The busiest airport in the country: Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. But beneath the oil-stained tarmac and those cavernous, carpeted terminals lies a natural spring: Georgia’s Flint River springs.
One of 40 rivers in the country that flow more than 200 miles unhindered by dams or other man-made obstacles, the Flint is home to the largest population of bass.
A fiery scratcher and whitewater lover, bass achieved single-species status in 1999, expanding the pantheon of Georgia black bass to 10 species, the most diverse in North America.
Quint Rogers is addicted to shoal bass – a real affliction for such a youngster. But at 26, Rogers offers an elite fishing pedigree. After guiding fly fishermen in Montana after college and experimenting with the effectiveness of rowing rafts, he returned to his native Georgia with a plan. He purchased a Smith Fly Big Shoal raft for his Peach State fly-fishing business, knowing he could offer customers a unique (and mostly dry) opportunity to fish some of the most productive yet hard-to-reach waters in the world. Flint high.
Laura Clay Ballard / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo
When river conditions are good, Rogers tallies catches in the double digits, with at least a few trophies over 20 inches hooked and released on each trip.
A visually striking fish with red eyes and dark vertical bars on its sides, bass resembles smallmouth bass but lacks its size; an 8-pound, 12-ounce shoalie holds the current world record. What it lacks in weight, it makes up for in attitude. Life in flowing and often turbulent waters conditions bass like Olympic athletes. Even small shoals fight with an aggressiveness and tenacity far beyond their size.
While Rogers specializes in targeting bass on the fly, he’s equally adept at conventional tackling. Lures and flies that mimic the diet of this species—which includes crayfish and insect larvae, such as the succulent but fierce-looking hellgrammite—produce frequently. But imitation fish, such as plastic bait and large streamer flies, also attract strikes. In late spring and summer, surface lures become an attractive option.
On one particularly memorable trip, Rogers says one of his clients caught a 10-inch fish, which was immediately gobbled up by a larger bass. After a few seconds, the larger fish lost hold of its unfortunate cousin (perhaps offspring?), which was landed and released minus a few scales.
Rogers immediately ordered the fisherman to tie a large streamer fly and cast in the same area. This trick earned him a 20 inch.
Was it the same fish that attacked the smaller hooked bass? It’s a good fish story, but we’ll never know.
What we know: If you want to experience one of the most beautiful places on Earth and take on a tough opponent, visit the Flint River in Georgia to target this rare domestic exotic.