December Bass at Upper Bear Creek
with Gary Don Fleming
December and big spotted bass go together almost as good as December and Christmas. It may be the best month to catch a grown spot. Upper Beaver Creek is a sleeper lake in North West Alabama that often gets overlooked but is full of big spots feeding this month.
Formed in 1978 by a dam where Bear and Little Bear Creeks come together south of Russellville, this 1850 acre lake has a good big bass to little bass ratio. Based on the 1995 to 2005 Alabama Bass Anglers Information Trail reports on all Alabama lakes, upper Bear has ranked first five times and second three times for the fewest number of hours it takes to catch a bass weighing over five pounds.
The two arms of the lake are locally called Phil Campbell and Quarter Creek arms, with the Phil Campbell arm running mostly north and south and the Quarter Creek arm running more east and west. Both arms have bends and turns with smaller creeks and coves off them. The shape of the lake means it is a good place for a trip when the wind is strong since you can find protected waters to fish.
Gary Don Fleming grew up near Russellville and hunted the fields and woods that are now under water at Upper Bear Creek so he has a good knowledge of the terrain of the lake. He fishes many tournaments in the area, qualifying for the BFL Regional on the Bama Division this year, and also fishes many local tournaments on Upper Bear Creek
He guides on the Bear Creek chain and Tennessee River lakes in northwest Alabama and also guides hunting trips. His time on the lake and the knowledge he has of it can help you catch fish at Upper Bear Creek this month.
“I was told Upper Bear Creek has the highest number of quality bass in the area second only to Guntersville,” Gary Don told me. That confirms his experiences on the lake, where winter tournaments often take 30 pounds to win. The highest weight he has seen weighed in there is 36 pounds. There are a lot of five and six pound spots and largemouth in the lake, and he knows of a 15.2 pound largemouth weighed in during a tournament there a couple of years ago.
“In December the bass are holding on main lake structure and moving in to feed,” Gary Don told me. They feed heavily as the water gets cooler and you can catch them on a lot of different baits. A key is the presences of baitfish. If shad are in the area bass are likely to be nearby.
Gary Don will have several rods rigged with a variety of baits for December fishing at Upper Bear Creek. A buzzbait might surprise you this time of year, but he says he catches a lot of good fish on it on top, especially early in the morning.
A red Rat-L-Trap is a good fast moving bait that works well here as is a small Bandit crankbait. Both will take active fish chasing shad and allow you to fish fast and cover water. A suspending jerk bait is a third plug he will have tied on and it will take slightly less active fish.
When he wants to slow down Gary Don keeps a jig and pig rigged up as well as a jig head worm and a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog. Those baits can be fished slowly and kept in contact with the bottom, even when it drops fast. If the bass don’t seem to want to chase a bait it is a good idea to slow down and offer them something right in their face.
We fished Upper Bear Lake in early November and the water was much higher than normal for this time of year. It was a tough day, with bluebird skies after several rainy days. And there was a full moon. The lake should be back to normal by now and fishing will be good.
The following ten spots will all hold good bass this month and you can catch them using Gary Don’s methods.
1. n 34 16.416 – w 87 41.235 – The big island between the two arms of the lake right where they join just above the dam has a long shallow point with a roadbed on it crossing the mouth of the Quarter Creek arm. There are pole danger markers running from the island across to the far bank and you should not try to run through here, especially if the water is down any.
Bass hold from the point on the island all along the roadbed and drops on the downstream side of it and feed on top. Gary Don will fish from the end of the island across the roadbed, keeping his boat on the dam side and casting across the shallow water.
He often starts with a topwater bait like a buzzbait here, especially early in the morning. The day we fished he got a keeper largemouth on a topwater plug but says he has more confidence in the buzzbait in December. Work it all the way across to the other bank and down that bank to the first point. There are a lot of stumps on this bank.
Also work the top of the point and roadbed with a Rat-L-Trap and a jig and pig. Cast across the shallow top and work both baits back to the boat in deeper water. When you get to the far bank probe for the stumps with your jig and pig. Big fish often hold and feed around them.
2. N 34 16.412 – W 87 41.61 – Run to the dam and stay to the left, toward the water intake tower. Start at it and fish the riprap out to the point above the spillway. Be careful, this is an overflow spillway and there is nothing to stop you from going over the dam, and the current can be strong here.
Gary Don says you could fish this area all day and catch fish. If there is any current on the lake at all it will be on the point here. Work your jerk bait and crankbait, casting to the rocks and fishing them out. When you get out to the point go across toward the far bank. There is a shallow ledge running across the mouth of the spillway going to the dam and big rocks on it hold bass, too.
Go back over the same area with a jig and pig or jig head worm. Use a fairly light bait to get hung less often in the rocks. Cast up shallow and work the bait back. Between the point and the intake tower you will be in deep water but it is shallow out near the point.
3. N 34 16.177 – W 87 40.577 – Run up past the long point with the campground on it, keeping to the right and go up the Quarter Creek arm. The first creek on your right, across from the campground, is not real long but the left side of it going in holds good fish in December.
Start at the two big pines standing with one old dead pine leaning at a sharp angle on the bank. There are stumps and rocks all along this bank so fish it with your buzzbait and then cover it with a jig and pig. Gary Don likes a football head jig with a Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer on it and works it on the bottom here.
Fish back until you stop feeling rocks and stumps. The back of this creek is silted in and bass usually do not hold far back in it in December.
4. N 34 16.806 – W 87 40.275 – Run up the creek above the power lines that cross and to the sharp horseshoe bend back to your right. As you go into the bend ahead of you on the left bank going upstream are two small coves. Start on the upstream point of the second one and work up the creek. This bottom here drops fast to very deep water and is rocky. You will be sitting in 25 feet of water a very short cast off the bank.
This is a good area to slow down and bump a jig and pig or a jig head worm down the rocks. You have to fish slowly since it drops so fast. Gary Don likes a green pumpkin finesse worm on his jig head and a one-eight ounce head will get hung less than a heavier one.
Fish up the bank until you quit feeling rocks, about 75 yards. The bottom will change to sand and Gary Don will sometimes run this bank with a crankbait. Fish it fast to see if the bass are holding on the sand rather than the rocks.
5. N 34 17.808 – W 87 39.533 – Head on up the creek and you will pass several houses and docks on your the left bank. Across from this area is a rock cliff that area with danger markers around it. It is an old coal mine. Further upstream you will see a point on your left and the tin roof of a house up on it in the trees. Stop on the downstream point of the cove downstream of the point with that house.
Fish a Carolina rig and a Trap across this point at all angles. Fan cast and cover it from downstream then work around it casting toward the bank, continuing until you are casting across it from the upstream side. Since there is little current here the bass may position anywhere on the point.
There are several points in the area similar to this one and all will hold bass. As you leave the point you will see exposed rock on your left and there was a waterfall coming off it when we were there. A brick house is on the next point. The water in this area was very stained from the rains when we were there but should clear up quickly.
6. N 34 17.180 – W 87 41.078 – Going up the Phil Campbell arm of the lake, go under the bridge near the dam and the main lake will swing around a point and go off to your right. A small creek enters on the left and runs up parallel to the main lake.
Start out on the point between the creek and main run of the lake and work into the creek. Stay way off the bank and make long casts with a Carolina rigged finesse worm or jig and pig. Gary Don says this is a good place to get a limit of fish or to fill out a limit since it is very consistent.
There are brush piles along this bank that hold bass so slow down and work it when you hit one. Gary Don likes a football head jig with the Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer on it and will crawl it along the bottom probing for cover, fishing it much like a Carolina rig.
You can continue fishing on into this creek, working the bank and small points along it. Don’t leave as long as you are catching fish.
7. N 34 8.164 – W 87 40.632 – Running up this arm of the lake you will go by a broomstraw field on your right. When you get where you can see houses way ahead of you, with yards down to the water you will also see a rock ledge running into a cove on your right. Across and just downstream of this ledge you will see a double point on your left.
Gary Don says this point comes out pretty good and drops off fast. There are stumps on it and you will see an old logging road enter on the downstream side of the downstream point. Fan cast both points with your jig and also try a jig head worm here. Cover all of both points.
8. N 34 18.470 – W 37 40.504 – Run on up to the point just downstream of the big brick house on with a nice yard running to the water. There will be a big shallow cove between the point you want to start on and the point the house is on. Both are on the left going upstream.
Work all around this point, sitting out in deep water and casting across it at all angles. There is a big brush pile on the downstream side of the point and more brush scattered around on it. There are also rocks here.
Fish a jig and pig or jig head worm on the point, probing for the brush and rocks. Work slowly around the point. It drops off fast and if you fish too fast you will miss the brush. Also watch your depthfinder for brush way out off the point and fish it, too.
Gary Don say this they call this the Five Points area and there are five points here you can fish. All of them are good at times and they have hard rock bottoms. He says this is the best area on the lake. Try them all.
9. N 34 19.210 – W 87 40.154 – Head on upstream and you will see a high rock bluff on your left. Stop on the upstream point of it and fish that point into the cove to the dock. Fish all around the dock, too. A jig or a Carolina rig is good on these points and there are stumps and rocks on it to hold bass.
10. N 34 39.944 – W 87 39.217 – Just downstream of the next bridge and boat ramp is a creek on the left side called Gas Branch. A small island sits off the bank on the upstream side of it. Fish all around the island then work up the bank all the way to the boat ramp on the next point. Gary Don says many tournaments are won in this area.
Fish all your baits. Try crankbaits and jerk baits then work the area with a jig and pig, Carolina rig worm and jig head worm. Fish the swimming area as you go by. If you catch fish continue to work the area, switching baits and giving them a choice.
These ten spots all hold good bass this month and there are many others like them all over the lake. Check out these and learn how Gary Don fishes them, then try to find similar spots to fish where you can work the pattern.
You can contact Gary Don for a guide trip at 256-627-2903 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org