February Millers Ferry Bass with Billy Black
Spots schooling up on creek and slough mouths withh largemouth moving into shallows to feed. Pre-spawn is a great time to fish Millers Ferry, it is getting started now and is stronger all this month.
Millers Ferry, also known as William B. Dannely Reservoir, is on the Alabama River south of Selma. It is mostly a river run lake with many acres of shallow sloughs, backouts and creeks. The shallows are full of wood and grass cover where largemouth live. Alabama spots prefer to live on or near them main river.
Billy Black lives in Monroeville where he is fire chief. He fished the river for anything that would bite when younger but got into bass fishing in the late 1980s. In 1991 he helped form the Monroeville County Bass Anglers and they fish several tournaments each year on the river.
He fishes the Alabama BASS Federation Tournaments and Fishers of Men trails most years, and has fished the Alabama Bass Trail tournaments as well as area charity and pot tournaments. He knows Millers well.
“In late January both spots and largemouth start getting the urge to spawn,” Billy said. Spots set up on river points at the mouths of sloughs and creeks, staying near current and deeper water. Largemouth move further back into the shallows, feeding around wood and grass cover to get ready for bedding.
Billy is prepared to fish both patterns this time of year. In a tournament he usually tries to catch a limit of spots then go looking for bigger largemouth to cull up. You can catch more spots but the largemouth, although providing fewer bites, will be bigger.
“The problem with Millers, like other river lakes, is rain upstream can blow them out and mess up fishing for a few days,” Billy said. That has been a problem since December, when heavy rains made the river rise and get muddy repeatedly.
For spots, Billy rigs a crankbait, Carolina Rig and jig and pig, for fishing points and deeper water. For shallow largemouth he likes a squarebill crankbait, bladed jig, swim jig spinnerbait, jig and pig and punch bait for covering the different kinds of cover.
We fished the day after Christmas. Billy warned me the river was full and stained, but much more rain was predicted over the next two weeks, making it worse. We put in at Ellis Ferry and the water was at the top of the ramp, but the dock was above water. The next week the dock was covered, and water came half way up in the parking lot.
The following places are good right now and get better all month for both species.
1. N 32 03.308 – W 87 18.710 – The upstream point at the mouth of Gee’s Bend has a marker buoy where the ferry crosses it. The river channel swings in on the outside and the creek channel is on the back side of this long point, offering good access to deeper water both ways. Largemouth stop and feed here on their way into the flats and spots hold on it all the time.
This point has a clay bottom with scattered shell beds, and there is usually some brush that has washed in and hung up on it. Current coming down the river makes the bite, especially for spots, much better.
Stop near the buoy and try a crankbait and Carolina rig on it. Billy uses a chartreuse with black or blue back Strike King 5 or 6 XD or Bomber to bump the bottom. Start out in deeper water, keeping your boat well off the point and cast across it, bumping the top. Watch your electronics for brush on the bottom and mark it when you see it.
Fish all the way around the point, covering both sides and the end. Then drag your Carolina Rig all over the point, too. Concentrate on brush and shell beds you find. Also try a jig and pig in the brush here.
You can spend all day here and catch fish as they move up and feed or hit it several times during the day hoping to be there at the right time. Billy said a six-pound, four-ounce bass here in his last tournament so it offers the possibility of big fish as well as numbers.
2. N 32 02.771 – W 87 15.963 – Upstream around the bend Bridgeport Landing is on your right. A line of small islands goes across the mouth of the big slough here and the river channel runs right along the outside bank of the downstream one. The water comes up fast and the point is very shallow out on the point.
Stop out from the point in the river and fish crankbait and Carolina rig from the shallows down the drop. Billy will rig a Junebug Fluke or Baby Brush Hog on a 12 to 18-inch leader with a one-ounce sinker. Fish it so it stays on the bottom on the steep drop.
Work up toward the end of the point with grass on it, then cast upstream parallel to the bank. There is always wood cover on the bottom and fish hold on it. Switch to a jig and pig to more effectively fish the brush with fewer hang-ups. Try to bump through all the wood you can hit, moving your bait with the current.
3. N 32 03.329 – W 87 15.500 – Across the river a little upstream, Gold Mine Slough is on your left. The first small entrance to it between two islands is another example of the kind of places bass use, with current hitting it and a ditch dumping into deep water with shallow points and a drop.
The mouth of the ditch is only about two feet deep, but the channel is about 20 feet deep. Keep your boat in the deep water and cast crankbait and Carolina Rig into the ditch, bumping the bottom down the drop out to 12 feet deep. Cover both points on the ditch.
After fishing across the drop, move in near the downstream point and cast upstream, running both crankbait and Carolina Rig across the ditch mouth, moving them with the current. There is some key wood here to hit. Then work on up across the ditch upstream, casting to the wood and grass on the bank with a bladed jig and jig and pig. Some fish move in to it to feed.
4. N 32 03.431 – W 87 15.432 – Across the river upstream there is an entrance to Ladell’s Slough in front of the campground at Roland Cooper Sate Park. There is a small island in the middle of it and there was a big log jam off the downstream point just inside the slough when we fished. The water drops fast from four to 25 feet deep across the mouth of the entrance.
Fish across it like the others, working from the downstream point upstream. Make a few casts to the log jam with a jig and pig but concentrate on the drop. Fish across it as well as parallel to it with crankbait and Carolina Rig. Billy says it is important to keep your crankbait bumping the bottom as much as possible.
5. N. 32 04.954 – W 87 14.221 – At the upstream point water several feet deep runs along the left bank if you go into it but it runs a long way parallel to the river. We went into the slough behind the upstream point and fished the grass and wood along the bank to see if fish were here, then idled through the shallows and stump fields to the highway 43 Bridge back in the slough. When you get to the bride start in the pocket on the downstream side to the left facing upstream. Work the wood and brush out to the bridge, then fish all around the bridge, hitting riprap and pilings.
You will catch mostly largemouth back in here as they move in to spawn. The bridge is a pinch point that concentrates them and offers them as good feeding place.
Billy uses a Strike King 1.5 or 2.5 squarebill and a chatterbait around the rocks, pilings and wood here He likes a Jackhammer chartreuse and white bait with a matching trailer in stained water but switches to a green pumpkin bait with matching trailer in clearer water.
Hit both sides of the bridge and try upstream of it around the grass and stumps. This slough is full of stumps above the bridge so be careful.
6. N 32 04.240 – W 87 14.592 – Go back out to the main mouth of Ladell’s Slough just past the standing timber downstream of the bridge. It drops deeper in the middle without a ledge across the mouth but the points on both sides are good. The bottom is sandy with some hard clay spots in it.
Go back to crankbait and Carolina Rig to bump and drag the mostly clean bottom. Fish the upstream point from the middle of the ditch, fan casting all over it from the inside to the outside. Billy drags he rig along the bottom letting the current move his bait.
Try that angle on the downstream point, too, but current will set the bass up to be facing upstream. Work out to the river side of that point and cast to the middle of the ditch, moving it up the slope.
You will catch both spots and largemouth here since it opens up to vast spawning areas.
7. N 32 05.590 – W 87 15.607 – Foster Creek is the next creek upstream on the left. After going through the narrow opening it opens up and the channel is to the right after going around a shallow point on that side. The bank just past the first little pocket on the right side drops off into ten feet of water, has lots of wood and grass, and the water is usually clearer in here than on the river.
Billy says the biggest Miller’s Ferry bass ever weighed in his club came from here, an eight pounder. This bank faces south so it warms faster than some other areas, and this draws the largemouth to it.
Billy keeps his boat in ten feet of water and fishes up the bank, working into the creek. He starts with a spinnerbait and chatterbait, covering water. A white War Eagle spinnerbait with silver blades is his choice. Run both all around wood cover and along grass edges.
If the bass don’t seem to be chasing a faster bait, Billy slows down with a swim jig, fishing it all through the cover. If that is too fast, he will go to a punch bait, a Junebug Baby Brush Hog behind a one to one- and one-half ounce sinker, and drops it through the thick mats of grass. Fish up the bank until the water near it gets shallow near the next pocket on the right.
8. N 32 08.902 – W 87 15.775 – Chilatchee Creek further up the river on the left has Chilatchee State Park on the left as you go into the creek. Billy was able to follow the channel around to the left but be very careful until you learn it. The water is very shallow in some areas.
Go around the big island in on the right side and stop about even with the little one out in the middle of the creek. The channel makes a sharp bend near the right bank here and the is a lot of wood cover and grass along it. About half way up the point this bank is on, a big tree with root ball and limbs sticking out of the water was lying out off the bank.
Work the shallow cover here like in Foster Creek, covering water with spinnerbait, chatterbait and swim jig. There is a lot of hyacinth covering the edge of the bank and is an excellent place to punch your Brush Hog through it. It gets a lot of afternoon sun and warm fast.
Fish from one end to the other on the big round point. The water is deeper along the point and bass hold here rather than moving back into the very shallow pockets on both sides. Billy caught a solid keeper largemouth here on his punch bait.
9. N 32 03.145 – W 87 15.103 – Go back down the river to Roland Cooper State Park into the creek between it and Bridgeport Landing. There is a small campground ramp on the left with rental boats on it, but the main ramp is on back in the creek. Stop downstream of the small ramp where there is a grass yard leading up to the bathrooms.
A lot of tournaments are held here and restock the area often. The bank from downstream of the ramp up just past it has six feet of water near it, deep enough to hold fish, and there is a lot of hyacinth along the edge, wood cover and some rocks just upstream of the ramp.
Fish it like all shallows, covering water with faster moving baits first. If you catch a fish or two on them it is worth going back over it, picking it apart with a punch bait or jig and pig. Billy fishes a black and blue jig with a matching trailer in the thinner grass and other cover, but the punch bait is needed for the hyacinth.
10. N 32 03.363 – W 87 17.857 – Go into Gee’s Bend past the ferry landing on the left. The bank past it has a line of docks that are good staging areas for largemouth. Billy says you won’t get a lot of bites, but they are usually quality fish.
Run a squarebill along the post, bumping them and making it deflect. Then probe for brush in front of the docks and under them with a jig and pig. There is about six feet of water on the ends of them. Work the whole line of docks but be careful, dock owners have run a rope along and between the front of most of them.
Give these places on Millers Ferry a try for both spots and largemouth. You will catch both, and there are many similar places to fish.