I had a such great time discussing fishing the first time with Virginia’s Joey Cooke that I knew I wanted to do another interview. Once again, Joey delivers. This time he talks about Chickahominy Lake, which is only 15 minutes from where he lives. He gives us the lowdown on Chickahominy bass fishing.
How long have you been fishing Chickahominy Lake?
First off, thanks for having me back. I fished Chickahominy Lake for the first time when I was in my late teens. The club that I was a part of always fished Chickahominy River. And then somebody suggested the Lake when we were trying to figure out the schedule for the year. I remember the tournament being one of the first ones for the year and it was a cold, slow day.
The second time on Chickahominy Lake, I was in my early twenties and had moved on to a new club after the original club I was in had disbanded. I only remember one club tournament with them and the only thing I remember is everybody nearly running over each other where the lake starts to narrow up!
Needless to say, I never felt good about Chickahominy Lake until I moved and became a “local” a little over two years ago. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not giving it a fair chance for so long.
One of the things that I love about the lake, besides it being 15 minutes away, is the diversity in the scenery. To me diversity on the shoreline, means diversity under the water. It’s got barren, sandy flats, grass, pads, stumps, laydowns and a few docks. And if you go far enough up the lake, it turns into a winding, narrow river with tons of wood to throw to and little shallow sloughs to navigate through.
What makes Chickahominy Lake unique from other bass waters that you have fished?
The GRASS! Hands down. In the summer, the grass will get so thick and expansive, that it makes the lake seem a lot more narrow than it actually is.
Given it close location to Williamsburg, a lot of people may want to try it when traveling with family. Is this a tough fishery or a place that even people new to the lake can find fish?
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries released a list of best reservoirs in Virginia for largemouth bass fishing back in February. They listed Chickahominy Lake as number 12 out of 35 for the region. I don’t agree with that at all. It can be tough at times, but what body of water isn’t?
If you’re visiting the area, go see Mr. Allen at Ed Allen’s Boats and Bait, rent one of his boats, buy a bucket of minnows and go park the boat on a grass edge and hold on. Mr. Allen always tells me how other people did and the folks fishing with live bait always catch something.
If you’re coming to fish a tournament that I am in, then disregard what I said about the grass…try throwing a Beetlespin in 3 inches of open water or a Helicopter Lure. I hear that Banjo Minnow is money…lol!
How big do bass get on the lake?
There are lots of bass in the 2 to 3 pound range. But a big fish for Chickahominy Lake? I’ll just say that as of the end of October, there have been 8 fish weighed in over 10 pounds at Ed Allen’s. And those are the ones that we know about. And there has been just as many 8 and 9 pounders brought in.
On average, I’d say you’ll need anywhere from a 15-20 pound limit to win a tournament on Chickahominy Lake. My official biggest bass is 5.4 pounds. But I had one in the spring that, after figuring out what was wrong with my scales, went a little over 7 pounds.
How pressured does the lake get in the summer?
In the summer, it all depends on how hot its been. It’s always a few degrees warmer and more humid here, than it is closer to the coast. But on average, summer pressure is medium to medium high on the weekends.
There are two main accesses to the lake and together can handle about 60 boats. But the lock on the dam that separates the lake from the river is finally open again, so I’m curious to see if it adds to those numbers.
The lake is 1230 acres. With the shallow marshes and the upper end, it’s usually not to hard to find a spot to fish.
What are your favorite baits that are you constants throughout the year for the lake?
The lake is so different between the warmer and colder months, that it makes this a tough question. But if I had to pick a couple, I’d say a Senko and a jig. Only because you can fish both so differently.
You can pitch either to wood or holes in the grass. Wacky rig the Senko and let it work for you around docks. Swim the jig along the grass lines or drag it around the channel edge.
Above all else, be patient. And when you get a bite, remember what you were doing and try to recreate it.
What other baits and presentations do you like to use that more seasonal specific on the lake?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better to me than watching a bass bust through the grass and grab my frog. Another favorite of mine is fishing the edge of a flat with a suspending jerkbait in the colder months.
I know you pro staff for Liquid Mayhem. Do you find that Liquid Mayhem scent makes a difference on Chickahominy?
Liquid Mayhem has been such a game changer for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a hit without it, miss the fish, apply some Garlic Craw Liquid Mayhem, and then throw back in there and watch my line take off. The stuff is unreal.
I think back to my second place finish last October. It was a rough day and I actually came in thirty minutes early because I didn’t hear about the extended time…lol. I couldn’t get a bite without having Liquid Mayhem on. I was getting bit all day, but there were a lot of small fish.
I was first up at the scales and then watched as boat after boat came in with one or two fish or nothing at all. Of course the last boat comes up and it’s the one guy who always catches them. He beat me by 2 pounds. Afterwards, he told me those 5 fish were the only bites he got that day. He kind of gave me a “you’re full of it” look when I told him I got bit all day. I owe that Liquid Mayhem.
Overall, what advice do you have for anyone who is going to fish Chickahominy Lake for the first time?
Well if you’re going for the first time, I’d say first and foremost go talk to the folks at Hookers Bait and Tackle in Toano, VA and see what they’ve heard. Then go to Ed Allen’s Boats and Bait and talk to Mr. Allen. Between the two, they’ll be able to give you some good advice and have just about anything you need to be successful on Chickahominy Lake.
Second, the wind is your friend. For the most part, the lake is pretty shallow and there are some huge flats out there. You can’t beat a wind blown flat.
Third, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. There are a lot of locals that know what pattern works best, but the fish see Senkos and frogs all day long.
I’ve pulled up on flats full of duckweed and can see that somebody beat it up with a frog. I’ll go in there and drag a Senko, soft plastic jerkbait or even a Rage Craw through those frog trails and get bit.
Fourth, if you’re planning on going uplake, where it narrows and there has been a lot of rain, make sure your batteries are fully charged. The current up there can get pretty strong and the shoreline is nothing but wood. You can beat your boat up pretty quickly if you aren’t paying attention.
Finally, no matter what time of year you go, don’t write it off if you aren’t successful your first time out, like I did.
Who are your other sponsors and how do they assist you in being successful on Lake Chickahominy?
Man, I’m truly blessed. I work with some great companies that definitely help make my days on Chickahominy Lake easier and more enjoyable.
My McCain rods, specifically the Alabama Flipping Stick, has the dirtiest handle of them all. It’s stout backbone is crucial when I’m dragging fish out of the grass. And the tip has enough flex that I can launch a frog across a grass flat, down to the spool, if I need to.
Sköll Gear has everything I need to stay cool in the hot, sticky summers we get and warm in the winter. Above all else, it helps protect me from the sun.
My Line Cutterz Ring helps me save time on tournament days when I’m changing baits or having to retie after battling a bowfin or chain pickerel.
And I’m not having to break the bank if I break off a fish or get snagged with WOO! Tungsten. They have some of the best prices I’ve seen on tungsten weights, and they’re just a durable as the more expensive brands.
So basically what I have learned is that I need to be stocking up on Helicopter Lures and Banjo Minnows for a trip to Chickahominy Lake. I take things very literal! Seriously, great info Joey. Thank you so much for sharing with us. All of us can follow Joey on Instagram @joeycookefishing.