Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Guntersville Keeper Bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 5/30/20

There is no doubt in my mind we are in some of the best fishing of the year, sure its not easy it never is but it is consistent and that is the biggest difference from a few weeks ago. You can come up with ways to get bites and the novice can enjoy their day on the water. The bass are aggressive enough to enjoy the sharp notable strike with fast moving baits.

We fished many different baits with the Picasso Spinner Bait being the best choice then followed by Tight-Line swim jigs rigged with Missile Bait Shock Wave swim baits, SPRO Little John 60 crank baits are still catching fish and we are still using the reliable Missile Bait 48 stick bait and D-Bombs. We fished mainly 4 to 8 ft. of water and worked covering water quickly to find fish.

Come fish with me I have days and guides available to fish with you, no one will treat you better or work harder to see you have a great day on the water. We fish with great sponsor products, Lowrance Electronics, Ranger Boats, Boat Logix mounts, Vicious fishing, Duckett Fishing, Navionics mapping, Power Pole and more.

Give Your Reels a Little TLC–and They’ll Return the Favor

Clean your reels

by Jeff Williams 
Editor, Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
from The Fishing Wire

LITTLE ROCK — Outdoorsmen have as much fun tinkering, fiddling and piddling as they do hunting, fishing or looking for wildlife.

They break down rifles and shotguns, clean and oil the mechanisms, and put the pieces back together. They clean binoculars and cameras so they’ll be ready for the next sighting of a favorite critter. And they tear into fishing reels to make them spin smoother than the day they came out of a box.

There’s probably a gene for taking things apart. If you’ve got it, you love to open a reel to see how it works, especially if it’s old and crusty.

Years ago, I was driving to a float-fishing trip when I spotted a yard sale. This one featured the usual out-of-date items, from bread boxes to Brownie cameras, but one table was loaded with reels. Like most fishermen, I have reels to the gills, but I liked the idea of buying a couple and putting them back into service.

I picked up a Cardinal 553 and a Cardinal 763 for $10. Neither was obviously damaged (the 763’s handle was attached with a replacement screw, although it appeared serviceable). The action of each was sluggish and they were dinged up. I packed them away, went on with the trip and came back to them months later.

Parts and Pieces
If you’re not familiar with the process, yard sale reels are a great place to start. You’re not investing a lot of money and most older reels are pretty basic. Check websites for reel schematics; you’ll be amazed at the number of schematics for obscure reels that have been posted. Reels are loaded with parts, especially washers. Perhaps the best advice for anyone who plans to breakdown a reel is: Keep the parts in order (this is where the schematic can come in handy). Create a system (number the parts, go by order of disassembly, whatever works) that will help put them back the way they were. Owners’ manuals (check the internet) may give tips about how to disassemble or reassemble.

Now that digital cameras are on everyone’s phone, it’s a great idea to take pictures of the inside of the reel as soon as it’s open and take plenty of pictures along the way. These images could be vital if the parts just won’t fit later.

A good scrubbing
Degrease everything. It’s the grit inside a reel that causes it to grind when it’s cranked, sort of like dirty oil in an engine. Even a cheap old reel turns much more smoothly after cleaning. Just put the parts in a shallow bowl with degreaser and let them soak. The degreaser will do most of the work for you if it’s given time.

With an old toothbrush or swabs, wipe away gunk from gears, washers and the “worm shaft,” a perfectly descriptive phrase. Clean the inside and outside of the housing because dirt left there will find its way into cogs. The goal is to remove anything that could hold grime.

Use light greases and lubricants on the worm screw and gears – anything that moves. An owner’s manual might explain how to reach the bearings, which should receive a few drops of oil. Don’t overdo it with the oil and grease, though. Too much lubricant can dry and cake up around bearings and gears, collecting the sort of dirt and grime you just cleaned.

Besides the two reels mentioned above, I found a Browning rod and reel at my feet while wade fishing in the Buffalo River several years ago. The combo was covered in all sorts of growths. None of the rod was visible,and I knew the reel only by its shape.

As beat up and hopeless as that rod and reel looked, they are in use to this day. A cleaning removed the crud from the rod, light sanding restored the cork handle, and the reel works like a charm after a thorough cleaning and oiling. Fresh electrical tape straps the reel to rod.

Keep it clean
Maintaining reels on a regular basis will keep them out of your future yard sales.

On spinning reels, oil the bail assembly at the hinge where the bail flips over to cast and the crank where the handle meets the reel body. Take the handle out of the reel and drop just a little oil where the handle goes.

With baitcasting reels, oil the level wind and put a drop of oil on the bearings – just a little bit. Pull the spool out and wipe around it. Keep it clean and oil those bearings.

After a while, no amount of cleaning will keep a reel from needing some professional help. Bearings and gears wear; there’s no way around it. But keeping everything clean is a sure way to prevent an early visit to the repair shop.

The original version of this story appeared in Arkansas Wildlife magazine in 2010. Visit www.arkansaswildlife.com to learn more about the magazine and how to subscribe.

Where and How to Catch Neely Henry Bass

July Bass at Neely Henry

with Waine Pittman

     Its hot and muggy but that is no reason to stay home in front of the air conditioner.  Catching a big spot or largemouth will make you forget the heat, and there are few better places to do that right now than the Coosa River on the upper end of Neely Henry Lake.

     Neely Henry is just downstream of Lake Weiss at Gadsden.  From the Tillison Brend Park Ramp upstream the river is narrow but there are feeder creeks with grassbeds and other cover.  Docks are scattered on the river and in the creeks.  Current runs in the river most days from power generation at the Weiss dam and the Neely Henry dam. 

     Current seems to make the spots and largemouth grow big fat and strong.  Hook a three pound spot in the current and you will swear you have one twice that big or a striper.  The current also makes them hold in predictable places and you can catch both species without dredging the depths in July.

     Waine Pittman lived the dream, as the BASS Federation Nation motto goes.  In 2008 he qualified for the Georgia Top Six in his club, the West Georgia Bass Hunters.  At the state tournament he placed 4th at Lake Seminole, making the State Team.  At the Federation Nation Southern Divisional at Santee Cooper he was the top man on the Georgia team, qualifying him for the Nationals.

     In a dream trip that almost turned disastrous due to the weather Waine was the top man on the Southern Division team which made him the Southern Division representative at the BASS Masters Classic, arguably the most important tournament there is each year.

     Waine is sponsored by Nitro Boats, Mercury Motors, Minkota Trolling Motors, JJ’s Magic, Cull Buddy, Triple Fish line, Net Bait lures, Cold Steel Lures, TC Cranks, Costa Eyewear and Tillman Eye Center.  He uses Revo reels exclusively and says they are the best reels available.

     I asked Waine what his favorite lake was and he didn’t hesitate to say “Neely Henry.”  His club fishes the lake every year, usually in July, and he also fishes pot and local tournaments on Neely.  He loves to fish the river for big spots and largemouth and knows how to catch them. 

     Waine started tournament fishing while in college and likes tournament fishing.  Next year he plans on fishing the Southern Division BASS Opens tournaments all his kids are now out of high school.

     Waine has a 5.5 pound spot and a 7 pound largemouth from the river, and his best tournament catch there was a five-fish limit weighing 23 pounds.  The river is the perfect place for Waine to skip, pitch and flip a jig and pig, his favorite way of fishing.  And it catches fish there.

     “By late June bass are set up on their summer pattern,” Waine said. That means they are holding in the river and bigger creeks on ledges and deeper cover and running in to shallow water to feed. Creek mouths are a key area this time of year, giving bass a short route to grass beds in the creeks and to cover that breaks the current on the river banks. 

     Waine will start at daylight on shallow grassbeds near creek mouths, then move to the river banks after the sun gets up.  He fishes the grass fast with spinnerbaits, frogs and buzzbaits on one pass then come back and flip them with a Net Bait Paca Punch.  After an hour he moves out to the river channel and flips them with a jig he makes.

     Flipping, skipping and pitching a jig and pig with a Paca Chunk SR. behind a five-sixteenths ounce jig works well.  That combo has a lot of action and works catches fish in the current on the river.  Flipping is his bread and butter method of catching bass.

     Waine showed me the following ten spots where he catches bass in the river in early June. We were a little early for the pattern but caught some good spots and largemouth, but not the quality fish Waine hoped we would catch. By now the bigger fish will be more active on these spots.

     1.  N 34 00.779 – W 85 55.412 – If you put in at Tillison Bend Park Ramp run up to the mouth of Cove Creek, the first creek upstream of the ramp on the same side of the river. Go into the creek to the 4th dock on the right, in front of a brick house, and fish upstream. There is a good grass bed by this ramp and it is a good place to start.

     Fish the small patch of grass quickly then work on upstream, fishing the seawall and small point at the next dock. Past it is a big point. Fish it then go around the point. A huge grassbed lining the bank starts there and runs into a cove, out of it on the other side and on up the bank.

     Throw your buzzbait to the bank and work it back across the gap.  Try a spinnerbait, too.  A frog works well over this water willow grass in the thicker parts of it and that is where the biggest bass will hold. Waine likes the Cold Steel frog since it is thin and tough.

     Waine usually fishes around the first pocket with those baits then turns and fishes the same grass with the Paca Punch. That bait is a solid body bait that stays up on the hook well and has lots of action.  He will drop the bait into holes in the grass and also punch through the thicker mats.  A half ounce sinker is heavy enough to get through most of this grass and works well.

     We hooked a couple of good largemouth here the day we fished. Both hit spinnerbaits the first few minutes before the sun came up.  Sometimes you can punch the thicker grass can catch fish in the bright sun, and if the fish are actively feeding a spinnerbait run through the grass will catch them even in the bright sun.

     2.  N 34 00.870 – W 85 55.309 – Go back to the mouth of the creek and start on the upstream point, fishing upstream. Pitch a jig and pig to all the cover along this bank. Trees and brush create eddies in the current that the bass use as ambush points 

     Always fish upstream. That gives you better boat control and also helps work your bait with the current in a natural action. Fish at an angle ahead of the boat, pitching or flipping your bait so it hits on top of the cover and falls in behind it with the current.

     Work on up to the first few docks along this bank, hitting them where the posts breaks the current.  Current is critical when fishing the river. When it moves, the bass bite, but you need a strong trolling motor to fish it. Waine uses a 36 volt Minkota for this reason.

     3.  N 34 00.744 – W 85 54.500 – A little further up the river on the opposite side, just where the river starts a gentle bend to the right, a small double mouth creek enters the river. There are grass beds in the mouth that hold good bass. Waine said he pulled up here one day and on back to back casts caught a 4.63 and a 4.75 pound spot. There was a big bass chasing shad here when we got to the spot but we could not get it to hit.

     Keep your boat out in the river and cast into the creek, working your fast moving baits over the grass. Fish both sides of the small island splitting the creek at the river edge.  Waine says he does not work back into the smaller creeks like this one since the bass will be set up right on the river this time of year.

     4.  N 33 59.479 – W 85 54.044 – Further up the river Tidmore Bend makes a big horseshoe bend.  Going upstream, watch for an old dead snag tree leaning out over the water.  Start well downstream of this snag and work up to it. You should stop across the river from the blue roof house on the far bank if you can’t see the snag.

     This inside bend is typical of a good type place to fish.  There is a little less current here so bass like to feed here when it is running strong, but still enough to make them active.  

     Waine says he usually catches bass in less than five feet of water, so he concentrates his casts to the base of trees in the water and brush or little cuts on the bank. It is worth fishing on out to the ends of the bigger trees some to see if bass are holding deeper, but unless you get some bites keep your bait in the more shallow feeding zone.

     5. N 34 05.552 – W 85 51.845 – Waine usually runs way on up the river from here, going past the Appalachian Highway Bridge. Upstream of the bridge Coats Bend makes a sweeping turn to the left.  Go all the way past it to where the next bend starts turning to the right.  A small island sits just off the bank and a small creek enters behind it. This is an excellent place to fish.

     Start just downstream of the cut behind the island and fish upstream, pitching your bait into the ditch and working it out. Cover both points. The downstream point will have current hitting it and turning into the ditch, creating a good feeding eddy. The upstream point has current swirling around it to make the bass feed. There is grass on both points that you should hit hard, but also fish out in front of it.

     Fish upstream a short distance, hitting the cover on the river bank. Fish will feed along it as they move to the mouth of the creek to feed so it is worth checking out.

     6.  N 34 07.637 – W 85 48.102 – Run all the way to the bend where the Weiss Re-Regulation pool empties into the river and stop on the right bank going upstream.  Fish the right bank along the inside bend of the river, starting well downstream of the turn.  Fish up to the turn past the dead snags in the water.

     Along here the current is very strong out in the river but you will actually find water moving upstream from the eddy behind the point.  There are cuts in the bank that create additional eddies and the wood in the water breaks the current, too. 

     Waine got a good keeper spot here on his home made jig and says it is a very good bank.  It is worth hitting every little hole and piece of wood along this bank.  Fish it slowly. With the current eddying around you can fish here fairly easily in both directions.

     7.  N 34 07.217 – W 85 49.057 – Headed back down the river go to the mouth of Ballplay Creek, on your left going downstream.  It is on the straight section of the river about half way before you get to the turn back to the right going downstream. There is a lot of wood in the mouth of this creek, especially under the overhanging tree on the downstream point.

     Waine says it is nasty under that tree and you will probably get hung up, but it is worth it since it holds good bass.  Start fishing just downstream of the creek mouth and work into it, hitting the cove under the tree as you go into the creek. This one is deep enough to fish into the creek about fifty feet then fish back out on the opposite bank. 

     Time of day is not real important but sun seems to help position the bass a little.  We caught more fish while the sun was bright than when it was cloudy. But current is more important than anything else, and Waine will fish this pattern from an hour after first light the rest of the day.

     8.  N 34 06.632 – W 85 51.505 – Going back down the river on the outside slight bend to the right watch for a small building on the left bank. Just downstream of it is a ditch with wooden retaining walls on it. This is the location of an old cotton mill.  You want to fish the right side of the river, across from the ditch.

     Idle in slowly here, especially if the water is down some. Old walls and humps come up to a couple of feet deep about 50 feet off the bank and make eddies in the main river current.  Waine will fish a Bandit 200 shad colored crankbait here as well as a spinnerbait.  You can reel the crankbait down to bump the tops of the cover and run a spinnerbait over it.

     This is a good place to pull in and make a couple of dozen casts to see if the bass are on the structure.  Waine says he will not stay long if he doesn’t get bit quick. Stay out a long cast from the bank and work your baits at an angle, casting toward the bank then coming back downstream. Also fan cast upstream to hit the cover further out. You can see it on your depthfinder.

     9.  N 34 04.074 – W 85 49.733 – Go back down past the big bend and the island in hole 5.  Just before you get to Coats Bend you will see some houses and docks on the right side. If you are headed upstream they are the first docks on the left above the bridge, but a long way from it. 

     Stop in front of the dock with a Rebel Flag with the words “In God We Trust” on it. It is in front of a big unusually shaped house. The house is long and thin running at a 90 degree angle to the river then wide at the end away from the river. There is also a high car unloading area with columns supporting the high roof. It looks like the front of a hotel.

     The three docks from the flag upstream are good ones to fish. Wood washes in and hangs on them, and small diversion walls just upstream of some of them make good eddies at the docks. Fish the posts of the docks and all the wood around and under them, and also make some casts behind the docks between them and the bank, with your jig and pig.

     10.  N 34 01.954 – W 85 50.274 – Running down the river there is a small creek on the left on the outside of Coats Bend.  The creek forks a little way back. It is upstream of the bigger Dry Creek. This smaller creek has a dock on the upstream point that has steel I Beams supporting the deck and a paving stone or wall stone wall on both sides of the walkway coming down to it.

     Fish both points at the mouth of this creek.  Then work on back into the creek, fishing the overhanging brush and wood in the water.  Waine says the water is deep enough here to work all the way back to where the creek widens out on the left fork going in.  He got a keeper spot off the point where the creek splits.

     All these places hold good bass and there are many more creek mouths, inside bends and other kinds of cover to fish in the river. Head to it this summer and get in on the incredible fishing when the current is running.

Idaho’s Fish Marking Program Has Come a Long Way


By Braden Buttars and Joe DuPont, Idaho DFG
from The Fishing Wire

You set the hook and immediately your rod doubles over and there is no doubt you have hooked a big one (salmon or steelhead – you pick). Line starts peeling from your reel and you hold on for the ride. After some intense moments of thinking you may have lost the fish and some spectacular jumps, your buddy finally slips a net under the fish.

After a shout for joy, what is the first thing you say? How many of you said, “Is it clipped”? I suspect many of you did seeing a clipped adipose fin distinguishes a hatchery fish from a protected wild fish telling anglers it is legal to harvest. Many of us take it for granted that hatchery fish have a clipped adipose fin, but have you ever wondered what it takes to make this happen?

Joe DuPontThe Idaho fish marking program started in 1975 with a small group of people directed to tag salmon and steelhead raised in Idaho’s hatcheries. Their primary objective was to insert tiny pieces of wire, known as coded-wire tags, into the snouts of over one million salmon and steelhead. Each of these tagged fish also needed their adipose fin clipped to signify it contained a coded-wire tag. The recovery of these coded- wire tags would then help us evaluate how Idaho hatcheries contributed to fisheries in the Columbia River and ocean.

Northwest Marine TechnologyIdaho’s fish-marking program has changed dramatically since 1975. In 1984 the fish-marking program was directed to remove the adipose fin from more than 9 million Idaho hatchery steelhead so that anglers could distinguish hatchery fish from wild fish. This required a small army of people equipped with scissors working 40 hours a week for about three months to accomplish this task.

Once, to meet a deadline at Dworshak Hatchery in 1987, over 130 different temporaries were hired to keep four marking trailers operating 16 hours a day to remove the adipose fins from almost 3 million steelhead in 10 days. By the early 1990s, almost all hatchery Chinook Salmon released in Idaho were fin clipped, and hundreds of thousands of PIT tags were being injected into smolts to help answer specific research questions and provide managers real-time data to better manage fisheries.

It got to the point that Idaho’s fish marking program could not accomplish this alone and Federal Agencies also began to help. Despite this, Idaho’s fish marking program clipped and tagged approximately 11 million juvenile salmon and steelhead each year. All this work was done by hand requiring a dedicated force of temporarily.

In 2002 Idaho began to automate the fish marking program allowing more fish to be processed with less error. The first AutoFish Trailer was purchased in 2002. In 2004 Idaho purchased two additional AutoFish Trailers and two more were purchased in 2014. With this new technology, the Idaho Fish-Marking Program is now able to processes around 17 million salmon and steelhead from 9 Idaho hatcheries that contribute to major salmon and steelhead fisheries throughout Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.

Now that Idaho’s fish marking program has been using automated trailers for 18 years, they have refined this process to where most fish never need to be touched by a person. To make this happen, the automated trailers are parked right next to the raceways where the fish are being raised. This allows the fish to be directly pumped from the raceway, run through the marking trailers where their adipose fins are clipped and coded-wire tags are injected, and then discharged back to a nearby raceway with no direct human contact.

The first time you step into one of these marking trailer is seems more like you are entering a high tech computer facility than a place where fish are being marked. These automated trailers have the ability to sort individual fish by size using video imaging so that the right size fish goes into the right machine. This is required because each machine is programmed precisely to handle certain sized fish. Once a fish is sorted into the right machine, it gently clamps the fish in place and in a fraction of a second it can insert a coded-wire tag, clip its adipose fin, and confirm that the adipose fin was removed adequately. All this is accomplished without removing the fish from the water or using any type of anesthetic which reduces stress on the fish.

For more detail on how this process click on this video link fish marking video.
Roger Phillips

Because of this technology, we now have an accurate count of all clipped hatchery fish at each hatchery and how these fish were marked or tagged. The application of these technologies allows fisheries managers to evaluate, track, and manage fish to provide for the protection and recovery of wild fish, while maximizing commercial and sport use of hatchery fish.

In case you were wondering, in 2019, Idaho’s Fish-Marking Program was responsible for marking 16.35 million juvenile fish (10.7 million salmon and 5.65 million steelhead) as well as manually inserting 398,443 PIT tags across 9 anadromous fish hatcheries managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Where and How to Catch December Neely Henry Bass

December Bass at Neely Henry

with Johnny Osborne

    Thanksgiving Holidays. Christmas Holidays. Lots of people hunting. What a great time to be on the lake!  Compared to much of the year there are few people on the lake and the bass are biting from the end of November through December.  A good choice for catching spots and largemouth right now is Neely Henry.

    Located on the Coosa River just downstream of Lake Weiss, Neely Henry is a long river-like lake with just over 11,000 acres of water.  It runs 77 miles from dam to headwaters and has a wide variety of structure and cover, although many creeks and ditches are silted in.  Dammed in 1950, this old lake has lots of grass and there is still a lot of wood cover in the lake.

    According to the Alabama DNR there are a lot of 15 to 18 inch largemouth in the lake and the spotted bass population is “exceptional” for large fish.  The numbers of spots in the 14 to 20 inch range is one of the best in the state.   Just over half the bass weighed in during tournaments are spots, according to the BAIT survey.

    Johnny Osborne grew up in the area and has lived near Neely Henry all his life, except for a stint in the navy.  He has fished all his life and in the 1970s a co-worker got him started tournament fishing.  Fishing has been a passion all his life.

    This year Johnny fished the BFL series and made the regional tournament.  He also fishes the BASS Weekend Series and the ABA as well as many local tournaments.  He does some guiding on the lake and has helped many pros locate hotspots for big tournaments.

    Last year in the in the St. Jude’s Charity Tournament on Neely Henry he and his partner had five spots weighing 19 pounds, 2 ounces.  His best five from Neely Henry weighed over 26 pounds and his best tournament catch was five at 24-14.  He has landed a 6 pound, 3 ounce spot and an 8 pound, 2 ounce largemouth on Neely Henry.

    “Bass are following baitfish and feeding shallow from Thanksgiving through Christmas,” Johnny said.  You can catch them on a variety of baits and in several kinds of cover and structure.  Current makes a big difference and they bite much better when it is moving.

    Most of Johnny’s fishing this time of year concentrates on the mid-lake area, from City Ramp in Gadsden to the Rainbow Landing area.  Bass move to creek openings and shoreline cover and feed on shad as them move with the current, and you don’t have to make long runs to cover the area.

     Johnny will have a Stanley spinnerbait with a one gold and one silver willowleaf blade and a chartreuse and white skirt and an Academy XPO chartreuse crankbait for faster fishing. 

    For slower fishing he will rig a jig head that he pours himself with a watermelon red worm with a chartreuse tail, and have a Arkie tube Texas rigged and ready.  The tube is his favorite bait and Johnny likes a green pumpkin color.  He will also rig a Trick or Finesse green worm on a Carolina rig with a 32 inch leader behind a three-quarter ounce lead.

    A topwater bait like a Pop-R or a Sammy is also ready for low light times like early in the morning or during cloudy days.  Johnny says he catches bass at Neely Henry on top until the water gets to the low 50s so you can catch them on top most of the month.

    Put in at City Ramp or Rainbow Ramp and you can fish these spots without a lot of running. There were fish on them a couple of weeks ago when we fished and they should be even better now.

    1.  N 33 59.191 – W 85 59.996 – Head downstream from City Ramp and go under the bridges. On your right you will see a campground then a big white house on a narrow point between the river and Big Wills Creek.  The end of that point runs parallel to the river and is deep on both sides and is covered with rock.

    Stop on the river side and cast across the point.  You can run a crankbait or spinnerbait over it if there is current running and the fish are active.  If there is little current, work around the point casting a jig head worm up almost to the seawall and working it back down the point and across it at different angles.

    The day we fished there was not much current here in the early afternoon but we caught over a dozen bass on it on jig head worms. All were spots and the biggest was about two pounds. Johnny says you often get a lot of keeper size spots here since they stack up on this point.

    Before leaving Johnny will fish up the river side of the point for a hundred feet, working the steep drop along this bank.  Bass will feed here, too, especially if there is a good current running along the bank.

    2.   N 33 58.191 – W 86 00.004 – The mouth of Big Wills Creek is very wide since it makes a big bend, hitting the bank at the point above then swinging across to the far bank before turning and entering the river near the downstream point. Since the channel enters here, the downstream point of Big Wills Creek is good, too. 

    Stop on the river side of the point.   You will be across from the playground and old ramp at Dub Parker Boat Launch.  Fish the point that runs upstream parallel to the river and the flat on either side of it. Bass hold on the point and feed on the flats.

    Johnny starts on the river side and casts up on top of the point with a shaky head or his Texas rigged tube.   When sitting here you can see a three door white dock on the far bank of Big Wills Creek and the restaurant on the road across from it, but you will be a long way from it.

    Fish from the bank to the drop into the old creek channel.  Bump the bottom, probing for any cover where bass will be hiding.  Current running across this point makes it much better.

    3.  N 32 58.220 – W 85 59.331 – Run down the river and watch for the opening to a slough on your right.  It is near the end of a gently bend of the river to the left and is just downstream of a brown roof dock with a big wind chime on it.  The house behind it also has a brown roof with a white chimney. There was a “for sale” sign in the yard in early November.

    Keep your boat out in the river and fish the downstream point of this slough. The river channel runs right up to the mouth of the slough.  There was a stump sticking up out on the point and there is a hump in the middle of the slough. 

    Run a crankbait across the shallows, casting from the river channel and working your bait from shallow to deep. Bump the bottom as long as you can on each cast.  Make sure you work out from the point to cover the hump, too.

    After trying the crankbait try both a shaky head and tube. Drag them along the bottom, hoping them and then letting them sit still for a few seconds to wave in the current. 

    4.  N 33 57.475 – W 85 58.119 – Head downstream until you can see the upper end of Freeman’ Island, the big island in the middle of the river.  On your right you will see a small island just off the bank and upstream of it a big brown brick and wood house on that side.  The upstream point of the island has chunk rock on it and the flat from the island to the dock and ramp at the house holds feeding bass.

    Start at the island staying on the river side of the island and cast across the upstream point.  Keep working toward the dock, staying way out and making long casts. The flat has stumps on it and bass hold around them. 

    This is a good area to fish a Carolina Rigged worm since the heavy sinker will allow you to fish it quickly and find the stumps.   Your jig had worm and tube will work well, too.  Fish the area carefully, some big bass hold here.

    5.  N 33 56.910 – W 85 57.480 – Downstream of Freeman’s Island on the left going downstream you will see a electric pole on the bank surrounded by a chain link fence. It is not easy to see in the brush but it is the outlet for the Tyson plant wastewater holding pond.  Waste from the chicken processing plant dumps into the river here and it has a colorful local name that recognizes the “stuff” that comes out.

    This outflow draws in big schools of baitfish and big bass feed here.  You will see a path on the bank coming down to the water and out from it a pipe runs out to dump waste. This pipe is covered with riprap and you can see humps of rocks if you ride over it, but be careful if the water is low.

    Keep your boat out from the bank and end of the pipe and make casts to the bank with a crankbait, running it back across the rocks at different angles.  Johnny likes the Academy crankbait since it works well, runs right and is not too expensive.  You will lose crankbaits here on these rocks, but can catch some big stringers of bass.

    There are three different drops along here and bass will hold along any of them.  Johnny says a lot of six to eight pound bass have been caught here and many tournaments won on this spot so don’t pass it by.

    6.  N 33 57.037 – W 86 01.005 – Run a good ways down river past the right turn bend to where the river starts a left turn. On your right a creek enters upstream of the bend and Tommy’ Marina in the back of it.  There are some danger markers on the upstream side of the opening. 

    The mouth of this creek has several humps and drops across it where the river runs in close and many bass hold here.  Be careful, you can go from 20 feet of water to nothing in a few feet, and not all the humps are marked.

    Work this area with Carolina rig and shaky head and tube. The humps and drops are covered with stumps and chunk rock and you will get hung up a lot. Johnny says a crankbait would work well here but you lose too many to make it worth throwing them.

    Current running across these drops makes a big difference.  The fish will feed when the current is running so position your boat so you can cast upstream and work your bait back with a natural movement with the current.  Work around the area until you find the bass feeding.

    7.  N 33 56.737 – W 86 01.407 – Go around the bend and downstream toward the bridges.  Stop just upstream of the upstream boat shed on your right at Bucks Marina and work upstream.  There is a house here with satellite dish in the yard and a boat shed with a pontoon under it with a yellow and white cover.

    Fish all along this bank, working the cover and cuts along the bank, staying out in 20 feet of water or so.  Use your shaky head, tube and Carolina rig.  There is a good bit of wood cover on the bottom here so probe for it. 

    The channel makes a good ledge along this bank and bass hold on the lip of it and run in to feed.  It was along this bank where Stacey King got 2nd place in a PAA tournament and where Johnny’s fishing partner, Gary Howington caught a huge seven pound, six ounce spotted bass.

    Work the bank and all cover from the boathouse all the way upstream to gray and white dock with a boat with a Mercury motor on it. Just downstream of this dock is a ridge or hump and this is where Stacey King caught his fish.

    8. N 33 56.499 – W 86 01.610 – Go to the upper bridge of the Highway 77 crossing and stop out from the riprap on the left side going downstream. Johnny says this is a great place to find bass pushing shad into the corner and feeding, especially in the morning.

    Throw a spinnerbait, starting on the end of the riprap and working it into the grassy pocket and fishing upstream about 50 feet. Work it at different speeds as much as you can in the shallow water. Watch for fish busting bait on top.  Current makes this spot much better.

    This pocket and pattern gave Johnny the bass he needed to win the two day BFL finale last year on Neely Henry. He said he was surprised to get here each morning and find it open, with no boats ahead of him stopping here.

    Work the upstream pocket then go around the point and fish the downstream pocket, too. Sometimes the current will make the bass go into this pocket and eat the baitfish here.

    Johnny will fish down to the second bridge, the bigger one, and work around the second piling from the left bank going downstream. There is a big rock pile around this piling and it is a good place to throw a jig head worm or a tube and catch spotted bass.

    9.  N 33 56.051 – W 86 02.322 – Go downstream to the first small island on the right bank downstream of Rainbow Landing. It is several hundred yards down that bank. Start at the small pocket just upstream of the island and fish upstream all the way to the ramp.

    Some bass released in tournaments at Rainbow Landing stay here and feed along this bank. You can fish it in either direction but current usually makes boat control better going upstream, and current helps the fishing. 

    Fish all the shoreline cover including docks, wood and rocks along this bank. It is shallow and your boat will be in only a few feet of water, but you can often catch a lot of bass here.  There are several private boat ramps along here and Johnny says you should never pass a boat ramp on Neely Henry without casting to it.

    We got our best two bass on our trip here, a 3 pound spot and a 3.5 pound largemouth. Both hit a jig head worm. Fish topwater baits along this bank and also work it with a crankbait, tube or jighead worm along this bank and work it carefully.  If you are catching fish it is worth more than one pass.

    10.  N 33 55.283 – W 86 03.615 – Past the small island in the hole above the river channel moves to the left bank then makes a swing back to the right bank below a big flat.  Near where it swings back to the right bank there is a small marina with boat sheds. Start fishing just upstream of the boat sheds and fish upstream.

    There are a series of small points and three riprap areas along this bank to hit as you go upstream.  Work the riprap and points with your tube and jig head if there is not much current and throw a spinnerbait and crankbait when the current is strong.  Watch for any wood cover along this bank and fish it carefully. 

    Johnny says big spots often get on these riprap banks and you can catch a big stringer quickly when you hit the right spot.  Fish all the way upstream to the brick house on the upstream side of the third patch of riprap.

    These places will give you a good idea of the kind of places Johnny catches bass on Neely Henry this time of year. Give them a try then find similar places on the lake that will hold fish, too.

    You can contact Johnny at 256-492-1162.

Removing Billfish from the Water: Don’t Do It!

Don’t do this!
Don’t Remove Billfish from the Water

Anglers love hero shots with their fish, especially if it’s their first one. Of all the billfish species, sailfish lend themselves particularly well to this type of photo, since they’re usually small enough to lift up, have particularly gorgeous colors and that massive sail to hold out like a giant flag.

But don’t do it! Removing any billfish species from the water, even for a few moments for a photo, is illegal, both in Costa Rica and the United States. Studies have shown that by scraping the fish over the gunwale of the boat, we are actually harming internal organs and removing the fish’s protective slime layer that acts as a barrier coat against harmful diseases, parasites and infections. Even though you intend to release the fish, by removing it from the water you may have just signed its death warrant instead.

Here are a few things you can do to still get a great photo of your catch. First, be ready with the camera. Few things are more frustrating for your captain or mate than having the fish ready at boatside while someone fumbles for a camera deep inside a duffle bag or backpack. Be ready! Take a few shots during the fight, with the angler grinning from ear to ear.

Once the fish is ready for release and the leader has been cut, the angler can don a pair of gloves, lean over the side and hold the fish by the bill and the sail as it’s revived alongside the boat. The cameraperson should lean out over the side and shoot back toward the angler and the fish. After a few moments, the fish is ready for a healthy release.

Another option: the extended selfie stick and GoPro. Many crews are now using this setup to shoot wide-angle shots back at the boat and anglers. It’s simply a GoPro set on camera mode to shoot every second or so after the shutter is activated. It’s mounted to a long pole that’s held out away from the boat, and the images it reveals are usually very memorable.

Video is a third way to remember the fight. Using that same GoPro, mount it to either a fixed mount on the boat or just hold it in your hand to capture a full video of the fight and the release. All smartphones have a video capability these days as well.So really, the need to remove a marlin or sailfish from the water just isn’t there. Be smart, keep them in the water where they belong.

Courtesy The Presidential Flamingo Fishing Rodeo, Joan Vernon: www.preschallenge.com

Where and How to Catch September Neely Henry Bass

September Bass at Neely Henry

with Dustin King

    September finally offers bass fishermen some hope that things are getting better.  The first of the month it is still uncomfortably hot during the day and bass are still on their summer patterns, but slowly things get better.  Days get shorter and cooler, water temperatures start to drop and bass get more active.  If you want to take advantage of these changes head to Neely Henry.

    Neely Henry is a river lake on the Coosa River at Gadsden.  It has lots of big largemouth and Coosa spots to catch, and they get more active in September.  The grassbeds that line much of the shallows become more attractive to bass and the shallow ledges see more feeding activity.  You can find just about any kind of fishing you want on Neely Henry this month.

    Dustin King grew up on the lake and still lives in a house on its shoreline.  He guides on Neely Henry and fishes most tournaments on it. After fishing with a local club for a couple of years Dustin now fishes some of the trail tournaments like the BASS Weekend Series, BFL and Coosa River Team Trail.  He has a 5.5 pound spot and a 6.5 pound largemouth from Neely.

    Even at his young age Dustin has done well enough to have a good many sponsors, including Go2Bait plastics, Lews Reels, Greg’s Custom Rods, Rock Hard Tackle jigs, Tackle Doctor spinnerbaits and Topwater Clothing.

    “In late August bass are still suspending off river and creek ledges and running in to feed for short periods of time,” Dustin said.  If you hit the right ledge at the right time you can catch some good fish fast, but feeding often does not last long. You have to be there when they feed.

    “Later in the month, bass move toward shoreline grassbeds and tend to hold a little more shallow,” Dustin told me. Both spots and largemouth tend to be a little easier to catch when holding out from the bank and they feed more around the grass beds and for longer times on the deeper holding areas.

    A variety of baits are always rigged and ready for September fishing in Dustin’s Skeeter.  He will have a Tackle Doctor spinnerbait, a big deep running crankbait, a Rock Hard Shaky Head, and a Carolina rig ready. A topwater bait like a Spook or Pop-R and a rattle bait like a Rat-L-Trap is also handy for throwing as schooling fish that often come up during this month.

    In early August Dustin had a guide trip and let me ride along to get information.  We fished the following spots that will still be holding bass most of September and looked at some places that will get better later in the month. Dustin landed a big largemouth off one, probably his biggest largemouth from Neely.

    The following spots will show you the kinds of places Dustin catches bass in September.  Try his tactics and baits on them.

    1.  N 33 55.743 – W 86 02.674 – If you put in at Rainbow Ramp you will be fairly close to all these spots. Head down the river and watch for three small islands right on the right bank. Downstream of them a little way is a yellow boathouse.  Straight out in front of it in the middle of the lake on the river ledge Dustin has some brush piles and rocks on the right ledge.  You will be about even with a big open hillside on the other bank where there are no trees and the grass is short.

    You can idle around to find the brush. It is where the river channel makes a slight turn. When you find it back off and sit in about 12 feet of water and cast toward the yellow boat house.  The brush runs for about 75 yards upstream and you want to fish it all with a Carolina rigged worm.  Dustin will try different sizes, from the Go2 finesse worm to their 14 inch curly tail worm.

    Bass have been on this spot all summer and will feed most of September here.  Fish the whole area carefully, trying to hit all the rocks and brush on the ledge.

    2.  N 33 55.412 – W 86 03.467 – Further downstream on the right Lakeshore Drive runs right along the river bank.  There is riprap lining the water’s edge. Dustin starts at the first dock past a stretch of bare bank and fishes downstream. Bass feed here early in the morning the first of September and feed longer as the water cools.

    Fish a buzzbait or topwater plug along this bank, throwing right on the bank and working out.  Also fish a jig head worm like the RockHard quarter ounce green pumpkin head with a Go2 Swim Craw on it.  Bass feed on crayfish along these rocks and the swim craw imitates them.

    Fish down this bank past two or three docks. If you catch fish keep working this bank, it often loads up with bass.  Dustin will often make a pass with a topwater bait then go back over it with the jig head if he catches anything.  If two of you are fishing, you should try the different baits to see what they want.

    3. N 33 53.508 – W 86 04.278 – Run downstream around the bend to the left and watch on your right for a dirt road entering the water between two docks. It is across from a big slough on the left bank and the upstream dock is an open wood dock with a gray roof. The downstream dock is a brown platform with no roof.

    The roadbed entering marks an old ferry crossing and there is a lot of gravel on the bank around it. Bass move into shallow water here to feed later in September and you can catch a lot of fish as they eat shad.  The top of the old road is about nine feet deep a long cast off the bank.

    Work all the area between the two docks with a shad imitating plug like a Rat-L-Trap, making long cast to the bank and fishing it back out.  Dustin says you could sit here all day and catch bass when they move into the area to feed. Shad are the key, if you see shad the bass will be there.

    4.  N 33 52.290 – W 86 04.055 – A little further downstream the river makes a sharp turn to the mouth of Big Canoe Creek.  On the right just before the mouth of the creek a smaller creek enters and there is an island on right on the upstream point of this creek.  Grass is all around it and a point comes off it toward the creek channel.

     You can catch fish around the grass early in the morning on topwater and spinnerbaits but Dustin concentrates on the point, working a big crankbait and a shaky head across it. He usually sits on the downstream side of the point and casts back across it, working from the shallows out to the creek channel.

    When throwing a big crankbait Dustin tries to hit the bottom then slows down, keeping it bumping along. That seems to attract the fish. Also try a topwater across the top of the point.  Watch for schooling fish here, they often come up and you should be ready to throw to them.

    5.  N 33 51.606 – W 86 05.515 – Up Big Canoe Creek Perimeter Creek enters on the left.  You can see a bridge not far back in the creek and a long point runs off the upstream side of it, between it and Big Canoe Creek.  In the middle of the mouth of Perimeter Creek, about even with the end of the upstream point and a gray roof boat house on the other side, the creek channel makes a bend.

    Dustin sits on the downstream side of the creek ledge in the channel and casts a big crankbait, Carolina rig or shaky head. Sit in about 14 feet of water and you will be casting up into about eight feet of water.  There are stumps and shellbeds on the creek ledge and bass hold here all month long.

    Dustin caught a bass here that would push seven pounds on a big deep running crankbait in the middle of the morning.  He was bumping the bottom when it hit on the edge of the ledge.  He got hung up several times on the stumps here but managed to get his bait back each time. It is worth the chance of losing a plug to catch the bass that hold here.

    6. N 33 51.725 – W 85 05.570 – The long point on the upstream side of Perimeter Creek runs way out and holds bass.  The Big Canoe channel runs in and parallels the point on the upstream side.  There are lots of stumps on it.

    Go way out to the end of the point where it is about six feet deep and throw a topwater bait across it.  You will be fishing water less than six feet deep and bass often run in here to feed.  After working the area with topwater go upstream until you drop off into the channel, then turn toward the bank.

    Sit in the channel and work a Carolina rig or shaky head, throwing up on top of the point and fishing back down the drop.  This is really just a very shallow creek ledge and bass feed on top and hold on the drop into the channel.

    7.  N 33 53.530 – 86 05.615 – Run up Big Canoe Creek past the last big slough on your right and watch for a grassbed in the middle of the creek channel. Be careful here, the channel is about 14 feet deep but the edges are very shallow, as the grass bed shows. The channel runs right along the outside of the grassbed.

    Fish the channel side of the grassbed early with topwater like a buzzbait or spinnerbait then fish a shaky head worm along it.  Throw the shaky head right to the edge of the grass and move it very slowly to follow the steep drop. Fish it down to the bottom then make another pitch to the edge of the grass.

    Bass were feeding on shad here when we fished and Dustin and his client caught several spots and white bass.  They often school up here and this spot can be good all day long. Watch for dimpling shad or swirls and cast to them.

    8.  N 33 50.592 – W 86 34.335 – Greensport Marina is on the right side going into the mouth of Beaver Creek.  An old roadbed comes out just downstream of the marina and runs out to the river channel where another road hits it.  Bass stack up on this roadbed in September and it is an excellent place to catch them. They are moving up into more shallow water and toward the grassbeds around the marina.

    Sit on the downstream side of the roadbed and cast up across it with a Carolina rig and shaky head. Your boat will be in about nine feet of water and the roadbed tops out about six feet deep.

    Current on this spot and all others is very important.  When power is being generated at the dam current flows across points, roadbeds and ledges and moves baitfish.  Bass move to feed on these easy meals so cast upstream and fish your baits with the current like the baitfish move.

    You can get a generation schedule for Neely Henry by calling 1-800-LAKES11. Soon after they start generating with one or two units current starts moving across structure and turns on the bass.

    9.  N 33 49.103 – W 86 03.136 – Ottery Creek enters the lake on the left further downstream. The upstream point between the creek and river runs way out and is very narrow. Go into the mouth of the creek and past that point until you see a dip in it.  There is a long point coming off it at right angles running out to the channel.  It is out from a chain link fence along the bank, just upstream from where the seawall changes from wood to riprap. 

    This point is loaded with stumps so fish it with a Carolina rig and jig head. A crankbait will catch fish but Dustin says you will lose a lot of them to the stumps.  Sit out in 15 feet of water and cast toward the bank in five to six feet of water.  Follow the contour break around the point.

    10.  N 33 48.934 – W 85.04.051 – On the right further downstream Shoal Creek enters the lake. Right in the mouth of it a roadbed runs all the way across the mouth, out to the creek channel where an old bridge is blown out then to the far bank. You can see where it enters on the right going in at small dock.

    Start well off the bank, keeping your boat on the downstream side of the roadbed in about 14 feet of water to start. Cast up and across it with a crankbait, Carolina rig or jig head.  Dustin caught a good two pound plus largemouth here the day we fished on a crankbait.

    Fish all the way across to the channel and the other side, too. Dustin says you can sit here all day and catch fish when they run in to feed.  If you catch a bass cast back to the same area as quickly as possible since they often don’t stay up on it long.

    Wind blowing across this roadbed and other spots helps like current does. Baitfish will move with the wind so take advantage of it. Current generated at the dam pulls water out of the creek, making it even better.

    All these spots will hold bass in late August and September, with some of them getting better as the month progresses.  Try them and see the types of places Dustin looks for and you can find others all over the lake.

    To see how Dustin fishes these places in person, call him for a guide trip at 256-504-6659 or visit his web site at http://www.dustinkingfishing.com/

Where and How to Catch June Neely Henry Bass

June Bass at Neely Henry

with Karen Rae Elkins

    There is something special about Coosa River lakes in June.  The bass, both spots and largemouth, are stacking up in predictable places and feeding.  Neely Henry is one of the best on the chain for a trip this month.

    The Alabama DNR calls Neely Henry one of the best-kept fishing secrets in Alabama.” Running 77 miles from its dam to the Weiss Dam, it covers 11,235 acres that vary from a river run on its upper end to shallow flats and creeks on the lower end.

    Built in the late 1950s, many of the creeks and ditches are silted in and the shallows are full of grass. It can be a dangerous lake to run since there are few markers and many creeks have stump fields and shallows that will eat lower units.  Be very careful when running this lake.

    Largemouth are in the lake in good numbers in the 15 to 18 inch range according to the Alabama DNR. The DNR also calls the spot population “exceptional” for large fish and the numbers of spots in the 14 to 20 inch range is one of the best in the state.

    Karen Rae Elkins was born in Huntsville but moved closer to Neely Henry Lake when ten years old.  She grew up fishing and loves it. The farm she lived on had five ponds and she would fish for anything that would bite, but one day she got her fathers’ bass fishing equipment, caught some bass and was hooked herself.

    Her father owned The Fishing Hole bait and tackle store in Anniston so she was exposed to a lot of fishing talk. When her father retired he asked her to fish tournaments with him and they competed on the Guys and Dolls and Cartersville Couples Trails, as well as in many local tournaments.

    When the Women’s Bass Tour was started Karen saw how many lakes in her area were on the schedule so she signed up.  She really likes the camaraderie and fun from this trail and says it has made her a better fisherman.  

    This spring Karen agreed to run the Team Trails tournament trail on the Coosa River and is also starting a Youth Tournament Trail in this organization. She fishes the tournaments as well as running them.

    Karen’s best five fish limit came a few years ago on Neely Henry when she brought in 18.18 pounds. And she won a tournament on April 4 this year with five weighing 14.4 there. She likes fishing and likes competition so tournaments are a good fit for her.

    Sponsors mean Karen is able to fish more than she would be able to without them and her sponsors include: Mojo Weights, Reel Grip, Bo’s Jigs, Team Trail Tournaments and JJs Magic.  She also supports the Magic Foundation and Second Chance, to organizations that are very important to her.

    “The bass are feeding in the grass in June and are fun to catch,” Karen told me.  The spawn is over and the bass are hungry.  She likes to start out shallow in the mornings catching these bass, then moves to points, humps and ledges later in they day when water is moving.  And a third good pattern is fishing docks.

    For fishing the grass Karen likes the Mojo rig and says it gives her a slight edge over the more common Texas or Carolina rigs most fishermen use. The Mojo rig gives the bait a little different look.  It is a thin cylindrical weight with a rubber band you insert so you can “peg” it on your line.

    “Start with your weight six inches from the        bait then move it closer if you aren’t getting bites” Karen said. A variety of plastics will work in June and she tries different ones until the fish tell her what she wants.  A Sweet Beaver is always a good choice but she also catches bass on Zoom Finesse Worms and Brush Hogs and Strike King Lizards.

    A few basic colors work well on Neely Henry. Watermelon Red, Junebug and Green Pumpkin are all standard colors.  And Karen always dips her baits in JJ’s Magic, saying that attracts the bass and makes them hold the bait longer.  She will often dip the tails in either red or chartreuse but if she does not want this flicker of color she uses the clear to add scent.

    Around docks Karen flips a Bo’s Jig and really likes the color named for her. The “Karen’s Jig” color has green pumpkin, black and root beer strands in it.  She tips it with a Sweet Beaver or a Zoom Chunk and works the jig under the docks, around all pilings and in any brush around the docks. This works well when the sun is bright.

    If current is moving bass will stack up on points, humps and ledges to feed. Karen likes a crankbait that runs seven to ten feet deep for fishing those areas and her favorites include Lucky Craft CB Square and Jackall Muscle baits.

    Karen showed me around Neely Henry a few weeks ago and the bass were just starting to move onto their June holes.  We put in down the lake and fished early, then took out and went up to Gadsden and fished the river some.  The lake is varied and the patterns can differ.

    The following spots all hold bass this month:

    1.  N 33 53.547 – W 86 06.603 – Back in Canoe Creek just downstream of Canoe Creek Marina you will see some brush tops out in the middle. This brush is on a hump where the channel swings across the creek and grass grows on it in June, too. It is a good place to find bass, especially if there is any current moving down the creek.

    Going up the creek watch for a nice house on your right with a gray dock with a “For Sale” sign on it. Stay on that side of the creek since the shallow hump is out in the middle. When you get near the gray dock look to your left and you should see the brush on the hump. If you get to the marina you have gone too far.

    Karen will start on the channel side and fish all around the hump, pitching her Mojo rigged Sweet Beaver of Brush Hog into holes in the grass and moving it through the thinner areas of grass.  For some reason Junebug with a chartreuse tail seems to work especially well here.

    Drag your bait through the grass and work it slowly and carefully. Be ready to set the hook when you feel any weight or your line moves at all. If there is current try to throw your bait so you work it with the current in a natural movement.

    2. N 33 51.375 – W 86 03.217 – Running down the main river from Canoe Creek you will see the opening to Greens Creek on your left.  Off the upstream point are two small islands.  Idle in to the point but do not go between the islands. There are lots of snags here. 

    When you get to the point you will see an older dock to the left of two cement boat ramps that are side by side. Start at that dock and work around the point, fishing around to the inside of the point.  Fish the grass here with a Mojo rig, work a crankbait over the shallows and pitch a jig and pig to the docks.

    The jig and pig is especially effective if the water is clear and the sun is bright, driving the bass to the shade.  Fish all the cover carefully. Karen says she has caught several five-pound-plus bass on this point.

    3. N 33 50.619 – W 86 04.472 – Beaver Creek is a good big-bass creek and Karen has several types of cover and structure she fishes in it.  As you go into the mouth you will see Greenport Marina on your right.  There is a seawall in front of the store and storage area then a long point runs upstream. There are picnic tables on the point. Off the end of this point is a hump or island, depending on the water level. When we were there it was slightly under water.

    Start near the store and fish the seawall toward the point.  Fish the Mojo rig and crankbaits along here. This is the only place Karen will rig an Old Monster worm on her Mojo rig. The extra big worm attracts quality bites on this spot.  Work from right on the seawall out to several feet deep. There are patches of grass to fish and some other cover.

    When you get out near the end of the point fish the hump and around it into the cove behind it.  Work the whole area carefully but Karen says the best area is the seawall at the store, so pay extra attention to any cover here.

    4.  N 33 50.175 – W 86 05.807 – You can run into Beaver Creek on plane until you see the silo ahead on your right. Stay to the left side going in.  When the silo comes into view it is a good idea to slow down and idle the rest of the way due to stumps and shallows. 

    When you get back about even with the silo on your right you will see a grass point on your left.  There are cattails, rocks, grass and stumps starting at this point working upstream and the channel swings on this side making it even better.  Shallow grass near deeper water is usually better, but keep in mind deeper water here might mean seven feet deep.

    Fish along the left bank working your Mojo rig through the grass.  Try to hit any stumps you can see and also probe for hidden stumps with your weight.  Fish on up this bank and there will be a grass island on your right and some big rocks on your left. There is a spring in the rocks that keeps the water cooler and moving some here.  Fish around the rocks and the island, too. This is one of Karen’s best tournament holes.

    5.  N 33 50.054 – W 86 06.448 – Idle on back into the creek until it narrows down. The bottom back here is sandy and there is lots of grass and stumps to fish. And overhanging trees in some areas provide shade. Work all the cover in the water, including the fence rows running off the bank, with a Mojo Rig and a crankbait. 

    Fish slowly and carefully. Some big bass hold up back here in June.  When you catch one bass work the area hitting every bit of cover, there is often more than one in a spot.  You should go as far back as you can get your boat if you are catching fish.

    Karen says two or three kinds of cover together makes for a hot spot to catch a bass. Look for wood in the grass, combining two kinds of cover.  If there are also rocks or a drop it makes it even better. Fish any combinations of cover carefully.

    6.  N 33 44.973 – W 86 03.559 – Run downstream and watch for a big round point on your right. On the upstream side is a boat ramp and there is a dock on the downstream side. The house has a “For Sale” sign. 

    This point has deep water just off it where the old channel swings by but it comes up quickly with a shallow ledge on the downstream side.   Current coming down the river hits this point and moves across it, creating an eddy on the downstream side.     Fish a deep diving crankbait here, casting up near the bank and working it across the shallow water, making it dig bottom, and then over the drop into deeper water. Fish with the current, moving water makes the fish bite much better here and other spots. Fish all around this point, covering both the upstream and downstream sides.

    7.  N 33 48.742 – W 86 04.032 – At the mouth of Shoal Creek the downstream point is good and all three kinds of cover you want to fish is one it. Current hits this point, too, and there is deep water just off shallow water. There is a wood house with a tin roof and three dormers on it.  AS you go into the cove on the upstream side there is a gray boathouse with turquoise doors on it.

    Start at the dock and flip a jig to it, especially if it is sunny.  Work a crankbait all around the point and the upstream cove. Then fish a Mojo rig in the grass.  Work each as you come to them to cover the area completely.

    Current hitting this area makes it better but wind blowing in helps, too. Wind will create a chop on the water, breaking up the light and making it more likely a bass will hit an artificial bait, and it also moves water, creating a current. Wind is your friend as long as it is not too strong to control your boat.

    8.  N 33 48.634 – W 86 03.764 – Across the river is a big bluff rock wall and a small rock island off it.  The bluff wall is on the upstream side of the opening to a big cove and the water is very deep off it.  Three was an old trotline hanging on the rocks with some dried fish on it the day we fished. It looked like some kind of voodoo charm!  This is a great spotted bass hole and Karen works all around it.

    This is a good spot to rig a Finesse worm on your Mojo Rig and throw it right on the bank.  Move it slowly and let if fall down the face of the rocks. Don’t move it much or it will fall too far, dropping past fish too quickly.

    There is a stump row on the downstream side of this point, too, another combination of types of cover. Fish them with the Mojo Rig but also flip a jig and pig right against the rocks and work it out, trying to hit stump.

    9.  N 33 48.891 – W 86 05.325 – Run back into Shoal Creek and watch on your left for a yellow house with a brown roof and a boathouse with two doors in front of it.  All the way across the creek is a big flat and hump with stumps on it. On the bank on that side you will see a mobile home on the bank. Idle straight toward the mobile home and watch your depthfinder.

    You will be in about 10 feet of water on the flat then it will come up to about five feet deep. You will still be a long way off the bank, in front and upstream of a red door dock in front of the trailer.  There is a stump rod on this shallow hump and a small ditch runs out near it.

    Karen will work back and forth along this drop fishing crankbaits and a Mojo Rig. She will work it a long time because she says you never know when bass will move up on this spot and feed. And it constantly replenishes itself from the deeper water nearby.

    10. N 34 00.816 – W 85 57.072 – It is a long run upstream of the bridges in Gadsden so it is a good idea to trailer up here if you can. Going upstream from Gadsden watch for a rock bluff wall on your left just as you see the trailers at Tillison Bend Park. You will be upstream and the same side of the mouth of a fairly big creek that has a blowdown across it.

    Start at the beginning of the rock wall and fish it all the way past the first three docks, a very long way upstream. Karen says it takes a long time to work this spot correctly and you can spend most of a day on it. It is worth it, this is where she caught the 18 pound limit in a June tournament.

    Karen keeps her boat in close to the wall in about 11 to 12 feet of water and makes three casts before moving up the wall. On cast will be in toward the wall as a slight angle with the Mojo Rig. She then makes a long cast to the wall ahead of the boat and works it back at an angle to the boat The third cast will be straight ahead of the boat and is worked back to the boat.

    Fishing like this covers all the water from the face of the wall out to 12 feet deep or so. To do it right can take hours working along here. When she gets to the docks Karen fishes a jig and pig around them.  Current always makes this spot better. Karen says she does not even fish it if the water is not moving.

    11. N 34 01.170 – W 85 58.766 – Run back downstream and you will see a golf course on your left and more holes across the river on your right.  You are close enough to see the sharp bend back to your left going to the bridges and the water station in the bend.

    Watch for a creek opening on your right that goes back to the golf course. You will see some big PVC pipe going into the water and some smaller pipe running out above the water and dropping down on the river side. As you idle into the creek there is another set of pipes and they are for the pump house you see on the bank that waters the golf course.

    When you get back a ways from the river the creek splits and straight ahead it will go around and under a wooden golf cart bridge.  Go back to the bridge area and fish all the grass and stumps in the back of this creek. Karen will pitch a jig to wood cover in the grass and also run a shallow diving crankbait over the grass that is under the water.

    Another trick Karen uses in this and similar spots is to Mojo Rig a big lizard like the Zoom Magmum or the Strike King 3X lizard. These big baits draw strikes from big bass. Work them through the grass back in this creek in June.

    12. N 33 59.205 – W 85 59.855 – Run downstream past the bridges and watch for a big three story yellow house with white roof and trim on your right. The house sits on the beginning of the upstream point of Big Willis Creek on that side and looks like it is in a park.

    Across the river from the house is a small ditch that is not real noticeable as you run by. You will see the bank flatten out and go back a little. This old ditch has filled in but it creates a shelf in front of it that holds good fish.

    Keep your boat out from the bank and cast a crankbait to the bank. Dig the bottom coming out the shelf to the edge of the drop. This is a good spot that does not get a lot of pressure since it is not real noticeable.

    13. N 33 58.493 – W 85 59.664 – Run down the river past the old closed park on your left and watch for a small creek opening on that side. There are to white PVC poles on either side of the opening and a pasture or field on the downstream side of it. The poles mark two big stumps.

    Karen fishes the mouth of this creek and works the stumps with her baits. She fishes on down the bank a hundred feet or so, fishing the grass and wood cover. Bass often stack up here and current helps.

    Also work into the small creek. There are stumps, fence rows and grass beds to fish in it.

    14.  N 33 57.190 – W 85 57.768 – Run down the river until you see a long narrow island well off the left bank. This small island sits in front of a river ledge with trees on it that separates the river from a big slough behind it.  There are houses and docks in the slough and a bunch of wood duck nests, especially on the downstream end around the docks there.

    There is a small opening on the upstream end of this slough and Karen often starts there in the morning, fishing into the shallows, working grass and stumps. When you get to the other end where it opens back up there are two PVC poles, one with green paint on one side, that mark the channel going it.

    Karen will fish the edges of this cut and the area around it, probing for stumps and trash. She will also work up the river side of the ledge, it drops off pretty quickly and is hard clay. Bass hold all along it.

    These 14 spots offer a wide variety of kinds of places to fish, with some on the main lake and more up the river. There are many more similar spots. Check these out to see Karen’s patterns then explore to find more, just be careful.

    Karen guides on Neely Henry and you can contact her to get her to show you first hand how she fishes here.  Call her at 256-454-3804 or her web site at www.karenslake.com. You can also get information about her Team Trails tournaments.

How Deep is Too Deep for Walleye Release?

Deep Walleye
How deep can you catch a walleye and release it?
By Northland Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

Walleyes spend the better part of their summer season in deep water.  Provided there’s enough oxygen at depth, they happily enjoy cooler water temperatures and the bevy of bugs and other bait that congregate on deep structure.  Older fish in certain lakes, learn to key in on larger bait stock. 

That could mean ciscoes and whitefish, or suckers and even bullheads or rough fish depending on where you’re fishing.  That still puts them deep, maybe coming up occasionally to feed before sinking back down.Depth however is a relative term, depending on the lake you’re fishing.  On Minnesota’s Upper Red Lake, 10 feet of water and deeper is considered quite deep. 

The same is true in the prairie pothole region where there’s plenty of great little walleye holes that never make even 20 feet.  Then again, there’s great walleye lakes like Vermillion, where walleyes can be found in excess of 50 feet of water.  Of course, your favorite walleye lake may be at either end, or anywhere in between.

While the depth of walleyes may be relative to the system in which they live, their ability to survive summer capture at those various depths is not.  Most fish caught in 30+ feet of water will likely die as the result if water temps are at their peak. 

Brandon Eder, Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor for the MN DNR’s Waterville Office confirmed this in a recent conversation while adding, “No matter how slowly you reel in fish from that depth, there’s still likely going to be some trauma.

” Throughout the walleye-belt then, there’s plenty of catch and release fishing that might as well be catch and kill.  Not that there’s anything wrong with eating a walleye either.  I love ‘em, and prepare them a bunch of different ways.  However, there are plenty of lakes that mandate release of walleyes a certain size, and anglers should know some ins and outs of how depth can affect the release of walleyes during the summer. 

Eder suggests, “Be prepared to keep your first 6 fish regardless of size (depending on the regs) and then quit or go shallow.

”There’s a pile of factors that influence walleye mortality, with depth of capture being only one of them.  Hooking method, or how deeply into its mouth a walleye eats the bait is a big influence, as is the use of live bait vs. artificial baits, but those are often related.  Water temperature is another factor, and warmer temps see fish that simply don’t release as well and survive.  It’s why catch and release walleye tournaments aren’t held as often in the deep summer, and why you should consider eating the fish you catch when water temps are the hottest of the year. 

Extended or prolonged handling of a fish outside of the water is yet another factor that affects mortality.

Many of those factors an angler can directly influence, especially in the summer as you can’t control the water temp.  Without switching away from live-bait, circle hooks vs “J”-hooks, and pinching down all barbs, what’s a catch and release angler to do?  The answer is to change the depth at which you’re fishing, and to know what depths are likely lethal, and which are not.

Barotrauma is a big word with a relatively simple meaning, especially as it pertains to walleyes caught at depth.  It affects all living things, but with walleyes swimming rapidly from deep water, it refers to physical injuries caused by water pressure.  Quick ascent means a swelling air bladder, which can push their stomachs out, bulge their eyes, and ultimately cause deadly injury.  Releasing those fish at the surface, in extremely warm water may make the angler feel good as they swim away, but may not lead to survival.

One solution to the problem of fish barotrauma has been “fizzing” – the act of releasing that pressure with an accurately placed hypodermic needle into the swim bladder of the fish.  Of course, “accurately” is the key, as stabbing a fish with a needle indiscriminately, can further exacerbate the problem. 

Eder says, “I don’t like the idea of anglers running around poking walleye with needles.  It’s hard to get the right spot in perfect conditions and even tougher in rain, wind, or after dark.”Another solution in the form of re-compression devices may pose some freshwater promise, as they have gained greater acceptance in coastal areas.  These tools can simply be an inverted barbless hook secured to a line with a weight that takes the fish to bottom and releases it with a sharp snap of the line, or a jaw clamp that releases similarly.  The general idea of both being that the fish quickly gets back down to a depth that allows air bladder pressures to recede, and ultimately supports its survival. 

For rockfish specifically, studies have shown 80%+ survival rates.  While I’m not aware of any similar research on walleyes, the decompression devices show greater efficacy overall.

Of course, you could always just limit your fishing north of 30 feet, or make sure that you are legally able to take and eat fish of any size for the lake that you’re fishing.  If a limit is what you’re after in those depths, stop fishing once you’ve hit it.  Eder also mentions, “If you are on fish over 20″ you should leave so you don’t kill more than your 1 over 20″.” 

All of which means that if you’re putting the hurt on big fish deep, consider switching tactics, locations, and potentially lakes.  Focus early and late when fish are more active shallow.  Break out some slip-bobbers and camp out on a rock pile, or drag some spinners or rigs along a weedline.

There’s lots of ways to get your ‘eyes, but this summer when temperatures climb, do your best to respect the resource by going easy on those deep fish.

Growing Up On A Farm

 Linda sometimes looks at me funny when I scrape every bit of food out of a can or gnaw every scrap of meat from a bone.  I grew up on a farm and my parents had lived through the Great Depression, so I was trained to never waste a morsel of food.   

There is an old saying that farmers used every bit of a pig except the squeal.  We may not have been that careful, but we were close.    When daddy and I shot doves or quail, we cleaned them and even kept the tiny gizzards, livers and hearts for giblet gravy.  We could not imagine popping the breast out and throwing away the legs and wings like is common now, they had meat on them! Squirrel hearts and livers were also kept for the same thing.   

We had 11,000 laying hens and sold eggs to local stores for resale.  But at the farm, we also sold directly to folks living near us.  They could buy cartons of eggs just like they got in the stores, but at a slightly reduced price.  Eggs were “candled,” running them over a light to look for cracks and blood spots.  Only perfect ones went into cartons.  

But for the frugal, we sold cracked eggs by the flat, two- and one-half dozen, 30 eggs, to each flat.  Flats were 35 cents each or three for a dollar, great for cooks making lots of cakes.  And we used the left-over cracked eggs, the ones not sold, at home. The only ones thrown away were the ones with blood spots.   

When hens “laid out,” reaching the end of their useful time, we sold them straight from the chicken house.  People would come from miles away to buy them, they were very cheap. 

And each time we cleaned out a house my family killed, cleaned and froze about 50 to last the few months until the next time a house ended its egg laying cycle.   

I will never forget the hens flopping around, bleeding out after I chopped off their heads with my hatchet.  After they quit flopping, they were picked up, doused in a big pot of boiling water to loosen the feathers, then plucked clean and gutted, saving the giblets too.   

We had hogs and when they were killed several hams were smoked, salted and hung in a tightly sealed room.  They would last for months although some mold would grow on them. Mama just scraped the mold off and we ate the salty meat.   

One thing we did not keep were the “chitlins.”  I never had them until I was grown, about the same time I realized the word was chitterlings. But most everything else was used. Daddy loved pickled pigs feet, a taste I did not acquire until I got out of college.   

Daddy also likes souse and tripe, two more things I never developed a taste for but were common for breakfast when I was growing up.    We had a huge garden every year and never bought vegetables.  String beans and tomatoes were canned,  and mama put up many jars of tomatoes mixed with okra for soups and stews.   

She also canned peaches, plumbs, pears and blackberries.  Butterbeans, corn, both on the cob and cut, black eyed and field peas were all frozen.    Potatoes and onions were spread on a sheltered concrete floor where they lasted all winter.  

  I guess growing up on a farm taught me to be a survivalist long before it was popular.