It pays to put on a show in North Georgia. At least, that has been the experience of veteran angler Kyle Jarrard.
“Some people prefer a natural presentation, but I go for the Lady Gaga look,” he says, holding aloft one of his gloriously gaudy handmade lures. He turns cedar on a lathe, hand-ties skirts, and employs brilliant candy colors that pop when they’re bobbing along in the shoals.
“There are few things more satisfying than making your own lure that hauls in a ten-pounder,” says Jarrard, whose social media feed is photo after photo of him and his catch of the day. Other anglers took notice, and soon enough he had a side hustle making lures.
Jarrard, a winsome thirty-something with an auburn beard, is an Appalachian polymath. He grew up close to the earth in Demorest, Georgia, where his boon companion was a pet opossum named Lester. He sometimes accompanied his father, a professional bass fisherman, to tournaments, but he decided the competitive grind—“just putting fish after fish in the boat”—hindered the zen satisfactions of spending a day outdoors. He himself has racked up several statewide trophies for banjo playing, and he uses the instrument for twangy prestidigitation in a comedy magic show, which is how he makes his living when he is not on some body of water. “People really gravitate to the banjo music,” he says.
Every happy marriage has its division of labor. In Jarrard’s household, he cleans his catches, but his husband, Thomas Clark, a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu, cooks them in creative ways. “He’s done everything from fry them, bake them, grill them, smoke them, make crappie fish tacos and catfish curry,” Jarrard says. Invitations to their dinner parties in the Sautee Valley are a hot ticket.
We caught up with Jarrard to ask him about his favorite fishing spots in Northeast Georgia:
Jarrard is drawn to the Chattooga River, on the border of Georgia and South Carolina, to fish for brook, rainbow, and brown trout. He likes to access the water from an entrance at Russell Bridge near the town of Clayton. “It’s an easy hike to it,” he says, “and the water is crystal clear.”
For “massive trophy trout,” hit the Soque River; look for the public stretch in Batesville that lies between two catch-and-release venues. Some of their stock wend their way into the public section. “I caught a seven-pounder there,” he says.
For bass, visit the isolated and beautiful Lake Winfield Scott. “They’re like sharks there—huge, up to seventeen pounds.”
Still, nothing beats the Chattahoochee River for “monsters”—largemouth, striped, and spotted bass. This river, along with the Flint and Ocmulgee, is also one of the few places to fish for the feisty shoal bass. “They’re fighters, which makes them incredibly fun to catch.”