Chances are if it’s got gills, you can catch it in and around the Ford Plantation, 18 miles south of Savannah. “We’ve got it all—it just depends on what you want to catch and what time of year,” says Mike Womble, director of outdoor pursuits at the 1,800-acre private club. “We’ve got anything from blue water, green water, clear water, backwater and black water.”
That means largemouth bass, catfish, stripers, bluegills, sunfish and shell-crackers —and even the occasional flounder—in the 220-acre brackish water of Lake Clara during winter. And these fish punch well above their weight—for good reason.
The shallow lake where they live was dug out in the mid-18th century as part of a rice plantation, with four of its original flood gates linked to the Ogeechee River; the gates have been updated with pneumatic wrenches. “We open those gates to allow cooler river water in as a fish-saving apparatus in summer, but also to control salinity,” he says. “So the fish around the gates are used to fighting that current—and when the gates open, it’s like ringing the dinner bell for them.”
That means that once an angler hooks up with a two-pound largemouth, it’s as scrappy as a four-pounder. “They’re strong—people think it’s easy, but no—they fight like crazy,” he says. “About 10 to 20 percent of the water has most of the fish, and it’s an ambush thing —they work against that current, but also just on the edge, waiting for the food to come by.”
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