southwestern Georgia before spilling into a small portion of northern Florida.

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TIM TUCKER/Special to The Sun

It is home to one of the best overlooked largemouth fisheries in America, as well as a body of water that produces an impressive smorgasbord of gamefish — 17-pound bass, 3-pound crappie, 20-pound stripers, 40-pound flathead and channel catfish and 60-pound sturgeon.

And in recent years, Lake Seminole has survived both man-made and natural assaults on its lush hydrilla beds that once covered nearly 80 percent of its surface acreage.

In fact, the 37,500-acre reservoir has bounced back big time from several down years.

"Lake Seminole will blow your mind," said Pam Martin-Wells, a long-time lake guide and a competitor on the Mercury Marine Women's Bassmaster Tour presented by Triton Boats. "It is an awesome fishery that has been overlooked for a while.

"The grass is in excellent shape. It's very healthy. We've had some really good spawns the past several years. So I think it's probably all things combined."

"Big Sem is back," added Jack Wingate, a fishing legend and the man most closely associated with the lake. "I've lost track of all of the big fish that came in over the past year."

Martin-Wells, who averages 150 days a year on the lake, was asked if Seminole had returned to the quality of its glory days, which seemed to peak about 1995. "No doubt," she replied. "It may be better."

That would be a phenomenal turnaround considering that David Fritts won a BASS tour-level event here in 1995 with a then-record 91 pounds, 3 ounces.

To support her claim, Martin-Wells points to local tournaments in the spring of 2006 where five-bass bags weighing 20 pounds often wasn't enough to earn a check. And the good fishing wasn't limited to the springtime; she recalled a summertime outing just before sunset when her husband Steven nailed a pair of 8-pounders on back-to-back casts.

To a diehard bass angler, today's Lake Seminole is a thing of beauty.

An impoundment of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, it is home to an estimated 10,000 acres of standing timber; acres of lily pads; dozens of natural springs; countless acreage of hard-bottom flats perfect for spawning; and two deep river channels. And then there is the thousands of acres of bright-green hydrilla that stand out in the lake's newly cleared waters.

"We do have a lot of hydrilla and that intimidates a lot of newcomers," Martin-Wells said. "You look at it and it's just grass, grass everywhere. For the person that comes here the first time, it's a little bit intimidating.

"You have to approach grass like you would any other cover. A bass is a bass whether its in Florida or Maine. They all relate to the cover at hand, whether it's wood or rocks or whatever. Here it's vegetation. So you need to look for similar things — points under the grass, pockets in the grass, grass walls."

Although Lake Seminole harbors a fine year-round fishery, Martin-Wells picks spring (usually from the middle of February through March) as the absolute prime time for experiencing what the lake has to offer.

"You have prespawn and spawning bass, and it's absolutely awesome," she said. "You literally get tired of catching fish. And they will be good quality fish.

"Sight-fishing is wonderful here. I live to sight-fish and this is one of the best lakes in the world to do it on."

Seminole has never been clearer, a fact that can be attributed to the return of its abundant vegetation. In fact, Martin-Wells' favorite area of the lake is Spring Creek where gin-clear conditions scare many fishermen off. The number of big bass that inhabit the deep grassbeds in that clear water keeps her coming back time after time.

"Winter — November through January — is a real underrated time," Martin-Wells noted. "I have actually caught my biggest single string on this lake in December on a crankbait. I had five fish that weighed a little over 25 pounds. It was extremely cold; the water temperature was 48 degrees. I was throwing a Shad Rap real slow (along) the edge of a creek channel where there was grass."

Most Lake Seminole regulars take full advantage of its hydrilla bounty with weedless topwater lures like buzzbaits and plastic rats, soft-plastics teamed with heavy sinkers and big jigs.

There is nothing quite like the sudden, jarring explosion of a big bass bursting through a surface mat of hydrilla to inhale a soft-plastic rat or swimming-type frog. And on Seminole, the bass are so plentiful that you have to concern yourself only with getting the bass out of the cover and into the boat. Getting strikes is usually not a problem.

Day in and day out, Martin-Wells' most consistent lure is a 6-inch Tiki-Shadick. The soft-plastic jerkbait has ridges across its body and a tapered design that gives it a lifelike action when pulled through the water.

"I throw it a bunch," she said. "It has so much action that it will catch fish all-year long."

"I think this is the best and probably the most underrated lake in the country," added Gainesville pro Shaw Grigsby, who has won two BASS tournaments on Lake Seminole. "It's got a huge population of bass in all that hydrilla. This is just an awesome lake."

Tim Tucker's e-mail address is tim@timtuckeroutdoors.com"Lake Seminole will blow your mind. It is an awesome fishery that has been overlooked for a while."

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