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FLINT RIVER (upstream of L. Blackshear)

The Flint River as viewed from Sprewell Bluff. Awesome!

    With all due respect to the other fine rivers and streams in our state, Georgia River Fishing ranks them all behind the Upper Flint. The Flint is simply the most unique river in the state. What's so special about the Flint? Well, it's a combination of things: clear rippling water over limestone shoals, gorgeous scenery, abundant wildlife, and thrilling canoeing. The Flint River begins it's 200 mile journey to Lake Seminole as a drainage ditch under Hartsfield Airport. The river can be both lazy and treacherous, and the landscape varies from swampy to mountainous.

While the average Flint shoal bass runs a little less than a pound, anglers should be prepared for the big boys. This nice shoal bass nailed a topwater popper.

    The shoal bass is another reason why GRF  holds the Flint in such high esteem. These bronze fighters can be found in several other places, but nowhere are shoalies more abundant than the upper Flint. While shoal bass can be found anywhere on the upper Flint, the stretch between Gay and Thomaston offers the best habitat in the state for these fish. March through November are generally the best months to ply the shoals for "Flint River smallmouths", and they will nail just about anything from topwater baits to plastic worms. GRF recommends floating from shoal to shoal by canoe, but fish the shoals thoroughly by wading. 


If anyone knows a better way of killing a day than by wading or floating the Flint, GRF would like to hear about it!

    While the shoal bass is the glamour species of the Flint, there is fine fishing to be found for other species of fish. While most anglers head straight for the shoals, the flat water sections contain good numbers of largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, shellcracker, and both channel and flathead catfish. The flathead fishing is becoming the stuff of legends, with 30-pounders relatively common and at least one 50-pounder reported. Flatheads prefer live bream and love hanging out on the outside of river bends in the deepest water. White bass and hybrids live in Lake Blackshear, so there is probably a springtime run, but we're not sure how far the linesides run upstream. 

    South of Thomaston, shoals become much smaller and less prevalent. The Flint slows down and behaves like most Piedmont streams all the way to Lake Blackshear. Largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, and catfish are the most popular species on the "lower upper Flint". This section receives less fishing pressure than the shoal section of the upper Flint, though neither is heavily pressured.

    Like most rivers, the Flint has a few characteristics of which visitors should be aware. The stretch of river between Gay and Thomaston sports a few tricky rapids that can become downright dangerous at high water. Luckily, the Flint is wide enough in most shoal areas to offer alternate routes. Upstream of Alvaton, sections of the river are absolutely choked with downed trees, which makes for tough sledding. There is also a small dam a bit below GA 92 that should be portaged. Very few people fish the Flint this far north so most anglers just need to be careful in the whitewater. Canoes are generally the best craft for the Flint north of Thomaston while larger motorized craft are more common down to Lake Blackshear. Other than this website, the Flint River Outdoor Center in Thomaston (GA 36 at the Flint) is a great source for river conditions, canoe rentals, and shuttle services (706-647-2633).

    Most shoal bass fishermen prefer medium spinning or baitcasting gear. Others like to go a little lighter because the average Flint shoal bass weighs a bit under a pound. GRF recommends using topwater lures, suspending jerkbaits, or shallow-running crank baits for shoalies. If they refuse to chase these faster-moving baits, try a Texas-rigged plastic worm or Slider grub hopped slowly on the bottom. Redbreast sunfish inhabit the same areas as shoal bass, and a growing number of anglers target both species using cork poppers and Woolly Buggers. 4 to 6 weight flyrods seem to be the most popular. Hellgrammites make up a large part of the shoal bass's diet, and local anglers often have great success using live hellgrammites that they catch by turning over rocks in the shallows.

    If you are a serious freshwater fisherman you owe it to yourself to give the Flint a try. A Flint first-timer once described shoal bass fishing as "bass fishing in trout water". It's true; shoal bass behave very much like trout and reside in similar habitat. However trout can be found in all but a few southern states. Shoal bass are much more rare, and the Flint is the best (and one of only a few) place in the world to catch them.




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