Category Archives: How To Fish

Where and How to Catch Neely Henry Bass

July Bass at Neely Henry

with Waine Pittman

     Its hot and muggy but that is no reason to stay home in front of the air conditioner.  Catching a big spot or largemouth will make you forget the heat, and there are few better places to do that right now than the Coosa River on the upper end of Neely Henry Lake.

     Neely Henry is just downstream of Lake Weiss at Gadsden.  From the Tillison Brend Park Ramp upstream the river is narrow but there are feeder creeks with grassbeds and other cover.  Docks are scattered on the river and in the creeks.  Current runs in the river most days from power generation at the Weiss dam and the Neely Henry dam. 

     Current seems to make the spots and largemouth grow big fat and strong.  Hook a three pound spot in the current and you will swear you have one twice that big or a striper.  The current also makes them hold in predictable places and you can catch both species without dredging the depths in July.

     Waine Pittman lived the dream, as the BASS Federation Nation motto goes.  In 2008 he qualified for the Georgia Top Six in his club, the West Georgia Bass Hunters.  At the state tournament he placed 4th at Lake Seminole, making the State Team.  At the Federation Nation Southern Divisional at Santee Cooper he was the top man on the Georgia team, qualifying him for the Nationals.

     In a dream trip that almost turned disastrous due to the weather Waine was the top man on the Southern Division team which made him the Southern Division representative at the BASS Masters Classic, arguably the most important tournament there is each year.

     Waine is sponsored by Nitro Boats, Mercury Motors, Minkota Trolling Motors, JJ’s Magic, Cull Buddy, Triple Fish line, Net Bait lures, Cold Steel Lures, TC Cranks, Costa Eyewear and Tillman Eye Center.  He uses Revo reels exclusively and says they are the best reels available.

     I asked Waine what his favorite lake was and he didn’t hesitate to say “Neely Henry.”  His club fishes the lake every year, usually in July, and he also fishes pot and local tournaments on Neely.  He loves to fish the river for big spots and largemouth and knows how to catch them. 

     Waine started tournament fishing while in college and likes tournament fishing.  Next year he plans on fishing the Southern Division BASS Opens tournaments all his kids are now out of high school.

     Waine has a 5.5 pound spot and a 7 pound largemouth from the river, and his best tournament catch there was a five-fish limit weighing 23 pounds.  The river is the perfect place for Waine to skip, pitch and flip a jig and pig, his favorite way of fishing.  And it catches fish there.

     “By late June bass are set up on their summer pattern,” Waine said. That means they are holding in the river and bigger creeks on ledges and deeper cover and running in to shallow water to feed. Creek mouths are a key area this time of year, giving bass a short route to grass beds in the creeks and to cover that breaks the current on the river banks. 

     Waine will start at daylight on shallow grassbeds near creek mouths, then move to the river banks after the sun gets up.  He fishes the grass fast with spinnerbaits, frogs and buzzbaits on one pass then come back and flip them with a Net Bait Paca Punch.  After an hour he moves out to the river channel and flips them with a jig he makes.

     Flipping, skipping and pitching a jig and pig with a Paca Chunk SR. behind a five-sixteenths ounce jig works well.  That combo has a lot of action and works catches fish in the current on the river.  Flipping is his bread and butter method of catching bass.

     Waine showed me the following ten spots where he catches bass in the river in early June. We were a little early for the pattern but caught some good spots and largemouth, but not the quality fish Waine hoped we would catch. By now the bigger fish will be more active on these spots.

     1.  N 34 00.779 – W 85 55.412 – If you put in at Tillison Bend Park Ramp run up to the mouth of Cove Creek, the first creek upstream of the ramp on the same side of the river. Go into the creek to the 4th dock on the right, in front of a brick house, and fish upstream. There is a good grass bed by this ramp and it is a good place to start.

     Fish the small patch of grass quickly then work on upstream, fishing the seawall and small point at the next dock. Past it is a big point. Fish it then go around the point. A huge grassbed lining the bank starts there and runs into a cove, out of it on the other side and on up the bank.

     Throw your buzzbait to the bank and work it back across the gap.  Try a spinnerbait, too.  A frog works well over this water willow grass in the thicker parts of it and that is where the biggest bass will hold. Waine likes the Cold Steel frog since it is thin and tough.

     Waine usually fishes around the first pocket with those baits then turns and fishes the same grass with the Paca Punch. That bait is a solid body bait that stays up on the hook well and has lots of action.  He will drop the bait into holes in the grass and also punch through the thicker mats.  A half ounce sinker is heavy enough to get through most of this grass and works well.

     We hooked a couple of good largemouth here the day we fished. Both hit spinnerbaits the first few minutes before the sun came up.  Sometimes you can punch the thicker grass can catch fish in the bright sun, and if the fish are actively feeding a spinnerbait run through the grass will catch them even in the bright sun.

     2.  N 34 00.870 – W 85 55.309 – Go back to the mouth of the creek and start on the upstream point, fishing upstream. Pitch a jig and pig to all the cover along this bank. Trees and brush create eddies in the current that the bass use as ambush points 

     Always fish upstream. That gives you better boat control and also helps work your bait with the current in a natural action. Fish at an angle ahead of the boat, pitching or flipping your bait so it hits on top of the cover and falls in behind it with the current.

     Work on up to the first few docks along this bank, hitting them where the posts breaks the current.  Current is critical when fishing the river. When it moves, the bass bite, but you need a strong trolling motor to fish it. Waine uses a 36 volt Minkota for this reason.

     3.  N 34 00.744 – W 85 54.500 – A little further up the river on the opposite side, just where the river starts a gentle bend to the right, a small double mouth creek enters the river. There are grass beds in the mouth that hold good bass. Waine said he pulled up here one day and on back to back casts caught a 4.63 and a 4.75 pound spot. There was a big bass chasing shad here when we got to the spot but we could not get it to hit.

     Keep your boat out in the river and cast into the creek, working your fast moving baits over the grass. Fish both sides of the small island splitting the creek at the river edge.  Waine says he does not work back into the smaller creeks like this one since the bass will be set up right on the river this time of year.

     4.  N 33 59.479 – W 85 54.044 – Further up the river Tidmore Bend makes a big horseshoe bend.  Going upstream, watch for an old dead snag tree leaning out over the water.  Start well downstream of this snag and work up to it. You should stop across the river from the blue roof house on the far bank if you can’t see the snag.

     This inside bend is typical of a good type place to fish.  There is a little less current here so bass like to feed here when it is running strong, but still enough to make them active.  

     Waine says he usually catches bass in less than five feet of water, so he concentrates his casts to the base of trees in the water and brush or little cuts on the bank. It is worth fishing on out to the ends of the bigger trees some to see if bass are holding deeper, but unless you get some bites keep your bait in the more shallow feeding zone.

     5. N 34 05.552 – W 85 51.845 – Waine usually runs way on up the river from here, going past the Appalachian Highway Bridge. Upstream of the bridge Coats Bend makes a sweeping turn to the left.  Go all the way past it to where the next bend starts turning to the right.  A small island sits just off the bank and a small creek enters behind it. This is an excellent place to fish.

     Start just downstream of the cut behind the island and fish upstream, pitching your bait into the ditch and working it out. Cover both points. The downstream point will have current hitting it and turning into the ditch, creating a good feeding eddy. The upstream point has current swirling around it to make the bass feed. There is grass on both points that you should hit hard, but also fish out in front of it.

     Fish upstream a short distance, hitting the cover on the river bank. Fish will feed along it as they move to the mouth of the creek to feed so it is worth checking out.

     6.  N 34 07.637 – W 85 48.102 – Run all the way to the bend where the Weiss Re-Regulation pool empties into the river and stop on the right bank going upstream.  Fish the right bank along the inside bend of the river, starting well downstream of the turn.  Fish up to the turn past the dead snags in the water.

     Along here the current is very strong out in the river but you will actually find water moving upstream from the eddy behind the point.  There are cuts in the bank that create additional eddies and the wood in the water breaks the current, too. 

     Waine got a good keeper spot here on his home made jig and says it is a very good bank.  It is worth hitting every little hole and piece of wood along this bank.  Fish it slowly. With the current eddying around you can fish here fairly easily in both directions.

     7.  N 34 07.217 – W 85 49.057 – Headed back down the river go to the mouth of Ballplay Creek, on your left going downstream.  It is on the straight section of the river about half way before you get to the turn back to the right going downstream. There is a lot of wood in the mouth of this creek, especially under the overhanging tree on the downstream point.

     Waine says it is nasty under that tree and you will probably get hung up, but it is worth it since it holds good bass.  Start fishing just downstream of the creek mouth and work into it, hitting the cove under the tree as you go into the creek. This one is deep enough to fish into the creek about fifty feet then fish back out on the opposite bank. 

     Time of day is not real important but sun seems to help position the bass a little.  We caught more fish while the sun was bright than when it was cloudy. But current is more important than anything else, and Waine will fish this pattern from an hour after first light the rest of the day.

     8.  N 34 06.632 – W 85 51.505 – Going back down the river on the outside slight bend to the right watch for a small building on the left bank. Just downstream of it is a ditch with wooden retaining walls on it. This is the location of an old cotton mill.  You want to fish the right side of the river, across from the ditch.

     Idle in slowly here, especially if the water is down some. Old walls and humps come up to a couple of feet deep about 50 feet off the bank and make eddies in the main river current.  Waine will fish a Bandit 200 shad colored crankbait here as well as a spinnerbait.  You can reel the crankbait down to bump the tops of the cover and run a spinnerbait over it.

     This is a good place to pull in and make a couple of dozen casts to see if the bass are on the structure.  Waine says he will not stay long if he doesn’t get bit quick. Stay out a long cast from the bank and work your baits at an angle, casting toward the bank then coming back downstream. Also fan cast upstream to hit the cover further out. You can see it on your depthfinder.

     9.  N 34 04.074 – W 85 49.733 – Go back down past the big bend and the island in hole 5.  Just before you get to Coats Bend you will see some houses and docks on the right side. If you are headed upstream they are the first docks on the left above the bridge, but a long way from it. 

     Stop in front of the dock with a Rebel Flag with the words “In God We Trust” on it. It is in front of a big unusually shaped house. The house is long and thin running at a 90 degree angle to the river then wide at the end away from the river. There is also a high car unloading area with columns supporting the high roof. It looks like the front of a hotel.

     The three docks from the flag upstream are good ones to fish. Wood washes in and hangs on them, and small diversion walls just upstream of some of them make good eddies at the docks. Fish the posts of the docks and all the wood around and under them, and also make some casts behind the docks between them and the bank, with your jig and pig.

     10.  N 34 01.954 – W 85 50.274 – Running down the river there is a small creek on the left on the outside of Coats Bend.  The creek forks a little way back. It is upstream of the bigger Dry Creek. This smaller creek has a dock on the upstream point that has steel I Beams supporting the deck and a paving stone or wall stone wall on both sides of the walkway coming down to it.

     Fish both points at the mouth of this creek.  Then work on back into the creek, fishing the overhanging brush and wood in the water.  Waine says the water is deep enough here to work all the way back to where the creek widens out on the left fork going in.  He got a keeper spot off the point where the creek splits.

     All these places hold good bass and there are many more creek mouths, inside bends and other kinds of cover to fish in the river. Head to it this summer and get in on the incredible fishing when the current is running.

Where and How to Catch December Neely Henry Bass

December Bass at Neely Henry

with Johnny Osborne

    Thanksgiving Holidays. Christmas Holidays. Lots of people hunting. What a great time to be on the lake!  Compared to much of the year there are few people on the lake and the bass are biting from the end of November through December.  A good choice for catching spots and largemouth right now is Neely Henry.

    Located on the Coosa River just downstream of Lake Weiss, Neely Henry is a long river-like lake with just over 11,000 acres of water.  It runs 77 miles from dam to headwaters and has a wide variety of structure and cover, although many creeks and ditches are silted in.  Dammed in 1950, this old lake has lots of grass and there is still a lot of wood cover in the lake.

    According to the Alabama DNR there are a lot of 15 to 18 inch largemouth in the lake and the spotted bass population is “exceptional” for large fish.  The numbers of spots in the 14 to 20 inch range is one of the best in the state.   Just over half the bass weighed in during tournaments are spots, according to the BAIT survey.

    Johnny Osborne grew up in the area and has lived near Neely Henry all his life, except for a stint in the navy.  He has fished all his life and in the 1970s a co-worker got him started tournament fishing.  Fishing has been a passion all his life.

    This year Johnny fished the BFL series and made the regional tournament.  He also fishes the BASS Weekend Series and the ABA as well as many local tournaments.  He does some guiding on the lake and has helped many pros locate hotspots for big tournaments.

    Last year in the in the St. Jude’s Charity Tournament on Neely Henry he and his partner had five spots weighing 19 pounds, 2 ounces.  His best five from Neely Henry weighed over 26 pounds and his best tournament catch was five at 24-14.  He has landed a 6 pound, 3 ounce spot and an 8 pound, 2 ounce largemouth on Neely Henry.

    “Bass are following baitfish and feeding shallow from Thanksgiving through Christmas,” Johnny said.  You can catch them on a variety of baits and in several kinds of cover and structure.  Current makes a big difference and they bite much better when it is moving.

    Most of Johnny’s fishing this time of year concentrates on the mid-lake area, from City Ramp in Gadsden to the Rainbow Landing area.  Bass move to creek openings and shoreline cover and feed on shad as them move with the current, and you don’t have to make long runs to cover the area.

     Johnny will have a Stanley spinnerbait with a one gold and one silver willowleaf blade and a chartreuse and white skirt and an Academy XPO chartreuse crankbait for faster fishing. 

    For slower fishing he will rig a jig head that he pours himself with a watermelon red worm with a chartreuse tail, and have a Arkie tube Texas rigged and ready.  The tube is his favorite bait and Johnny likes a green pumpkin color.  He will also rig a Trick or Finesse green worm on a Carolina rig with a 32 inch leader behind a three-quarter ounce lead.

    A topwater bait like a Pop-R or a Sammy is also ready for low light times like early in the morning or during cloudy days.  Johnny says he catches bass at Neely Henry on top until the water gets to the low 50s so you can catch them on top most of the month.

    Put in at City Ramp or Rainbow Ramp and you can fish these spots without a lot of running. There were fish on them a couple of weeks ago when we fished and they should be even better now.

    1.  N 33 59.191 – W 85 59.996 – Head downstream from City Ramp and go under the bridges. On your right you will see a campground then a big white house on a narrow point between the river and Big Wills Creek.  The end of that point runs parallel to the river and is deep on both sides and is covered with rock.

    Stop on the river side and cast across the point.  You can run a crankbait or spinnerbait over it if there is current running and the fish are active.  If there is little current, work around the point casting a jig head worm up almost to the seawall and working it back down the point and across it at different angles.

    The day we fished there was not much current here in the early afternoon but we caught over a dozen bass on it on jig head worms. All were spots and the biggest was about two pounds. Johnny says you often get a lot of keeper size spots here since they stack up on this point.

    Before leaving Johnny will fish up the river side of the point for a hundred feet, working the steep drop along this bank.  Bass will feed here, too, especially if there is a good current running along the bank.

    2.   N 33 58.191 – W 86 00.004 – The mouth of Big Wills Creek is very wide since it makes a big bend, hitting the bank at the point above then swinging across to the far bank before turning and entering the river near the downstream point. Since the channel enters here, the downstream point of Big Wills Creek is good, too. 

    Stop on the river side of the point.   You will be across from the playground and old ramp at Dub Parker Boat Launch.  Fish the point that runs upstream parallel to the river and the flat on either side of it. Bass hold on the point and feed on the flats.

    Johnny starts on the river side and casts up on top of the point with a shaky head or his Texas rigged tube.   When sitting here you can see a three door white dock on the far bank of Big Wills Creek and the restaurant on the road across from it, but you will be a long way from it.

    Fish from the bank to the drop into the old creek channel.  Bump the bottom, probing for any cover where bass will be hiding.  Current running across this point makes it much better.

    3.  N 32 58.220 – W 85 59.331 – Run down the river and watch for the opening to a slough on your right.  It is near the end of a gently bend of the river to the left and is just downstream of a brown roof dock with a big wind chime on it.  The house behind it also has a brown roof with a white chimney. There was a “for sale” sign in the yard in early November.

    Keep your boat out in the river and fish the downstream point of this slough. The river channel runs right up to the mouth of the slough.  There was a stump sticking up out on the point and there is a hump in the middle of the slough. 

    Run a crankbait across the shallows, casting from the river channel and working your bait from shallow to deep. Bump the bottom as long as you can on each cast.  Make sure you work out from the point to cover the hump, too.

    After trying the crankbait try both a shaky head and tube. Drag them along the bottom, hoping them and then letting them sit still for a few seconds to wave in the current. 

    4.  N 33 57.475 – W 85 58.119 – Head downstream until you can see the upper end of Freeman’ Island, the big island in the middle of the river.  On your right you will see a small island just off the bank and upstream of it a big brown brick and wood house on that side.  The upstream point of the island has chunk rock on it and the flat from the island to the dock and ramp at the house holds feeding bass.

    Start at the island staying on the river side of the island and cast across the upstream point.  Keep working toward the dock, staying way out and making long casts. The flat has stumps on it and bass hold around them. 

    This is a good area to fish a Carolina Rigged worm since the heavy sinker will allow you to fish it quickly and find the stumps.   Your jig had worm and tube will work well, too.  Fish the area carefully, some big bass hold here.

    5.  N 33 56.910 – W 85 57.480 – Downstream of Freeman’s Island on the left going downstream you will see a electric pole on the bank surrounded by a chain link fence. It is not easy to see in the brush but it is the outlet for the Tyson plant wastewater holding pond.  Waste from the chicken processing plant dumps into the river here and it has a colorful local name that recognizes the “stuff” that comes out.

    This outflow draws in big schools of baitfish and big bass feed here.  You will see a path on the bank coming down to the water and out from it a pipe runs out to dump waste. This pipe is covered with riprap and you can see humps of rocks if you ride over it, but be careful if the water is low.

    Keep your boat out from the bank and end of the pipe and make casts to the bank with a crankbait, running it back across the rocks at different angles.  Johnny likes the Academy crankbait since it works well, runs right and is not too expensive.  You will lose crankbaits here on these rocks, but can catch some big stringers of bass.

    There are three different drops along here and bass will hold along any of them.  Johnny says a lot of six to eight pound bass have been caught here and many tournaments won on this spot so don’t pass it by.

    6.  N 33 57.037 – W 86 01.005 – Run a good ways down river past the right turn bend to where the river starts a left turn. On your right a creek enters upstream of the bend and Tommy’ Marina in the back of it.  There are some danger markers on the upstream side of the opening. 

    The mouth of this creek has several humps and drops across it where the river runs in close and many bass hold here.  Be careful, you can go from 20 feet of water to nothing in a few feet, and not all the humps are marked.

    Work this area with Carolina rig and shaky head and tube. The humps and drops are covered with stumps and chunk rock and you will get hung up a lot. Johnny says a crankbait would work well here but you lose too many to make it worth throwing them.

    Current running across these drops makes a big difference.  The fish will feed when the current is running so position your boat so you can cast upstream and work your bait back with a natural movement with the current.  Work around the area until you find the bass feeding.

    7.  N 33 56.737 – W 86 01.407 – Go around the bend and downstream toward the bridges.  Stop just upstream of the upstream boat shed on your right at Bucks Marina and work upstream.  There is a house here with satellite dish in the yard and a boat shed with a pontoon under it with a yellow and white cover.

    Fish all along this bank, working the cover and cuts along the bank, staying out in 20 feet of water or so.  Use your shaky head, tube and Carolina rig.  There is a good bit of wood cover on the bottom here so probe for it. 

    The channel makes a good ledge along this bank and bass hold on the lip of it and run in to feed.  It was along this bank where Stacey King got 2nd place in a PAA tournament and where Johnny’s fishing partner, Gary Howington caught a huge seven pound, six ounce spotted bass.

    Work the bank and all cover from the boathouse all the way upstream to gray and white dock with a boat with a Mercury motor on it. Just downstream of this dock is a ridge or hump and this is where Stacey King caught his fish.

    8. N 33 56.499 – W 86 01.610 – Go to the upper bridge of the Highway 77 crossing and stop out from the riprap on the left side going downstream. Johnny says this is a great place to find bass pushing shad into the corner and feeding, especially in the morning.

    Throw a spinnerbait, starting on the end of the riprap and working it into the grassy pocket and fishing upstream about 50 feet. Work it at different speeds as much as you can in the shallow water. Watch for fish busting bait on top.  Current makes this spot much better.

    This pocket and pattern gave Johnny the bass he needed to win the two day BFL finale last year on Neely Henry. He said he was surprised to get here each morning and find it open, with no boats ahead of him stopping here.

    Work the upstream pocket then go around the point and fish the downstream pocket, too. Sometimes the current will make the bass go into this pocket and eat the baitfish here.

    Johnny will fish down to the second bridge, the bigger one, and work around the second piling from the left bank going downstream. There is a big rock pile around this piling and it is a good place to throw a jig head worm or a tube and catch spotted bass.

    9.  N 33 56.051 – W 86 02.322 – Go downstream to the first small island on the right bank downstream of Rainbow Landing. It is several hundred yards down that bank. Start at the small pocket just upstream of the island and fish upstream all the way to the ramp.

    Some bass released in tournaments at Rainbow Landing stay here and feed along this bank. You can fish it in either direction but current usually makes boat control better going upstream, and current helps the fishing. 

    Fish all the shoreline cover including docks, wood and rocks along this bank. It is shallow and your boat will be in only a few feet of water, but you can often catch a lot of bass here.  There are several private boat ramps along here and Johnny says you should never pass a boat ramp on Neely Henry without casting to it.

    We got our best two bass on our trip here, a 3 pound spot and a 3.5 pound largemouth. Both hit a jig head worm. Fish topwater baits along this bank and also work it with a crankbait, tube or jighead worm along this bank and work it carefully.  If you are catching fish it is worth more than one pass.

    10.  N 33 55.283 – W 86 03.615 – Past the small island in the hole above the river channel moves to the left bank then makes a swing back to the right bank below a big flat.  Near where it swings back to the right bank there is a small marina with boat sheds. Start fishing just upstream of the boat sheds and fish upstream.

    There are a series of small points and three riprap areas along this bank to hit as you go upstream.  Work the riprap and points with your tube and jig head if there is not much current and throw a spinnerbait and crankbait when the current is strong.  Watch for any wood cover along this bank and fish it carefully. 

    Johnny says big spots often get on these riprap banks and you can catch a big stringer quickly when you hit the right spot.  Fish all the way upstream to the brick house on the upstream side of the third patch of riprap.

    These places will give you a good idea of the kind of places Johnny catches bass on Neely Henry this time of year. Give them a try then find similar places on the lake that will hold fish, too.

    You can contact Johnny at 256-492-1162.

Where and How to Catch September Neely Henry Bass

September Bass at Neely Henry

with Dustin King

    September finally offers bass fishermen some hope that things are getting better.  The first of the month it is still uncomfortably hot during the day and bass are still on their summer patterns, but slowly things get better.  Days get shorter and cooler, water temperatures start to drop and bass get more active.  If you want to take advantage of these changes head to Neely Henry.

    Neely Henry is a river lake on the Coosa River at Gadsden.  It has lots of big largemouth and Coosa spots to catch, and they get more active in September.  The grassbeds that line much of the shallows become more attractive to bass and the shallow ledges see more feeding activity.  You can find just about any kind of fishing you want on Neely Henry this month.

    Dustin King grew up on the lake and still lives in a house on its shoreline.  He guides on Neely Henry and fishes most tournaments on it. After fishing with a local club for a couple of years Dustin now fishes some of the trail tournaments like the BASS Weekend Series, BFL and Coosa River Team Trail.  He has a 5.5 pound spot and a 6.5 pound largemouth from Neely.

    Even at his young age Dustin has done well enough to have a good many sponsors, including Go2Bait plastics, Lews Reels, Greg’s Custom Rods, Rock Hard Tackle jigs, Tackle Doctor spinnerbaits and Topwater Clothing.

    “In late August bass are still suspending off river and creek ledges and running in to feed for short periods of time,” Dustin said.  If you hit the right ledge at the right time you can catch some good fish fast, but feeding often does not last long. You have to be there when they feed.

    “Later in the month, bass move toward shoreline grassbeds and tend to hold a little more shallow,” Dustin told me. Both spots and largemouth tend to be a little easier to catch when holding out from the bank and they feed more around the grass beds and for longer times on the deeper holding areas.

    A variety of baits are always rigged and ready for September fishing in Dustin’s Skeeter.  He will have a Tackle Doctor spinnerbait, a big deep running crankbait, a Rock Hard Shaky Head, and a Carolina rig ready. A topwater bait like a Spook or Pop-R and a rattle bait like a Rat-L-Trap is also handy for throwing as schooling fish that often come up during this month.

    In early August Dustin had a guide trip and let me ride along to get information.  We fished the following spots that will still be holding bass most of September and looked at some places that will get better later in the month. Dustin landed a big largemouth off one, probably his biggest largemouth from Neely.

    The following spots will show you the kinds of places Dustin catches bass in September.  Try his tactics and baits on them.

    1.  N 33 55.743 – W 86 02.674 – If you put in at Rainbow Ramp you will be fairly close to all these spots. Head down the river and watch for three small islands right on the right bank. Downstream of them a little way is a yellow boathouse.  Straight out in front of it in the middle of the lake on the river ledge Dustin has some brush piles and rocks on the right ledge.  You will be about even with a big open hillside on the other bank where there are no trees and the grass is short.

    You can idle around to find the brush. It is where the river channel makes a slight turn. When you find it back off and sit in about 12 feet of water and cast toward the yellow boat house.  The brush runs for about 75 yards upstream and you want to fish it all with a Carolina rigged worm.  Dustin will try different sizes, from the Go2 finesse worm to their 14 inch curly tail worm.

    Bass have been on this spot all summer and will feed most of September here.  Fish the whole area carefully, trying to hit all the rocks and brush on the ledge.

    2.  N 33 55.412 – W 86 03.467 – Further downstream on the right Lakeshore Drive runs right along the river bank.  There is riprap lining the water’s edge. Dustin starts at the first dock past a stretch of bare bank and fishes downstream. Bass feed here early in the morning the first of September and feed longer as the water cools.

    Fish a buzzbait or topwater plug along this bank, throwing right on the bank and working out.  Also fish a jig head worm like the RockHard quarter ounce green pumpkin head with a Go2 Swim Craw on it.  Bass feed on crayfish along these rocks and the swim craw imitates them.

    Fish down this bank past two or three docks. If you catch fish keep working this bank, it often loads up with bass.  Dustin will often make a pass with a topwater bait then go back over it with the jig head if he catches anything.  If two of you are fishing, you should try the different baits to see what they want.

    3. N 33 53.508 – W 86 04.278 – Run downstream around the bend to the left and watch on your right for a dirt road entering the water between two docks. It is across from a big slough on the left bank and the upstream dock is an open wood dock with a gray roof. The downstream dock is a brown platform with no roof.

    The roadbed entering marks an old ferry crossing and there is a lot of gravel on the bank around it. Bass move into shallow water here to feed later in September and you can catch a lot of fish as they eat shad.  The top of the old road is about nine feet deep a long cast off the bank.

    Work all the area between the two docks with a shad imitating plug like a Rat-L-Trap, making long cast to the bank and fishing it back out.  Dustin says you could sit here all day and catch bass when they move into the area to feed. Shad are the key, if you see shad the bass will be there.

    4.  N 33 52.290 – W 86 04.055 – A little further downstream the river makes a sharp turn to the mouth of Big Canoe Creek.  On the right just before the mouth of the creek a smaller creek enters and there is an island on right on the upstream point of this creek.  Grass is all around it and a point comes off it toward the creek channel.

     You can catch fish around the grass early in the morning on topwater and spinnerbaits but Dustin concentrates on the point, working a big crankbait and a shaky head across it. He usually sits on the downstream side of the point and casts back across it, working from the shallows out to the creek channel.

    When throwing a big crankbait Dustin tries to hit the bottom then slows down, keeping it bumping along. That seems to attract the fish. Also try a topwater across the top of the point.  Watch for schooling fish here, they often come up and you should be ready to throw to them.

    5.  N 33 51.606 – W 86 05.515 – Up Big Canoe Creek Perimeter Creek enters on the left.  You can see a bridge not far back in the creek and a long point runs off the upstream side of it, between it and Big Canoe Creek.  In the middle of the mouth of Perimeter Creek, about even with the end of the upstream point and a gray roof boat house on the other side, the creek channel makes a bend.

    Dustin sits on the downstream side of the creek ledge in the channel and casts a big crankbait, Carolina rig or shaky head. Sit in about 14 feet of water and you will be casting up into about eight feet of water.  There are stumps and shellbeds on the creek ledge and bass hold here all month long.

    Dustin caught a bass here that would push seven pounds on a big deep running crankbait in the middle of the morning.  He was bumping the bottom when it hit on the edge of the ledge.  He got hung up several times on the stumps here but managed to get his bait back each time. It is worth the chance of losing a plug to catch the bass that hold here.

    6. N 33 51.725 – W 85 05.570 – The long point on the upstream side of Perimeter Creek runs way out and holds bass.  The Big Canoe channel runs in and parallels the point on the upstream side.  There are lots of stumps on it.

    Go way out to the end of the point where it is about six feet deep and throw a topwater bait across it.  You will be fishing water less than six feet deep and bass often run in here to feed.  After working the area with topwater go upstream until you drop off into the channel, then turn toward the bank.

    Sit in the channel and work a Carolina rig or shaky head, throwing up on top of the point and fishing back down the drop.  This is really just a very shallow creek ledge and bass feed on top and hold on the drop into the channel.

    7.  N 33 53.530 – 86 05.615 – Run up Big Canoe Creek past the last big slough on your right and watch for a grassbed in the middle of the creek channel. Be careful here, the channel is about 14 feet deep but the edges are very shallow, as the grass bed shows. The channel runs right along the outside of the grassbed.

    Fish the channel side of the grassbed early with topwater like a buzzbait or spinnerbait then fish a shaky head worm along it.  Throw the shaky head right to the edge of the grass and move it very slowly to follow the steep drop. Fish it down to the bottom then make another pitch to the edge of the grass.

    Bass were feeding on shad here when we fished and Dustin and his client caught several spots and white bass.  They often school up here and this spot can be good all day long. Watch for dimpling shad or swirls and cast to them.

    8.  N 33 50.592 – W 86 34.335 – Greensport Marina is on the right side going into the mouth of Beaver Creek.  An old roadbed comes out just downstream of the marina and runs out to the river channel where another road hits it.  Bass stack up on this roadbed in September and it is an excellent place to catch them. They are moving up into more shallow water and toward the grassbeds around the marina.

    Sit on the downstream side of the roadbed and cast up across it with a Carolina rig and shaky head. Your boat will be in about nine feet of water and the roadbed tops out about six feet deep.

    Current on this spot and all others is very important.  When power is being generated at the dam current flows across points, roadbeds and ledges and moves baitfish.  Bass move to feed on these easy meals so cast upstream and fish your baits with the current like the baitfish move.

    You can get a generation schedule for Neely Henry by calling 1-800-LAKES11. Soon after they start generating with one or two units current starts moving across structure and turns on the bass.

    9.  N 33 49.103 – W 86 03.136 – Ottery Creek enters the lake on the left further downstream. The upstream point between the creek and river runs way out and is very narrow. Go into the mouth of the creek and past that point until you see a dip in it.  There is a long point coming off it at right angles running out to the channel.  It is out from a chain link fence along the bank, just upstream from where the seawall changes from wood to riprap. 

    This point is loaded with stumps so fish it with a Carolina rig and jig head. A crankbait will catch fish but Dustin says you will lose a lot of them to the stumps.  Sit out in 15 feet of water and cast toward the bank in five to six feet of water.  Follow the contour break around the point.

    10.  N 33 48.934 – W 85.04.051 – On the right further downstream Shoal Creek enters the lake. Right in the mouth of it a roadbed runs all the way across the mouth, out to the creek channel where an old bridge is blown out then to the far bank. You can see where it enters on the right going in at small dock.

    Start well off the bank, keeping your boat on the downstream side of the roadbed in about 14 feet of water to start. Cast up and across it with a crankbait, Carolina rig or jig head.  Dustin caught a good two pound plus largemouth here the day we fished on a crankbait.

    Fish all the way across to the channel and the other side, too. Dustin says you can sit here all day and catch fish when they run in to feed.  If you catch a bass cast back to the same area as quickly as possible since they often don’t stay up on it long.

    Wind blowing across this roadbed and other spots helps like current does. Baitfish will move with the wind so take advantage of it. Current generated at the dam pulls water out of the creek, making it even better.

    All these spots will hold bass in late August and September, with some of them getting better as the month progresses.  Try them and see the types of places Dustin looks for and you can find others all over the lake.

    To see how Dustin fishes these places in person, call him for a guide trip at 256-504-6659 or visit his web site at

Where and How to Catch June Neely Henry Bass

June Bass at Neely Henry

with Karen Rae Elkins

    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 You can also get information about her Team Trails tournaments.

How Deep is Too Deep for Walleye Release?

Deep Walleye
How deep can you catch a walleye and release it?
By Northland Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

Walleyes spend the better part of their summer season in deep water.  Provided there’s enough oxygen at depth, they happily enjoy cooler water temperatures and the bevy of bugs and other bait that congregate on deep structure.  Older fish in certain lakes, learn to key in on larger bait stock. 

That could mean ciscoes and whitefish, or suckers and even bullheads or rough fish depending on where you’re fishing.  That still puts them deep, maybe coming up occasionally to feed before sinking back down.Depth however is a relative term, depending on the lake you’re fishing.  On Minnesota’s Upper Red Lake, 10 feet of water and deeper is considered quite deep. 

The same is true in the prairie pothole region where there’s plenty of great little walleye holes that never make even 20 feet.  Then again, there’s great walleye lakes like Vermillion, where walleyes can be found in excess of 50 feet of water.  Of course, your favorite walleye lake may be at either end, or anywhere in between.

While the depth of walleyes may be relative to the system in which they live, their ability to survive summer capture at those various depths is not.  Most fish caught in 30+ feet of water will likely die as the result if water temps are at their peak. 

Brandon Eder, Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor for the MN DNR’s Waterville Office confirmed this in a recent conversation while adding, “No matter how slowly you reel in fish from that depth, there’s still likely going to be some trauma.

” Throughout the walleye-belt then, there’s plenty of catch and release fishing that might as well be catch and kill.  Not that there’s anything wrong with eating a walleye either.  I love ‘em, and prepare them a bunch of different ways.  However, there are plenty of lakes that mandate release of walleyes a certain size, and anglers should know some ins and outs of how depth can affect the release of walleyes during the summer. 

Eder suggests, “Be prepared to keep your first 6 fish regardless of size (depending on the regs) and then quit or go shallow.

”There’s a pile of factors that influence walleye mortality, with depth of capture being only one of them.  Hooking method, or how deeply into its mouth a walleye eats the bait is a big influence, as is the use of live bait vs. artificial baits, but those are often related.  Water temperature is another factor, and warmer temps see fish that simply don’t release as well and survive.  It’s why catch and release walleye tournaments aren’t held as often in the deep summer, and why you should consider eating the fish you catch when water temps are the hottest of the year. 

Extended or prolonged handling of a fish outside of the water is yet another factor that affects mortality.

Many of those factors an angler can directly influence, especially in the summer as you can’t control the water temp.  Without switching away from live-bait, circle hooks vs “J”-hooks, and pinching down all barbs, what’s a catch and release angler to do?  The answer is to change the depth at which you’re fishing, and to know what depths are likely lethal, and which are not.

Barotrauma is a big word with a relatively simple meaning, especially as it pertains to walleyes caught at depth.  It affects all living things, but with walleyes swimming rapidly from deep water, it refers to physical injuries caused by water pressure.  Quick ascent means a swelling air bladder, which can push their stomachs out, bulge their eyes, and ultimately cause deadly injury.  Releasing those fish at the surface, in extremely warm water may make the angler feel good as they swim away, but may not lead to survival.

One solution to the problem of fish barotrauma has been “fizzing” – the act of releasing that pressure with an accurately placed hypodermic needle into the swim bladder of the fish.  Of course, “accurately” is the key, as stabbing a fish with a needle indiscriminately, can further exacerbate the problem. 

Eder says, “I don’t like the idea of anglers running around poking walleye with needles.  It’s hard to get the right spot in perfect conditions and even tougher in rain, wind, or after dark.”Another solution in the form of re-compression devices may pose some freshwater promise, as they have gained greater acceptance in coastal areas.  These tools can simply be an inverted barbless hook secured to a line with a weight that takes the fish to bottom and releases it with a sharp snap of the line, or a jaw clamp that releases similarly.  The general idea of both being that the fish quickly gets back down to a depth that allows air bladder pressures to recede, and ultimately supports its survival. 

For rockfish specifically, studies have shown 80%+ survival rates.  While I’m not aware of any similar research on walleyes, the decompression devices show greater efficacy overall.

Of course, you could always just limit your fishing north of 30 feet, or make sure that you are legally able to take and eat fish of any size for the lake that you’re fishing.  If a limit is what you’re after in those depths, stop fishing once you’ve hit it.  Eder also mentions, “If you are on fish over 20″ you should leave so you don’t kill more than your 1 over 20″.” 

All of which means that if you’re putting the hurt on big fish deep, consider switching tactics, locations, and potentially lakes.  Focus early and late when fish are more active shallow.  Break out some slip-bobbers and camp out on a rock pile, or drag some spinners or rigs along a weedline.

There’s lots of ways to get your ‘eyes, but this summer when temperatures climb, do your best to respect the resource by going easy on those deep fish.

Early-Season Musky

Big Early Season Musky
Early-Season Musky Methods
St. Croix pros discuss favored tactics and gear for early-season muskellunge (press release}
Park Falls, WI (May 20, 2020)

It’s just about time. Musky aficionados are fastidiously prepping gear and anxiously awaiting season openers across the big fish belt. They know that late spring and early summer can be some of the most exciting and productive times to be on the water, as big, banded brawlers – fresh off the spawn and unpressured by anglers for months – are becoming increasingly active with warming water temperatures.

Such is the case in all the great musky waters – from Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Iowa through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Canadian provinces – although different fisheries are heating up and opening to anglers at slightly different times.

What can you do to be fully prepared for this magical time of year? Start by reading what professional musky guides and St. Croix pro-staffers Rob Manthei and Steve Herbeck have to say, as well as St. Croix’s own musky expert and rod-designing maven, Gavin Falk. 
Wisconsin Guide and Big-Fish Expert, Rob Manthei

Here in Northern Wisconsin our season doesn’t open until the end of May. Judging by what I’ve seen with ice-out, we should have a typical opener. As soon as the season opens, I’ll be fishing a lot of wooded shorelines and looking for any kind of new, green weeds. I’m generally concentrating on a couple styles of baits – twitching small minnow baits and throwing small bucktails.

As far as rods, I’m a fan of the 8’ one-piece, medium-heavy power, fast action St. Croix Mojo Musky casting rod (MJM80MHF). That’s a great rod for throwing these smaller baits, and the newly redesigned Mojos are just great rods. The Winn Grip is awesome—it allows a confident feel when you’re hanging onto it wet, dry, or anywhere in between. It’s very comfortable and the looks of the rod are spectacular. The Kigan Master Hand 3D guides and top St. Croix uses on this series are large, which are great for anglers like me who want to tie a longer leader with a surgeon’s knot or uni knot. Those knots go through the guides just fine; they’re very durable that way. 
Another new Mojo Musky model to look at is the 6’10”, medium power, fast action rod (MJM610MF) – especially if you’ve got a son, daughter or any other young person in the boat who’s been bitten by the musky bug. This shorter, medium power rod is one that kids can pick up, cast easily with a variety of effective lures, and experience success with.

Overall, the physical weight of the new Mojo Musky rods is exceptional; not at all overbearing. And they’re one of the best values of musky rods out there. With 14 technique-specific models and the quality you get for their price, I don’t think Mojo Musky can be beat.

Some other St. Croix rods to look at for the early season are the three Legend Tournament Musky Downsizer models. You want to talk about precision casting capability with the smaller baits that work so well before the water warms up, and being able to do it all day long without fatigue? That’s what these rods were made for. I know… medium-light power in a musky rod? The key to making it work is that their relatively long 8’6” and 9’ lengths, ultra-responsive SCIV carbon blanks and fast actions all work together to provide immediate access to that power. It’s amazing. All I can say is that anglers need to fish them to fully appreciate what St. Croix has accomplished with these three, highly capable, specialized rods.
As we start transitioning out of spring, early-summer patterns depend on the kind of water and forage. We have dark-water flowage systems and big, deep natural lakes that are cisco-based. A lot of times, the month of June is a great time for open-water fishing. You can catch fish trolling, but catching them casting is always more fun; it’s definitely a time of year where you can be effective just casting open water with plastics.

Humps, saddles and other anomalies on and around expansive shallow flats are good places to key in on, as are concentrations of suspended forage. Obviously, when you’re casting and working a lure you can put in a lot more action into it that you can’t duplicate while trolling. This is when I’m throwing Musky Innovations Swimmin’ Dawgs and other tight paddletail baits from Chaos Tackle or just flat out rubber, whether that’s Medusas or Bull Dawgs.

Now when you’re throwing these big rubber baits you’re going to need a bigger rod and this is one area of casting where I typically tell people don’t worry about the length of your cast; just bomb it out there and cover water. This is definitely where you want to start grabbing that heavier Mojo Musky rod in the 8’6” to 9’ range. The telescopic one-piece rods like the 8’6” telescopic, heavy power, fast action (MJM86HFT) and 9’ telescopic, heavy power, fast action (MJM90HFT) work great. Those are the rods I’m throwing a lot of these bigger, heavy rubber baits with. And for anglers who don’t have a giant rod locker, they can finally start carrying 9 foot musky rods. The 8’6” model collapses to a manageable 7’6” and the 9’ models down to 7’10”. That’s a really slick advantage when it comes to transportation and storage.
Legendary Musky Guide and St. Croix Pro, Steve Herbeck:

Musky guide and St. Croix pro, Steve Herbeck, has expertise throughout the storied, northern musky regions of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan, and has also been a resident guide and teacher at Andy Myer’s Lodge on Eagle Lake in Ontario for 28 years. As director of the world-renown lodge’s guest fishing instructor program, Herbeck has an intimate understanding of the acclaimed musky fishery that has produced world-record fish and is considered by many to be the top, big-musky fishery in Canada.

Very typically, around the opener in Northern Wisconsin you’re going to have water temperatures and fish that are just finishing up the spawn. Occasionally, with a late spring you’ll hit them during the spawn, but usually they’re done when the water temperature is between 56 and 60 degrees. When that’s the case, they’ve just gone through a major stress and we’re going to start with smaller baits.

That’s one reason why so many big muskies are caught accidentally by walleye, bass, and pike fishermen during this part of the season. At this time of year, muskies really do really prefer smaller baits for their consistent action. We’re talking six-to-seven-inch minnowbaits, #5 to #8 size blades, smaller topwaters, smaller jerkbaits, and medium-sized rubber baits, so, consequently, we’re going to match our rods for best efficiency to the size of the baits we’re throwing.

I just love the 8’6” one-piece, medium-heavy, fast action Mojo Musky rod (MJM86MHF) for this application. I pair it with 65-pound braid loaded on a mid-range 500-series reel. I also match the baits with lighter leaders for the best action. Mojo Musky rods and Legend Tournament Musky rods in these lengths and actions are just superb for these smaller and lighter bait applications. You can cast them a mile, they have just enough tip that you can really work a smaller bait and use lighter lines so you have good action, and yet they have enough butt that you can make great figure-8s and really set the hook. Rather than overpowering a small bait with a 9-foot heavy or extra heavy rod, this is what I prefer to use and put in my clients’ hands.

Don’t overlook bigger baits in the early season, though. If I’m really looking for big fish only – you’ve got to remember they’ll be grabbing 12-to-20-inch walleyes as forage – I still use some bigger baits, especially baits with reaction to them that simulate injured fish like medium and regular-sized rubber baits, Suick-type jerkbaits, and zig-zag baits. Jerkbaits can be very productive in these colder water conditions if you’re looking for bigger fish. And for those types of baits I really like a 7’6”-to-8’ rod a little bit more on the heavy side. The Mojo Musky, Legend Tournament Musky, and Premier Musky families all offer superb models in that category. I’ll go to 80-pound line and standard size reels. That’s kind of the early-season trend in Northern and mid-Wisconsin and Minnesota.
When we get into the Canadian version of this time period – we’re talking the third weekend of June – most of the musky range is from the border to about 150 miles north, and then the musky habitat disappears so it’s not that much colder than northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The reason the Canadian opener is held later is the fisheries are all natural and none of it is supplemented by stocking. They want to make sure that all fish have completely finished spawning. That being said, we’re typically in the 60-to-mid-60-degree-water-temperature range and well past the actual spawning time.

Because many of these Canadian lakes are very, very big and warm slower – like Lake of the Woods, Eagle Lake where I’m at, Rainy, and Lac Seul – some of these lakes are virtual oceans, so to speak, so they warm up slower, but are usually in that 60-degree range and we’re typically a week past spawning. In warmer years or in smaller waters, we may already be in that early-summer pattern with fully recuperated fish.

We still start with smaller-size baits but quickly graduate to larger baits, mixing them up to let the fish decide what they want. So we’re using a combination of actions and sizes of rods. Someone in the boat might be throwing an 8’6”-to-9’ heavy like the Legend Tournament Musky Sling Blade – that’s an awesome rod – or now the 8’6”-to-9’ telescopic Mojo Musky rods. The telescopic Mojo Musky rods are fantastic choices for this combination approach. That’s what makes the St. Croix lines of rods so awesome; they’re application-specific so you can literally fine-tune your presentations as well as reduce your fatigue level by using the proper rod.
St. Croix makes the finest and widest selection of musky rods available across multiple price points. Their Legend Tournament Musky and Legend Elite Musky rods are the absolute pinnacle of performance, but for the money, it’s hard to beat the newly redesigned Mojo Musky rods. Aesthetically, it’s a beautiful rod that looks fantastic with most reels. Its SCIII and IPC composition makes it very durable for the weight of the rod. I’ve tested various models extensively, and I’m impressed with Mojo Musky’s durability.

For many years, Andy Myer’s Lodge has used the Mojo Series for muskies, walleye, and bass as our guest rods. These rods see above-average abuse, and the Mojo models stand up to that abuse extremely well. The new telescopic rods have been a great addition for us, too, because not all boat rod lockers are designed to hold 9 foot rods. That makes them very easy to store and keep out of harm’s way when they’re not being used. The other key thing is that with 14 distinct models, the Mojo Musky line offers a host of options in terms of covering any angling situation we might encounter… and at a fantastic price point. It’s a very angler-friendly series.
Gavin Falk, St. Croix Rod Engineering Supervisor and Musky Fanatic:St. Croix Rod Engineering Supervisor, Gavin Falk, is a passionate musky angler with a great deal of experience with the new Mojo Musky series, both on and off the water. For early-season situations, Falk fishes a lot of jerkbaits with the 7’6” one-piece, extra-heavy power, fast action (MJM76XHF) model, as well as the 8’ one-piece, heavy power, fast action (MJM80HF). And for smaller rubber baits he recommends the 8’6”, heavy power, fast action (MJM86HFT) or the 9’, medium-heavy, fast (MJM90MHFT) telescopic models. For smaller minnow baits and bucktails – both solid offerings for early season – Falk recommends the 8’6” one-piece, medium-heavy power, fast action (MJM86MHF) Mojo Musky.

Delving more into the specifics of the new Mojo Musky rods, Falk cites numerous characteristics as improvements that anglers should be aware of. “First off, with IPC® mandrel technology the actions are greatly improved,” he says. Fast actions were good in the previous generation of Mojo Musky, but now they are truly fast, so it’s a lot easier to keep tension on fish because you’ve got that deflection in the tip, which also helps with casting, too. That’s a big thing. IPC also helped us reduce the overall weight of the rods while maintaining strength and durability.”
Falk talks about the move from cork to custom Winn split grips, as well as improvements to the reel seats: “The new grips are phenomenal. Using heavier braid throws off a lot of water into your hands and you can fish all day with the new Winn grips, even if your hands are wet or slimy. We also increased the diameter of the grip sizes, so, ergonomically, they’re more comfortable in the hands. Finally, we put a deluxe nut in the reel seat, so tightening down reels is a lot easier compared to the standard nut that was on previous models.

Right now is the time to start prepping for big-fish hunting. Consider the tips from our pros in the know, and you’ll be starting this year’s musky season in a positive direction.

And if you’re looking to add to your collection of musky rods, timing couldn’t be better. Now until May 31, anglers can enjoy FREE SHIPPING when they shop and purchase any St. Croix Mojo Musky rods at Don’t wait! This offer is limited to available stock at the time of purchase and is only applicable to orders shipping within the continental United States.
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Walleye and the High Action Plug Bite

By Mark Romanack for Yakima Baits
from The Fish
ing Wire

In recent times crankbaits have ruled the roost on the Great Lakes and other bodies of water popular with walleye fishermen. Population explosions fueled by unprecedented high water levels and several successful spawning year classes have countless fisheries literally crawling with catchable fish.

Natural reproduction can be a fleeting gift, but fortunately for those who enjoy targeting walleye, the fish Gods have shined brightly on these fisheries. To say recent fishing success for walleye has been excellent is an understatement. Limit catches have been the norm, and anglers who have historically targeted walleye using traditional methods like nightcrawler harnesses are putting away the “meat” in favor of trolling with less labor intensive crankbaits.

Crankbaits have always been a popular and productive choice for walleye. In the past, most anglers have depended heavily on traditional minnow style crankbaits early and also late in the year when the water temperature is cool to cold. It’s clear to see that crankbaits fished in combination with planer boards have become the fast track to limit catches.

Most anglers would agree that a handful of popular minnow diving crankbaits dominate on the walleye scene. Slowly anglers are discovering there are other noteworthy baits worth exploring.In the Western Basin of Lake Erie where white perch and white bass often get in the way of catching walleye, charter captains have quietly turned to a different class of crankbait to save the day.

“When I was in high school and my college years, I worked as a first mate for several charters working out of the Western Basin,” says Jake Romanack, co-host of Fishing 411 TV. “As soon as the water temperature warmed up to about 60 degrees abundant populations of white bass and white perch feed so aggressively it becomes challenging to keep these non-target species off the lines long enough to catch walleyes. A typical Lake Erie walleye charter runs 12 to 15 lines and it wasn’t uncommon for every line to be dragging a white perch or silver bass!”

“You haven’t experienced frustration until you’ve worked the back of a charter boat in 85 degree heat, setting lines as fast as humanly possible only to catch a handful of walleye mixed into bucket loads of non-target fish,” explains Romanack. “Increasing trolling speed and switching to high action crankbaits was the solution to this annual problem.”

The only practical way to avoid silver bass and white perch is to troll fast enough to mitigate how many of these undesirable fish are caught while trolling for walleye. “Only a handful of crankbaits are up to the challenge when it comes to high speed trolling,” adds Romanack. “The problem is that charter captains stack so many lines per side of the boat, a bait has to run perfectly true in the water or adjoining lures will wander and foul each other.”

These days a new class of high action wobblers are finding success on Erie and many other fisheries coast to coast. The Yakima Bait Company Mag Lip was designed by Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler Buzz Ramsey as a wobbling plug aimed at the salmon, steelhead and trout markets. The Mag Lip is a banana-shaped lure that features a built-in “skip beat” action.

“It only took a few years and the Mag Lip was dominating plug sales among steelhead, salmon and trout fishermen on the West Coast,” says Buzz Ramsey. “Word about the Mag Lip and how many fish it catches quickly spread to the Great Lakes. The demand for more sizes and colors of Mag Lip soon reached a fever pace.”

Currently Mag Lip is available in seven different sizes and over four dozen different factory standard colors. Many retailers are also offering their own “custom color” options that continue to feed the growing demand.“It has taken a few years, but walleye anglers have finally discovered that Mag Lip is deadly effective when trolling at high speeds and in warm water conditions,” says Captain Eric Hirzel of Erie Gold Walleye Charters. “I first used the 3.5 size of Mag Lip on spring salmon trolling trips at Lake Michigan. I was so impressed with the Mag Lip, I started using the 3.5 and 3.0 sizes on my Lake Erie walleye charters.

”Mag Lip is the perfect niche lure for a number of reasons. Each lure is perfectly tuned and runs true right out of the package. Mag Lip features a wide wobble, loud rattle and aggressive action, but these baits can also tolerate trolling speeds up to 4.0 MPH without blowing out. The “skip beat” or hunting action of the Mag Lip generates explosive strikes and these baits come in a host of productive color options.

“Most of the factory colors on Mag Lip are admittedly trout and salmon colors,” says Jake Romanack of Fishing 411 TV. “Our staff has worked closely with Yakima Bait to introduce several new “walleye specific” colors that are going to be popular on Erie and Saginaw Bay. “Our crew has had had the opportunity to fish these new colors in the spring and summer of 2019 and they are lights out for walleye. Our favorites include Metallic Silver Clown, Metallic Silver FireTiger, Metallic Gold/Black Red Lip and Rosemary.

”Other factory standard colors that produce consistent results on walleye include Metallic Silver Rainbow Trout, Mad Man, Grinch, Double Trouble, Metallic Gold/Flame, Keeper, Metallic Perch and Metallic Gold Green Pirate.

“The first thing I noticed about Mag Lip is fish T-bone them,” says Captain Hirzel. “When walleye hit most crankbaits they tend to be hooked on the back hook. With the Mag Lip a majority of the fish are hooked on the front treble or they have the bait right down their throat.

”Buzz Ramsey says that it’s the unique hunting action of the Mag Lip that causes fish to react with explosive strikes. “Most crankbaits have a rhythmic and consistent action,” says Ramsey “Crankbaits with a hunting action tease fish into biting. Think of it like playing with a cat using a ball and string. Eventually the cat can’t stand it anymore and pounces. The same thing happens when fishing with Mag Lip.”Mag Lip has great action at a wide variety of speeds, but the skip beat action is more distinctive at faster trolling speeds.

“On Lake Erie we did best trolling 3.5 Mag Lip at between 2.2 and 3.0 MPH,” says Jake Romanack who recently filmed a TV episode focusing on the virtues of high action crankbaits. “Walleye pounded the Mag Lip and it was a struggle just to keep our legal number of lines in the water!”

The good news is that walleye populations on Lake Erie and countless other fisheries nationwide are at epic levels. The future looks bright for these fisheries despite heavy fishing pressure.

Crankbait trolling is obviously not the only way anglers can catch open water walleye, but it’s clear that no other fishing method is as consistently productive as board trolling with crankbaits.

It’s true that minnow/diver style crankbaits are the baits most walleye anglers have faith in, but these days high action plugs like the Yakima Bait Mag Lip are delivering impressive catches. For those who haven’t tried fishing high action plugs, in the late spring and throughout the summer when water temperatures are warm, it’s hard to beat these loud and proud crankbaits.

See them at

Lunker Panfish

A little reel like the Shimano Syncopate 1000 is all that’s needed to handle the lightweight minnow imitations from Rapala and Rebel that attract these jumbo panfish.
Time for Lunker Panfish
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

While most anglers are still focused on spawning largemouth bass in late April across the South, a few savvy panfish anglers know that this is the time to home in on catching the largest bluegills, warmouth and crappie of the year as the “jumbos” cruise into the shallows to feed on bass fry around the beds.

Crappies spawn earlier than bass, bluegills and warmouth later, but both species love 1 to 2 inch long baby fish, and with the bass spawn beginning in late March and continuing into early May, there are millions of these fry in the shallows of many lakes at present.

While small bluegills and warmouth mostly eat grass shrimp and insect life, the hand-sized “jumbos” seem to prefer fish. Crappies, of course, feed heavily on minnows of all types throughout their adult lives.

Bream beds are not hard to find—or at least that’s usually the case. This year, high, muddy water in many lakes around the Southeast has made it more of a challenge to pick out the beds. They’re shallow bowls scooped out on firm sand or shell, typically in 1 to 4 feet of water on the edge of grass, or around boat docks, stumps or other cover.

They’re easiest to see on a calm day with high sun. This year, the challenge is just finding water that’s clear enough to see down any depth, but barring further downpours, the water should clear quickly.

Beds that hold panfish may or may not have adult bass still in them. While the male bass guards the nest for the first week to 10 days after the eggs hatch, they leave them on their own after that. Big panfish prowl around both guarded and unguarded nests.

Matching the hatch is the sensible way to catch these panfish, which often are far bigger than typical schooling bluegills or crappies found offshore. Tiny 2” floater-diver minnow imitations from Rapala and Rebel are particularly effective.

These fly-weight lures are best fished on ultra-light spinning gear and 6-pound-test mono—heavier line ruins the action. It’s also essential to tie them on with a loop knot like the turtle rather than a uniknot or improved clinch, because if the knot draws tight on the eye, the action of the little lure will be ruined by the resistance of the line.

A little reel like the Shimano Syncopate 1000 is all that’s needed to handle the lightweight minnow imitations from Rapala and Rebel that attract these jumbo panfish.

Fly rod poppers also work well when the panfish are around the beds—choose light-colored bugs with minimal dressing, because in this case you’re imitating a minnow rather than a bug or a frog.

Sometimes all it takes is casting the lure over the bed, letting it set for a 10-count and then twitching it once—bluegills in particular like this presentation. I’ve caught some close to a pound with this tactic this spring.

Crappies and warmouth, on the other hand, seem to like a moving target. Slow cranking the bait so that it comes wobbling across the bed and nearby shallows draws the strikes.

When you catch a panfish off a bed, the disturbance flushes most nearby panfish for a time, but sit quietly for 5 to 10 minutes and they’ll come cruising back to the free feast. You can probably catch another and then another with well-timed casts.

It’s also possible to catch these fish with tiny jigs of 1/32 ounce or there-abouts, again fished on UL tackle. The smallest Beetle Spins also work well, cranked just fast enough to make the spinner blade turn.

For fly-rodders, a silver/green streamer fly about 2 inches long on a size 8 long-shank hook does the job. Very short, jerky strips of an inch or so at a time draw the bites.

While panfish are the primary target, fishing the beds with this gear also occasionally turns up a surprise. This spring I’ve caught black drum, catfish and perch in these areas and also landed bass to a couple pounds, a real handful on the ultra-light gear.

It’s a change of gears for those of us who are confirmed bass-heads, but a pleasant diversion for a few weeks in spring—and when it comes to eating, you can’t beat fresh-fried fillets off these oversized panfish.

Where and How to Catch Lake Blue Ridge June Bass

June Blue Ridge Bass

with Barron Adams

    Lots of spots, some quality largemouth and your best chance to catch a Georgia smallmouth.  Fish rocks and brush in deeper water while watching for schooling fish on Blue Ridge Lake this month to catch all three types of bass.

    Blue Ridge is a pretty 3300-acre TVA lake on the Toccoa River in the north Georgia mountains near the state line where Tennessee and North Carolina meet.  Its deep clear waters for years harbored the best smallmouth population in the state, but the invasion of spots has decimated their population.  There are still some, mostly bigger fish it seems, in the lake.

    Barron Adams grew up in Mineral Bluff fishing the lake with his grandfather. He loved catching smallmouth and largemouth there and in other lakes.  He fished some club and local tournaments but got serious about tournament fishing about eight years ago.  He fishes the Chattanooga Bass Association tournaments and this is his second year on the FLW Costa Series. He finished 18th in the Southeast Division and hopes that will qualify him for the FLW Tour next year since several fishermen ahead of him in the points double qualified for it.

    Barron still fishes almost all Wednesday night tournaments on Blue Ridge and guides there and on Chatuge and Nottely. He knows Blue Ridge well and what the bass are doing there.

    “By June most bass have finished spawning and are on deeper cover like rocks and brush piles on points,”
Barron said.  This has been a cold spring and bass spawned late. On the full moon in early May there were a few bedding and a lot cruising the shallows.  And we saw balls of shad in the shallows getting ready to spawn.

    Although bass are holding deep now, they come up on shad and blueback herring, feeding on top especially early in the morning and late in the day.  Barron will always have a walking bait ready to cast to them. For deeper fish he relies on a shaky head, jig and pig and drop shot.

    “A few years ago, I could count on catching several smallmouth each trip,” Barron said. But they are rare now, and he seldom catches small ones, a bad sign that they are not reproducing well.  Spots have crowed them out, as fisheries biologists predicted. But you can still catch a few mixed in with the more common spots. And there are some good largemouth with them, too.

    We fished the first week of May during the full moon and saw a few bedding bass, but most were cruising, waiting on the water to warm.  They were late, and as soon as the water warmed enough a lot went on the bed at one time.  Now you should concentrate on deeper cover like the following ten places to catch all three species.

    1.  N 34 52.163 – W 84 16.381 – The main lake point on the upstream side of the creek with Lake Blue Ridge Marina in it has red Toccoa River Marker 1 on it.  It runs way out and has god brush on it.  Stop way off the point in 60 to 70 feet of water and ease in with your trolling motor.

    Keep an eye on your electronics, watching for brush piles around 25 feet deep.  Fan cast with a shaky head or jig and pig as you move in.  When you see brush, cast both to it but have a drop shot worm ready to fish straight down in it. Barron rigs a Morning Dawn Robo worm about 16 inches above a three eights ounce lead and drops it straight down into the brush.

    Here and at all other times keep a topwater walking bait like a Spook ready to cast to bass chasing shad and herring on top. Barron uses a bone colored Spook and works it through any surface activity.

    2.  N 34 52.314 – W 84 15.579 – Across the lake and a little upstream red marker 2 is on another main lake point that is good.  It, too, runs way out so stop at least 100 yards off the point in deep water.  As you move in, make long casts with shaky head and jig and pig to the point, bumping the bottom.  Watch for brush piles to fish with your drop shot.

    The fish can be spooky even in 25-foot-deep brush piles.  If you get right over one and see fish, but can’t get them to bite, mark the brush and back off a long cast away.  Then fish the brush with shaky head or jig and pig.  Long cast are often critical with the clear water on Blue Ridge.

    3.  N 34 51.204 – W 84 15.349 – Going up Star Creek, just as it starts its turn to the left there is a big cove on your right.  On the downstream point just inside it is a covered dock and further into it a small wooden dock, with a private ramp between the two. The downstream point and the middle point inside the cove where it splits both come way out so stop about in the middle of the cove outside the downstream point.

    Sit in about 35 feet of water and make long casts toward the middle back point.  A long cast will get your bait up into 10 to 11 feet of water. There is brush and tires on the bottom and the top of the points offer good schooling areas. 

    Rake the shallow points with shaky head and jig and pig.  Since the cover here is shallow, work all of it from a distance.  You can locate the exact position of the cover with good electronics like the Lowrance HDS Carbon units Barron uses.  Finding it with side scan will let you make accurate casts to it without getting too close to it.

    4. 34 51.059 – W 84 14.993 – On up Star Creek Red Marker Star Creek 9 is on your right.  Just upstream of it is a small pocket.  The downstream point of it is a long shallow flat that comes out and drops in to the creek channel.

    This is an excellent place to throw a topwater plug early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Make long cast up on the flat and work it back to the boat.  Bass on the flat and in brush on it will come up and hit it.

    The brush on this point is also good for fishing shaky head and jig and pig.  Barron uses a three eights ounce head made at Tri State Tackle Shop beside Dunkin Donuts on Appalachian Highway near the Blue Ridge dam.  He likes their heads since they have a sturdy 5/0 Gamakatsu hook.  He puts a Zoom avocado or green pumpkin Trick worm on it and drags it along the bottom with little shakes of his rod tip.

    5. N 34 51.709 – W 84 15.726 – Back out at the mouth of Star Creek the point between it and the river has Red Toccoa River marker 3 on it.  It is a flat point that comes out and drops into both river and creek channel and has a very steep drop on the river side that bass like.

    Fish topwater over it then work the bottom and brush with shaky head and jig and pig, probing for rocks and brush.  All three species of bass like both kinds of cover and hold on it during the day.  Keep your dropshot ready here as on other places.

    6.  N 34 51.278 – W 84 16.567 – Going up the river a narrow point on the right is between the river and a big creel on the right. There is a green roof dock on the creek side of the point and a kid’s playhouse on the point. Barron called it Rocking Chair Point due to the red rocking chair by the playhouse.

    Herring spawn on this point and others, and with the cold spring we had, some herring and shad may still be spawning early this month.  It is a good place to throw a topwater at first light.  Even after the spawn baitfish move over the point and bass feed on them, so have your topwater ready at all times. 

    There is brush on this point out to 35 feet deep and bass in the deeper brush are less likely to be spooked by the boat, so it is good for a drop shot. Also fish your shaky head and jig and pig in it. Stop on the downstream side of the point, keep your boat in 40 plus feet of water, and fish around it to the dock.

    7.  N 34 50.584 – W 84 16.850 – In the mouth of Charlie Creek a small island sits way off the bank.  There are rocks on the right side of it when you are on the creek side.  Fish school around it and the rocks are a good place to fish both shaky head and jig and pig.  Barron fishes a one-half ounce Dirty Jig football head jig in the watermelon color with a green pumpkin Zoom Creepy Crawler trailer.  He dips the tails of his trailer as well as his shaky head worms in JJs Magic and says the spots especially like the flash of color it gives them.   

    Barron fishes his jig and pig on a G Loomis seven foot two inch 855 NRX medium heavy rod and spools his Daiwa Type R reel with 17 pound Segar Invix  fluorocarbon line.   He says this combination allows him to feel bites and get the fish out of the brush he is fishing.

    Drag the jig along the bottom, letting the tails of the trailer swim and flash. Hop it when you hit rocks, and in brush yoyo it up and down on limbs.   When you get hit in brush set the hook fast and reel fast to get the fish out of the cover.

    8. N 34 50.393 – W 84 16.973 – Where Charlie Creek bends to the right near the back a state brush pile marker sits off the right point.  State brush piles are all over the lake and, other than rocks and fishermen brush piles, are much of the limited cover on Blue Ridge.  All of them 25 to 35 feet deep hold bass in June.

    The brush is not all under the marker but scattered around them. Here, the best brush is between the marker and bank.  All of the brush is good for fishing jig and pig and shaky head, but a drop shot will often get bites when the other baits won’t.

    Barron drops is sinker to the bottom and starts by holding his rod tip still, letting the Robo worm suspend off the bottom with little motion. If that doesn’t draw a bite he will twitch his rod tip gently to make it shake in place a little.  Fish like that all around the brush first then let your sinker hit the top of the brush and fish the worm on top of it, especially if you see fish suspended over it on your electronics. 

    9.  N 34 50.160 – W 84 16.447 – Going up the river Red Marker 9 is on a point on your right. The bank downstream of it is a bluff bank with blowdowns on it and there is a state brush pile on the point and more in the mouth of the pocket past it.

    Barron says bluff banks with blowdowns almost always hold bass in June, but they are scattered in the tips of them, especially when there are a lot of blowdowns. A good tactic is to fish the ends of the trees with your drop shot worm.  Work slowly up the bluff bank, hitting the ends of every blowdown along it.

    When you get to the point, try dropshot, shaky head and jig and pig in the state brush piles.  There is a lot of brush here and the fish may be scattered in them or concentrated in one, so fish them all or use electronics to find the fish.

    10. N 34 50.855 – W 84 16.556 – At the mouth of Charlie Creek, between it and the river, a small island sits off the bank.  There is a ridge of white rock running off the creek side that you can see.  Those rocks run out deep and hold bass since they are right on the drop on the creek side.

    Stop way off the rocks and cast shaky head and jig and pig to them.  Fish the rocks out to the deep end. Bass also school on top here so be ready to cast a topwater to them.  Barron says they tend to school on the flatter river side of the island in the mornings but over the deeper creek side during the day.

    Check out these places and there are many more all over the lake like them.  A good lake map has the state brush piles marked to help find them, and good electronics will help you find the unmarked brush to fish.

    Call Barron at 706-455-0863 for a guided trip to see exactly how he catches Blue Ridge bass.

    Do you find these Map of the Month articles helpful?  If so visit – you can get an eBook or CD with an article for each month of the year on Clarks Hill and Lanier.

How and Where To Catch May Clarks Hill Bass

May Bass at Clarks Hill

with Tony Green

     May fishing is good anywhere you go in Georgia but blueback herring have made Clark’s Hill one of the best bets in the state to catch big largemouth this month. And they are hitting on top, the most exciting way to catch bass. You can’t go wrong with a trip to Clark’s Hill in May.

     Clark’s Hill is a big 72,000 acre lake on the Georgia/South Carolina border.  Built in the early 1950s it has 1200 miles of shoreline and is full of islands and humps. There is good access all over this Corps of Engineers Lake even with the water level down six to eight feet this year.

     Tony Green was born in South Carolina but moved to the Macon area when he was three years old and has lived and fished there all his life.  While growing up he went to Clark’s Hill a lot, camping and fishing with his family.  They caught crappie and bass on those trips.

     About eight years ago Tony joined the Procasters Bass Club in the Macon area and got into tournament fishing.  He has made that club’s state team most years and enjoys the competition and chances to learn more about bass fishing by being in that club. 

Tony has fished the HD Marine Trail for several years but took this year off.  You can find him entered in a good many Berry’s and R and R Tournaments.  He also fishes some pot tournaments and a few BFL tournaments in the area.

     This year in March Tony beat out 417 other club fishermen in the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Top Six tournament at Clark’s Hill to win first place.  His eight bass weighing 30.4 pounds beat out second place by over three pounds. 

     Tony loves Clark’s Hill in May and tries to make several trips to the lake every year this time of year. His club also tries to schedule tournaments on Clark’s Hill or Hartwell in May to get in on the great fishing both lakes offer. The herring bite is similar on both lakes and can be some of the fastest action of the year.

     The pattern is fairly simple in May on Clark’s Hill.  Bass have mostly finished spawning by the first of May and they have moved out and are feeding heavily. Find the herring spawning on main lake structure and you will find big bass nearby. The herring spawn on hard bottoms near deep water and like long points, humps and blow throughs.

A blow through is a saddle or dip between the main bank and an island or between humps or islands on big water. Wind blows through these shallow areas and the waves wash away the soft soil, leaving gravel, rocks and hard clay the herring like. The same action clears soft bottoms away leaving the hard stuff on long points and humps, too.

Tony will have three rods rigged and ready to take advantage of the herring bite.  His first choice is a big Spook or Sammy on an outfit he can use to cast it a long way. The topwater plug is worked as fast as he can move it early in the morning, fishing water from a foot or less deep to about ten feet deep.  Topwater baits are better first thing in the morning.

As the sun gets on the water Tony will usually switch to a Fluke and fish it over water three to six feet deep. The sun moves the bass a little deeper but they will usually still come up to eat something near the surface.  Herring like the sun and will usually be near the top on sunny days.

After the sun gets bright Tony thinks the bass move a little deep and are less likely to come up, so he will drag a big Carolina rigged lizard along the points and break lines in six to ten feet of water.  He likes to use the bigger lizards to attract bites from bigger fish.

Before a tournament Tony will try to be on the water at daybreak and ride, looking for places the herring are moving and he sees surface activity.  During the day he will throw a spinnerbait or crankbait around spawning areas and watch for herring following the bait back to the boat, or will sometimes hook one.  If he finds the herring near a spawning area he knows the bass will be nearby.

Tony is always looking for “nervous” water while fishing. Any small movement on top indicates the herring and bass will usually be following them.  He will move toward any activity he sees and cast to it. That is why it is helpful to use a rig you can cast a long way.

Although the water is down this year the herring will still spawn near the same spots they have used in the past when the lake was full and will use in the future. Tony thinks the low water may actually make the herring bite better this year because low water may push the bass out of the creeks to the main lake even faster.

The following ten spots have all produced fish over the years during the herring spawn. You can check them out to see what Tony looks for then find others.  With the lake low you can see exactly what the structure looks like and get a good picture of it when the water covers it. 

1. N 33 41.329 – W 82 17.915 – Mims Branch just downstream of the Highway 47 Bridge has Ft. Gordon Recreation Area in it. The downstream point of this creek is an excellent place to find herring spawning and bass eating them.  The point is rocky with some sand and clay so the hard bottom attracts the herring.  Two smaller side points add to its attraction to the herring and it is near deep water but runs way out, making it even better.

The point you want to fish runs out toward green channel marker L 15. There is a hard drop on the upstream side of the point. You will see a tall light pole and light on the point to know you are in the right place.

Start on the downstream side out from the light pole and work all the way around the point. Start at first light keeping your boat out as far as you can and still make casts with your top water baits right on the bank. Some times the bass will be extremely shallow and will be looking for herring in a few inches of water so start real shallow.

Work around the point to the upstream side, working your topwater baits back to water about eight feet deep then reel in and make another cast.  Work your bait fast.  You can not take a top water bait away from a bass that wants it and they seem to like a fast moving bait. Fishing fast also allows you to make more casts in the short time before the sun gets on the water.

As the sun comes up fish back around the point, staying out a little deeper and working water three to six feet deep with a Fluke.  Then fish back around the point even further out dragging a big lizard along the breaklines in six to ten feet of water.

2. N 33 42.251 – W 82 17.560 – Across the lake a long arm of land runs out on the north side of Bussey Point and there is an island off the upstream end of it. A shallow point runs out upstream on the upstream side of the island and there are also several humps around the point.  This is an excellent place to find a lot of bass and herring.

One of the small humps had a danger marker lying on its side on the hump right at the water line when we fished. The water was right at eight feet low.  Start fishing out from that danger marker and work the whole area. You will see some of the high spots just above the water and there are others all around. Work from the end of the point around all these high spots.

Always watch for any surface disturbance and cast to it.  Tony’s description of “nervous water” gives you a good idea of the little ripples the herring will often make on the surface.  If the herring are there the bass will be nearby.  Cast to any swirls you see, too.

3. N 33 41.733 – W 82 18.848 – Back across the lake on the upstream side of the long point on the upstream side of Mims Branch you will find a long shallow point running out toward green channel marker L 21.  There is a big round cedar tree on the point that stood out a few weeks ago but might blend in more now that the trees have more leaves on them.

Start on the downstream side of the point and fish upstream, keeping you boat close on the first pass so you can almost hit the bank then fishing further out on your next pass.  This flat runs way out and there are a lot of rocks on it that are normally about eight feet deep at full pool  There are some stumps and brush piles on this point and they help, but the hard bottom is more important for the herring spawn.

4. N 33 41.568 – W 82 19.397 – A little further toward the bridge on this peninsular on the upstream side of Mims Branch is the swimming area.  There is a small island just downstream of the swimming area and a point runs out there.  You will see the bathhouse on the bank and some lights and benches on the point.  

Start fishing near the downstream side of the little island and point and work around it.  If you fish fast you can hit this point and two more before you get to the swimming area, throwing topwater before the sun gets on the water.  Then work back around them. All three parallel points hold bass and herring spawn on them so watch all for activity as you fish.

This area and the others are even better when some wind blows in on them. You won’t be able to see the surface activity as well but wave action will help the bite.  Waves seem to disorient the herring and make them easier prey, and waves also break up the light making it a little more difficult for the bass to tell your bait from a live herring.

5. N 33 42.159 – W 82 20.318 – Across the lake on the upstream side of the cove where Cherokee Ramp is located is a marked hump.  It is way out of the water now and you can see how it has a big pile or rocks on the downstream side and tapers off toward the bridge. It drops fast at first down to about six feet deep at full pool but then flattens out.  On the downstream side are three small high spots.

All these high spots hold bass and herring. The downstream side of the marked hump seems to hold more bass.  Start out in front of the hump about even with the rock pile and work around it toward the ramp. Cover all this area with all your baits.  Watch your depthfinder to note the contours since it changes a lot around this hump.  You don’t want to get in too close, especially after the sun gets on the water.

All the tournaments held out of Cherokee Ramp make this an even better spot. The bass population is constantly supplemented by released bass so the concentration in this area is high.

6. N 33 41.910 – W 82 20.829 – Go under the bridge and head toward the right bank. Not far out from the riprap you will see an island that is usually not much more than a hump before you get to the bank.  It has a danger marker on a pole on it but has a lot of rock out of the water right now.  Some cypress trees have been planted on top of it.

Fish the outside of this hump, starting on the end toward the bridge and working to the upstream end. That side gets most of the waves, has a harder bottom, and drops off faster.  Work it will all your baits before leaving the area.

7. N 33 40.428 – W 82 21.766 – Cliatt Creek is the one with Mistletoe State Park in it.  There is an island on the downstream point of this creek.  Go in on the downstream side of this island and you will see some humps and points running way out toward the lake.  All are good for the herring spawn.  The river makes a big bend right here and they are on the outside of the bend and that makes them even better.

You can see the rocky humps and point with the water down and there are stumps and brush on them as well as the rocks. All help make it a good spot. Note the brush piles while fishing in close and hit them later with the sun on the water.  Bass will often hold in brush and around stumps in six to eight feet of water after the sun gets bright so dragging your Carolina rigged lizard through them is a good bet.

8. N 33 40.555 – W 82 22.194 – Out off the end of the island there are some good humps to fish. One was barely above the water when we were there, with less than six inches of it showing, so be very careful in this area if the water has come up above eight feet low.

You will see a marked hump out from and a little downstream of the island and the smaller hump is out from it. Again, this is a big area where lots of herring spawn so watch for activity to tell you exactly where to fish.  Also keep an eye on your depthfinder to keep your boat in a good depth.

Fish all around the marked hump and the others that are out from it.  Make long casts. The water is usually clear in these areas and longer casts help by not spooking the bass and herring with your boat.   Long casts with all three baits are best.

9. N 33 40.278 – W 82 22.582 – The island on the upstream side of Cliatt Creek, just off the campground, has a rocky point running out on its downstream end.  The rocks run out toward the middle of the mouth of the creek.  About in the middle of the island on the outside a long clay point runs out toward the middle of the lake.

Start fishing on the inside of the rocky point and fish around it. Continue upstream and fish the clay point, too. Fish all your baits on both points and the hard bottom between them.  Keep and eye out for surface activity in the area as you fish.

10. N 33 40.363 – W 82 23.734 – Straight across from Mistletoe is a long ridge with a small island on the upstream side. This ridge runs parallel to the river.  Go upstream past it and there is a big island on your right. Upstream of this island is a marked hump. The danger marker was bent over at an angle when Tony and I were there in mid-April.  We got a bass here that pushed three pounds even that early.

Start on the downstream side of the marker and fish around the hump. This area has a lot of high spots that all attract herring and the marked hump is good year round. It is best for the herring spawn since it is the outside hump of the group but all will hold fish. Work this area carefully and watch for changes in the bottom to tell you which areas are best.

These ten spots are all close to Mistletoe Park and Cherokee Ramp but there are other similar places on Little River and the Savannah River.  Check these out but don’t limit yourself to this small area of the huge lake.   You can find many similar herring spawning spots that hold largemouth for you to catch all over the lake.