Fishing Pickwick Lake with Shane Cox

Last Wednesday morning I got up at 2:15 AM and drove to Iuka, Mississippi to meet Shane Cox, owner of Hammer Rods, to “do research” for a June Map of the Month Alabama Outdoor News article on Pickwick Lake. Pickwick is a big Tennessee River lake mostly in Alabama but its dam is in Mississippi and the north shore there is in Tennessee in that area.

It is as far north and west as you can go in Alabama. The six-hour drive is the longest one I do for any articles. I have driven it both ways and fished during the day in the past but I think those days are over! On my longest trip ever, a few years ago I met Karen Elkins at Neely Henry at 6:00 AM after driving for four hours. We fished until 9:00 that night – I was in the boat 15 hours – then had another four-hour drive home. That was my longest day, 23 hours!

Shane lives near Pickwick and is very good there. Week before last he had a five-bass limit weighing 30 pounds to win a local tournament. Pickwick produces a lot of big bass if you know how to catch them.

We ran to a river ledge where the bottom quickly dropped from 13 feet down to 30 feet deep. Shane kept the boat out over the deep water and we cast big crankbaits to the shallow water, cranking them down to bump the bottom. As they came off the bottom on the edge of the ledge, fish would hit it.

I was sitting in the bottom of the boat taking notes when he made his first cast. He said “look at that” and I looked as two three pound largemouth wallowed on top, both hook on his plug. Then he got excited and said there was a four pound smallmouth following the two hooked ones! Since I was sitting down I could not see it. One of the three pounders came off but he landed the other one.

That made me quickly grab my rod and start casting. Shane was using one of his rods made for throwing big crankbaits, a 7 foot, 11 inch model. He could throw a crankbait about half again as far as I could on my 6.5 foot rod. That helped him get his crankbait down deeper than I could get mine to go.

I did catch a three-pound largemouth and a two pound largemouth, but he landed seven or eight, including two close to six pounds each and several more in the four pound range. His best five would have weighed about 25 pounds, one of the best limits I have ever seen caught in person.

The original plan was to run to his tournament hole and catch a couple of bass for pictures then go look at ten similar spots to put on the map. We stayed longer because Shane wanted to catch that smallmouth!

After a few hours of looking at the spots and me taking notes while he fished and caught several more three-pound bass, we finished up on hole ten. As I completed my notes on it Shane caught a hybrid. I got up and started casting but this ledge was deeper and I could not get my crankbait to run deep enough, so Shane let me use his rod. I had thought maybe it was his skill that allowed him to make longer casts, but I found with his rod I could cast just as far.

Shane caught another hybrid and a two-pound largemouth on a swimbait and I did not get a bite. I quickly get worn out cranking a big plug and Shane felt sorry for me and swapped rods. A swimbait is easy to fish, you cast it out and reel it in with little resistance. This pattern was let it hit bottom then start reeling and I managed to hang his bait and lose it.

Rather than lose any more of his baits I dug around in my tackle box and found a three-quarters ounce football head jig. I carry a small box with some tackle in it, mostly stuff I usually don’t use, on these trips. That jig has been in there for years and I have never caught a bass on a football head jig,

The first cast I made I let the jig hit bottom in 18 feet of water and drug it to the drop. As it started falling I felt a thump and set the hook and landed a three-pound largemouth. I did that on the next three cast in a row, then went three cast without a bite but caught my fifth fish in eight cast on the next one. All were three-pound fish so I had a five-fish limit weighing 15 pounds in less than 15 minutes.

I would love to do that in a club tournament!

I left Pickwick at 3:30 PM and headed home, thinking I might be able to drive all the way. But after turning west rather than east onto I-20 in Birmingham, a turn I have made dozens of times coming home, I stopped just east of Birmingham and got a motel room for the night. I knew I was too tired to think straight.

Pickwick is a long way away but the fishing can be incredible!

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