January Lake Martin Bass
with Anthony Vintson
Spotted bass holding on deep rocks and brush on main lake points. Largemouth feeding around shoreline wood cover. If you want to have fun catching both on these patterns, head to Lake Martin this month.
Lake Martin on the Tallapoosa River near Alexander City is well known for its numbers of spotted bass, but as the BASS Elite tournament last February showed, there are a good many quality largemouth in the lake, and more big spots than many fishermen realize.
Anthony Vintson lives in Cullman and fishes Martin a lot. After junior college he went in the Army for eight years and bought his first bass boat. He fell in love with tournament fishing and honed his skills on Martin, Smith and other area lakes as well as any station he was on that had a lake nearby.
Anthony is now a junior at Auburn where he is on the bass fishing team. Auburn has produced some great pros that help mentor the team. And the team was fourth in the nation last year and is in the top ten this season.
He fishes as many area tournaments on Martin and Smith as his college schedule allows. This past year he had a limit weighing 15 pounds that included a six-pound largemouth in a local derby on Martin.
“January is a great month to find big schools of spots holding and feeding 20 to 40 feet deep on main lake points,” Anthony said. Rocks and brush piles concentrate them deep. They will move up to feed but most of the time they are stacked up on deep cover.
Anthony goes out after a quick limit of spots in tournaments, hoping to put ten pounds in the boat. He then goes to more shallow wood cover to find a kicker largemouth or two. This plan has helped him do well in many tournaments.
For spots, Anthony will tie on a jerkbait, drop shot, shaky head and jig and pig. When trying for largemouth he likes a shaky head with a Rage Craw on it. Those five baits will work all over the lake and cover the ways he fishes.
We fished the week after Thanksgiving on the second day of a strong cold front. We found many schools of spots and caught a dozen small ones in the five hours we were on the lake, even though the heavy wind made it hard to stay on them. And we got some bites around wood cover, but the wind made it very hard to detect strikes.
Spots hit on all the first nine holes and there are quality fish on them as well as large numbers of smaller ones. Anthony says you often catch several small keeper fish then a two pounder will hit. The smaller fish seem more aggressive. And the largemouth will bite much better under settled weather conditions on places like hole 10.
1. N 32 43.599 – W 85 53.698 – Across from Ridge Marina a narrow point runs upstream from Fishbone Island. Very deep water is all around it, with the river channel on the east side and an old channel on the west. Big rocks and several brush piles are one it, the perfect set-up for spots right now.
On this point and others Anthony will stop well off the point and ease in toward it, casting a jerkbait across the point and on the sides. He keeps two rigged, a shallow Strike King J300 in ghost shad and a J300D in chrome Ayu shad.
He starts by casting the shallow one near the bank, switching to the deeper running one out from the point. Spots will move in shallow to feed, especially early in the morning, and he can quickly cover the point with those two baits for active bass pushing baitfish up on the point.
As he fishes the point Anthony keeps an eye on his electronics, watching for brush and fish. Spots will hold anywhere from 20 to 40 feet deep and will often suspend over brush piles or boulders and will hit a drop shot worm. If they are in the brush or right on the bottom, he will also try a shaky head worm and a jig and pig.
2. N 32 43.296 – W 85 53.634 – Go down the river side of the island to the downstream point where you can see through to the other channel. It runs downstream, and the river runs in right beside it. The big rocks on it above water run on out. There are several brush piles here.
Work around the point with jerkbait. When you see fish or brush, use your drop shot to catch them. Anthony rigs a green pumpkin Strike King Dream Shot worm on a VMC Neko rig hook 12 to 18 inches above a one quarter to three-ounce sinker. The heavier sinker is used when the wind is blowing like it was the day we fished.
Anthony drops his bait right into the fish, jiggling the rod tip to make the worm move. He will ease around the area the fish are in with a slow controlled drag, moving very slowly so his line is still at a sharp downward angle. This moves the bait through the fish until an active one hits.
Cover both sides of the point before leaving. If the wind is blowing down the side of the island or through the gap, try both windward and lee sides. Fish will move from the slight current on the windward side to the calmer lee side following baitfish.
3. N 32 42.846 – W 85 53.596 – Going down the river channel, Chimney Rock, marred by graffiti, is on your right. On the downstream end of the cliff a point covered with big boulders runs downstream, dropping fast on the river side.
There isn’t much brush here, but the fish hold on the big boulders. We saw fish suspended just over them from 20 to 40 feet deep. That is the range Anthony expects the fish to hold when they are not up actively feeding. He will “wander” around with his trolling motor here and the other places until he finds them.
If the fish are close to the rock let your sinker hit it then jiggle your worm. If they are holding well above it stay directly on top of them and watch your drop shot fall, stopping it so the worm is at the depth the fish area holding.
Fish all these places the same. Work around the boulders with jerkbait, then drop a worm to them. Wind blowing on them helps the jerkbait bite a lot, and it can position the deeper fish as it funnels baitfish from the current it produces.
4. N 32 42.193 – W 85 54.527 – Follow the river channel to the mouth of Kowaliga Creek. The last island by the river channel before you can go over and into Kowaliga Creek has a small hump about 100 yards off the end of the island lined up with the sandy beach between two points. It comes up to 15 feet with the water down six feet like it was the day we fished it.
A hump coming up out on the end of a point like this makes it even better. Stay off the hump and cast your deep diving jerkbait all over it. There are logs and brush piles on the hump where they hold. Fish in the cover on it will come up to hit a jerkbait at that depth.
After working around the hump, try a shaky head worm and drop shot on it. You can cast both then get over the brush and fish with your drop shot straight down. Anthony rigs a green pumpkin Strike King Baby Rage Craw on a one quarter ounce jig head and drags it along the bottom with little hops to make the tails wave.
5. N 32 42.318 – W 85 55.082 – Power lines with big airplane warning balls crosses the mouth of Kowaliga Creek. On the left side going into Kowaliga Creek a hump comes up off the point on that side. It is under the gap between the third and fourth balls from the bank.
This hump tops out 20 feet deep with the water down six feet and has brush on it. That is a little deep for a jerkbait but your drop shot works well here and you can catch fish on shaky head and jig, too.
When working a drop shot to fish on the bottom, stay right over them and fish straight down then try a controlled drag. For brush piles start on the sides, especially if you see fish around rather than over the brush. Then work into the brush so if you get hung and disturb the fish you have already fished the outsides of it.
With fish suspended over the brush, play video game fishing, watching your bait as it drops then fishing it in the suspended fish. If you see fish holding way above the brush on these places your jerkbait may get deep enough to attract them.
6. N 32 42.325 – W 85 54.876 – Across the mouth of Kowaliga Creek the second point on your left going back toward the river has danger markers all around it way off the bank. There used to be a long dock running out on this point so even with the water up it is very shallow. We could see the rocks above the water when we were there.
Stop a long cast from the top of the point with your boat in about 20 feet of water and go all the way around it with both shallow and deep jerkbaits. Watch as you go around it, there is a lot of brush and some stumps here.
Try drop shot around the brush under the boat. You can also catch fish here on shaky head and jig, fishing around the point casting from deep to shallow. Move your boat out deeper and watch for brush and fish, and work your jig or shaky head from a few feet deep out to 20 feet deep. Rocks run well out from the top of the point and brush and stumps hold fish shallow enough that you do not want to get right on top of them for the drop shot.
7. N 32 44.320 – W 85 52.760 – The upstream point of Blue Creek is on a peninsular. There is a big rock pile off the bank on it that is marked but the big boulders on it were plainly visible with the water down. Anthony says there is always a lot of bait here, a good sign this time of year, and holds big schools of bass feeding on them.
Fish across the deep side of the rock pile with jerkbaits. Also try drop shot on fish you see off it, and try dragging your shaky head and jig and pig from near the rocks to 20 feet deep. Anthony fishes a green pumpkin half ounce Strike King jig with a matching Rage Craw trailer.
8. N 32 45.291 – W 85 52.850 – Up the river on the river side of the last island before the channel swings left and the lake opens up, a rock pile sits on the end of a ridge coming off the bank. The ridge and rock pile were visible when we fished and there is no danger marker on it.
The river channel swings in right beside the rock pile. Get in close, you will be in 20 feet of water 30 feet off the bank, and fish your jerkbaits along the rocks. Watch for fish and stumps on the bottom. There is not any brush here that we saw or that Anthony knows about, but the rocks and stumps hold fish.
The ends of the rock pile are a good place to work jerkbaits and your jigs. Bigger spots are often attracted to the jig and pig more than to the smaller baits, so try it if your goal is size rather than numbers.
9. N 32 45.615 – W 85 52.692 – Across the narrow gap where the river channel goes left, the upstream point runs downstream with the channel just off it. Inside the point you can see the docks and buildings of Alamisco Camp.
A good brush pile is out on this point and it was loaded with fish when we were there. They really stack up on it when the wind blows through the gap from the north north west, like it was the day we fished.
Fish jerkbaits over the brush first, especially when the wind is blowing. Wind usually makes the jerkbait bite much better. Then follow up with drop shot, shaky head and jig and pig. There are rocks and some brush other than the big pile scattered around this point that do hold fish, but the big one should be your main target.
10. N 32 51.023 – W 85 55.853 – For a change of pace to go after largemouth, Anthony goes up to the Wind Creek area where they are more plentiful. There is a lot of wood cover in this area, both blowdowns and brush piles around docks, that largemouth love.
One of the best is the left bank going in to the docks at Wind Creek State Park. The bank across from the campground is steep and is lined with fallen trees, the ideal kind of place to find them. And tournament released fish constantly restock this area.
Keep your boat in deep water off the end of the trees and cast a jig head worm to the wood. Anthony fishes a quarter ounce jighead with a green pumpkin Rage Craw on it and moves it extremely slowly through the wood.
Although the cover is thick, Anthony uses 12-pound line since it is heavy enough to get the fish out but thin enough to get better feel of light bites. Largemouth don’t seem to be as active as spots in cold water, so you must fish slowly and be ready to set the hook at the lightest indication of a bite.
All these spots are good all this month. Decide if you want to catch a lot of small spots or quality largemouth and spots, and choose your baits and places based on that. Try Anthony’s places and baits then use your favorite baits and find many similar places to fish them.