Category Archives: How To Fish

Captain Macks’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

Nice Lake Lanier Striper with Captain Mack

Also see: Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Country Fishing – fishing reports on Lakes Sinclair and Oconee, and more. (subscription required)

Happy 4th of July! I hope you have a great
Holiday weekend!

The weather for the 4th, and
most of next week indicates hot and humid,
with a pretty good chance of afternoon
showers, a typical July weather forecast. It is
really the type of weather that should make for
good fishing conditions, so get out on the
water! The lake level dropped to 1070.12, .42
feet down form last week, and .88 feet below
full pool. The surface temps also dropped
slightly from last weeks readings to an average
of 84 degrees.


Striper Fishing


Striper Fishing patterns and techniques are
really the same as last week, although some
days the fish were a little reluctant to bite. We
still have several patterns that are producing,
so be versatile and take advantage of patterns
that vary during different times of the day as
well as different areas of the lake.


Live baits on down lines and weighted free lines continue to be consistent producers, and
remain one of the better patterns, Fishing the bait in pockets, as shallow as 35 to 40 feet is a
good strategy, especially early on the day. This pattern has application on the lower and middle
parts of the lake. There are also fish in the backs of the creeks, target pinch points and timber
lines, with some fish holding in timber as deep as 70 feet. Power reeling is a viable technique on
these deeper fish, and I would definitely have a couple of rods ready to go with the spoons and
jigs.


Trolling has been very good, with umbrellas over the humps being a strong technique,
especially from mid morning on. Target humps that top out around 30 feet, or clip points in the
same depth, keeping your rigs in 15 to 20 feet. Contour trolling over a 35 foot bottom is also
effective, and may be more efficient than moving from place to place. I think this method is best
on the lower end, but has also been effective in the middle parts of the lake. I am not sure if
there is a favorite rig, I think it is more about depth control and keeping the rigs in the strike
zone.


Lead core trolling is a decent pattern, the numbers are OK, the average size of the fish has
been very good. A Chipmunk Jig, Under spin bait, or Mini Mack fished 7 or 8 colors back behind
the boat, have been consistent producers. Target the river or creek channels, and don’t ignore
the back 1/3 of the major creeks. This pattern will be effective on the lower or middle parts of the
lake, and should only improve as July progresses.


Bass Fishing


25 foot brush is not the only place the fish are calling home, but it’s safe to say many of them
are. There are still several baits the fish will respond to, and that varies from day to day.
Topwater continue to do well, Chug Bugs and Spooks remain favorites, and a fluke worked over
the brush is also a consistent producer. Keep a swim bait tied on, they are also effective over
the brush and for the schooling fish that have been consistently showing up. One footnote on
the schooling fish: casting spoons to the schoolers can be a great technique. Try jigging spoons
such as the Flex -it, Super Spoon, or War Eagles, and almost any type of spoon should get the
bite. Cast them to the fish, if they are still on top retrieve it on or near the surface. If the fish
sound, allow the spoon to sink and then retrieve with a yo-yo or ripping motion, Asl always,
watch for the bite to occur on the pause or fall.


If the fish are hesitant to chase down the moving baits casting a spy baits to the tops of the
brush will be effective. A Fluke fished on a slower retrieve and subsurface will also be effective
on the finicky fish. Worms on the drop shot, Texas Rig, or shakey will also get plenty of bites.
Falling lake levels indicate increased water releases, typically occurring in the afternoon hours,
which can energize afternoon and evening fishing. The techniques and structures I mentioned
above will still apply. The moving water will in most cases unnoticeable to us, however, the fish
and bait will feel it. This often causes the fish to become active, move, and feed a little more. If
your schedule allows, planning a trip to coincide with the water release can be a big plus!


Good Fishing!
Capt. Mack

Livebait Spinner Rigs for Summer Walleyes


By Northland Pro Eric Brandriet
from The Fishing Wire

There are countless presentations that anglers use to catch walleyes throughout the open-water walleye season.  Angler strengths and confidence often steer their preference, and in South Dakota a livebait rig pulled behind a traditional bottom bouncer probably tops them all.  Very simple, yet effective livebait spinner rigs can entice the weariest of eyes!

After spawn concludes and water temps increase, walleyes transition off shorelines and shallow areas to weedlines and mid-lake structures.  While other presentations can be effective, spinner rigs become the summer norm allowing anglers to cover large areas of water with varying baits, at various speeds, often producing some of the best walleye angling of the year.

Even though spinner rigs are often seen as simple, they have not avoided evolution through the years.  As a young angler, I saw 2-3 hook harnesses with solid colored #3 Colorado Blades topping the options.  Today’s multi-colored blades on snells, with a variety of hook types, was the farthest from my dreams.

It has been no secret that many walleyes have succumbed to the Northland Tackle Butterfly Blades after their introduction last year.  Butterfly Blades brought spinner blades to an all new level due to their weight or lack of, color variations and sonic-like vibrations.   Endless versatility with the ability to troll at speeds as low as 0.25 mph, use hook variations of choice and catch everything from panfish to pike have made them my favorite. Northland Tackle has now introduced the NEW Butterfly Blade Float’n Harness and the Butterfly Wing-Nut Blade Rig.  I quickly realized after a couple of trolling passes that these just uncovered even more trolling options.

The Butterfly Blade Float’n Harness quickly proved very effective trolled over emerging weeds and rocky areas.  Its ability to avoid snags (weeds/rocks) but remain in the strike zone made this a favorite.   The 12 NEW colors in two different blade sizes will give us options complimenting forage and water/weather conditions.The Butterfly Wing-Nut Blade Rig without a doubt became my favorite enticing almost every species of fish.  The small blade produces a slightly more erratic action unmatched by any other blade.  This unmatched action coupled with three hook configurations (2-Hook, 1-Hook and Super Death) only add to versatility allowing this harness to be tipped with your choice of minnows, crawlers or leeches.

There are characteristics that allow these blades to stand alone and simply will put more fish in your boat.  Their composition (polycarbonate) allows less line sagging when trolled at slow speeds, on turns or while drifting.   The action and vibration is atypical of standard metal blades and this action and vibration attracts fish of all species.  The unique color blade options and two sizes of Float’n Harnesses allow matching the size profile preferred by fish on any given day.

I was born and raised in Northeastern South Dakota. Currently living on Big Stone Lake, also with a property on Lake Oahe, I’ve quickly realized I’m surrounded by “walleye” country! Spinner harnesses are a fishing backbone on many bodies of water as they can be fished easily by anglers of all ages with success, great for a guide like me.  The NEW Northland Tackle Butterfly Blade Float’n Harnesses and Butterfly Wing-Nut Blades have definitely earned space in my stowaways.

Fool Summer Walleyes with These Tips from Northland Fishing Tackle


Nearly 50 years after the inception of the modern live-bait rig—what’s today known simply as the ‘Roach Rig’—its sheer effectiveness still raises eyebrows and turns heads. Take a vigorously squirming minnow, nightcrawler or leech and couple it with a hook, leader and sliding sinker and you’re fishing the deadliest walleye presentation of all time. Get a natural, lively bait to the bottom, and just start creeping your way along fruitful structure. Sooner or later, a walleye is going to eat. It’s just that simple.

Well, sort of. During the same 50 years, a number of nice little developments have transformed a serviceable bait delivery vehicle into a precision live-bait system. The walking sinker evolved into the Quick-Change Roach Sinker. The bottom bouncer transmogrified into the Northland Slip Bouncer. Live bait care tools, like those by Frabill, now ensure a healthy supply of critters. All the while, hooks, lines, and electronics have advanced almost beyond comprehension.

Which is where “power rigging” enters the equation. It’s old school rigging (light and easy) meets heavy metal bottom bouncing (head-banging fast), plus a dash of new wave tackle and tactics. Developed by ace guide Tony Roach, this hybrid live bait system is indeed, as he calls it, “Roach rigging on steroids.”

“Power rigging lets me maintain a natural live bait presentation, while triggering fish with a bit more speed,” states Roach. “Sort of like rip jigging, the presentation induces a reactionary response, while the live bait closes the deal. Early in the season, you’re moving slow with rigs and jigs, presenting bait to fish on a definite ‘feeding bite’; show ‘em a tempting morsel, keep it in front of their snouts, and they’re going to eat. Later on, as water warms, and the food supply expands, walleyes can turn a little tricky—a slight boost in speed is often all it takes to get fish to go.

“What I really like about the power program is that I can work quickly along a lengthy edge or over a vast flat, moving .9- to 1.2-mph,” he continues. “I can still put natural bait in front of them, but I can show my wares to a lot more active fish. What I also like is that the more boats there are working a spot slowly with rigs, the better. I can cruise right along and mow down the active biters.”From a lake-wide perspective, Roach’s power spots aren’t secrets. “This approach works on nearly any classic late summer and fall walleye location. Rock points, weed edges, transition areas, mudflats—anywhere you can drag a standard walking sinker and live bait, you can power rig,” he asserts.“It’s really sort of a hybrid between slow-down rigging and dragging spinners on three-ways. I’ll start doing this pretty early in the summer—right after those initial insect hatches— and stick with it on and off through late summer into early fall. Once surface temps hit 60-degrees or so, it’s time to break out the power rigs. Then again in August and September, it really shines as water begins to cool a bit.“

Those days when everyone is either creeping along with a standard rig or bottom bouncing at a good clip–especially on flat calm days–that’s when I’ll break out the power rigs.”Roach’s power program employs a straight wire bottom bouncer, such as the Northland Slip Bouncer, coupled with a super long leader—up to 15-feet for coverless flats— tied with 8-pound test Berkley XT. At slower speeds he typically rigs a live ribbon leech, small shiner or chub on a single #6 or #4 hook. If Roach is pulling crawlers, it usually means he’s moving a bit faster, employing a dual hook harness. For added attraction, he occasionally adds a single fluorescent bead, or a single 00 flicker spinner. Often, too, especially with longer snells or near vegetation, he likes to add a Rainbow Float, 1 to 8-inches above the hook. “You can pin the float in place using a rubber Snubber Stop,” he asserts. Keeping the float well above the hook holds the entire leader off bottom, rather than just the bait itself.

While the hook, float and live bait power the presentation, the Slip-Bouncer drives. Unlike the standard R-bend bottom bouncers, Slip-Bouncers are composed of a single straight wire shaft with an open eyelet on top, which lets you feed line freely to biting fish—no resistance. The 5-inch wire “feeler” transmits bottom types like a stethoscope, while a slide-on weight system yields rapid adjustments to varying depths, speeds and currents. Another advantage: tickled over soft silt, mud or sand, these needle-like weights disturb very little bottom substrate, an occurrence that often spooks walleyes.

“Slip Bouncers are a gem—something every angler should add to their bag of rigging tricks,” Roach says.“Power rigging is ideal for inexperienced anglers and old pros alike. If I’ve got beginners in my boat, I can just set soft-tipped 8-1/2- foot trolling rods, like my Mr. Walleye SuperPros, in rod holders, and let them load up and set themselves. If we start missing fish, we simply hold rods and delay our hooksets. Drop the rod tip back toward a biting fish, feel for solid weight, and give a nice long sweep. Once you get things dialed in, you’ll hook every biter. It’s a pretty forgiving system.“Really, power rigging can be the answer on any given summer day. Right in the middle of a classic ‘slow-down’ rigging bite, you can really put on a clinic. But the power program shines later on, too, when everyone else is moving faster, pulling standard spinner rigs. In both cases, the system can really make you a hero on those tougher flat calm day bites. Tell you what, any method that saves my hide on tough guide days is okay in my book.”

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry


Gunterwville Bass caught with Captain Mike Gerry

Also see:

Captain Mack’ Lake Lanier Fishing Report

Lake Country Fishing – fishing reports on Lakes Sinclair and Oconee, and more. (subscription required)

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 6/18/2022


With near 100-degree temperatures and water temperatures near 85 degrees fishing has
definitely changed in the past week or more. The bass are not as active as they were, and the
early bite and late bite are the best of the day and in-between is tough not only on the bite
but on the body as just being out there in this heat is not easy at least not for me!


Our lure selection is slow-moving Missile Bait 48 stick baits, and Quiver worms, along with
Tight-Line jigs in the deeper edges and Tight-Line swim jigs moved slowly over grass. There is
a top water bite on SPRO Pop-r’s but there is also a lot of floating grass making it hard to
keep a top water bait in the water.


Come fish with me I have days available to fish with you, right now more than 4 hrs. are
tough on the body and tough on a bite. We fish with great sponsor products Boat Logix
mounts, Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Vicious Fishing, Duckett
fishing, Dawson Boat Center,

TIPS FOR EARLY-SUMMER SMALLMOUTH SUCCESS

Tips for Early-Summer Smallmouth Success

from The Fishing Wire

PARK FALLS, Wisc. – Increasingly, today’s bass anglers love to tell you which species they prefer, brown or green. But it’s the former that continues to spawn a cult-like following. Even a self-described largemouth nut or honest walleye angler will admit to enjoying a smallmouth outing now and again.  And for good reason; smallmouth bass fight hard and are widely distributed. But don’t be fooled by the big bags of brown bass from famous fisheries that continuously fill our media screens and social media feeds; smallies aren’t always such an easy target – especially the larger individuals over four pounds.

Just in time for some of the best smallmouth fishing of the year, allow us to put forth some serious smallmouth strategy, elicited from a couple of the best brown-bass anglers from throughout the bronze belt.  Their home waters and tournament experiences have taught them to look for and recognize changing smallmouth patterns, quickly adapt to current conditions, and develop repeatable, winning techniques that work in a variety of settings – not just unpressured northern waters.

Bob’s Bites

Bassmaster Elite Series angler, Bob Downey, is no stranger to the podium and has some serious tournament finishes to prove it.  Hailing from Hudson, Wisconsin, the St. Croix pro is part river guy, part lake guy, and 100% smallmouth guy at heart.  He lists the Mississippi River as his favorite place to fish but has more “home water” in both Minnesota and Wisconsin than most could imagine.

When targeting smallies in natural lakes, Downey says he looks for large, shallow flats with a good mix of cover and a varied bottom composition. Cover specifically meaning boulders or patches of grass, and bottom composition variety in the form of sand-to-gravel or sand-to-rock transitions. “It’s usually a shallow-water game,” says Downey, who supplies prowess to the power-fishing game while focusing on water less than ten feet deep.  “I’d rather fish a flat that has lots of bottom transitions with contour changes, patches, and clumps of scattered cover versus a plain sand flat with not much going on. I’m looking for variety. Fish spend time here post-spawn, and I feel I can power-fish my way to finding them, even if I need to slow down a little to get them to eat.”

Of course, that can be the challenge given weather patterns and fish that don’t always cooperate, which is why Downey keeps it simple for post-spawn smallies.  “I’ll throw a black marabou hair jig first and foremost, and always keep a ned rig handy too,” he says.  “In early summer, smallies tend to be concentrated. They won’t be everywhere, but when you find them you’ll generally find a good bunch.  Covering lots of water until you locate them is key, and my favorite way to do that is with a black marabou hair jig.”

Search with a hair jig? Downey dives deeper. “I put the trolling motor on a medium to high speed and start covering shallower flats with deep water nearby.  If you catch a smallmouth or start to see them with your eyes or side-imaging, put on the breaks and start picking that area apart,” he advises. “During post-spawn they’ll roam those same spawning flats before migrating to their summer areas.” Downey offers simple advice on working a hair jig to perfection, which may surprise some anglers who preach complex retrieves and subtle jigging strokes with this bait that seems to “breathe” underwater. “Don’t overthink the hair jig,” he says.  “Simply cast it out and reel it back in at a steady pace.  Much like you’d fish a spinnerbait or small swimbait. The bait should just glide through the middle of the water column. You don’t need to impart any action yourself, although you certainly can… or fish it on the bottom… but I find more success with just a straight retrieve.” Downey describes the hair jig as a deadly little bait that excels in all phases of early summer on those hot, calm days where the fish are post-spawn. “There have been days where that’s the only bait I need in the spring or early summer,” he reports. “It couldn’t be any easier or more effective.”

Downey offers a few tips to help cast hair jigs farther. “Add a small chunk of an old plastic worm to the shank of the hook up under the hair. These jigs are generally 1/16-to-1/8 ounce, so a little added plastic will help with casting distance,” says Downey.  “Use thin, six-to-eight-pound braided line on your spinning reel with a shorter three-foot fluorocarbon leader so the leader knot doesn’t have to pass through as many – or any – guides during casting.” Downey is a fan of the FG knot for connecting braid to fluoro, noting, “I know it can be a difficult knot to learn, but it’s superior to any other when throwing a hair jig.”

Downey selects the 7’6” MLXF (ES76MLXF) Legend Elite or 7’10” MLXF Legend Tournament Bass (LBTS710MLXF) rods from St. Croix to do damage marabou-style, and the 7’0’MF Legend Elite (ES70MF) for ned rigging.

“The length and action of a rod may be the most important component of throwing a hair jig,” he says. “It’s difficult to cast a light jig with a short, stiff rod.  You need at least a 7’ medium or medium-light power and a fast or extra-fast tip. I prefer a 7’6″ to 7’10” rod in MLXF.  It makes a difference. The medium-light power gives me a soft rod that absorbs the strike and the big head shakes during the fight, and ultimately allows me to land big smallmouth on a tiny bait. The extra length and extra-fast tip gives me the sharp ‘whip’ needed to snap that little jig way out away from the boat. There are some techniques in bass fishing where you could use a wide array of rods and get away with it, but the hair jig is not one of them.”

When asked what’s around the corner as early bites give way to mid and late summer, Downey says the fish start to split up, both shallow and deep.  “Shallow areas can and will play all summer long depending on the weather conditions; sunny, flat, calm, hot days are best,” says Downey.  “Shallow fish are super fun, but they can be less dependable at times.  They move around a lot and are here today, gone tomorrow.”  While that may make them his preferred fish to take a crack at for fun, it’s harder to cash tournament checks just throwing shallow.

That’s where deep-water strategies come in. “Fish that set up on deep structure tend to be a little more reliable,” advises Downey, who likes to target deep fish with a variety of presentations depending on the conditions.  “I’ll chase deep smallies with ned rigs, drop shots, finesse jigs and reaction baits depending on the weather.  There’s just so many ways you can catch them when they’re out deeper.  Crankbaits, swimbaits, spybaits… that’s what makes summer so much fun when chasing smallmouth. And no matter what I’m doing, St. Croix makes an ideal rod for the presentation.”

Travis’ Take

Travis Manson is a familiar name to smallmouth anglers throughout the US. Both his guide service and popular YouTube channel are named “Smallmouth Crush” for good reason.  A native of Northeastern Wisconsin, Manson honed his craft and love of smallmouth in the Northwoods but spread wings out east where he currently fishes more than 200 days a year on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and even the Upper Chesapeake Bay.  His experience on such varied smallmouth waters has accelerated his understanding of patterns and behaviors, ultimately helping his clients catch more fish along the way.

Although the smallmouth spawn can extend well into June – even early July – in some Great Lakes fisheries, early summer means post-spawn behavior in most of the areas Manson plies. “I’m generally targeting areas close to spawning bays and grounds, looking shallow but anticipating a deeper summer setup,” he reports. “Not every fish is going to be deep the rest of the year, as there’s always resident shallow-water fish.”  Given the choice, he advises fishing a mixture of both, but starting shallow first.  “I start in three feet of water down to 15, focusing heavily on that eight-to-12-foot zone, which I find key.”

Like any talented smallmouth angler, Manson makes moves based on the conditions of the day.  “On high-sun and calm days I’m looking for cruisers,” says Manson.  “I climb to the highest point of the boat, put the trolling motor on high and tend to throw reaction baits to cover water and visually locate them.  It’s really about casting to an individual.”  That can mean looking for individual boulders or structure too, not just fish.  “If a fish isn’t on a good boulder, I’ll mark it and come back during different parts of the year,” he says. “Anything from something the size of a bowling ball all the way up to a truck-sized boulder, I’m marking it ‘rock’ on the graph and visiting it often.”

When he’s throwing at rocks or really any shallow structure, Manson prefers finesse swimbaits and other plastics.  “I’m using swim-head designs with a screwlock, which helps me get more use out of my plastics.  I can have some good days up shallow, meaning 30 or 40 fish an outing, so keeping those plastics from being thrown can be really useful when guiding,” says Manson.  “For the most part I’m using three- and four-inch baits in natural colors to mimic live minnows, like whites, ghost, or smoke colors.  On some systems where there’s perch, I’ll mix in those colors and chartreuse as well.”

Other finesse plastics like tubes or creature baits get the nod in systems dominated by gobies.  “There, I’ll focus on bottom baits in green pumpkin, straight black, or classic goby colors, paired with a mushroom-head-type jig,” says Manson.  “Even a Senko can be deadly here, just pitching visually towards cover or even active fish.”  Manson uses swimbaits and finesse plastics in concert, as a one-two punch, often seeing the fish approach or hit the swimbait.  “I get some follows at times where fish pull off near the boat and then just hover by bottom.  I’ll swing the boat around, get in position, then throw that finesse bait back to them in those cases.”

Manson is a huge fan of St. Croix’s Victory Series in general for smallmouth, specifically, the Victory Crosshair rod (VTS710MLXF) for swimbaits.  “It’s a great hair jig rod,” says Manson, “but it’s incredible for long-cast techniques on all light jig heads in general.  While it’s nice to have the distance, with the way a fish bites swimbaits, it’s really critical to have that long rod and extra-fast action.”  Manson appreciates the extra length on the Victory Crosshair rod for another reason, too. “These fish are so good at getting off,” he says. “A longer rod aids your ability to do battle and keep them buttoned up.”

For presenting soft-plastic finesse baits, Manson emphasizes the importance of sensitivity.  “I won’t fish anything here but St. Croix Legend Xtreme rods in 6’10” (XFS610MLXF) or 7’3” (XFS73MLXF), both in medium light power and extra fast actions,” he says.  “Finesse means feel, and feel is the everything of these rods.  I can get the distance on many long rods, but to feel bites versus rocks or baitfish, these are the sticks.”  Manson uses his Legend Xtremes specifically for working baits across bottom, where contact is key.  “I feel where to throw the bait and prefer medium-light powers to run lighter jigs with so much control.  I’ve got all the power I need for hook-setting and fighting, while still maintaining control of a small jig, which is tough for most rods.”

Come mid-summer, Manson shifts his focus to offshore structure like ledges, humps, and especially long points that extend into deep water.  “That’s where you find the big schools,” says Manson, who spends a good amount of time watching side-imaging, but more importantly, standard 2D sonar to find these big pods of active, deep-water smallmouth.  “These fish show up and stay for weeks at a time, and often do so year after year.  Still, smallies are notorious for being here today and gone tomorrow, which is why I confirm everything on sonar before setting up to fish.”

There’s no denying that the late-spring and early-summer timeframes deliver some of the best opportunities of the season to score big smallmouth catches, especially if you follow the recommendations of our experts.

Their advice is as solid as the chunky bronzebacks they’re sticking on a regular basis.

How and Where to Catch December Bass at Millers Ferry with Skip Spurlin, with GPS Coordinates

     The Alabama River has some great bass lakes on it and Millers Ferry ranks high among them.  All the river lakes contain excellent populations of largemouth and spotted bass and this is a good time to catch both species on Millers Ferry.  As the water cools they follow patterns that you can take advantage of right now.

     Millers Ferry is officially known as William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir and covers 105 miles of the Alabama River south of Selma.  It contains about 17,200 acres of water and over 500 shoreline miles.  A Corps of Engineers Lake that officially opened to the public in 1974, it has more than three million visitors each year.

     Skip Spurlin grew up near Millers Ferry and has fished it for a long as he can remember. It was the lake he fished in his youth with his Uncle Jerry Hollinghead, Grandfather J.C. Hollinghead and father Gordon Spurlin.  He has learned what the bass are doing there over the years with them and fishing on his own.  The patterns they follow each fall make finding and catching bass a good bet.

     Skip now lives in Opp and fishes several tournament trails including the BFL and Airport Marine tournaments.  He also fished some of the Fishers of Men tournaments and a lot of local pot tournaments and charity tournaments on Millers Ferry.  He is on the Airport Marine Ranger Pro Staff.

     Some of Skip’s best catches at Millers Ferry include a spot weighing a 5.5 poounds, a good fish anywhere, and a 7.5 pound largemouth.  His best tournament catch on the lake was a five fish limit weighing 22 pounds.  There are plenty of quality spots and largemouth in Millers Ferry.

     “Fall fishing is all about the shad,” Skip told me.  The shad move off the river into the pockets as the water cools in November and the bass follow them.  Then in late December the shad will head back out to the river and bass will say on them.  You can catch them on the points at the mouths of creeks and pockets coming and going.

     Skip and I were on Milers Ferry in late October, the first cold front of the year and the coldest day up until then, and the shad were already back in some of the creeks.  That seemed a little early but you need to follow them and not worry about why they are moving when they do, just stay on them like the bass do.  Find the shad and you will find the bass.  At times you can see them feeding on top and other times you will need to watch your depth finder to spot the balls of shad in deeper water.

     “When you catch a bass on a buzzbait it will be a fat one,” Skip said.  Each morning Skip will start with a white or black Lunker Lure buzzbait around wood cover in the mouths of pockets.  He will throw this bait on shady banks back in the creeks as long as the fish are hitting. 

If they don’t want a topwater bait he will try a silver blade white spinnerbait in the same areas.  He will also offer them a Trick worm or Senko around the shallow cover if they don’t seem very active, working the Trick worm by cover and dropping the Senko beside logs and letting it sink to the bottom.

     As the sun gets higher or if the bass are not hitting the  spinnerbait and buzzbait he will try a crankbait.  Skip likes to start shallow with a bait like a Rattle Trap and will throw it around the mouths of creeks and pockets.   He likes a one half ounce shad colored bait in clear water and a gold bait in stained water.

     After trying the Trap shallow work deeper with a Norman’s Deep Little N then a DD22 in the same colors. Probe for drops, cover and fish around shad in the mouths of creeks on points with these baits.  The point between the river channel and creek channel is often an excellent crankbait hole this time of year.

     If nothing else works Skip will go to a jig head, Carolina or Texas rigged worm, but they tend to catch smaller bass.  He likes a Zoom Speed worm for largemouth and a Zoom Trick worm for spotted bass.  On sunny days a green or green pumpkin color is best and on cloudy days he will switch to the same worms in Junebug or redbug colors.

     Skip likes the Gee’s Bend area this time of year.  He and I put in at Roland Cooper State Park and fished the following holes in late October. There were shad and bass on several of them but we had a tough bluebird sky/cold front day to fish.  Each will be even better now and you can catch bass on them on through December or even later. Just remember to find the shad to find the bass.

1. N 32 03.363 – W 87 15.031 – Going upstream from the opening at the ramps at the state park you will pass a long island on your right.  Watch to your right for an opening going back into a big area at the state park golf course. There is a small island in the middle of the opening and a green channel marker is lodged in some stumps on the downstream point.

     Start here early throwing a buzzbait and spinnerbait around the wood and grass cover on the point. Work back into the pocket behind the point and around behind the island.  Fish school up on shad in places like this and feed early around shallow cover.  Make several casts to the best looking spots.

     Later in the day or if nothing hits shallow work around the island with your crankbaits. Work deeper if you don’t get bit shallow.  The water drops off fairly fast on the river side of the island so work this areas back to the downstream point.  You can also fish a plastic bait around the cover here.

     2. N 32 04.194 – W 87 14.206 – Run up to the next cut on your right and go into it.  Be careful if you run in on plane, there are some stumps near the channel.  Go around the point on your left and head to the left.  Near the back of the creek you will see a concrete seawall and dock on a point on your right. Start fishing on this point.

There is a good grass bed to fish around this point and some wood cover. Work up this bank hitting grass beds and wood cover with buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. This bank stays shady for a good while so it will be better a little later in the morning. Fish all the way up to the last dock on that side. Just past it you will see a causeway coming across the small creek. 

If the fish don’t hit a buzzbait or spinnerbait work a plastic bait around the cover. A Trick worm or Senko can be good in the shallows if the bass don’t want to chase your faster moving lure.  If shad have worked this far back into the creek there should be bass feeding on them.

3. N 32 04.246 – W 87 14.629 – Back out at the main river stop on the upstream point of this creek. The point between the creek and river has a lot of visible brush off the bank on the river side and you will see a long cedar tree growing on the point. On the map this point is near mile marker 46.

Fish around the shallow cover with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits on the point between the two channels.  Also work a jig head worm or Texas rigged worm on it. Skip says the bottom is nasty here with lots of rocks that will eat your bait.  You can’t fish a crankbait here without getting hung up on every cast.

Current is critical on these points.  Bass will feed much better when there is some current moving. The current will move the shad across the points and position the bass.  You will catch some bass without current but not as many and not as big as when it is moving. This point is mostly a spot hole.

4. N 32 04.385 – W 87 14.770 – Across the river is an opening going back to flats of an old oxbow and Skip likes to fish the left bank going it. Start about even with the point on the island between the river and the oxbow and fish all visible cover.  The left bank going in is the side the old river channel was on and is deeper and better.

Fish from the area across from the river side island to a point where there is a deep pocket going further in. You will see a field across this pocket and that is as far as Skip usually fishes this spot.  The sun gets on the water early here so he likes to start here in the mornings.

This is a good area for pattern that works on some spots. Look for patches and pockets of water hyacinth and flip them with a heavy jig and pig. You need a half to three quarters ounce jig to get down under the mat. Skip says this pattern can be good all day since bass hold in the shade on sunny days.

5. N 32 04.687 – W 87 14.508 – Another good pattern on Millers Ferry is to flip and pitch to shoreline cover along outside bends in the river.  Back out on the main river head upstream and the river will start bending to your left a little.  Watch for a big oak tree leaning over the water on your right and start fishing there, working upstream.

Flip a jig and pig to all wood cover along the outside bend. The bottom drops off fast and there are lay down trees and logs as well as stumps along this bank.  Also watch for any change in the bottom like a ditch or the change from dirt to clay. Those things can concentrate the fish.

Skip likes to flip a three eights to one half ounce jig to the wood along the bank.  He chooses a black and blue Eakins or Lunker Lure jig with a Zoom sapphire blue Super Chunk.  Fish it on heavy line like 15 to 20 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon to pull bass out of the cover.

6. N 32 05.367 – W 87 14.905 – Up the river you will come to the mouth of Buzzard’s Bay on your right. You can see a lot of standing trees back in the bay and there is a red channel marker just off the upstream point.  The upstream point is where you want to fish.

Skip likes crankbaits and plastics on this point. There is a good break in eight feet of water and wood washes in and hangs up on it. Bass will hold in the cover and school up on the flat behind the break.  Start with your boat out in 15 feet of water and cast up shallow, covering the flat and drop. Then move on the shallow side of the break and work your plastic baits through the wood cover, fishing deep to shallow.  

Skip will throw a Carolina rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog on this point.  He likes green pumpkin and dips the tails in JJs Magic chartreuse dye.  The Carolina rig is good for fishing the cover on the bottom. Moving water makes shad pull up on the flat on this point and bass will follow them, too.  Watch for surface activity while fishing the deeper water.

7. N 32 02.394 – W 87 16.671 – Run down the river past the state park and watch on your left for a line of tall post that run along the bank.  They were put there for a seawall or some other structure but stick up by themselves with some wood along their lower edges. 

Start fishing at the downstream side of these posts and work upstream.  This is another good outside bend area and working upstream helps you position your boat if there is any current. Current really makes the bass bite better so you want to be fishing it when the current is moving.

Skip says you can take a limit of spots weighing 15  pounds if the current is moving and everything is right. Flip a jig and pig to shoreline cover here like in hole number 5.  There are also riprap banks and docks along this area to fish. 

Fish upstream to the double dock with the workboat tied to it.  There was an American flag flying here the day we fished.  Skip says flip to all the post on this dock, that wood washes in and hangs up here and holds bass. Work this whole bank probing for wood cover as the water drops.

8. N 32 02.315 – W 87 16.920 – Just downstream of the posts on the same side is a cove that holds shad and bass this time of year.  There is a big gray house on the upstream point with a gazebo out on the point.  Across from that point they are clearing brush on the lot on the downstream side. That is the side Skip likes to fish.

Start fishing on the riverside of the lot they are clearing. There is wood and grass along that bank that holds bass as they move in and out of the pocket following the shad. Try all your baits along this bank, hitting visible grass and wood cover.

9. N 32 02.903 – W 87 18.535 – Further downstream on your left is the opening to go back to Ellis Ferry landing.  The downstream point of this creek has a two story white house behind and a little downstream of it.  This point has a bar that runs across and upstream of it and is an excellent place to find spots schooled up.

Fish a crankbait and jig head worm on this point, covering it from all angles. Watch your depth finder to see how the bar runs and work it out to deeper water.  A jig head worm is especially good fished along the bar out toward deeper water.

10. N 32 02.493 – W 87 18.493 – Go back into the creek until you see the ramp at Ellis Ferry ahead of you as you round a point on your right. Start at that point across from the boat ramp and work into the creek. Ahead of you there is a causeway that cuts off part of the bay. This is a good bank to start on if you put in here.

Shad will often hold along the grass beds on this bank and they were thick in there in late October.  Bass were schooling on them when we fished it and it will be even better now.  Fish this bank with buzzbait and spinnerbait early, then work a Trap a little later.  It is a shallow bank so stay way out and make long casts.

Fish the docks and grassbeds back until the water out from the bank where your boat is sitting is only two feet deep.  Watch for action on top and make casts to it. Also hit dock pilings and brush under the docks.  There are enough tournaments held from this ramp that the area is constantly restocked, adding to the fish that are moving in following the shad.

Try these ten spots Skip likes to fish and see what kind of structure and cover he is looking for. Check other areas of the lake that are similar and find the shad on them and you will catch bass.

June Bass at Neely Henry with Karen Rae Elkins, with GPS Coordinates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The following spots all hold bass this month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Catch March Bass On Lake Pickwick with Roger Stegall – Including GPS Coordinates

March Bass at Pickwick 

with Roger Stegall

     Many national tournament trails are drawn to Pickwick Lake because of the amazing smallmouth fishing.  The lake is known nation-wide for producing stringers of quality smallmouth.  Four and five pound fish are common and in many tournaments five-fish limits between 20 and 25 pounds are weighed in.  It has an excellent population of largemouth and some spotted bass as well.

     Pickwick is a 43,100 acre lake with 490 miles of shoreline.  The dam on the Tennessee River was completed in 1930 so it is a very old lake. Although its dam is in Tennessee and some waters back up into Mississippi, most of the lake is in Alabama.  Two locks at the dam provide barge traffic access as does the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway that connects with the upper end of Yellow Creek.

     Roger Stegall has been fishing Pickwick for 31 years and guides there about 200 days a year.  He has been bass fishing all his life and got his tournament start in college. Roger and some of his friends started a bass club and he liked the competition.  He fished clubs for several years and has fished tournaments with prizes ranging from a trophy to $200,000.

Roger is well known on the tournament trails and has done well in the BFL, Stren Series, FLW and Bassmasters trails, especially in the Pickwick area.  He has won six BFL tournaments and at least that many second place finishes where he was within ounces of the winner.  He has many top ten finishes in all the trails he has fished.

In 1998 Roger won the BFL point championship for the Mississippi Division. In the Division Championship that year on Pickwick he set a record catch of smallmouth that still stands in the BFL. He brought in an incredible five-fish limit of smallmouth weighing 27.5 pounds.  His biggest smallmouth that day weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces and he culled a 4.5 pounder.

Roger shared his knowledge of Pickwick with me on a very cold day in late January and showed me the spots where he will be fishing from late February through March.  His record catch came on March 18 so this is an excellent time to be on the lake.

     As soon as the water starts warming in late February both smallmouth and largemouth start moving toward spawning areas, according to Roger.  They will hold and feed in predictable area and will hit a variety of baits.  Roger firmly believes lake bass spawn on the lake and creek bass stay in the creeks to bed, but there are plenty of quality fish in both kinds of areas. 

     Bass will be on rocky points in creeks and on the main lake and you can catch them there during this time. They will also move up on grass flats to feed and spawn so that is another kind of spot to find them.  When the water temperature is between 49 and 59 he expects them to be feeding well in both kinds of areas.  Smallmouth will spawn when the water gets to 59 and the largemouth will follow when it hits 64 to 65 degrees.

     Most of the bass on Pickwick will be pre-spawn from now to the end of March.  Roger will fish rocky points with a Strike King Wild Shiner jerk bait, a Strike King spinnerbait a Series 5 crankbait and a football head jig. On the flats he will be throwing either a Red Eye Shad or Diamond Shad lipless bait and the spinnerbait.

     The following ten spots will all hold both largemouth and smallmouth this month and they will give you a variety of kinds of spots to hit on the lower lake and in Yellow Creek.  Fish them like Roger suggests and you will catch fish.

     1. N 34 59.515 – W 88 14.324 – If you put in at the ramp at Sportsman Boat Storage and One Stop on Sandy Creek you don’t have to go far.  Look down the creek to your left and you will see a small island sitting just off the bank.  Roger says he has caught the lunker in a bunch of tournaments off this island.  You will be sitting in 12 feet of water not far off the bank and there are rocks all around the island.

     Roger fishes this spot like a rocky point.  He stays out from the bank and makes casts in close to the bank. He will work his jerk bait back in short pulls at a right angle to the bank rather than getting in close and making parallel casts. He says he wants to cover the water at a variety of depths.

     If the jerk bait doesn’t draw a strike he will follow up with a spinnerbait, slow rolling it down the slope of the bottom, again working it straight out from the bank to deeper water.  Fish all the way around this island, covering all of it on both sides. 

Before leaving Roger will work a football head jig in the same area to find fish that are very inactive. Sometimes fish will not move up to chase either the jerk bait or spinnerbait so he wants to tempt them with something on the bottom.

2.  N 34 59.584 – W 88 14.249 – The point behind this island is also rocky and an excellent place to catch bass this time of year.  There is a sign on a tree that says “Cheerio” and Roger calls it Cheerio Point.  There is a dock on the point with two white poles holding it in place and it has blue floats under it.

You will see there are two pockets, one on either side of this point.  Both are good spawning pockets so bass hold on this point before moving in to them to spawn.  Fish all the way around the point with jerk bait, spinnerbait and jig.

Roger likes the Denny Brauer Pro Model football jig with the Rage Craw or Rage Chunk on it.  Natural colors like green pumpkin are best.  The football head does not hang up as bad as other shapes and it gives the bait a wobble the fish like.  Roger fishes the heavy football jig rather than a Carolina rig to cover water and keep in contact with the bottom.

3.  N 34 58.996 – W 88 14.170 – Start up Yellow Creek and you will see Yellow Creek Port on your right. There are usually some barges tied up along the left bank.  Upstream of them are some rocky points and Roger starts at the one with a small pine leaning over the water and two small old logs running from the bank out into the water.  There are stumps and chunk rock on this point and it holds bass.

Fish all the way around this point with all three of your baits.  Roger fishes Pflueger reels and All Star rods with all his baits and says the Pflueger best reel for the money on the market. They are two of his sponsors and he likes and uses their products.

The channel swings in close to the bank here and you will be sitting in 35 feet of water a cast off the bank.  Roger says some wind blowing in on the rocks helps as does some current. When water is being pulled at the dam there is often a noticeable current here. Sometimes there is a slight upstream current when the lock is operated on the Tennessee-Tombigbee canal upstream but it is inconsistent and you can not depend on it.

4.  N 34 57.764 – W 88 13.692 – Run upstream and watch for red channel marker 447.2 on a point on your left. This point has stumps all over it and is rocky.  There is a small gravel pocket upstream of the point.  Fish all your baits all the way around this point, from the pocket below it to the rocky beach upstream of it. The other points around this one also hold bass.

 The colder the water the slower you should fish. Roger works his Wild Shiner jerk bait in short pulls rather than jerks. He says that more imitates the action of an injured baitfish.  They don’t dart around, they move slowly then suspend or slowly move up. He wants his jerk bait to look like they do.

     5.  N 34 57.123 – W 88 13.299 – Upstream Goat Island runs way out from the right bank.  This was really a long point where the creek made a sharp bend before the channel was cut through near the bank.  There were some goats on the island the day we fished and that is how it got its name.

     On the upstream side there is an underwater point running out near the outside edge of the island.  The channel swings in right beside it and it looks like a bluff bank but the point is the key.  Watch you depthfinder as you fish along this bank and you will see it.  Keep your boat out in at least 20 feet of water and cast all three of your baits all around and across the point.

     6.  N 34 59.261 – W 88 13.448 – Head down Yellow Creek past the first spots following the channel and you will go through the narrow cut on the right. Downstream of it watch for red channel marker 449 on a rocky point on your right. The point with the channel marker and the one upstream of it are both good March spots since they run out to the old channel and have rocks and brush on them and there are spawning pockets behind them.

     Fish all around both points probing for rocks and brush. When you hit heavy cover make several casts over it with a jerk bait and run your spinnerbait just above it. Then work your jig through it. Roger says you will get bit on a jig here is you can fish it without hanging up, but you will lose a lot of baits in the rocks.

     7.  N 34 59.800 – W 88 12.355 – When you get to the mouth of the creek you will see a Spanish style house on the main lake point on your left.   There was a US flag on a pole in front of it the day we fished.   Roger calls this “YMCA Point” since there used to be a YMCA camp on it. On the creek side of the point you will see a steep rocky bank change to chunk rock and gravel then to flat rocks. 

     Roger fishes the creek side of this point from the steep bank to the flat rocks. He will use the same three baits as in the creek but will add in the Series 5 crankbait here. He likes the sexy shad color if the water is clear but will throw the bright chartreuse with green or black back if it is stained.  He stays way off the bank with the crankbait and makes long casts to the bank, fishing it back from shallow to deep.

     8.  N 35 01.267 – W 88 11.289 – Run across the river and go behind the big island. Head downstream but be careful until you find the deep water here. You will see a duck blind on your right near where there is a gap in the island on your left. Just downstream of the duck blind it gets very shallow and there are some big stumps and rocks so be very careful.

     This is a good example of the kind of grass flat Roger likes this time of year.  The water is fairly shallow way off the bank and grass grows on it. Right now the grass is just starting to grow so you won’t see a lot of it, but both largemouth and smallmouth will hold in the grass and feed.

     This is where the lipless crankbaits work best. The Diamond Shad has a good wobble and will flutter down when paused, but the new Red Eye Shad will swim down like a hurt baitfish when it is paused. Try both for different actions.  Roger likes shad and bream colors in both baits.

     Roger will also throw a spinnerbait here.  He likes the Strike King with either a single or double willowleaf and goes with the double willowleaf if there are shad present. White is his choice if the water is clear and he uses a white and chartreuse combination if the water is stained.

     Bass move in to feed up on these flats before the spawn and they will also spawn on them, so this spot is good the whole month of March and into April.   They will also feed here after the spawn.  Stay about two casts off the bank and make long casts, covering lots of water as you work this flat.

     9.  N 35 02.749 – W 88 10.756 – Go downstream, being very careful until you learn where to run since there are shallow flats on this side.  Go to the rocky point on the upstream side of Dry Creek and fish it with jerk bait, spinnerbait, crankbait and jig. The point is rocky and there are cedar trees on it.

Start on the upstream side and work to the creek side. Roger does not fish up the creek side. It gets very deep on the creek side but runs out shallow on the river side so stay way out and make long casts.  Two boat lengths from the bank the water will be only six feet deep and you want to cast to that depth, not sit over it.

     Roger likes Sufix Elite line since it does not have much stretch and he can feel his baits better with it.  He fishes the green line so he can see it and watches his line on every cast. Sometimes you will see a bite you don’t feel. Also the low stretch means he feels the lipless baits and crankbait vibrating better and knows to set the hook if the vibrations stop.

     On the lipless baits Roger uses 14 to 17 pound Sufix to feel it better and get the fish out of grass.  He throws his jerk bait on 10 pound clear Sufix Seige and fishes both jig and spinnerbait on 12 pound Sufix line.

     10.  N 35 03.079 – W 88 10.927 – On the downstream side of Pompeys Branch, just below Dry Creek, you will see a big shallow point running out to a flat on a good map.  This flat comes up to a hump on the end about 300 yards off the bank.  The hump is a ridge about 200 yards long and grass grows on it.  Bass feed and spawn here and hold here before moving back into the branch and creek to spawn, too.

     Stay on the outside of the ridge and make long casts across it with lipless baits.  Keep your boat in deeper water and cast to the top of the ridge, covering the slope back to you.  Fish it from one end to the other then go back along it with your spinnerbait.

     Roger likes the middle of the day on this spot and others. He says that seems to be the best time to catch fish on the flats.  On the points you can catch fish any time of day but the first three weeks of March are going to be best because a lot of the fish will move back into pockets to spawn after that.

     Check out these spots and see the kinds of patterns and places Roger fishes. There are many others all over the lake that are similar.  You can catch fish on these spots then find others after learning the pattern.

To get Roger to show you how he catches bass on Pickwick call him at 662-423-3869 or E-mail him at rogstegall@fishpickwick.com for a guided trip. You can see more information and pictures at his web site at http://www.fishpickwick.com/

HOW TO: CATCH MORE FISH IN THE SPRING

by Bob Jensen of fishingthemidwest.com

How To: Catch More in the Spring

from The Fishing Wire

The days, too slowly, are getting warmer and longer. These warmer, longer days are getting more anglers in the mood to visit a lake, river, or pond to see if anyone in that lake, river, or pond wants to get caught. Fish are cold-blooded. Being cold-blooded, they respond to different stimulus in diverse ways. Sometimes they like to eat larger, faster moving prey, other times they prefer prey that is smaller and slower moving. Here are some ideas for fishing in the spring.

Spring is the time of year when most fish like their food to be smaller and slower moving. Since they like their natural food that way, it’s a good idea to offer the fish that we’re after baits that resemble their natural prey. In this case, smaller and slower moving. Small is relative though. A small bait to a largemouth bass is going to be too big for a bluegill, a perch, or a crappie. We as anglers need to tailor our bait presentation to the species of fish that we want to catch.

In many areas, walleyes are a popular target at this time of year. In many areas, walleyes are a popular target at any time of year. But if we fish for walleyes with the same bait in the same way in the same location every time we go fishing, we’re going to be limiting our success. For instance, a jig tipped with a minnow can be particularly good early in the year. In some places a fathead minnow will be good. In the lake just down the road, a shiner will be preferred. That’s early in the year. A few weeks later when the water has warmed and the walleyes are in more of a chasing mood, a jig tipped with a Rage Swimmer plastic will be better. The jig/Rage Swimmer combo is more effective fished faster, so we can show our bait to more fish, which usually increases the chance to get bit.

Another thing regarding minnows and jigs in the spring. Some folks like to hook the minnow through the lips, others like to put the hook in the minnow’s mouth and poke it out through the back of the minnow’s head. By doing the in-the-mouth and out-the-back of the head deal, the minnow will usually stay on the hook longer, and it will also appear to be a smaller presentation. Cold water, smaller presentation, usually more fish.

Now about lure speed. Slower moving lures will usually be better in the spring, but it’s also good to cover water quickly and efficiently. There are a couple of ways that you can do this.

First, and if you’re fishing in a state that only allows one line, try starting with an eighth ounce jig. Work it kind of quickly, but when you catch one or two in quick succession, slow down. Tie on a sixteenth ounce jig and really work the area thoroughly. You’ll catch a couple more. If you go five or ten minutes with no more catching, tie the larger jig back on and start moving again. When you find the fish, slow down and work’em over good.

Here’s something that works well in states that allow multiple lines. Cast the jig but put a slip-bobber rig out there also. I’ve even had success hanging a rod with a jig/minnow directly over the side of the boat. This is often referred to as a “dead rod.” Make sure the jig is near the bottom. You might be surprised how many walleyes you can catch on the slip-bobber rod, and at times that dead rod can get pretty lively. Usually, it’s worth the effort to get those extra lines in the water.

The same concept is true if you’re fishing for crappies or bass. Move the bait slowly but work the area quickly until you find the fish. Then slow down and make them bite.

Depending on where you’re fishing the next few weeks, if you keep the small and slow idea in mind, you’ll increase your odds for catching more fish.

Jig Fishing Tips from Z-Man Pro David Walker


LADSON, SC – “I don’t think anyone knew how picky I was going to be when we got into designing these high-level bass jigs,” says veteran bass pro David Walker, with a friendly laugh. For the self-admitted jig-fishing junkie, the opportunity to brainstorm, build and customize an A-to-Z line of jigs felt like assembling a dream team of bass-catching baits. 

“A jig is the definitive fishing tool,” says Walker, who credits a skirted jig for the majority of his $1.9-million tournament winnings. “A jig isn’t a regional nor a seasonal bait, like so many others in your box. There’s not a body of water in which a skirted jig won’t catch bass. So, to finally have access to a year-around line-up of jigs—built to my own persnickety standards—that’s pretty cool.

”Recently, the easygoing Tennessee based angler unveiled the contents of his tournament jig box.Ace jig man David Walker flips where others fear.

FLIPPING JIGS

Walker’s pick: “My all-time go-to is a black/blue CrossEyeZ™Flipping Jig with a Z-Man BatwingZ™ trailer. I’ve made most of my money on a heavier 5/8-ounce jig, but I flip a ½-ouncer more often, as it’s a little more versatile.

Where & when it shines: “Any time I’ve got any heavy cover at all—brush, grass, trees, docks—I’ll flip a jig in there. A jig is the best tool ever for reaching and appealing to big bass in dense cover. It’s an obvious choice in spring, but I fish this jig summer and fall, too—anytime bass are hunkered down in heavy cover.”

Jig tech“One key to the CrossEyeZ Flipping Jig is its head design, which slides it cleanly through cover, every time, without getting stuck. Most flipping jigs have weight-forward heads that hang-up on limbs and obstructions. The head on the CrossEyeZ is slightly flattened and tapered back so it slips right on through. Another sweet detail is the jig’s hand-tied skirt, pinned permanently in place with copper wire. The skirt lasts as long as the jig itself; you’ll never pull it out of your box with a broken rubber band and a pile of silicone strands. 

Trailer talk: “Buoyant ElaZtech is an awesome trailer material and the BatwingZ is so tough you can hook it once right through the body, just like we did with old-school pork-rind. Love the flattened, oversized claws that flap and wave actively. At rest, the claws float up, mimicking the defensive posture of a live crawfish.”

The scoop
: An ace shallow water angler, Walker flipped his way to a hefty 32-pound bag of bass at the 2019 Major League Fishing (MLF) Tour stage at Lake Jordan, NC, finishing atop the leaderboard during the Shotgun Round. Flipping jigs proved a dominant pattern a few weeks later, too, when Walker fished the willow bushes at Chickamauga Lake, TN.  

FOOTBALL JIGS

Walker’s pick: “For heavyweight, ball-and-chain style fishing—casting and dragging— give me a ¾-ounce CrossEyeZ™ Football Jig with a 4-inch Turbo CrawZ all day long. Two hot colors are “Smoked It” and “Plumkin,” green pumpkin with a splash of bright purple.

Where and when it shines
“I start fishing the football early in prespawn when bass are still in slightly deeper, winter type areas. During prespawn, I’ll go back to this killer combo, rolling the jig up and over ledges, points and gravel, often on offshore structure.”

Jig tech: “The CrossEyeZ Football Jig is designed to pivot and roll as it slides across the substrate. I like the heavier ¾-ounce size for longer casts and solid bottom contact. The money presentation is a sideways pull of the rod; you don’t want to lift the jig. Just drag it along and let the pivoting jighead and long shank 5/0 hook activate the skirt and trailer.

Trailer talk: “The Turbo CrawZ™ is a high-action crawfish bait that couples really nice with a football jig. The smallest rocking motion of the jig really get the claws waving and vibrating. The toughness of the ElaZtech material means you can often fish one bait all day long.”Walker designed the CrossEyeZ Swim Jig with a special keeper that locks ElaZtech trailers tight.

SWIM JIGS

Walker’s pick: “I’ll take a 3/8-ounce CrossEyeZ™ Snakehead Swim Jig in the color they call “Shad Spawn.” Pair it with a Turbo CrawZ or DieZel MinnowZ™.”

Where and when it shines: “My favorite place to throw the Snakehead Swim Jig is around docks in marinas. You can skip this jig way up under docks, and it won’t hang up on cables, pilings or obstructions like other baits. The late spring shad spawn is a key time to fish this pattern, whether it’s around docks or shallow grass. I love fishing this jig because it’s often a shallow, visual thing, where you’re seeing bass before casting to them.”

Jig tech: “We shaped this jig to mimic a snake’s head—the most adept animal at slithering silently through forests of cover. The jighead is animal-like, not geometric. Also has a flattened underside that helps the jig plane up on the retrieve, so you can use heavier weights for longer casts. On 30-or 40-pound braid, I can throw or skip a 3/8-ouncer a long way.”

Trailer talk: “You want a trailer with a high-action tail that does all the work. The DieZel MinnowZ is an awesome shad imitator. The Turbo CrawZ gives me just a bit more movement in dirtier water. As they say, I like any color so long as its white.”

FINESSE JIGS

Walker’s pick: “In certain situations, a 3/8-ounce CrossEyeZ Power Finesse Jig and TRD CrawZ combo is a great substitute for a bigger flipping jig. Z-Man’s “Pond Scum” pattern is one that’s gotten me a lot of bites.”

Where and when it shines: “Anytime I’m flipping in really clear water, the Power Finesse Jig can be the way to go. In clear water, fish get a great look at what you’re throwing and really respond to those artsy-style colors—combinations of dark and bright silicone, together. I also throw the finesse jig in winter, particularly along steep bluff banks. Cast right against the bank, and work down into 6, 8 and even 15 feet. Let the finesse jig freefall off rock ledges, but otherwise keep it on the bottom.”

Jig tech: “The Power Finesse Jig has a golf-ball shaped head and a compact profile that appeals to less aggressive or pressured bass, or fish that might be overwhelmed by a big flipping jig in clear water. The jig has a short-shank 2/0 flippin’ hook. It’s not a light wire hook, so you can still pitch it into cover knowing it won’t open up on you. Like the other CrossEyeZ jigs, this one’s got hand-tied skirts and a lock-tight trailer keeper.”

Trailer talk: “The little 2-1/2-inch TRD CrawZ™ is known as a Ned Rig bait, but it’s a perfect match for the Power Finesse Jig. Colors like Mudbug pair up well with that Pond Scum-pattern jig. The CrawZ has super buoyant pinchers that flap back and forth as you retrieve the jig, and then wave up of the bottom when you pause. Bass eat this thing like crazy.”