Monthly Archives: February 2023

What Is FISHING THE LATE ICE and Why Should I Know About It


from The Fishing Wire

Fishing The Late Ice

The days are getting longer and warmer. Longer days and warmer temps at this time of year mean that some really good ice fishing is not far away. Here are some ideas for finishing the ice fishing season successfully.

Even through the ice and snow, fish seem to be able to sense a change in the seasons. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s time to start thinking about spawning, so, under the cover of ice, they start to head in the direction of where they will spawn. They don’t just take off and go there, they take their time and leisurely head for their spawning areas. As they travel, they eat a little more than they have been. Walleyes, northern pike, perch, crappies, bluegills, pretty much all fish that live in the Midwest will be getting hungrier and easier to catch right now. You don’t want to completely abandon the offshore structures and deep weedlines that you’ve been fishing the past few weeks, but you need to remember that the fish will soon start to leave those spots. When the action starts to slow on those locations, you need to start moving to keep up with the fish. Pay attention to your sonar. If you’re seeing fewer fish marks than you have on recent trips, it’s time to think about heading to the areas that the fish are headed to.

There will still be an early-in-the-day and a late-in-the-day bite, but on a lot of bodies of water, the bite has the potential to be pretty good all day. Not on all lakes, but some lakes.

This time of year you need to keep moving until you find the fish. Try different depths, and different structures, just keep moving until you find fish activity. When you find them, sit on them until they move, then you move too. That’s the key to ice-fishing year-round, but perhaps more under late ice. Keep in mind that the fish are headed toward the areas where they’ll be spawning in a few weeks. You should be headed to those areas as well.

Remember that the fish have seen lots of baits by now. If you’ve got something on the end of your line that’s been working, keep using it until the fish tell you they want something else. Then go to a different color or a different size or impart a different action on the lure. If you’ve got a bait that hasn’t worked all year, give it a try. Maybe the fish will decide that it looks rather good to them now. There’s a new bait called a Jointed Pinhead Pro that the fish haven’t seen much of and should be very productive under this year’s late ice. Use the smallest size for bluegills, larger for perch and crappies, and even larger for walleyes.

The late-season ice fishing can be outstanding, but like most things, don’t try to get too much of a good thing. If you’re not sure about the ice being safe, don’t go out. If no one else is out there, you shouldn’t be either. Keep an eye on current conditions. If it starts to get warm during the day, you should head for shore. Venturing onto the ice when it’s not safe can be very exciting in a way that you don’t want to be excited. Be safe, move until you find the fish, and experiment with lures and how you present those lures, and the last few weeks of ice fishing could be memorable and exciting for you in a very good way.

– Bob Jensen of

When Where and How To Catch November Bass at Lake Martin

November Bass at Martin
with BJ Barnett

November is a wonderful month for bass fishermen. The cool water has the bass active and feeding and the lakes are not crowded. It is a fun time to fish. Lake Martin, full of hungry spots and largemouth, is a great place to spend some time right now.

Lake Martin is a 39,180 acre lake with 700 miles of shoreline and is located on the Tallapoosa River near Alexander City. It is a deep, clear lake full of rocks, docks, humps, brush piles and spotted bass. There are also lots of largemouth in the lake. You can find just about any kind of fishing you prefer somewhere on the lake.

Dammed in 1926, Martin is an old lake and much of the natural cover has disappeared over time. Fish now relate to rocks, stumps, drops and man-made cover like docks and brush piles. It is also a very clear lake and bass can be spooky since they can see you far away.

B. J. Barnett grew up on Lake Martin. Until he was eight years old his family had a cabin on Blue Creek then they moved to a house across the road from Bay Pines Marina full time. At 11 years old he was putting his 16 foot Fisher boat with a 25 horsepower Johnson in at the marina with a 4-wheeler and fishing every chance he got.

After earning a fisheries biology degree at Auburn B. J. returned to the Alexander City area and worked with his father – and fished. He competed in local tournaments as well as the BFL, making the All American in 2005. He has a top ten finish in the Stren Series on Martin and fishes the BASS Weekend Series in the area.

Now B. J. owns Fish Tales Bait and Tackle in Alexander City. He is running a new tournament trail with Bay Pines Marina and also helps out with charity tournaments when he is not competing in them. He considers Martin his home lake and keeps up with what the bass are doing there.

“Bass will feed in shallow brush until the water cools below 60 degrees, usually around the first of November,” B.J. said. There is a lot of brush around docks in shallow pockets and the bass will be there, but as the water cools it also drops and both make the bass move to a more consistent pattern.

This year the water has been unusually high from the rains in late September. That may keep the bass shallow a little longer. But soon they will move to deeper banks and humps and hold on stumps, rocks and man-made brush piles. They will feed there, fattening up for the winter.

B.J. keeps his tackle fairly simple. He will always have a Sammy tied on and expects to catch bigger fish on it. In the past five years he has landed three spots weighing over six pounds each on the Sammy and one of them came last fall. It is especially effective on calm days when there isn’t much ripple on the water.

A spinnrebait is B.J.’s go to bait and he likes the Davis Pro Vibe X-Wire and he is also having good luck with the newer Hole Shot spinnerbaits. The Hole Shot has holes in its blades and it can be fished faster without breaking the surface. Both spinnerbaits have silver blades and white skirts and he likes a fairly big three/eights to one half ounce bait.

Spinnerbaits are best on windy days when there is a chop on the water. He makes long casts and works them fast over any cover in the area. Spinnerbaits will pull bass, especially spots, up out of deeper water to hit it. He fishes them on 12 pound fluorocarbon line.

A three sixteenths ounce Tightline Wood Thumper jig or a Davis jig rigged with a Paca Chunk in greens and browns is another good bait. Both jigs are compact and B. J. throws them around rocks and wood cover. Both are fished on PLine Fluorocarbon line. Bigger bass also like the jig and pig.

A Davis HBT Standup Jig head with a T-Mac or finesse worm also works well when the bass want at thinner bait. It is more subtle than the jig and pig and will get bites when other baits fail.

All these baits are available at Fish Tales and B.J. also pours his own line of jigs called Nervous jigs. They work well on Martin, too.

B.J. showed me the following ten spots in early October, right after the heavy rains. The lake was about a foot low and the fish were scattered. The lake is dropping pretty fast and by now they will be more concentrated and you should be able to catch them all month long on these holes.

1. N 32 50.522 – W 85 52.687 – Bay Pines Marina caters to fishermen and is a good place to put in for the spots B.J. likes to fish. If you put in there you can idle around the first point to your left as you come out of the cove the marina is in. You will be going into a big bay with a small island in the back near where it splits with a grave yard on it.

As you round the point watch for pink stucco and brick house on your left. Start just past it at the gray block boathouse. Stay way off the bank. There is a row of stumps in about 18 feet of water at full pool you want to fish over. The stumps will be more shallow as the lake is drawn down, and this is a good example of the kind of place the bass pull out to as the water cools and drops.

Blind cast with your Sammy if the water is smooth or your spinnerbait if some wind is blowing in on this bank. Work down the bank to the dock on concrete posts and look for brush. There is a lot of brush around this dock and it holds bass. Run your Sammy or spinnerbait over it then fish through it with a jig and pig and a jig head worm.

Fish on down past the dock to the little pocket and seawall coming out of it. There is scattered brush all along here you can hit if you probe for it, and spots especially like this area.

2. N 32 50.843 – W 85 52.268 – Toward the back of this big bay on your left before it splits you will see a danger marker way off the bank. It marks a rock ridge that runs way out off the bank from a small island near the bank. It is a very good feeding area for spots.

Keep your boat out in 15 to 16 feet of water and make long casts across the top of the ridge with a Sammy and a spinnerbait. Wind controls the bite; bass will hit the spinnerbait better if wind is blowing in on this spot. Wind always makes a place better, creating a ripple on top that makes it harder for the fish to get a good look at your bait and creating current that moves baitfish. Fish your bait with the wind, casting into it, on this spot and all others when there is some wind.

Work around the ridge, concentrating on working the wind. The downstream side is usually best. Also, watch for fish following your bait and not taking it. B.J. says sometimes you have to convince them to hit. Back off and make longer casts and also try other baits. If you see fish you know they are there, you just have to find the combination they want.

Also try a jig head worm here before you leave. Stay out in deep water and cast it up on top of the ridge. Work it around the rocks on this ridge, fishing from shallow to deep.

3. N 32 51.603 – W 85 50.830 – Run to the back of Madwind Creek to where it splits. Ahead of you will be two big houses with nice yards on a point and there is a small cove to the right of them. On the right side of the cove is a smaller house with a gray tin roof. In the middle of that small pocket, about even with the points on both sides, is a hump that rises to 12 feet deep at full pool. If the water is down five or six feet you can see it. The water drops off to 20 feet deep all around it and bass pull out on it as the water level and temperature drop.

Fish all around this hump with all your baits. There are logs and man-made brush piles on it so probe for them. When you find one work it hard from several angles with a jig and pig and a jig head worm. This spot holds largemouth and spots.

4. N 32 51.518 – W 85 50.901 – Across the creek on the left bank going in, about even with the point and hump, is a ridge running down the bank. There is a big sandy flat point between the bank and the ridge that drops off into the creek channel. The top of the ridge is just a few feet deep and you will see some brush sticking up out of the water from at least one of its brush piles. The channel drops to 20 feet deep.

The flat and point are in front of a gray house and there is a small pocket downstream of it. Keep your boat out in 20 feet of water and cast up into the shallows with your baits, working them back out over the drop. There is a good bit of brush and some rocks along this drop to fish.

5. N 32 50.019 – W 85 51.537 – Run out of Madwind Creek and stay near the left bank. Near the mouth of Manoy Creek is an island with a pirate flag flying from a tree. There is a sign on the tree warning “Ye Who Enter Beware” and some decorations like a fake cannon, skeleton and chest. This island is near a smaller island.

A ridge runs off the lake side of the island and is 17 feet deep on top well off the bank. There is 40 feet of water on either side of this ridge and it has stumps and brush on it that holds bass. Wind really helps here and a spinnerbait is your best bet when the wind is blowing in on it. Fish all round it from different angles, working the wind, with all your baits.

6. N 32 49.953 – W 85 51.014 – Go into Manoy Creek and it makes a hard left. The point is rocky and so is the bank for a good ways, then it turns to clay just past a small pocket. Out from this transition, well off the bank, is a hump with brush on it. It was an old state brush pile at one time but the marker is gone and fishermen have kept the brush fresh.

Say way off the bank and watch for a light color marking the top of the hump. You could barely see it the day B.J. and I fished but it should be more visible now. It tops out about four feet deep at full pool. The brush is on the deeper side, away from the bank.

Make long casts and work the hump and fish over the brush with Sammy and spinnerbait. Then probe for more brush with either of your jigs. The day we fished B.J. got a solid 2.5 pounds spot here on a spinnerbait and two bigger fish were following it.

7. N 32 50.270 – W 85 50.887 – If you follow the bank on straight ahead it runs into a small creek right where the main creek bank turns sharply to the right. Going back into this small creek there is a little pocket on the right bank. On the upstream side of it is a big tree in the water. Past the tree there are a lot of stumps, some of which you can see but many others underwater on the clay bottom.

Start at the small pocket and work into the creek. Fish faster-moving baits first then go back over the area with your bottom bouncing baits. Probe for the stumps and there is some brush here to hold bass, as well as the big blowdown and some smaller logs.

8. N 32 48.504 – W 85 52.061 – Come out of the mouth of Manoy Creek and head toward the mouth of Sandy Branch. Stay near the left bank. About half way between them, off the rocky point that runs out a little more than the others in this area, there is good hump. The point is in front of a pocket that runs back as a small angle almost parallel to the lake rather than straight back from it.

The hump is 13 feet deep on top at full pool and drops off to very deep water. It is big, about 50 yards wide, so you have to find the sweet spot on it. Look for where it drops fast from 12 to 20 feet deep on the lake side. This spot holds some big spots and B. J. says a four to five pounder is a good possibility here.

Slow down for the big fish and work your jig and pig down the drop. Sit on the lake side in deep water and cast up on top of the hump. Work your bait slowly down the drop, out to about 20 feet deep. Try different things. Drag your jig and pig on the bottom on one cast, then hop it on the next. Try to make the big spots that live here hit it.

9. N 32 48.031 – W 85 52.725 – Across the mouth of Sandy Branch off the upstream side of Pace Peninsula there is a small pocket with a danger marker on a pole out in the mouth of it. This big sandy hump doesn’t have much cover on it and it does not have a sharp drop, but if the wind is blowing in on it like it often does fish will be feeding here.

Fish from the left side of the marker facing it out to where it gets deeper then work the back side of it, too. This is a spot to fish fast and cover quickly. If the wind had fish feeding here you should catch them quickly. B. J. says you are wasting your time to fish this spot if there is no wind, but it can be real good with some wind.

10. N 32 48.048 – W 85 53.893 – Run across the lake and downstream to Wicker Point, the big rocky point straight across from Pleasure Point. There is a danger marker on some big rocks on the upstream side of the point near the end of it. A green cabin with a screen porch all around it and a block chimney sits on the bank behind the big rocks. There is a dock with pipe post near the danger marker, too.

Fish all around the big rocks you can see, and work the area for other rocks under the water. Fish around the dock for bass holding in the shade under it. This is a good place to catch spotted bass. B.J. says he will hit this point and the next five points going in toward New Hope ramp like this, hitting them all fast for active fish.

Give these spots a try. B.J. has found them by spending many hours on the water, but there are many more like them in the area that hold big bass. Try his tactics and baits and you will catch bass.


Tips for Kid-Friendly Winter Fishing

from The Fishing Wire

Looking for a way to beat the winter blues and teach a young person important life skills? Try ice fishing. It offers a great opportunity to learn about fish, lakes, and ice safety. It’s a lesson in patience (sometimes). If you’re successful, you’ll even get some clean, healthy meals out of it!

Keep them warm.

Bring layers and an extra change of clothes. Depending on the temperature, the area around your ice hole will tend to have a little water around it. If kids are kneeling on the ice or handling a lot of fish they’re potentially going to get wet.

Once you get cold, it’s hard to warm back up unless you have a shelter with a heater. If you plan to stay out for a longer day, a shack and heater might be a good investment for you. There are many types of shelters available at sporting goods stores or you can DIY. For an extra special treat, bring hot chocolate or warm soup in an insulated container and pull it out half way through the excursion.

Bring snacks.

Your body burns more calories in response to cold. The best time for your favorite snack is when there is a lull in the action.

Give them a job.

Keeping the holes clear of ice is an important job. It keeps your line from freezing to the side of the hole or getting clumped up with ice. It also lets your bobber move correctly when you have a bite. Especially if you have drilled a lot of holes, the scooper is a great way to keep kids busy and active. Just make sure they know to hold on tight so they’re not sending your scooper to the bottom of the lake.

Catch fish.

It’s the most exciting part. Get to know your local lakes and what fish species are available in each. Our friends over at Alaska Department of Fish and Game have a website to help you figure out what they’ve stocked and when here in Anchorage where there is heavy fishing pressure.

You’ll also want to get familiar with the behavior of fish. Are you looking for fish that are roving around mid-water column like a stocked Chinook or Coho Salmon? Or are you trying to outsmart the hardy Alaska Blackfish that prefers the bottom? Or the ambush specialist, the Northern Pike? Perhaps the burbot? Learn about fish behavior (what they eat, when they’re active) to improve your odds of catching.

For stocked salmon, baits that work well include cured eggs, popcorn shrimp, or a little piece of herring if you really want to impress them. Test out different depths by setting your bobber with a string bobber stop.

If you haven’t tried ice fishing before, one way to learn more about it is during organized kids fishing events. Our friends over at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game hosts a number of winter events in Anchorage and surrounding areas (usually in February) including one at Jewel Lake. Hundreds of holes are drilled and gear is available for youth and families that need it.

Cooking your catch

If you’ve caught some stocked Coho or Chinook (usually small like this), the easiest way to prepare them is taking off the head and then removing the guts by making a small incision from the anal fin to the area where the head is removed. Simply pull the guts out and use the back of your fingernail or small spoon to remove the kidney (the dark stuff along the spine that you can see once all the guts are removed).

In Alaska we are shared stewards of world renowned natural resources and our nation’s last true wild places. Our hope is that each generation has the opportunity to live with, live from, discover and enjoy the wildness of this awe-inspiring land and the people who love and depend on it. We honor, thank, and celebrate the whole community — individuals, Tribes, the State of Alaska, sister agencies, fish enthusiasts, scientists, and others — who have elevated our understanding and love, as people and professionals, of all the fish.

– Katrina Liebich, PUBLIC AFFAIRS SPECIALIST, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Alaska

Where When and How To Catch August Bass at Smith Lake

August Bass at Smith with Don Hubbard

     It’s hot, lakes are covered up with skiers and jet skis and the fish just don’t bite very well during the day.  So what should the smart bass fisherman do? Go at night!  It is cooler, the fish feed and pleasure boaters are at a minimum.  Smith Lake is a great choice for night fishing right now since its big spots are feeding in the dark.

     Lewis Smith Lake, usually just called Smith Lake, is a few minutes west of Cullman and about an hour north of Birmingham.  It is a beautiful mountain lake with steep rocky banks covered with trees and nice houses. But it gets very crowded in the summer and most bass tournaments are held at night.  There are several pot tournaments held there each week starting in the late afternoon.

     Smith was filled in 1961 and has 21,200 acres of clear water and 500 miles of shoreline.  There has been a problem in the past with overcrowding of small bass so the size limit now a little unusual. You must release all bass from 13 to 15 inches long.  Not only can you keep any size bass shorter than 13 inches long, the fisheries biologists recommend keeping all bass under 13 inches long. So if you want a few bass for a fish fry, you can keep the smaller bass. Smith is a very clean lake so they fish taste great, too.    

     The slot limit seems to be helping. The most recent electro fishing survey in 2007 showed 16 percent of the bass are over the 15 inch size limit. That is an improvement over the 2003 survey.  Spots have done better under the slot restriction, with a greater increase of spots over 15 inches than of largemouth over that size.  Local fishermen have taken to the slot limit and it is common to hear them refer to the days catch with something like “five over and ten under.”

     Smith can be a tough lake to fish.  It ranks last in the 2007 BAIT survey for percent success of anglers. But it ranks much higher, at 7th, for average weight of bass and tenth for the average time it takes to catch a bass over five pounds. Smith bass may be hard to catch but when you do find them you are more likely to catch a good one.

     Don Hubbard lives in Cullman and has fished Smith since 1975.  He fished with the Cullman Bass Club for a time then started concentrating on bigger tournaments. For many years he fished three night pot tournament every week on Smith during the summer.  He loves bass fishing and enjoys the competition of tournaments.

     In 1990 Don and his partner won the Anderson Boat Works tournament on Smith with five spotted bass weighing 23 pounds. For years the Anderson Boat Works tournament was the biggest in the state, drawing over 500 boats each year.  Not only did Don and his partner win it in 1990, he has finished in second place four different times over the years.

     Don weighed in a 7 pound, 2 ounce spot in a tournament but it is not his biggest from Smith.  One winter day while fishing alone he landed a 27 inch fish he estimates at over nine pounds.  He did not have a scale to weigh it and wanted to get it back in the water so it would survive and did not take it somewhere to be weighed.  He has no doubt there is a record spot in Smith.

      “Bass are deep in Smith in August,” Don told me.  He looks for schools of fish down 15 to 30 feet deep this time of year and expects most of his catch to come from water 18 to 20 feet deep. That is where they feed.  And he expects the bite to be much better after the sun sets. Even on days the boat traffic doesn’t make fishing uncomfortable, the bass just don’t bite very well with the sun up.

     A variety of kinds of structure and cover pay off for Don this time of year.  He likes humps, points, steep banks and deep brush piles around docks.  Cover like brush, stumps and rocks help on all kinds of structure and a hump or point will often have a small sweet spot where there is good cover.  Finding the structure that holds a school of bass and the sweet spot where the biggest ones can be caught takes time on the water.

     Don keeps a variety of baits rigged on his Shamino rods and reels.  A big spinnerbait is his favorite bait when fishing after dark for tournament fish.  He does not mind fishing for five bites during tournament hours if they are the right bites. He has fun catching all size fish but concentrates on the big ones to win a tournament, and a spinnerbait is the way to go.

     A heavy home-made spinnerbait with a #5 Colorado blade is his choice for fishing deep cover.  Don likes a black blade, black and red skirt and big trailer on dark nights and a white skirt and silver blade bait on moonlight nights.  One trick he has learned about blade color may help you. If you are feeling bites but not hooking the bass, they may be hitting at the blade. Switch from silver to copper to get them to hit the skirt and hook.

     The trailer doesn’t make a lot of difference. It can be the same color as the skirt or a contrasting color.  And Don will use a variety of trailers like Zoom Brush Hogs, Toads and even lizards to slow the bait down.  He wants the bait to crawl along the bottom, ticking the cover, and a bulky trailer helps slow it down and keep it there.

     A three-quarters ounce jig and trailer is another good bait.  Don rigs the jig with a trailer that will slow it down and provide action, like a Zoom Chunk or twin curly tail grub.  He lets the jig hit the bottom, just like the spinnerbait, then slow rolls it along, ticking the cover, just like he fishes the spinnerbait.

     Don said his finesse jig was a half ounce jig with a smaller trailer. He may swim it or just hop it along.  He also uses a jig head worm, fishing it on spinning gear.  Green pumpkin colors for both baits are good if there is some light and Junebug or redbug are good at night. A Carolina rigged Zoom Fluke, Trick worm or Brush Hog and a Texas rigged worm completes his plastic arsenal. The Texas rig works better when fishing brush, especially around docks.

     Crankbaits will also catch bass on deep cover if you can get them to run deep enough.  Bass feeding at 15 feet can be caught on crankbaits when they are worked over the cover.  They are harder to fish deep than spinnerbaits or plastics, though.

     Don showed me the following ten spots he fishes at night and fish were on several of them a few weeks a ago, and will stay on them all summer.  Look for baitfish and bass holding deep and you can catch bass on these spots right now.

     1.  N 34 04.620 – W 86 58.134 – Leave the Smith Lake Park ramp and head downstream.  Look to your right just before the lake opens up to go around Goat Island and you will see some docks.  Look for the double decked dock with two picnic tables on the upper deck and lights on it. This is a good example of the kinds of deep brush around docks that Don likes to fish.

     If you look at a contour map you can see how the channel swings in near these docks then turns and goes across the lake. Don says you need at least 15 feet of water under the docks with the brush and deeper water just off them.  Lights at night will help.  

     This dock and the two downstream of it are all good and have about 23 feet of water under them.  Don will keep his boat out in front of the docks and cast past them and the brush, letting his spinnebait or a Texas rigged worm hit bottom. He then works the baits back across the brush. Jiggle and shake your worm in the brush.  Fish it and the spinnerbait as slowly as you can.

     There are many similar docks on Smith to fish. Look for them where the water is at least 15 feet deep with deeper water just off them. Brush is needed and lights help. Some docks that look good may not hold fish. The only way to find good docks is to fish them.

     2. N 34 03.903 – W 86 57.973 – Run down to the point on Goat Island that sticks out the most on the upstream end. Across and downstream of it a little you will see a small house trailer on the bank then a two story house with brown shingles. Out in the middle of the lake, about 200 yards off the trailer, is a hump that comes up to 20 feet on top. If you idle in a line from the upstream point on Goat Island toward the trailer you will cross it.

     This is a good example of the deep structure Don likes to fish.  The channel runs right by it and there is 45 feet of water a cast off the top of the most shallow part.  On this one Don likes to stay on the side toward the bank since it drops faster and he casts up to the top of the hump. He then brings his baits down the drop, fishing so slowly they stay in contact with the bottom.

     You can fish all the way around a hump like this but pay attention where you get the bites. Often the fish will orient a certain way on the humps and hold on a small spot of cover and you need to find what they like and repeat it.

     3.  N 34 03.443 – W 86 58.750 – Run downstream and watch for a blue top dock on your left where the river narrows back down after joining together below Goat Island.  A good ways past it you will see two small sycamore trees leaning out over the water and big rocks right at the water line under them. That is where you want to start fishing.

     Don’t fish the bank here, although it sometimes holds fish. Back off a long cast and you will find a hump or ridge that runs parallel to the bank. It swings out from near the small sycamore trees and then swings back in near the biggest tree you see up on the bank.

     Don will sit on the outside of this ridge and cast his baits across it, working them up the bank side then down the river side. It may look like he is fishing the bank with very long casts.  This is a good example of the kind of structure it takes a lot of time on the water to find and learn to fish.

     The day we fished there was a lot of baitfish and other fish stacked up in the trough between the bank and the ridge.  Although we didn’t catch anything there, the presence of fish tells you they will feed at some point. A place like this, where you find bait and bass on your depthfinder, is well worth repeated checks to try to hit it when they move onto the ridge to feed. That applies to all the spots Don likes to fish.    

     4.  N 34 03.036 – W 86 59.124 – Run downstream to the right bank across from the mouth of Simpson Creek. This steep bank has no houses on it on the upstream side and drops off very fast.  There are rock piles all along this bank as well as some brush out in 20 feet of water. It is the kind of bank Don likes, with dips and small points, not just a straight bluff wall.  He says some of his biggest bass from Smith have come off this bank.

     Start on the upstream end of this steep bank, near where there is a small point downstream of a cove. Fish on down the bank to the spot in number 5.

     To fish steep banks like this one Don keeps his boat in about 35 feet of water and makes angled casts to about 12 feet. Working his baits back at an angle keeps it in the productive 15 to 20 foot range longer than if you cast straight in toward the bank.   He probes for hidden rocks and brush in the 15 to 20 foot range while watching his deptfinder for fish holding even deeper. If you are seeing bass holding out in 30 to 35 feet of water, back out and work your bait at that depth to see if they will hit.

     5.  N 34 02.875 – W 86 59.58 – As you fish downstream on the bank above you will round a point and see a dock landing way up on the bank. The wind got the dock but the small deck where the walkway was anchored is still there. Just downstream of it is a big willow tree sitting in a small pocket.  A shelf runs out from this willow tree and is another of the kinds of hidden sweet spots Don tries to find.

     You can idle across this spot, staying parallel to the bank, and you will see the shelf come up then drop back off.  Fish get on top of this shelf to feed. Don likes to sit in front of the willow tree and cast downstream, landing his bait on top of the shelf. He then works the spinnerbait, or plastic down the upstream drop.

     Don says current does not play much of a role in fishing on Smith so he usually keeps his boat in deep water and casts to shallow water, working his bait down the drop. You are less likely to get hung up fishing in that direction, too.  You can fish all around this shelf and work your bait across it at different angles, but Don’s best luck has been casting downstream.

     6.  N 34 03.423 – W 87 00.720 – Start into the mouth of Millers Creek and you will see a shallow flat point running out on your right. Just upstream of the point there is a bunch of small willows or button bushes in the water. There is a red roof dock up on the bank on the upstream side of the point.

     This point runs way out and comes up into a hump. It tops out at about 15 feet deep then drops again into very deep water. There are stumps, rocks and man-made brush piles on this hump and point.

     Don likes to get out on the creek side of the hump and fish across it from this direction, but he will work all around it, casting at different angles.  Fish can be feeding anywhere on the point and hump but the bigger fish seem to concentrate nearer the deeper end.  Fish it with spinnerbait and crankbait, then try different plastics and jigs on it, too.

     7.  N 34 03.177 – W 87 01.055 – Across the lake going downsream you will see three danger markers in a line way off a point on  your left, across from the mouth of Miller Creek.  The river channel runs right along this point and it drops off fast on both sides. The ridge is very sharp and narrow and tops out at about nine feet at full pool   There is also a dip or saddle between the bank and the first marker out from it.

     Keep your boat out on the upstream side of the ridge and cast parallel, keeping your bait in the 15 to 18 foot range. Work the whole ridge, from the third marker out all the way into the bank. Don says bass often stack up in the saddle, too, so make some casts across it when you pass the marker closest to the bank.

     Bass will hold on the downstream side of the ridge, so it can pay off to circle it, fishing both sides. Wind blowing across this ridge will move water and position bass on it so work the wind. Don says wind generated water movement is much more important than any current here from power generation at the dam.

     Jigs and worms are Don’s best baits here and he will sometimes go to a Zoom Finesse worm on his jighead. It is better for numbers of bass but it will get bites when other baits fail.  Work it on eight pound line, fishing parallel to the drop in the 15 to 18 foot range.

     8.  N 34 03.193 – W 87 01.743 – Running downstream look to your right and you will see a series of coves and a small creek entering the lake as the river swings to your left. There are finger points between each of these coves that run way out and drop off into the channel. The ends of the points may be 17 to 18 feet deep then suddenly drop to 110 feet.   All of them can be good and all hold bass.

     Don usually starts out from a cabin that is all windows on the lake side.  There are several docks along here and there is usually an American flag flying on a pole.  If you start here and idle toward the big point downstream, on the downstream side of the deepest cove, you will cross the points.

     Since bass often school up on one of the points and several near it may not have many fish on them, Don will watch for bass and bait on his depthfinder.  Or you can fish them all, trying to find the schooling fish. There are sometimes single fish scattered here, too.  Keep your boat in deep water and cast across the points in 15 to 18 feet and work out to 30 feet deep here.

     9. N 34 03.134 – W 87 02.998 – Go into Lick Branch and you will see a long bank with a series of “For Sale” signs on it. There is one dock along this bank. Across from it, on your left, watch for a cove a little over half way back from the mouth to the split.  There are no houses on the bank from the cove upstream that you can see. The upstream point of this cove runs out and drops off and holds good fish.

     Ride over the point and you will see the bottom come up from 40 feet to about 16 feet on top.  Stay out on the end of the point in deep water and cover the whole point with your baits.  Don says he has caught a lot of good bass here.

     10. N 34 02.061 – W 87 02.909 – On the far bank, the one with the for sale signs, a ledge runs along the bank out then drops off into very deep water. Bass feed all along this ledge. If you get in close you can see small red lot marker signs on trees near the edge of the water.  Start near the #15 sign and fish downstream, past the dock and the small cove.

     Keep your boat out in 35 feet of water and cast parallel to the bank. The ledge runs out to 15 feet deep and you want to cover the 15 to 20 foot deep edge where it drops off.  Cast up into about ten feet of water and let your bait hit bottom, then fish it back so it stays on the bottom out to at least 20 feet deep.  When you get to the dip in the bank fish the edges of the dip where the ledge drops there, too.

     These spots are holding bass right now. Get on the lake before dark and find them and others like them, and fish them hard from sundown on.  Bass will bite all night long if you can stick with them.



KVD Announces His Final Season as a Touring Pro

Columbia, S.C. – All good things must come to an end. Kevin VanDam’s last season as a professional touring pro will end after this year’s 2023 Bass Pro Tour season. Arguably the greatest tournament angler ever, has decided this years Bass Pro Tour season will be his last as a tournament angler. “This being my 33rd season as a touring pro, at the age and my place in life and career, I have decided I can be more impactful in the industry I love very much,” Kevin said. “I still have a lot to give back to the sport I am so passionate about.” Kevin is the most decorated tournament angler of all time with records that may never be broken. Seven BASS AOY Titles and an FLW AOY title; 4 Bassmaster Classic wins; 25 total BASS wins and 4 MLF wins. What’s more, KVD has competed in over 320 BASS events and owns 121 top-10 finishes (183 top-20’s). Amazingly, he has scored a top 10 in 35-percent of the BASS events he has ever entered.

Kevin is known as a loyal and committed partner to his sponsors. “I have a long history with the brands as a competitive angler. Brands like Strike King and Quantum have been with me since the beginning and Lew’s, along with Strike King and Quantum, have been invaluable partners that helped get me to where I am. The people at these brands are like family, and I look forward to being a better ambassador in the future and being even more involved,” Kevin proclaimed. Rather Outdoors CEO Ken Eubanks reminisces on the impact Kevin has had throughout the years. “Kevin’s impact on this business has been profound, and among those who contribute to the success of Strike King and Lew’s, he is simply without peer. Yet, when Kevin walks through the shop at Strike King, or sits at the table with the Lew’s team, we don’t see him as a business collaborator, or a pro we sponsor; we see him as family,” shares Eubanks.

Major League Fishing President and CEO Boyd Duckett noted, “Today is both a sad day and a time for celebration in our sport. Kevin VanDam, the greatest professional angler of all time, announced that he is retiring at the end of the season. Kevin has been an integral part of Major League Fishing from our very beginning and has been a pioneer in helping develop this league. There has never been a more unselfish angler when it comes to helping grow the sport of bass fishing, for the anglers or the fans.” Dave Mercer, long time emcee of the Bassmaster Elites Series, said, “Kevin VanDam is without a doubt, the greatest professional angler in history. Not only does his list of accomplishments dominate almost every single category of the record books, he changed & reinvented all aspects of the sport – both on and off the water. One of the most over used quotes in the world today is ‘The GOAT,’ but Kevin VanDam truly is the Greatest of All Time. Thank You Kevin!”

We at Rather Outdoors congratulate Kevin on his retirement from competitive tournaments and look forward to continued collaborations in the future.

 About Rather Outdoors

Rather Outdoors is a global outdoors corporation uniting some of the most recognizable brands in the fishing space. With historic and iconic brands such as Lew’s, Strike King, Quantum, Zebco, Fox, Matrix, Salmo and Fox Rage, Rather Outdoors provides a wide assortment of fishing products worldwide in an effort to enhance angler’s success and the enjoyment of outdoor pursuits. To learn more about the Rather Outdoors brands, visit

When Where and What Is the 2023 CRAPPIE EXPO


2023 Crappie Expo

Birmingham, AL –City of Birmingham to host the 2023 Crappie Expo September 22-24, 2023 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. The Crappie Expo is the largest annual expo dedicated to the sport of crappie fishing and brings in the top industry leaders and manufacturers in the fishing industry. The expo, in its 5th year, attracts more than 100 vendors and up to 25,000 fishing enthusiasts to the 3-day show.

The Crappie Expo is held in conjunction with the Mr. Crappie $300,000 Invitational Classic. The 2023 Classic is to be held at Lincoln’s Landing on Logan Martin Lake. The Mr. Crappie Invitational Classic is the world richest crappie tournament with anglers from all over the southern United States competing to win $100,000 for first place.

The World’s Largest Crappie Fry is held on the Saturday of the Expo each year. This year’s Crappie Fry will be September 23, 2023 beginning at 11AM and lasting until the crappie is gone! This portion of the event is free to all Crappie Expo attendees.

“It is so very exciting to be the host for the 5th Annual Crappie Expo scheduled for September 22-24, 2023 in Birmingham, AL” says Sports Development Director Tonia Whatley. “Professional fishing is always a huge draw in Alabama and hosting this event will once again bring thousands of fishing enthusiasts from around the country to see the top crappie anglers, fishing products, seminars, boat companies, live music, and The World’s Largest Crappie Fry! I attended this event in Branson last year and the fish fry was “off the hook” delicious and free to all in attendance on Saturday! We look forward to everyone coming to Birmingham to enjoy our world class restaurants, attractions, retailers, and hotels and know you won’t be disappointed with new additional Expo events planned for this year. Hosting this event reinforces the fact that the Greater Birmingham area is a great professional and amateur sports destination, and we anticipate hosting a record-breaking event so don’t miss out!”

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KastKing Baitcasting Reel Review

KastKing Reel Review

Model MegaJaws Elite Dark Galaxy 7.2 Right Handed

$129.99 plus tax

I heard about KastKing rods and reels through James “LJ” Harmon and his comments about it convinced me to try one.  I had ordered two of my favorite rods, St. Croix Avid series, when they closed out that series and put them on sale.  I wanted a reel that would cast fairly light baits and skip them, at a reasonable price.

I rigged the reel on a medium heavy fast seven-foot St Croix, spooled up with 15-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon and tied on a 3/16 ounce Strike King Bitsy Flip with a Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer.

My first cast, with no reel adjustments, produced a backlash. But as soon as I adjusted the anti-backlash a little the next cast was long and smooth.  I could cast that bait farther than a quarter-ounce jig and the same trailer, same rod and same line, but with a Johnny Morris Signature series Reel that costs $169.00 when I bought it five years ago, so that reel has seen a lot of action.

I landed a three-pound Lanier spot and a 2.14-pound Lanier Spot on my first trip with the reel, and it performed well. No problems at all.

Although I did not catch a fish big enough to strip drag, it felt smooth and even when setting it.

No problems so far but no idea how this reel will hold up to heavy use.  I will update it after using it for a while.

For its price, it is a very good deal and I will buy another when I need a new reel.

KastKing has a wide variety of reels at different prices.  One should fit your needs but remember you usually get what you pay for, so do not expect a $50 reel to perform and last like a $150 reel and that one won’t be like a $300 reel.

They also have a line of rods, line, tackle and clothes.

Use LJs code LJTENDISC for a 10% discount

Disclaimer: I got LJ’s discount when buying this reel.


2022 Grand Prize Winners for the Georgia Bass Slam and Georgia Angler Award Program

SOCIAL CIRCLE, GA – Catching a Bass Slam or landing an Angler Award fish is already an accomplishment and garners some fun rewards, but it’s even more exciting when you win the Grand Prize for the 2022 Bass Slam or Angler Award Program!

Out of the 43 Bass Slammers and 295 Angler Awards caught in 2022, the Grand Prize winners are Andrew Wood (Bass Slam) and Daniel Woodcock (Angler Award), according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division. Congrats to Both!

Grand Prize Winners receive a cooler, camp chairs, tackle box and some other prizes. Now, let’s start working on those 2023 catches.


Georgia Bass Slam: Catch (at least) five of the different black bass species found in Georgia within a calendar year and you have a Georgia Bass Slam! This program recognizes anglers with the knowledge and skill to catch different species of bass in a variety of habitats across the state, while also stimulating interest in the conservation and management of black bass and their habitats. For complete rules and more info, visit

Angler Award Program: This program recognizes those who catch fish that meet or exceed a specific weight or length for that species. There is an adult, youth, public fishing area and trophy bass angler award program category. For complete rules and more info, visit

Other Fishing Recognition Programs:

  • State Records: In addition to the angler award program, the division also maintains a freshwater fish state-record program for anglers who land a catch that exceeds the existing record catch weight by one ounce or more.  More information at
  • Kids First Fish Certificate: The division wants to recognize children across the state for catching their first fish with an online kid’s “first fish award” certificate available at

Georgia Wildlife Resources thanks anglers that took part in these programs and appreciates all anglers that head out to state waters throughout the year to wet a line. For more information about fishing in Georgia, visit

How and Where To Catch April Bass at Lake Wheeler with GPS Coordinates and Lure Selection

with D.D. Murphy

    May is a transition month for bass, especially on northern Alabama lakes. The bass are moving and you have to follow them to have good catches.  But they do travel on predictable paths and they hold on predictable spots.  Wheeler is an excellent lake to pattern May bass and catch numbers as well as heavy sacks.

    Covering 60 miles on the Tennessee River, Wheeler is the second biggest Alabama Lake.  This TVA lake runs from the Guntersville dam to the Wheeler dam and goes from a river run to huge flats near Decatur to a highland type reservoir toward the dam. Dammed in 1936, it contains 67,000 acres of water and over 1000 miles of shoreline.

    D.D. Murphy grew up in the area and has fished Wheeler for 36 years.  As a youth he fished the lake with family members for anything that would bite. When he was 16 Coach Ronnie Hindman took him bass fishing on Lake Eufaula and he was hooked. Since then he has concentrated on catching bass and has learned Wheeler’s secrets.

    Owning a bait and tackle store in the area as well as fishing many tournaments on Wheeler helped D.D. figure out how to catch Wheeler bass. He has fished the BASS Weekend series the past two years and placed fourth on Wheeler last year and third there the year before.  His best tournament catch on Wheeler was a five fish limit weighing 28.12 pounds and he has landed a 9 pound, 15 ounce lunker from the lake.

    “Most tournaments are won on the flats between the nuclear plant and Limestone Creek,” D.D. said.  The big flats in that area produce heavy tournament strings and it is the area he fishes.  May is an excellent time to find schools of big fish moving across the flats and holding at the mouths of creeks.

    By late April 90 percent of the bass have finished bedding, according to D.D.  You might find a few still in the very shallow flats spawning but most are following ditches out to deeper water.  Find a bend in a creek channel or ditch and bass will be holding on it.  Points where the channels hit the main river also hold big schools of bass.

    The flats on Wheeler are very shallow, with two to six feet of water covering huge areas.  It does not take much of a drop to hold bass and give them something to follow. D.D. will watch for a change as little as six inches to one foot to know he is in a good place.

    Hard bottoms are a key. Shell beds are a favorite feeding place for May Wheeler bass. Those shell beds attract baitfish, the key to finding active bass on Wheeler.  Also, there will be some shad and bream spawning in May and they are attracted to the hard bottoms which brings the bass in to them.

    The flats and ditches have many stumps on them and bass love to hold around a stump.  That is also a good cover that D.D. searches for and if he can find a good stump bed near a shallow hump with shells on it he knows bass will hold there.

    A variety of lures will catch bass right now on Wheeler.  D.D. will have a Terminator spinnerbait, a Rapala or Strike King crankbait, a jig and pig, a Carolina rigged lizard and a Zara Spook tied on when he goes out.  All are thrown on Castaway or GLoomis rods and he uses heavy line, usually 17 pound mono.

    The water is usually stained at Wheeler but not muddy so shad colored baits are best and the heavy line does not spook the fish.  White with some chartreuse is a good color for the spinnerbait. In late April smaller blades work well but as May progresses and the baitfish get bigger he will go with bigger silver blades on his bait.

    Crankbaits that run ten feet deep or less are the best on Wheeler.  Most areas D.D. will be fishing may drop off to deeper water but he expects the fish to hit in four to six feet usually.  Shad colored crankbaits are the best for fishing this shallow water.

    D.D uses a homemade jig and tips it with a craw trailer.  Greens and browns are best in May. A jig and pig is his go-to bait for big bass. D.D. says more big bass have been caught on a jig and pig and more tournaments won on them than any other bait.

    He will also drag a Carolina rigged lizard and uses one-half to three-quarters ounce leads unless the wind or current is strong. Heavier sinkers help locate the shell beds and rocks as you drag your Carolina rig along but since the water is less than ten feet deep you don’t have to go to a full ounce sinker.

    The Spook is a great big-fish bait and chrome is a good color. It will draw strikes from fish holding at the depths D.D. likes to fish and a Spook walked over a drop with stumps on it will produce good bass.

    The following ten spots all hold May bass and are some of D.D.’s favorites. The GPS coordinates are in degrees, minutes and seconds.

    1. N 34 34 39.5 – W  86 53 13.4 – Creek mouths are good because bass migrating out of the creeks to deeper water will hold on cover and structure as they move out. But not all creek mouths are created equal.  Limestone Creek is a good example of the kind of structure you need to look for to hold bass.

    The upstream side of the mouth of Limestone Creek has flats and shallow water.  There is a river ledge that runs between the flats and the mouth of the creek, dropping off at the end into the creek channel and on the side into the river channel. This point is covered in stumps and is the kind of point or ledge that will hold bass.

    D.D. will position his boat in deep water off the end of the ledge, keeping it on the river side.  He will make long casts with his baits so they work across the point from different angles but always coming downstream.  You can work around the end of the point starting with one bait like the Spook then as you get into the creek side turn and fish back with another bait like a Carolina rigged lizard. That gives bass holding there a look at two different kinds of baits.

    If you catch a fish continue to work the bait it hits. After going some time without a bite try one of the other baits. Sometimes a change-up will get bites from fish that won’t go after the bait that has been working. Try to hit stumps with your Carolina rig and crankbait here.

    2. N 34 35 06.6 – W 86 55 32.9 – The mouth of Flint Creek is different in that it has more bends and flats on both sides with a river ledge on each side where it hits the main river.  Start at the upstream river ledge and fish it from several angles. It is best. Then try the downstream ledge.  You can also fish into the creek, keeping your boat in the creek channel and casting to the lips on either side.

    There is a sharp outside bend that swings over close to the bank not far into the creek.  Outside bends of channels always offer a hot spot where bass will hold up. The drop is usually sharper and it gives bass a quicker escape route.  Always watch for bends like this one and fish them carefully.

    Fish into the creek until you stop catching fish.  In late April and early May bass will still be filtering out of the creek and more may be back in it than later in the month. 

    3. N 34 38 31.7 – W 87 0 31.3 = Go downstream under the Highway 31 and railroad bridges and watch to your right.  At the second black channel marker buoy upstream of the Swan Creek Daylight Marker 302.3 slow down and idle across the river ledge. Watch your depthfinder and head straight toward the north bank.  You will be in shallow water about six feet deep or less but you will cross an old lake that drops into 11 feet deep.

    Start fishing as soon as the water drops off, working the lip of the old lake. Keep your boat out in the 10 to 11 feet of water and cast up across the flat, bringing your bait from shallow to deep. Fish all the way around the lake working like this. It will take some time to outline the lake bed but it can hold bass all around it.

    This is a pretty clean bottom with no stumps. There may be a little grass growing here. Milfoil used to fill the shallows and make the lake better but low winter pools have killed off most of it. If you hit any grass fish it carefully.

    This lake bed attracts lots of baitfish so watch for them. You will often see them skip away from your bait while it is in the shallow water and that is an excellent sign bass will be nearby. 

    Since the bottom is clean D.D. will often fish a lipless bait like a Rat-L-Trap here, one of the few places it can be worked without hanging up.  If he needs a bigger bass or is looking for tournament fish he will go with a big bait, starting with a three-quarter ounce and even fishing a full ounce Trap.

    This is also a good place to fish a crankbait, bumping bottom as you come across the lip of the old lake.  A spinnerbait slow rolled across the drop is also good.

    4. N 34 38 32.8 – W 87 01 28.9 – The mouth of Baker’s Creek is good but different.  Upstream of it the plant on that side has two water discharges so there is often current here even when the river is not moving.  There is a small island with trees on it in the mouth of the creek and flats on both sides of the channel. Where the creek enters there are rock piles on either side.

    Fish all around these rocks. Shad may spawn on them and bait fish are drawn to them. The current improves fishing here as it does on other spots but it is more consistent here due to the discharges.  Fish with the moving water as much as possible, keeping your boat on the down current side and casting back up and across the rocks.

    Current makes bass feed and you will often find it flowing over the points at the mouths of creeks. Current coming down the river and out of the creeks will create eddies that confuse baitfish and offer bass a good place to ambush them. Watch for any changes in the current if it is moving.

    5. N 34 39 11.6 – W 87 02 25.1 – Going downstream watch for the channel split where it goes on either side of Finley Island. The island is underwater but the shallows split the channel. Right at the head of the island, on the upstream end, is a red and green striped buoy marking the point of it.  This point is three to six feet deep and holds bass.

    D.D. will fish both sides of the point, positioning his boat downstream of the point out in the channel on either side and casting upstream, working his baits across the end of the point and down the sides.  You can throw a crankbait, spinnerbait, jig and pig and Carolina rig here, fishing with any current coming down the river.

    6. N 34 39 54.1 – W 87 03 28.4 – Across the river channel you will see Byrd’s Island Daylight Marker 299.3.  Go to it and fish the river ledge on both sides of it.  There are no ditches across it but there are shell beds on both sides that hold bass. You can feel them with a Carolina rig or heavy jig and pig to locate them and then fish all your baits over them.

    Watch carefully for any rise, even if it is only six inches.  This will often mark the shell bed so if you see your boat is coming up into more shallow water fish closer to it. You may be sitting on the sweet spot and casting past it.  If you do get your boat up on top of the shell bed mark it then come back later and fish it.  Your boat may spook the fish in the very shallow water but they will come back.

    7. N 34 39 26.5 – W 87 03 28.4 – If you go straight south across the channel from the marker in hole 6 you will cross the middle of Finley Island. When it gets shallow idle across the flat and watch your dephfinder.  The water will be three to six feet deep then suddenly drop off to 11 feet deep.  This is an old farm pond that was on the island and you can see it on good maps.

    Grass used to grow all around this old farm pond and hold fish. There are some stumps here and you may find a little grass now. Get your boat into the middle of the pond in the 11 foot deep water and fish all around it, casting your baits to the shallow water and working them back across the drop.   

    Here and other spots bass are more likely to be on the upstream side if the current is flowing.  They can hold in the deeper water in the old pond and baitfish coming downstream with the current will wash across the lip of the drop and make and easy meal. Try to make your crankbait or spinnerbait look like a baitfish coming downstream with the current.

    8. N 34 40 36.4 – W 87 03 17.2 – Several creek channels wind across the big flats in the mouth of Swan Creek and join up. There are also ditches off them and high spots on the edges of the channels and ditches.  Bass moving out of the vast spawning flats behind these ditches will follow them out, stopping to feed on bends and high spots.

    The mouth of the creek is between the marker in hole 6 and the power line but it is small and there are stumps here. Be very careful going it until you learn your way. You will be going across flats only two to three feet deep in many places and sometimes the deeper channels are lined with stumps. Idle speed is safer.

    Go in and find the sharp bend in the creek channel. It is due north of the downstream end of Finley Island, although a long way from it, and south of the big island in the mouth of Round Island, Briley and Mud Creeks where they all come together.

    There are two shallow humps just off the lip of this ditch.  Fish all around it and work up the ditches, following them looking for breaks and humps.  Bass will hold on any change and feed here.

    Your Spook is a good search bait here and in other places. Make long casts across the ditch edges and work it along them. A hit will usually mean other bass are holding in the same area.  Fish your Spook but also follow it up with crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jig and pig and a lizard.

    9. N 34 40 32.7 – W 87 04 27.2 – If you follow the creek channel downstream it will run between two sets of towers on the power line.  One tower set is out near the river channel and the next one toward the north bank and the ditch where two creek channels join and make a bend before going out to the river between is them.

    Fish the ditches like the ones in hole 8 but also fish the towers.  The concrete piers of the towers have rocks around them and often draw in schools of shad to spawn around them.  Fish all around the tower bases with topwater then run a spinnerbait or crankbait right beside the legs.  Stay downstream and cast upstream to work your baits with the current if it is moving.

    D.D. says a big tournament was won here by fishing these towers.  The channels are like a highway the bass follow and the towers are like fast food joints along the highway. Bass will hold and feed around them all during May.

    10. N 34 40 33.9 – W 87 05 51.6 – The mouth of Fox Creek offers flats on both sides with a channel snaking across them to join up with the river.  D.D. sits out on the river and throws across the upstream point formed by the creek and river channel, fishing a crankbait or Carolina rig across it.

    Dark lizards seem to be better and D.D. likes the Zoom lizard in either black or Junebug.  He will vary his sinker weight with the current but likes lighter leads when possible, unless trying to find new shell beds.

    Fish both sides of the creek mouth and work into it, following the channel across the flat, especially in late April and early May.  Search for schools of bass with faster moving baits then fish them and your slower moving Carolina rig and jig and pig for bigger fish.

    Try these ten spots then find others by studying a map looking for ditches and humps. Spend time on the water fishing those places. Try D.D.’s baits and tactics and you will catch plenty of May bass at Wheeler.



St. Croix Returns as Title Sponsor of 2023 Bassmaster Opens Series

PARK FALLS, Wis. – B.A.S.S. and St. Croix Rod, handcrafters of the Best Rods on Earth® for 75 years, are pleased to announce that St. Croix will return as title sponsor for the 2023 Bassmaster Opens Series. In addition to the title sponsorship, St. Croix will extend additional support to anglers through the St. Croix Rods Rewards Program.

Eugene Kim of Lindenhurst, Illinois caught 16-0 to top a talent-stacked field of 135 competitors in the Co-Angler division at last season’s 2022 St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Chesapeake Bay. In addition to valuable Open Series points and a significant cash prize, Kim took home $500 in St. Croix Rewards for winning the event while fishing St. Croix Rods.

New Format, New Opportunities

The St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by Mossy Oak Fishing have grown exponentially in popularity over the past few years. But the buzz has never been louder than it’s been since the announcement of the new Opens EQ (Elite Qualifiers) format last July, as well as the announcement of where all of the excitement will take place in 2023.

There will be nine Opens in the 2023 season — three each in three divisions — covering eight states from March into late October. Anglers fishing all nine events will be vying for an invitation to the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Top 9 anglers in the Bassmaster Opens Elite Qualifiers standings will earn an invitation to join the prestigious Bassmaster Elite Series in 2024. Individual event winners — including those who only fish one, three-event division — will be eligible for a berth in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.

“We’re so excited about this new format,” said Executive Director of Tournaments Hank Weldon, who oversees the Bassmaster Opens. “With the Opens EQ format, there is a clear path forward for those who want to make fishing a full-time career and prepare as much as possible while progressing toward the Elites. Those anglers’ abilities will be tested throughout the year on a variety of fisheries and prepare them for the cross-country rigors of the Elite Series. At the same time, those who only fish three events in one division will still be fishing for a dream chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic.”

2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Schedule

Division 1
March 2-4, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Alabama
May 18-20, Wheeler Lake, Decatur, Alabama
Oct. 12-14, Harris Chain of Lakes, Leesburg, Florida

Division 2
April 13-15, Toledo Bend, Many, Louisiana
June 15-17, Lake Eufaula, Eufaula, Oklahoma
Sept. 21-23, Lake of the Ozarks, Osage, Missouri

Division 3
May 3-5, Buggs Island Reservoir, Clarksville, Virginia
July 20-22, St. Lawrence River, Waddington, New York
Sept. 13-15, Watts Bar Reservoir, Kingston, Tennessee

St. Croix Rewards Program

The St. Croix Rod Rewards Program pays an extra $1,000 to any registered pro angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods, or $500 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 pro angler fishing St. Croix rods.

Similarly, the program awards an extra $500 to any registered co-angler who wins a St. Croix Bassmaster Open tournament fishing St. Croix rods, or $250 to the highest-finishing registered top-10 co-angler fishing St. Croix rods.

Anglers must register during the on-site registration prior to the tournament to be eligible to win St. Croix Rewards.

James Nealy of Yale, Virginia, won the co-angler division at last season’s St. Croix Bassmaster Northern Open at James River with a two-day total of 26-14. Nealy took home the $25,183 top prize along with the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award and $500 in St. Croix Rod Rewards for being the highest-finishing co-angler fishing St. Croix Rods.

“We’re pleased and grateful to welcome St. Croix back for their second consecutive year as title sponsor for the Opens,” Weldon says. “St. Croix’s continued partnership with B.A.S.S. is proof of their commitment to anglers at every level.”

St. Croix Vice President of Marketing, Jesse Simpkins, says the Bassmaster Opens Series represents an incredible opportunity for bass anglers aspiring to compete on the biggest stage. “The Opens provide a realistic pathway for tournament anglers to prove that they can compete with the very best,” Simpkins says. “It’s the training and proving grounds for the next generation of Elite Series anglers and Bassmaster Classic Champions. We couldn’t be happier to extend our support to this arena while increasing awareness of our brand, our rods, and all the ways our team works every day to give anglers the upper hand on the water.”

Follow all of the action of the 2023 St. Croix Bassmaster Opens Series at

About St. Croix Rod

Headquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for nearly 75 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Victory Avid®, Premier®, RIFT, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.