Category Archives: Where To Fish

How and Where to Catch June and July Bass at Woodruff Lake/Jones Bluff/The Alabama River

June and July Bass at Woodruff Lake
with Sam Russell

Bass fishermen know summertime fishing is tough. As the waters in our lakes gets hotter and hotter the bass get harder to catch. But summertime fishing does not have to mean dawn and twilight or night fishing only. Pick a river lake like Woodruff on the Alabama River and you can work the current and catch bass anytime it is moving.

R.E (Bob) Woodruff Lake, also known as Jones Bluff, is on the Alabama River at Prattville, near Montgomery. The dam backs water in the river up all the way to its headwaters where the Coosa and Tallapoosa join. It is a narrow river lake so any power generation at the dam quickly creates current that puts bass in a feeding mood and positions them on structure and cover the whole length of the lake.

As the uppermost of the Alabama River Lakes, Woodruff is the most river-like lake and winds its way for 80 miles and covers about 12,800 acres. There are 11 Corps of Engineers parks with various facilities like campgrounds and boat ramps as well as several other private and public facilities on the water, so the lake is readily accessible for all of its length. Last year there were over 2 million visitors to Woodruff.

There are some good largemouth in Woodruff but spotted bass will make up most of your catch. In the 2006 Bass Anglers Information Team (BAIT) report there were only seven club tournaments reported on Woodruff but the success rate was good at 69.44 percent. Although there were only two bass reported over five pounds, the average weight was 1.66 pounds, respectable for a lake with a 12 inch limit.

Sam Russell was born in Montgomery and lived all his life in Prattville. He works for the City of Prattville on a seven day on, seven day off shift so he gets lots of fishing time. His father loved bass fishing and fished some local tournaments in the 1970s as well as fishing with some local bass clubs. Sam fished with him and started club fishing, too.

After a break from bass fishing Sam started back to bass tournament fishing about ten years ago. He is currently in the Prattville Bass Anglers club and fishes some local pot and charity tournaments. Last year he fished a BFL as a co-angler and placed 12th in that tournament. He also fished the Federation trail last year and although he didn’t go to the championship tournament, he was in the top ten in point standings up to the championship.

Sam likes the river system lakes and loves to catch spots. His biggest spot from Woodruff was a six pounder that hit a topwater plug. He says he though it was a striper the way it hit and fought but when he finally saw it was a huge spot his knees got weak. He still managed to land that fish. Sam has also caught a seven pound largemouth from Woodruff.

In June and July Sam will fish points at the mouths of creeks, bluff banks with wood and rock cover and blowdown trees in the water. Those three kinds of places are all over the lake and hold fish all summer long. Although you can catch fish from all of them anytime, current will make them all better and mean you catch better quality fish.

On the points Sam will start with a topwater plug like a Zara Spook. After covering the point with it he will throw a Carolina rig or a jig head worm on it. The bluff banks are also hit with topwater then fished with a spinnerbait and a jig head worm. If those patterns fail, or if he is looking for a kicker fish, Sam will flip laydown trees and shady wood cover with a jig and pig or a big worm.

A fellow club member started the W-3 Tackle Company a few years ago and pours custom jig heads. He is one of Sam’s sponsors and Sam really likes the design of the Tip-Up jig head he makes. They are a modified mushroom head with the eye of the hook forward so the jig rolls up as you pull on it, making the trailing worm move with an action the bass love.

Sam fishes a 3/16 ounce jig head with a 5 inch Senko or a Trick worm trailer on 8 pound Fluorocarbon line with a spinning rod on points. He will throw the same jig and worm on 14 pound line on a casting outfit when fishing wood cover. The Gamakatsu and Owner hooks in the W-3 baits are sturdy enough to stand up to a lot of pressure.

A few weeks ago Sam showed me the following 11 spots to fish in June and July. We were a little early for this pattern and we hit a bluebird clear day after a storm front moved though at the end of April but we still caught about 15 keepers in a half day of fishing. All were spots and most hit on the jig head worm, with a couple hitting a Spook.

There was no current the day we fished so most of what we caught was in the one to two pound range, but bigger fish will hit on these spots with current. You can call 334-682-4896 to get the generation schedule at the dam so you can plan your trip when current is moving. Give them a try to see the pattern Sam fishes and you can find similar spots the whole length of the lake.

1. N 32 21.458 – W 86 42.154 – The mouth of House Creek is typical of the kinds of points Sam likes to fish this time of year. There is a sign showing House Creek on the downstream point and the creek mouth has a no-wake buoy in the middle of it.

Start fishing the upstream point, working a topwater lure around the small grassbed there. There is a little cypress tree on the point that is worth a cast and out from it and the grass a small flat extends out then drops off into the river channel. That makes the perfect kind of feeding area to fish.

Work into the mouth of the creek on the upstream side, fishing into the creek about 50 yards then jump across and work out to the downstream point. There are some trees in the water on the downstream side and the point has overhanging trees. Cast under them and around any wood in the water with topwater then run a spinnerbait through them. Follow that up with a jig head worm.
Before you leave jump across the mouth of the creek and work upstream, hitting the docks along this bank. Sam hooked what looked like a good keeper on this point but it pulled off his Spook. If you catch a fish keep working the area, they often stack up on these spots now.

2. N 32 21.273 – W 86 41.480 – A little ways upstream of House Creek on the same side there is a bluff bank that Sam likes. As you head upstream the channel will swing slightly to your left. Watch on your right for a broken off snag tree on the bank and start fishing there. Just past it a fallen tree has pulled its roots away from the bank, leaving a bare dirt bank. Fish that tree in the water.

Work on up this bluff and hit any wood and weeds along the edge. Fish at an angle here, casting upstream and working your bait back. Sam watches his depthfinder and swims his bait back at the depth he sees fish after hitting the bottom near the bank. The bottom drops off fast here. It is important to keep your bait moving with the current so cast upstream as you work along this bluff.

Fish past the steep gray clay bank, hitting the rocks along the edge of the water. If you catch a fish keep working this bank, there should be more along it. If the current is moving fish these places carefully. If there is no current fish faster and cover more water.

3. N 32 21.333 – W 86 40.639 – A little further upstream on the same side past the boat ramp at Holy Ground Battle Park the mouth of Cypress Creek is good. We took several spots off the downstream point, casting a jig head worm out past the log and grass on the point. There are some rocks on the bottom and a few big stumps here the spots like.

As on most of these creek mouth points the current will move baitfish across them and make them better. The current positions the bass on the point so you might have to fish around it some to locate how they relate to it. Since there was no current the day we fished the bass were not as active and we had to work the bait on the bottom on the rocks to get them to hit.

Fish into the creek a short distance then fish the upstream point, too. There is a big shallow flat in the mouth of the creek that bass sometimes run shad up on, so always keep and eye out for schooling fish and have a topwater bait ready to throw to them.

4. N 32 21.823 – W 86 40.222 – Molly Branch is on the other side of the lake and has a good sandbar that runs across the mouth of the creek from the downstream side. The sign for Molly Creek is on the downstream point. This is a real good point to work with topwater. There is also some gravel and a few scattered stumps to hold fish here, so fish it with worms, too. Sam says this is a good Carolina rig hole.

The long tapering sand point runs almost all the way across the mouth of the creek. Concentrate on it rather than the upstream point here. Probe for any irregular features in the point where it makes a little cut or dip. Those are the places the bass will hold. We caught a couple of keepers here when we fished and it should be even better now.

5. N 32 24.220 – W 86 38.115 – Going upriver the mouth of Swift Creek is on your left. The upstream point runs way out across the mouth of the creek and there is a no-wake buoy lying on its side in the mouth of the creek. There is a short no-wake zone at the mouth of the creek.

Fish the upstream point, working all around it. Fish it from the river channel side, casting up to the shallow top of the point, then fish all the way around the end and up the creek side. Cast across the point from several angles probing for anything on the bottom like rock or wood that will hold fish.

6. N 32 23.613 – W 86 36.747 – Going up river watch the left bank for a gap where the underbrush has been cleared. There are four big trees with nothing growing under them and a big dead tree on the downstream edge of this gap. That marks the start of a good bluff to fish. On the upstream end of the bluff is a double ditch entering the river and there is a big log lying on the downstream point of it.

The bluff bank is marked by a high yellow clay bank. Start fishing where the dead oak stands on the bank and fish upstream. This bank gets some shade during the day and is a good example of the kinds of bluffs Sam likes, with a steep drop, wood cover along it and some shade from shoreline trees and overhanging bushes.

Fish topwater in the shade then work a jig head worm or a spinnerbait through any wood cover. When you get to the ditch, fish the log on the point carefully as well as the drop on this downstream point. This is also the kind of bank that is good to flip a jig and pig or Zoom Ole Monster worm to wood cover, especially on bright sunny days.

7. N 32 22.544 – W 86 37.041 – Across the river, on your right going upstream there is a dock with four tall white poles. It marks the start of another good bluff bank to fish. Upstream of it is a steep yellow clay bank just past a ditch that enters the river. Start fishing upsteam of the ditch and work upstream, casting to any shade from overhanging bushes and trees in the water.

Along this bank there is usually a lot of water dripping in. This can help the fishing a little since it is cooler and has more oxygen than the lake water. Bass will move close to the bank under overhanging bushes and take advantage of the inflow. You can take advantage of them by casting under the bushes where they are holding.

8. N 32 22.014 – W 86 36.340 – Upstream on the same side is Tensaw Creek. There are ledge islands on both sides of it and the points on both sides are good. The sign marking Tensaw Creek is on the downstream point. The river channel runs in right by the mouth of the creek, offering good deep water to fish holding here.

Fish the upstream point working into the mouth of the creek. The island that makes the point has some grass on it that is worth a few casts if the water is high. Fish across the channel between the island and the bank. You will see the top of a buoy in the middle of it and there is a ledge that runs across it, dropping into the channel. Fish that drop.

The other side of the channel comes up on what looks like an old roadbed or pond dam. Fish all around it, work the tree lying in the water on the end of it and into the pocket behind it. Then jump across to the other side and work out, hitting both sides of the ditch on that side and out to the main river point.

Jump back across the mouth of the creek and fish the outside bank of the island going upstream. It drops fast and there is some wood cover along it. When you get to the upstream point fish it carefully. There are good rocks here and a big log was lying on the point when we fished it. Sam said he watched Kevin Van Dam fish this spot several times in the Bassmasters Elite Series tournament held here.

9. N 32 21.712 – W 86 35.701 – Just upstream of Tensaw Creek the river makes a bend back to the left and the outside of this bend is a good place to fish. There is a small flat running off the bank for about 20 feet then it drops straight off to 60 feet deep. Wood has washed in along this drop and flat and it holds bass.

Start fishing at the first dock you see on your right just downsteam of where the bend starts and fish up the bank, casting to the bank and working your bait across the flat to the boat. Keep your boat over the channel. Topwater works well here and a spinnerbait fished through the wood will draw strikes, too. Follow up with a Carolina rig or jig head worm.

10. N 32 22.123 – W 86 35.335 – Upstream and across the lake is Bear Creek. There is a sign for it and you will see two big standing snags in the middle of the creek. Just downstream of the creek mouth is a backout with a ridge across the mouth of it from the downstream point.

Start fishing on the point on the backout and work up it, keeping your boat out in the deeper water and casting across the point. Fish to the end of it then cut across to the downstream point of the mouth of Bear Creek. Fish it and the point across from it.

This is a complex creek mouth with several drops and some grass beds wood cover and rocks, too. All can hold fish so spend some time here checking out the different angles and drops. Fish it all before leaving.

11. N 32 20.391 – W 86 35.184 – Run up to the mouth of Tallawassee Creek on your right where the river bends back to the left. There is no sign here, you can see the pole for it on the downstream point, but there is a red striped channel marker on the back side of the point that runs off the downstream point and there are two poles marking stumps on the top of the point. There is a red river channel marker just downstream of this point, too.

As we idled up to this point in the middle of the day Sam said there had been a million bass caught here. We caught three, including one of the biggest of the day, so make that a million and three now.

This point runs way out across the mouth of the creek from the downstream side and there is wood and rock cover all along it. The channel swings right by the point and makes it a ledge coming out of the channel. Fish hold all along the point on top and along the drop.

Keep your boat out in the channel and cast up onto the point, working your jig head worm through the rocks. They are rough and you will get hung up, but you will hang up on fish, too. A topwater bait would work well here, especially early in the morning and as Carolina rig works off the end of the point. Fish it carefully since it is a big, long wide, sloping point.

These 11 spots are some of Sam’s favorites and give you an idea of the kids of places he fishes. There are many more all over the lake. Use his tips and tactics to fish them and learn how to catch fish off them then you can find others to fish.

Sam has decided to do some guiding on the Alabama River lakes like Woodruff and Miller’s Ferry. Call him at 334-301-0922 if you want him to show you first hand how he catches bass on those lakes.

How about a “contacts” box somewhere in the article – if you need more space used up:

Generation Schedule for Woodruff – 334-682-4896
Contact Sam Russell for Guide Trips – 334-301-0922
W-3 Tackle Company – 334–567-8486
Corps of Engineers Office – info and maps – 334-872-9554

How and Where To Catch Seminole Bass In November

Seminole Bass In November with Steven Wells

All summer long the hydrilla beds at Seminole have been full of bass, but often the weeds are so thick you can’t fish it very effectively. In November the hydrilla begins to die back and open up, giving you access to those bass. And the cooler temperatures mean they feed even better.

Seminole is a one-of-a-kind lake in Georgia with its huge grass flats and stumpy water. So far south the dam is in Florida, it is like a Florida lake in many ways. The bass grow fat and spawn early in its warm waters. And every bit of the lake looks bassy, like you should be able to cast anywhere and hook a hog.

Unfortunately for the bass fisherman used to other lakes, looking good and being good are not always the same thing. The sheer size of the grass flats often make it difficult to locate bass unless you have an idea what they are doing and where to start. The bass are in the grass but you still have to find patterns within the grass to catch them.

Seminole is right in the corner of Georgia, Alabama and Florida on the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. It covers 37,500 acres and has been famous for its bass fishing for many years. Jack Wingate and his Lunker Lodge are one of the reasons for that fame and many happy bass fishermen have passed through his restaurant and dock over the years.

Steven Wells grew up right on the lake in Faceville, and is kin to Jack. He loves to fish and was on the lake so much Jack talked him into guiding there. Jack told him “As much as you like to fish you might as well let somebody else pay for your gas.” Steven also manages Outland Plantation, a hunting preserve near the lake, so he gets to spend all his time outside studying nature.

His time fishing paid off in another way this year when he married Pam Martin, a top angler on the Women’s Bass Fishing Association professional trail. She guides on Seminole out of Wingates with Steven when she is not off on the national tournament trail. She and Steven share patterns, tips and fishing spots and help each other out on the lake.

“If you are not fishing the hydrilla you are not fishing where the bass live, they get in the hydrilla,” Steven told me. We were fishing on a hot early October day and he was showing me patterns and places that would be good in November when the water cooled down a little.

In November you should start with topwater, then switch to spinnerbaits and lizards as the sun gets up,” Steven told me. He likes to fish a topwater bait around the hydrilla early in the morning, varying his bait according to the wind. If it is dead calm he throws a Mirror Lure topwater bait but if there is some ripple he switches to a Pop-R.

“Throw the plug within inches of the grass mat,” Steven said. You have to get it close to the edge, especially early in November when the grass is still thick. Work it slowly in place, keeping it as close as possible to the grass while making it act like a hurt baitfish. The longer you can keep it close to the grass the better your chances of getting bit.

Steven chooses a silver plug and throws it using 12 pound Stren line. The lighter line helps the bait work better and will still bet most fish out of the grass if they head back into it after you hook them. You can also make longer casts which are needed if the water is real clear.

Later in the month when the grass mat on top is breaking up, Steven will throw a buzz bait since it can be worked better. He likes a white one and ties it on 14 to 17 pound Stren line. If the grass is thick under the water he uses the heavier line to horse big bass out of the cover. The lighter line allows longer casts.

As the sun gets up Steven will switch to a spinnerbait and work it through openings and channels in the grass. Some of his favorite places will have clumps of grass out from the main mat even early in November and he tries to run it right beside those clumps, too.

Steven always chooses willowleaf blades since they come through the grass better and he varies the color depending on the water color. White with silver blades is better in clear water and gold blades and chartreuse skirts are best in stained water. The spinnerbait is fished on 14 to 17 pound Stren like the buzzbaits and for the same reasons.

“Bring two packs of watermelon seed lizards and leave everything else at home and you won’t go too far wrong,” Steven said. His go-to bait and what he uses most of the day is a Texas rigged Zoom watermelon seed lizard. He uses a 1/8th ounce lead unless the current or wind forces him to go heavier since the slower fall seems more attractive to Seminole bass.

Tie your lizard on 12 or 14 pound Stren since you will be fishing right in the grass. If the water is heavily stained Steven will go to Junebug lizards and sometimes he dies the tails of both colors chartreuse. Lizard fishing is slow so he likes to start with topwater and spinnerbaits, but the lizard will produce all day long.

“Cast the lizard right on top of the hydrilla and slide it to the edge, letting it fall when it hits open water,” Steven said. You must watch your line carefully since bass hitting on the fall often don’t give much indication they have taken the bait. If you see your line tick or move at all, set the hook hard to pull them away from the grass.

Steven shared 8 of his favorite November spots with me and they will all produce fish this month. They are just a few of the hundreds of similar places but there are key things to look for. Most of these are within a few miles of Wingates and Steven says some of the best fishing on the lake is a couple of hundred yards either side of the channel going in there.

1. N 30 47.355 W 84 43.050 – Upriver from Wingates at channel markers 13.8 through 13.3 the Flint River makes a sweeping turn across the lake. Along the downstream edge of the channel the water is shallow and hydrilla grows in a thick mat all along it. People use a cut-through behind a small island to run down to Wingates so sometimes there is a channel in the grass there.

Start at the first red channel marker just downstream of the grass island and work the edge of the hydrilla all the way past the turn back up river to the third red marker. The grass drops off deep here so you must cast topwater baits right to the edge of it. Concentrate on any cuts or holes in the edge and try to work your topwater bait in it as long as possible.

After the sun gets up switch to a lizard. You may need a 3/16 or even a 1/4 ounce lead here if there is any current since you want the lizard to drop straight down the side of the grass. The bass will hold all along the vertical face of the grass and suck in food, and your lizard, as it falls.

Cast your lizard up on top of the grass and pull it off. That insures it is as close to the wall of grass as possible. Watch your line carefully. When it stops falling, make sure it is not a fish then twitch it to make if fall on down. If it is on the bottom twitch it a couple of more times then reel in for another cast.

If you start here early, it is worth a pass with topwater then another pass with the lizard, especially if you catch a few fish on the first pass. The fish may be scattered the whole length of the bed or concentrated in one place, so pay attention to where you get bites.

2. N 30 46.736 W 84 44.381 – Just upstream of the Wingate cut there is a rockpile out on the old river channel where the ferry used to cross. You can see the old road bed on most maps. The grass bed along this edge is another good place to fish. The fish hold in the grass and also hold on the rocks and move into the grass to feed.

Fish the outside edge of the grass here. There is a wide band of grass and there is some open water behind it, but the best fishing in November is usually on the outside edge. Work it with topwater first then come back with a lizard. The water is not as deep on the outside edge of the grass here and a light sinker is usually best.

3. N 30 46.397 W 84 45.351 – The poles marking the Wingate cut have grass around them out where they get to the river channel and this can be an excellent place to fish. If you start upstream of the marker poles you should work the outside edge of the grass. Below the cut there is a bed of grass on a ridge and it has water 9 feet deep on the back side of it. This is a good place to work both sides of the bed.

The outside edge has clumps of grass growing out from the main bed and a spinnerbait or buzz bait is good in that area. The inside edge drops to 9 feet and a lizard falling down that drop is an excellent way to get a bass to bite. You can fish down the outside edge then cut through and fish the inside edge going the other way to cover both sides. If you catch a fish, concentrate on that area since there should be others nearby.

4. N 30 46.143 W 84 45.710 – Further downstream out from a couple of docks and pontoon boats on the bank the grass bed continues in closer to the bank. The river channel is a long way away here and the big flat has some grass on it, but as you get closer to the bank you will find a thick ridge of hydrilla. There is standing timber out toward the channel but it will be well behind you when you are fishing the outside edge of the grass.

On the outside edge clumps grow up well out from the mat. This is a good area for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. The inside edge has enough water to be worth fishing and the lizard should be better here. Work all around the ridges of grass and fish both sides. Again, if you catch a fish work that area carefully since there should be others nearby.

5. N 30 45.943 W 64 46.122 – Straight downstream from areas #4 you will see a red channel marker where the channel swings back across the lake. Where it turns and runs down the bank is another good ridge of grass to fish. It is right along the channel and drops off fast. Fish the outside edge of it, keeping your boat in the channel and casting to the edge of the hydrilla.

6. N 30 46.036 W 84 48.063 – The Tractor bank is a well known local fishing spot. It is called that because the DNR used to keep a tractor there to use in the management area. You can follow the channel downstream then cut across to the north bank just downstream of a tall dead tree standing in the water. Be careful, there are a lot of stumps in this area and you need to find the clear area before running it if you don’t know it.

You will see a point of land with a cove on the upstream side. In the mouth of the cove is a small grass island and you will see a yellow sign on a pole out in the water upstream of it. There are big grass beds all along this bank. Start fishing near the management area sign and work down the bank. You can fish all along here, concentrating on areas where you catch fish.

Watch here for scattered clumps of grass out from the main bed and fish them with spinnerbait, buzzbait and lizard. It often pays off to drop a lizard down beside one of these clumps after running a buzz bait or spinnerbait through the area to catch a bass that is attracted by the faster bait but will not hit it.

There are also scattered stumps near the bank here so watch for them and cast to them. You also need to keep your boat out in 10 feet of water or more when running this bank because of the stumps in closer to the bank.

7. N 30 45.550 W 84 47.903 – Back across the lake at red channel marker 7.3 a ridge runs out from the bank and hydrilla grows on it. Fish both sides of this grass bed. It runs down to channel marker 6.9 and there are several sand bars in the area.

This is a spawning area for bass and most of these grass beds are good in November because they are near spawning areas. At Seminole bass are often moving near spawning beds to hold until the water warms, which can happen in January here. When looking for similar places to fish keep in mind that you should look for fish near spawning areas.

8. N 30 44.134 W 84 51.837 – Down near the dam where the bank turns south, a huge area of grass runs all the way from the swimming area at Chattahoochee Municipal Park down to the Coast Guard station at the dam. There is an old road bed running parallel to the bank and some real shallow places on it are marked by danger poles. Grass grows all along the ridge the roadbed is on and also behind it.

You could easily fish this area all day. Work both the inside and outside areas of grass. This is a big spawning area full of sandbars so fish will be positioning themselves here in November. Concentrate on areas where you catch a fish and look for keys. Is the bottom a little deeper, are there cuts in the grass or is it a solid mat? All those keys can point to concentrations of bass in similar areas.

Seminole is a great place for a November trip. It will be much warmer and the bass more cooperative than in more northern lakes if we have a cold month. And just fishing legendary Seminole is a thrill. Check out these patterns and spots and you will be able to find many more like them.

What Is A Fishing Hideaway on Tampa Bay?

A Fishing Hideaway on Tampa Bay
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing Tampa Bay

The vast estuaries and tidal creeks near Little Harbor and the Little Manatee River, in Tampa Bay’s South Shore area, provide endless spots where kayakers and flats boat anglers can easily find sea trout, redfish and snook. (Photo Credit Power-Pole)

It’s no secret that Florida is being overwhelmed by new residents—the population now approaches 22 million—as well as by the 124 million who visit there annually. Roads are jammed, housing developments are gobbling up thousands of acres of natural habitat each year and finding locations where you can “get away from it all” is growing way more difficult.

As the song goes, we have paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

But there are still a few hideaways left that reflect a time when this state truly was a natural paradise and the weather, let’s face it, is unbeatable, especially when the snow flies up north. I was reminded of that by a visit back to Tampa Bay’s South Shore region not too long ago.

The South Shore, stretching down the southeast side of Tampa Bay roughly from the town of Apollo Beach to Terra Ceia, has no white sand beaches and no emerald green sea, and that is essentially what has saved it so far.

It’s a land of coastal creeks and estuaries, mangrove and saltmarsh shores, and through the heart of it runs the appropriately-named Little Manatee River, a designated “Outstanding Florida Water” that is home not only to lots of manatees, but also plenty of snook, redfish, tarpon, largemouth bass, alligators, otters, bald eagles and a bit of everything else that used to make Florida, Florida. There are three state aquatic preserves here—the wild lands and estuaries will remain that way, permanently.

As with most areas where there’s good habitat, the fish and wildlife thrive here; the South Shore is one of the premiere fishing areas on all of Florida’s west coast. It’s home to the “big four” of Florida inshore fishing, snook, tarpon, trout and redfish, sometimes in amazing numbers. And it’s far enough inland that it was minimally affected by the long-lasting red tide that devastated many coastal areas last year.

Because it’s Florida, there’s good fishing every month of the year, though the mix of species and their locations change with the seasons. Tarpon and snook are primarily tropical fish and action for them is best April through October, while trout and redfish like cooler water—best times are typically October to March, though spawning reds sometimes make a push in late August and September.

This is all inshore action, which means you can get at the fish in a skiff, a bassboat, even a kayak if you keep an eye on the weather. And if you don’t have your own boat, there are rentals available.

At Little Harbor Watersports in Ruskin, for example, you can rent a center console for $225 for a half day, $325 for a full day, and head out on the bay with a very good shot at catching plenty of spotted sea trout, simply by drifting over grass flats at depths of 4 to 10 feet and bouncing a quarter-ounce shrimp-tail jig on bottom or drifting along with a DOA Shrimp (or a live shrimp) suspended 3 feet under a popping cork that you give an occasional “chug” to stir up interest. You’ll catch plenty of ladyfish, black sea bass and assorted other critters to keep up your interest, as well.

Another alternative is to rent a kayak at Little Harbor and explore the canals that lead back into the development. In winter, these canals are sometimes loaded with redfish, trout and the occasional snook, while in summer they are home to baby tarpon anywhere from 1 to 3 feet long. (It can be buggy back here on a calm summer morning, though—load up with high-DEET repellent.)

Snook can be a challenge to locate and catch, but there are lots of them in the South Shore area and those who fish live sardines regularly connect with big ones.

If you’re more serious about fishing, you can hire a guide—rates around $500 for two–who will put you on the area’s premier gamefish, the snook. These fish have been described as “largemouth bass on steroids” (by me, among others) and they really put on a show in the mangrove creeks and oystery potholes where they’re often found. Size ranges from 3 pounds upward . . . way upward. It’s not uncommon to hook up with a fish weighing 10 to 15 pounds while fishing with a guide who uses live sardines to fool the lunkers, and trying to control one of these beasts in the confines of a narrow creek overhung with mangrove trees and surrounded by sharp oyster shells is the angling experience of a lifetime.

Or, if you’re into big game fishing, you can also enjoy that experience without ever leaving sight of shore here—from late April through October, South Shore waters are loaded with tarpon ranging in weight from 50 to 150 pounds. You might get lucky and connect with one on your own by fishing deep bends in the river or in the canals around Little Harbor (fish where you see them rolling with live pinfish or sardines) but best bet is to hire a guide, who will know where the schools are hanging out, usually south of the river.

Jumbo tarpon are abundant in Tampa Bay from April through October, including lots of fish weighing 100 pounds and up. Best way to connect is to hire a guide, who has the right gear and knows where to find them. (Frank Sargeant Photo)
You can catch the juvenile tarpon on heavy bass tackle in the rivers, but for the adults, heavy spinning gear and 50-pound-test braid is the minimum—your guide will have the appropriate gear, and will also take the worry out of handling one of these silver giants at boatside. (Tarpon are a catch-and-release species, but you’ll have a chance for plenty of photos with your trophy before she swims away free to fight again.) One of my favorite guides for this pursuit is Captain Chet Jennings, who has been at it for decades. His website also has some interesting video showing the backcountry here;

About Little Harbor

Accommodations on the river are understandably scarce—the terrain and environmental regulations limit development beyond basic residential properties—but one first-class location is Harborside Suites, at Little Harbor just north of where the Little Manatee runs into Tampa Bay.

Little Harbor is a good home base for a South Shore visit not only because it’s in the heart of some of Tampa Bay’s best fishing, but also because it’s got all the amenities to keep the rest of the family happy while you fish. Tennis courts, swimming pools, fitness centers, several waterfront restaurants, hiking areas, SUP, kayak and jet ski rentals plus a half-mile of sand beach should keep the crew well entertained.

The live music at the Tiki Bar overlooking the bay is a big draw at sundown every evening, and if you’re so inclined they even have karaoke nights on occasion. There’s also a waterfront firepit for after-sundown partying. And the waterfront rooms all have full kitchenettes, equipped right down to that all important coffee maker.

Sundowns at Little Harbor are not only beautiful, but they mark a good time to slip out on the water for a few casts — there’s always a bite at sunrise and sunset. (Frank Sargeant Photo)
It’s not uncommon for manatees to swim right into the harbor in front of the resort and nibble at moss on the boat fenders, and on my last visit a mother bottle-nosed dolphin was training her offspring to catch mullet among the docked yachts, as well. If you’re into bird watching, there’s a large preserve less than a mile down the shore where you’ll see just about every shorebird Florida has to offer, including the strikingly pink roseate spoonbills, sometimes by the dozens, plus lots of ospreys, egrets, great blue herons and in winter the occasional bald eagle.

For details, visit or call 800-327-2773.

Lake Chautauqua

Take a Fall Chautauqua to Lake Chautauqua
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from the Fishing Wire

Catch muskie like this

For a relatively small lake, Chautauqua has an amazing number of huge muskies like this one, caught by anglers fishing with Muddy Creek Fishing Guides. (Photo Credit Muddy Creek Fishing Guides)

Upstate New York is an overlooked jewel when it comes to opportunities for fishing, hunting, hiking, camping and outdoors enjoyment, as I was reminded in a visit to Chautauqua Lake not long ago.

If “Chautauqua” sounds familiar, it’s because the idea of a summer getaway camp pretty much got its start here on the banks of the 20-mile long lake before spreading nationwide. The original was a sort of tent camp, church-linked but full of all sorts of diversions and entertainments that made it a huge draw for folks who couldn’t stand the noise and the heat of northeastern cities in summer.

These days, the original Chautauqua has grown into an upscale summer resort complex, still church-linked, but for outdoorsmen the lure of the lake and the creek, both also called Chautauqua, may be stronger than that of the camp.

Fall Steelhead

Chautauqua Creek connects to Lake Erie, and is a route for the steelhead that are stocked every year in “steelhead alley” by Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. In late fall, steelies by the hundreds come up the creek. The typical fish averages 4 to 10 pounds and is 20 to 30 inches long—these are a long way from being small-stream brook trout. Some fish over 15 pounds also make the journey. In the narrow confines of the fast-flowing creek—it averages maybe 30 feet wide—they put up an amazing battle. (The original word “Chautauqua” meant “jumping fish” in Iroquois, now more appropriate for the creek than ever.)

While most Chautauqua Creek steelhead are in the 5 to 10 pound range, a few real slammers make the journey up the creek each year, as well. (Photo Credit Trout Unlimited)
The creek winds its way for about 15 miles, sometimes through a deep gorge, before emptying into Lake Erie, providing plenty of spots for walk-in fishing. It’s well worth the walk; the New York DEC reports the creek has one of the highest catch rates in the state for fall steelies. Catches of four or five fish per day per angler are not uncommon when the run is on. Here’s a state map showing open areas:

Most anglers use medium-light spinning gear with 6- to 10-pound test mono, and fish salmon eggs in small nylon sacks, four or five eggs to a sack, suspended a couple feet under a small float. Some say the fish have color preferences on certain days—white, yellow and pink are among the favored colors. The fish can also be caught on flyrod streamers and nymphs—local shops have plenty of successful patterns.

One of the Nation’s Top Musky Lakes

Chautauqua Lake is noted as one of the nation’s top musky lakes. It’s about 8 miles south of the shore of Lake Erie and due east of the city of Erie, Pennsylvania. It’s a narrow lake about 20 miles long, with two distinct sections separated by a highway bridge.

The south end is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 10 to 15 feet; the north end above Bemus Point has plenty of water over 30 feet deep and holes to more than 70 feet. The lake is mostly fed by springs and rain so the water is clean, but there’s enough fertility to produce heavy weed growth—great fish habitat–along the shallows. In fact, many areas are too thick to fish near shore in late summer, but get out to the edge where the weeds fall away—a kayak, canoe or rental skiff will easily get you there–and you’ll find the fish waiting.

The lake is famed for big muskies, unusual in a fairly small lake, but the combination of abundant panfish and other forage and plenty of weed cover has continued to turn out big fish for many years. The lake is known not only for size—the lake record is a 54” fish that went 46 pounds—but also for numbers.

Anglers who know the water and the tactics regularly catch three or four muskies of 40 inches in a day, an unheard of score in most musky waters where one fish per week per boat is considered “hot” fishing. NY DEC keeps the action going by stocking some 13,000 muskies 8 to 10 inches long each year, and there’s also a one fish limit, with minimum size 40 inches. (Most musky anglers release their catch in any case—a musky is too valuable to catch only once, as they say.)

Most anglers troll or cast large wobbling plugs to connect with the giant muskies of Chautauqua Lake, though some also drift live baits. (Frank Sargeant Photo)
Trolling large wobblers is the favored tactic, but drifting big live baits also gets them, as does casting the weedbeds with large plugs. Needless to say, heavy gear is a must—most use stout baitcasters with 65-pound-test or heavier braid and a braided stainless steel leader to prevent cutoffs. The season is from the last Saturday in May to November 30.

Mike Sperry at Chautauqua Reel Outdoors in Lakewood, on the lake’s southwest shore, is an expert on catching the lake’s big muskies, and has one of the best selections of big musky lures you’ll ever find in a local tackle shop; Muddy Creek Fishing Guides is also among the well-known guide operations on the lake;

Bass and Walleyes

Chautauqua Lake also ranks among the top bass lakes in New York State according to NYDEC. It’s particularly loaded with largemouths due to the abundant weed cover.

All the usual bass tactics work, including fishing the weedlines and docks at dawn and dusk with topwaters. During the brighter hours, swimbaits, plastic worms and jigs on deeper scattered grass do the job.

The lake also has a good population of large smallmouth bass, particularly in the south basin—best bet for smallies is to fish live crawfish or minnows just off bottom on rocky points and other hard structure, though the fish move into the shallows and readily attack topwaters during the post-spawn. New York, like many northern states, has a closed season for bass. The open period is from the third Saturday in June through Nov. 30.

There’s a good fall bite of large walleyes, with most caught drifting with jigs or worm harnesses tipped with chubs or other minnows at depths of 25 to 40 feet. Walleyes are maybe the best eating fish in fresh water—the limit is five daily over 15 inches and the season stays open all summer, fall and winter, closing briefly in the spring spawn.

Where to Stay

Chautauqua Lake and Chautauqua Creek are small-town and agricultural country and there are not a lot of quality places to stay close by, but one that stands out is the year-old Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron.

Built in cooperation with the state’s Regional Economic Development Council and Chautauqua County on prime waterfront that had been vacant for some 40 years due to economic malaise in the area, part of the hotel’s mission is to bring jobs and prosperity to this less-developed area of the state.

The resort covers some 9 acres on the southeast end of the lake at Celoron. It’s got 1100 feet of shoreline, most fishable from shore, as well as a boat harbor, docks, open-air bar and a very nice restaurant.

The docks at Chautauqua Harbor, stretching some 1100 feet, provide lots of places to wet a line at dawn as well as to pull up a boat for lunch or dinner. (Photo Credit Chautauqua Harbor Hotel.)
They provide free coffee starting at 5 a.m., a big plus for anglers. Guide packages, including breakfast, are available through the hotel. They have indoor and outdoor pools for mom and the kids, a great fitness center and lots more;

A side trip to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y.—childhood home of Lucille Ball—is just minutes away, and well worthwhile. Check out the tourism bureau for more; (Dave Barus is the resident fishing expert at the bureau and will be glad to steer you towards the hot bite.)

How Good Is Summer Smallmouth Bass Fishing in Virginia?

Summer Smallmouth Bass Fishing in Virginia
By Alex McCrickard, Virginia DGIF Aquatic Education Coordinator
from The Fishing Wire

Summer Smallmouth

During the dog days of summer, many anglers put their rods and reels down and are content to wait until later in the fall for cooler weather. Unfortunately, these anglers end up missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year. During this time frame, I tend to focus my efforts on one species of fish in Virginia, smallmouth bass. Pound for pound and inch for inch, these fish fight harder than most other freshwater fish in the state.

Smallmouth Bass in Virginia

Smallmouth bass, frequently referred to as smallies or bronzebacks, are a freshwater member of the sunfish family: Centrarchidae. Their green and brown sides are often marked with vertical black bars. Some of these fish have war paint like markings extending horizontally and diagonally behind their eyes and across their gill plates. Smallmouth bass are native to the Great Lakes system and the Mississippi River Basin including the Tennessee and Big Sandy River Drainages of Southwest Virginia. However, these game fish have been introduced all across the Piedmont of Virginia and are truly a worthy opponent on rod and reel. Because of the smallmouth’s widespread range in Virginia, they are readily available to anglers fishing west of the coastal plains above the fall lines of our major river systems. This allows anglers who reside in cities and large metropolitan areas to fish local as smallmouth opportunities are plentiful. The James River in Lynchburg and Richmond, Rappahannock Riverin Fredericksburg, Rivanna River in Charlottesville, Maury River near Lexington, and the New River in Blacksburg are fine examples of local opportunities.

The mainstem and larger tributaries of these rivers are full of smallmouth. Anglers in Northern Virginia can focus efforts on the Upper Potomac River as well as the Shenandoah mainstem, North Fork, and South Fork. The North Fork of the Holston River and the Clinch River provide excellent smallmouth opportunities in Southwest Virginia. Floating these larger rivers in a canoe or raft can be a great way to cover water, just remember to wear your life jacket. You can also wade fish these rivers and their tributaries, especially in the lower flows of late summer.

Summer Conditions

My favorite conditions to fish for smallmouth are from mid-summer into early fall. During this time of the year our rivers and streams are typically at lower flows with fantastic water clarity. These conditions provide for some incredible sight fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass. Look for fish to be holding against steep banks with overhanging trees and vegetation. During the middle of hot summer days it can pay off huge when you find a shady bank with depth and current. It can also be productive to target riffles and pocket water during this time of the year. Smallmouth will often be in the faster and more oxygenated water when river temperatures get hot.

It’s important to think about structure when locating summer smallmouth. These fish will often be found along a rock ledge or drop off. Log jams, underwater grass beds, and emergent water willow also provide structure that these fish can use for cover. Smallmouth can be found along current seams where fast water meets slow water. Fishing a quiet pocket behind a mid-river boulder or targeting the tailout of an island where two current seams come together is a good idea.

During hot, bright, summer days the fishing can be most productive early in the morning and again in the evening. I try to fish during these times as smallmouth will often be active during low light conditions and can get sluggish during the middle of a hot bright afternoon. That being said, these fish can be caught in the middle of bright sunny days as well. Also, afternoon cloud cover and a light shower can turn the fishing on in a matter of moments.

Summer Feeding Habits

Smallmouth bass are piscivores, they feed primarily on other fish. Various species of shiners, darters, dace, and sunfish are bass favorites. These fish also prefer large aquatic insects like hellgrammite nymphs and crayfish. However, the abundance of other aquatic and terrestrial insects allow smallmouth to diversify their menu in the summertime. It is not uncommon for these fish to target damselflies and dragonflies during summer hatches. I’ve seen summer smallmouth feeding on the surface with reckless abandon as damselflies hovered along a water willow island on the James River. These fish are happy to eat large cicadas, grasshoppers, or crickets that find their way into the water. These seasonal food sources allow for exciting topwater action.

One time during a mid-August float on the James River I found a long bank with overhanging sycamore trees providing shade along the edge of the river. I had been fishing a subsurface Clouser Minnow without a strike for nearly an hour. Because it was a windy afternoon I figured I would try my luck with a small green Boogle Bug popper on my 6 wt fly rod. A few casts later I had a fine smallmouth explode on the popper underneath the overhanging tree limbs. I landed the fish and held it up for a photo just in time to see it regurgitate a half dozen large Japanese beetles. The fish had been utilizing the windy conditions to snack on beetles as they got blown into the water. It can really pay off to change patterns based on water and weather conditions.

Medium to medium light spinning and baitcasting rods in the 7 foot range are great for late summer smallmouth. It can pay off to scale down in low clear water. You may want to consider fishing 6-8 lb test instead of 10-12 lb. Soft plastics work well for smallmouth and favorites include swim baits and tubes. Various spinnerbaits can be a great way to cover water in the larger rivers during this time of the year. Sometimes you can be surprised at how well a simple Mepps spinner or Rooster tail will produce. Topwater baits are a late summer “go to” with low and clear water. Try fishing buzzbaits, the smaller Whopper Plopper 90, Zara Spooks, and Heddon Tiny Torpedos. Buzzbaits and Whopper Ploppers can be retrieved quickly across the surface enticing explosive takes. The rotating tail of the Whopper Plopper acts like a propeller and creates lots of noise and attention.

For fly fishing, 9 to 10 foot rods in the 6 to 8 wt range are best. A 9ft 5wt may work well on the smaller rivers across Virginia but you will want a heavier rod on our larger rivers. Heavier rods in the 7 to 8 wt range will also turn over some of the bigger bugs we tend to throw this time of year on floating fly lines. A 9ft tapered leader in the 0x to 3x range will work well depending on water clarity and flows. Fishing large poppers like Boogle Bugs or Walt Cary’s “Walt’s Bass Popper” will get the smallmouth going. The Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper by Martin Bawden pushes lots of water. Large foam cicada patterns, Japanese beetle patterns, and western style Chernoyble Ants are fun when fished tight to the bank. Don’t forget to include a few damselfly and dragonfly patterns in your summer smallmouth fly box.

Don’t let the dog days of summer keep you from missing some of the most exciting warm water fishing conditions of the year!
When fishing these surface flies and lures, the takes can be very visual. Sometimes during a strip and pause retrieve, the smallmouth will slowly approach the fly from 5 feet away to gently sip it like a trout. Other times a fast strip retrieve will generate explosive takes. These visual late summer takes are hard to beat!

If the fish aren’t looking up you can do well stripping streamers. Bob Clouser’s Clouser Minnow was developed for smallmouth bass and a variety of colors can be productive this time of the year. My favorite color combinations for this fly are chartreuse and white, olive and white, as well as a more natural brown and white. The dumbbell eyes on this fly make it swim up and down through the water column as you retrieve. Lefty Kreh’s Deceiver is another fine smallmouth fly along with the famous Half & Half which is a combination of the Clouser Minnow and Deceiver. Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex has become a favorite amongst fly anglers in Virginia and the smallmouth can’t seem to ignore it. The flashy profile of this fly attracts fish in clear and stained water. Another popular smallmouth streamer is the Gamechanger developed by Blane Chocklett. The Gamechanger is multi-sectioned allowing it to swim naturally through the water column. Most other articulated streamers developed for trout fishing will also be productive on smallmouth bass as well. All of these streamers come in a variety of sizes. When choosing fly size, it’s essential to match the size of the forage fish the smallmouth are keying in on. This can vary from larger rivers to smaller tributaries but typically sizes 2-6 will work well with larger patterns being in the 1, 1/0, and 2/0 sizes.

Crayfish and Hellgrammite patterns can be productive during the heat of the day in late summer. Harry Murray’s Hellgrammite and Strymph can be fished with success lower in the water column closer to the bottom of the river. Chuck Kraft’s Clawdad and Crittermite are two other go to patterns. Its best to try numerous different approaches and techniques until you can find out what the fish are keyed in on each day.

In all, late summer smallmouth should be on your angling to do list. The conditions during this time of the year are excellent for sight fishing and cater to a topwater approach. From the smaller tributaries to the larger rivers, smallmouth opportunities are diverse across the state. Make time to get out this summer and fish local in Virginia.

October Bass at High Falls Lake

October Bass at High Falls
with Wayne Glaze

Georgia has an abundance of smaller public lakes that bass fishermen often overlook. Many of them have excellent populations of keeper bass, and some harbor good numbers of big bass. High Falls Lake is one of them that has both.

Located just off I-75 north of Forsyth, High Falls is a 660 acre Georgia Power Lake and Georgia State Park. It is a very old lake, ringed by cabins and docks. Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower, eliminating skiers and jet skis. All boats must be off the lake at night, so you can not launch until just before sunrise. And you must come in at sunset.

The lake is on the Towaliga River and has three main creeks entering it. Buck and Brushy Creek enter close together on the west side about half way up the lake and Watkins Bottom enters from the east across from them. Two ramps serve the lake, both State Park ramps so you will need a parking permit. One is right at the dam and the other is just off High Falls Road where it crosses Buck Creek.

High Falls is a fertile lake and the water is usually tinted green. Bass grow fast and fat there, and eight pounders are caught regularly. The lake gets a fair amount of fishing pressure on weekends, but on many week days, especially this time of year, you can go hours without seeing another fisherman on the water.

Wayne Glaze lives less than an hour from High Falls and likes to fish it. He fishes with four different jon boat trails and some of them fish tournaments there regularly. He has studied the lake and learned where and how to catch bass on it from his hours tournament fishing there and practicing for tournaments.

Wayne really likes the jon boat trails and fishes one just about every weekend. The first week of September he told me he had already competed in 32 tournaments during 2004, and was planning on fishing many more. He qualified for the end of the year Top Ten Tournament in three of the four trails. He also fished the BFL as a co-angler for three years, but prefers the smaller waters.

The four jon boat trails are the Southern Jon Boat Anglers, headquartered in Walton County, a group Wayne has fished with for 10 years, the Jon Boat Association (JBA), out of Logansville, the Hi Voltage Anglers, from Athens and Lil Waters Anglers out of Griffin. These four trails are each sending their top 10 teams to an end of the year classic this year.

Boats for these trails are specially set up for fishing smaller lakes. Some lakes like High Falls allow small gas motors, others are electric only. So it is not unusual to see a 16 foot jon boat with three to five electric motors on the back and another one up front. The day we fished High Falls Wayne had replaced his back middle electric motor with a small gas motor for a little more speed.

High Falls is so old most of the old channels are nothing but depressions now. Silt has filled them in and covered most of the deep wood and rock that bass like. The shoreline is full of wood cover, though, and the docks offer even more. Grass has grown thick in many areas of the lake, filling the shallows out to five feet deep in some places.

Wayne likes to fish the bank and works a variety of lures along them, probing all the cover. The bass hold and feed in the shoreline cover all day and can be found there in October. Some schooling activity on open water is worth checking out, but many big hybrids are in High Falls and you are more likely to catch them out away from the bank.

Wayne starts each morning with topwater and will fish a Lucky Craft buzzbait or a Pop-R. The Lucky Craft buzzbait does not have a skirt, just a minnow shaped body, and Wayne likes a gold blade. A silver Pop-R is good here. Fish both baits around all wood cover and over the grass and you should draw some early strikes.

If the water is open enough, usually out past 5 feet deep or so, Wayne will throw a big crankbait to attract bass. A Mann’s 20+ or a DD22N by Norman is his choice and he makes long casts with both. He wants to get the crankbait down to the bottom where there are rocks or a clean bottom.

For pitching docks and fishing the grass beds, Wayne will Texas rig a Zoom Old Monster or Mag 2 worm with a 3/16 ounce weight. This can be fished under docks and around the post, worked through blowdowns, on rocks, and also dropped into pockets in the grass. When he fishes green pumpkin or watermelon colors he dips the tails in chartreuse JJs Magic and when using black or other colors he dips them in the clear JJs Magic to give them the garlic scent.

A spinnerbait is good around the grassbeds, too. Wayne likes a half ounce white spinnerbait with double silver blades and a split tail trailer. He will cast it over the grass and run it along the surface, then drop it into holes in the grass.

In early September Wayne took me to High Falls to show me some of his spots and explain how to fish there. We spent almost eight hours fishing the lake and looking at spots to fish, and saw only three other boats. One was a DNR employee taking inventory of shoreline structures, and he told us if we would be out on the big water where Buck Creek joins the river at 6:30 PM hybrids and largemouth would school up there.

Although we had seen fish schooling there that morning and tried to get on them, they went down before we got to them and did not come back up. Unfortunately we had to leave in mid-afternoon and did not get to try for the schooling fish, but keep that in mind if you go to High Falls this month.

The following ten spots will give you an idea of what Wayne fishes and a variety of places to try. Check them out and then try other places on the lake that are similar.

1. N 33 11.820 – W 84 01.871 – Going up the Towaliga River past where Buck and Brushy Creek enter, the lake will narrow down then widen back out. Watch on your left as you go upstream and you will see a point just as that bank drops back to widen the lake. It is a round point and if you are there right at sunrise you will see two lights burning on it.

The first light is on a dock and you want to start fishing just before you get to it. It is the last dock before the point drops back. Start here with topwater, casting close to the bank and working your bait back to the boat. You should be sitting a long cast out and you want to cover all the water between you and the bank.

Fish the dock when you get to it, working around the light. Some bass might still be holding here from feeding during the dark around the light. Just past the dock is a big blowdown in the water. Fish it with topwater and a spinnerbait, then work your worm through it.

Continue up the bank and right where it drops back there will be another light sticking out over the water on a pole with no dock. At that light the bottom drops off some and there are rocks along the bank as it dips back. This is really the outside bend of the old river channel.

Fish all along this bank, too. This is a good place to run a crankbait as well as topwater. If you don’t get bit on the active baits, try a worm moved slowly down the slope. There is some wood trash here as well as the rocks to hold bass.

2. N 33 11.937 W – 84 01.881 – From where you are sitting near the point in hole #1, look out toward the middle of the lake and upstream. You will see a stump and a white jug on an iron rod sticking up. Ease out to this stump and stop a long cast back from it. If you watch your depthfinder you will see the bottom rise up to a hump with the stump on top of it. A few feet upstream of the big stump you will see another iron rod sticking out of the water.

Stay back and fish all the way around this hump. Keep your boat in 11 or 12 feet of water and cast up into five feet. There is a little brush on it, and a few stumps under the water. Cast a crankbait and work it from shallow to deep, then fish a worm down that same slope. Wayne has had better luck on Texas rigged worms, but this area might also be good for Carolina rigging.

3. N 33 12.259 – W 84 02.086 – As you head upstream it looks like the lake ends, but the river swings to the left. The bank you will be facing has docks lining it and there is a small cut to the far right in the corner. The docks along this bank have 4 to 5 feet of water out on their ends, and this is a good place to pitch worms to them.

Start at the docks on the right where the small cut is, and work toward the point to your left. Stay back from the dock and pitch a worm under it. Try to drop your bait beside each post as you work the dock. Watch for cross bars supporting the dock and fish them, too.

Between the docks along here is some grass and you can fish topwater over it early then drop your worm in holes in the grass. You can also run a spinnerbait through this grass and fish the docks with it, too. Go slowly along this bank and fish all the cover carefully.

4. N 33 12.260 – W 84 02.263 – The point out past the last dock is good. There is grass up shallow on it and it has a drop to the old river channel out on its end. Stay way back and make long casts across the point with a top water bait, then try your worm. Out on the very end fan cast a crankbait across it where it runs out to the old channel, and then work a worm across it.
5. N 33 12.383 – W 84 02.300 – As you round the point the water gets shallow and there are docks on the bank past the point. The grass has grown thick all along here and you should fish topwater and spinnerbaits over it, then fish the grass with worm. Swim the worm over the grass then let it drop into holes in the grass. Wayne caught a solid 2 pound bass here by dropping his worm into a hole in the grass the day we fished.

This bank stays shady a good while in the mornings and you can fish the grass as well as the dock post. Grass is thick around all these docks. Wayne fishes all the way up to a red tin boathouse with a rusty front.

6. N 33 11.447 – W 84 01.697 – Back down the lake the upstream point between the river and Watkins Bottom is good. It runs way out shallow and the old channel from Watkins Bottom swings in near it on the downstream side. Start fishing upstream of the point, working crankbaits, spinnerbaits and worms along the bank. When you get to the point make fan casts across it with crankbaits and then rake it with worms.

7. N 33 11.353 – W 84 01.806 – Across the lake the upstream point between Brushy Creek and the river is also good. This is the area where fish were schooling in early September, and they school here often. It is a big round clay point and it runs out toward the river There is some grass and a few stick-ups on it.

Stay way off the bank and fish a spinnerbait around it, the follow up with a worm. Wayne says this is a good Carolina rig point. When you hit grass with either worm rig, pull it through the grass and let it fall.

8. 33 11.324 – W 84 01.779 – Straight across from the point in #7 is the last point in Buck Creek. There is a sand pile out on it and a mercury vapor light on a pole right on the water. This can be a good place to start in the morning while the light is still on, and bass feed here during the day, too.

There are a lot of old dock post in the water off the point. Fish them all. Then fish all the way around this point with a crankbait. The bottom is sandy and there is some brush up shallow. Fish the crankbait along this point and then follow up with a worm.

9. N 33 11.344 – W 84 02.053 – Go into Brushy Creek past the first bend and you will see power lines crossing the creek. Where they cross on the left going upstream is a small point with rocks and stumps on it. Sit well off the bank and cast up shallow, fishing crankbaits as well as Texas and Carolina rigged worms. Probe for the rocks and stumps and hit them hard with both baits.

10. N 33 11.079 – W 84 02.016 – A short distance up Buck Creek, just before you get to the boat ramp, High Falls Road crosses the creek. The bridge riprap on the downstream side is good, according to Wayne. He will sit back off it and cast his crankbait up to the rocks and fish it back to the boat. Work both ends of this side of the bridge.

Although High Falls is a small lake, these spots cover only about half of it – there are others toward the dam and up in Buck and Brushy Creek that are good. And Wayne says other spots around these also produce good bass this month. You can’t run around fast on High Falls, so spend some time fishing these and other nearby spots until you learn them. They will produce bass for you.

Columbia River/Buoy 10 Tide Strategies

Columbia River/Buoy 10 Tide Strategies
By Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

Where to catch salmon

With a combined run of nearly a million chinook and coho salmon returning to the Columbia River mouth this August and September: forecast by state agencies to include 340,000 chinook and 600,000 coho, it might be time for you to plan a trip. And although the number of chinook returning will restrain fisheries targeting them, the giant coho return should be enough to keep the boat ramps and fish cleaning stations, at this popular sport fishery, busy.

When it comes to catching salmon, like many near saltwater fisheries, it’s all about the tides at Buoy 10. You see, each successive tide pushes more and more salmon into the estuary, which is the first place you can ambush fall salmon as they enter the Columbia River.

The salmon ride the incoming tide into the river like a surf boarder might a big wave, which means each tide, especially a big one, will carry with it large numbers of salmon all the way to and above the Astoria-Megler Bridge. To be successful is about understanding where this wave full of fish can be found and being there when they bite. It’s all about understanding the ever-changing push and pull of water.

During times when tides are less dramatic (it’s true) the tides push fewer salmon not as far into the estuary. But if the lesser tides occur for a week or more the lean daily numbers can add up to big ones and offer quick limits fairly close to the mid-estuary access points like Hammond, Warrenton, Chinook and Ilwaco.

Because the area extending from Buoy 10 (the red channel marker that describes this fishery) to Tongue Point is 14 miles long and four to five miles wide most anglers locate the salmon by trolling. And the best time to troll, especially when tides are big, is mostly during the last half of the incoming and first half of the outgoing tide.

The fishing rods used at Buoy 10 are fairly stout and stiff enough to handle cannon-ball style sinkers that might vary in weight from four to 16 ounces. What most angers do is run heavier sinkers on their front rods, say 12 to 16 ounces, and lighter sinkers, 8 to 10 ounces, on lines trailing out the back of the boat. How much weight you use depends on how deep the salmon are running and whether or not you are trying to keep your gear at or near bottom. Keep in mind though that not all salmon are on the bottom as many will suspend at mid depth, especially when tides are flooding.

What many anglers do is run their front rods out 20 to 25 feet on their line counters and their back rods out far enough to occasionally hit bottom when trolling over water less than 30 feet in depth.

A popular rod series for fishing “Buoy 10” are the Berkley Air rod series that I helped the company design. Actions that work at Buoy 10 include the 7’9” HB (Heavy Bounce), 9’ XH (Extra Heavy), and 9’6” and 10’6” HH (Heavy Herring) models. The 7’9” HB is easier to stow than longer rods and perfect for fishing straight out behind your boat. The 9’XH is an overall favorite among many for its ability to handle big sinkers, while the 9’6” and 10’6” HH actions are handy when wanting to spread lines out to achieve a wider trolling swath. The HB and HH will handle weights to 12 ounces; while XH can easily handle 16-ounce sinkers. If you want the ultimate in stiffness with a land-them-quick action, it’s the rod action I use, consider the 8’ XHB (Extra Heavy Bounce) which will handle sinkers of 20 ounces or more.

Levelwind reels equipped with line counters are what everyone uses at Buoy 10, since you really need to know what depth you are trolling and be able to return to it reliably. And while I’ve used the Abu Garcia 5500/6500 line counter models for Buoy 10 salmon, I’m mostly using them when chasing spring chinook these days. For Buoy 10, it’s the Penn Warefare or Fathom II Line Counter reels in the 15 size that works best for me. And yes, these Penn models are available in right- or left-hand versions.

When it comes to fishing line, the majority of anglers employ high-tech braid. Most guides and anglers I know spool 50- or 65-pound test braid, which is way thinner than even 25-pound test monofilament and totally eliminates the thought of an unexpected break off. This is something that can happen when using monofilament fishing line, especially if it is been heavily used and on the reel for more than a year. However, if you prefer mono, some anglers do, I would suggest picking a tough one like Berkley Big Game in at least 25-pound test.

Like many having boats, I’ve usually got four friends with me when trolling Buoy 10, meaning we have five rods in the water. Although it varies depending on what the fish are biting, I generally run spinners on the two rods near the bow of the boat and herring or anchovy on the rods positioned out the stern. Make no mistake, spinners work at Buoy 10 and what you might discover, as we have, that the majority of big chinook seem to come on the spinners. The idea behind running bait on the back rods is to encourage salmon that passed up on the spinners or arrived late to all the attraction produced by our flashers to bite.

As for my rod, I once ran it between the two stern rods and rigged with the same amount of weigh as the other back rods. Doing this meant my rod was mostly in-line with the others and as such rarely got bit as fish attracted to all the flash produced by our Fish Flash got to the side rods first. What changed the success of my center rod was when I started trailing my outfit, often rigged with a Mulkey spinner in combination with a four-ounce sinker, behind the boat 70 to 100 feet or more. What this often means is that my sinker might bounce bottom when trolling over 20 feet of water or less but otherwise my outfit is suspended somewhere at mid-depth. There is just something about having a lure trailing out behind the other gear that the fish sometimes respond to in a big way.

How and Where to Catch September Lake Eufaula Bass

September Bass at Eufaula
with Dwayne Smith

September is one of the worst months for bass fishing in many of our Georgia lakes. The water is at its hottest and bass are deep and hard to find. But at Lake Eufaula the numerous ledges are full of bass and the grassbeds all over the lake entice some bass to feed shallow. You can take advantage of both patterns and catch bass there this month.

With 45,180 acres of water, there are lots of places to fish at Eufaula. Stretching 85 miles from the dam to Columbus, this long lake is mostly river bottom with lots of shallow areas and good drops into channels. Those are perfect places for bass to hold and feed this month.

Eufaula is a shallow lake with big flats everywhere. Grass grows on many of these flats and points leading to the channels, and willow bushes grow all over the lake, even on some mid-lake ledges. Bass like to feed around this shallow cover and can be found there all year long, but this pattern gets even better in late September when the water begins go cool.

Dwayne Smith won the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Top Six tournament at Eufaula last April. He won it early, catching a limit of bass on spinnerbaits first thing each morning. Fishing with the Blackshear Bass Club for the past six years has taught Dwayne a lot about the lake since they fish it about four times a year, and he put his knowledge to good use in the Top Six.

Making the Top Six team each year that he has been in the club is something Dwayne is proud of doing, and he likes fishing the Top Six. He also likes Eufaula and can catch fish there most of the year. He says September can be a good month if you know were to fish.

“Start early in the grassbeds, then move to the drops as the sun gets on the water,” Dwayne said. That is a simple pattern but it works well for him most of the year, and September is no exception.

Dwayne will start each morning throwing a half-ounce white Terminator spinnerbait with a gold willowleaf and a silver Colorado blade. He likes a split tail white trailer and says the bait looks so good in the water sometimes he wants to eat it himself! The spinnerbait is fished in the shallows all over the lake, anywhere there is grass or willows.

Dwayne may start out on the main lake on humps but the sun hits those areas early. As the sun comes over the trees he will often move to the shady bank to get some more time with his spinnerbait. But when the sun gets bright, it is time to move to deeper water.

“Look for shallow water near deep water,” Dwayne said. A drop from the shallows to the channel is going to hold bass, and the steeper the drop the better it usually will be. Dwayne will fish a Carolina rig on these places, casting up shallow and working his bait down to deeper water.

A black Trick worm rigged behind a one ounce sinker on a 24 to 30 inch leader is Dwayne’s standard Carolina rig. He likes heavy line on both spinnerbait and Carolina rig, and uses 15 pound Trilene Big Game line on everything, including his leader.

You will often see bass busting shad on top during September, so Dwayne also keeps a chrome half-ounce Rat-L-Trap rigged and ready to cast toward them. And he will have a big Fat Free Shad on another rod to run across shallow drops in case the bass want something moving a little faster than a Carolina rig. He likes shad colored crankbaits if the water is clear and something with some chartruese in it if the water is stained.

I fished with Dwayne in early August to get a look at the way he fishes Eufaula. He showed me ten of his favorite places to fish in September to share here, and he explained how he fishes each. The following ten spots will give you some grassbeds and shallows to fish this month as well as drops to move to when the sun gets bright.

1. N 32 03.171 – W 85 03.321 – The bank straight across from the mouth of Little Barbour Creek has a good grassbed and is on the east side of the lake, so it stays shady for a good while each morning. Dwayne will start right across from the mouth of the creek and fish upstream all the way to the small creek.

Keep your boat out and easy cast from the bank and throw your spinnerbait back into the edge of the grass. Fish it back out, running it by any clumps of grass or any wood cover out from the bank. Dwayne fishes the spinnerbait fast, keeping is down under the water but running it back quickly at a steady speed. Making a lot of cast as fast as possible is important since this pattern does not last long.

2. N 32 01.997 – W 85 03.413 – Head downstream and the channel will make a sharp bend to the Georgia bank, then swing out toward the Alabama side. Right where the channel leaves the east bank there is a small island. A point runs off this island and follows the edge of the channel as it cuts across the lake. There is a red channel marker just off the island.

Dwayne likes to keep his boat upstream of the drop running off the island and casts up onto the flat formed by the point. He will work his Carolina rig or crankbait back to the boat, fishing some of the top of the flat and then covering the edge of the drop.

If there is current moving the lip of the drop is probalby the best spot. If the current is not moving Dwayne will work the Carolina rig down the drop and probe for any wood stuck there. He will work from the island out to the channel marker, fishing the edge all along there.

3. N 32 01.546 – W 85 02.876 – Head on downstream and the channel goes to the Alabama bank then makes a sharp turn back to the Georgia side. The mouth of Rood Creek is where the channel hits the Georgia bank, but just upstream is a small creek with a split near the mouth. The river channel runs near the mouth of it and the double opening has deep water in it.

The point on the split in the mouth of this creek has a hump off it that has stumps on it. It is only four feet deep on top and drops off to 25 feet or deeper all around. Keep your boat out in the deeper water and fish around the hump, making casts up on top of it and fishing down the slope.

This is a good place to run a crankbait across the top of the hump, then fish a Carolina rig on it. You will get hung up on the stumps but there will often be bass holding by them, too. Fish this spot carefully, taking time to cover it from all angles.

4. N 32 00.670 – W 85 03.605 – Downstream of Rood Creek the channel swings toward the Alabama bank and then right back to the Georgia side. A little further downstream it angles across the lake to the Alabama side, and just upstream of where it hits the bank is an opening to a big flat split by an island. This big area is actually the ends of two old oxbow river runs cut off from the lake by an island. Dwayne calls the big flat grassy area behind the island “The Barn.”

This very shallow water has lilly pads and other grass along the bank. Out in the middle you will see clumps of hydrilla. Bass will feed here year round, but move in more as the water starts to cool near the end of September.

Start fishing near the mouth and cast to every cut and hole in the grass and pads. Watch for dark clumps out in the middle of the open water and fish them with your spinnerbait, too. Run your spinnerbait along and through every fishy looking spot.

5. N 31 59.003 – W 85 04.129 – Head downstream past the mouth of the Witch’s Ditch and the lake will open up. The island that runs parallel to the river on the Georgia side, the one that cuts off the Witch’s Ditch, ends and the lake will open up. Just downstream of the end of this island is a red channel marker and there is a good river ledge here where the channel makes a small turn toward the Alabama bank.

Position your boat just downstream of the marker and you will be in about 40 feet of water. You can cast up onto the top of the ledge to 12 feet of water and fish the stumps on it. Fish all long this ledge, trying a crankbait and then the Carolina rig. When you hit a stump, pause your bait and let the bass have a good look at it. If you don’t get bit, cast right back to the same place to fish that stump again.

6. N 31 58.304 – W 85 03.888 – As you go downstream the channel will swing all the way to the Georgia side just below the mouth of Bustahatchee Creek. The red channel marker 103.1 will be near the bank and just upstream of it you will see some small willows sticking up out of the water about 200 feet off the mouth of a small creek called “The Watermelon Hole.” There is a big irrigation pump in this small creek and you can usually hear it running.

This hump was the site of a house before the lake was backed up, and the old brick foundation is still there. Fish all around this hump and the willows with your spinnerbait then back off a little and fish it with your Carolina rig. The river channel is just off the outside of it and the creek channel runs by it, too. Fish the drops into each with your Carolina rig and feel for the bricks. When you hit them fish them slowly.

Watch for schooling fish here. While we were fishing it some big shad scooted out of the water and Dwayne threw his Rat-L-Trap to it. He hooked a stong fish that fought more like a bass than a hybrid, and I was ready with the net when it got close to the boat. Unfortunately, the bass made a strong run and pulled loose before we saw it.

7. N 31 58.221 – W 85 03.924 – Just downstream of this hump, right at channel marker 103.1, the channel makes a sharp bend back toward Alabama and the mouth of Cowikee Creek. The water in the channel is 58 feet deep and it comes up to a shallow flat with a small point running out on it. You can see the small point as a buldge on the bank in the grassline.

Keep your boat out in the channel and cast up onto the flat. Some wood cover sticks here at times but the main feature is the drop. Fish the lip of the drop with crankbait and Carolina rig.

Dwayne told me this was a good spot hole as we pulled up on it, and he caught a small keeper spot here on his Carolina rig. Fish all long the lip of this drop as the channel swings away from the bank.

8. N 31 58.103 – W 85 05.776 – Run into the mouth of Cowikee Creek and head upstream until you get to the island on your right just outside the channel. The channel will make a wide sweeping bend all the way across the creek from the far bank to the end of this island and then back to the far bank. Stop just outside of the red pole channel marker that has a small number 271 on it that is standing off the end of the island. Keep your boat in the channel.

The outside bend here has brushpiles and stumps all along it. Dwayne will fish from this pole all along the outside bend all the way to the next red pole marker downstream. Near the channel marker at the end of the island Dwayne hung a strong fish on his Carolina rig but it got him down in the brush. He sawed it back and forth for a short time before it broke off.

9. N 31 54.845 – W 85 07.082 – Dwayne runs the Alabama side from the mouth of Cowikee Creek all the way to Old Town Creek Park. This is very shallow water and is dangerous if the lake is down any at all, which it may be in September. You are much safer following the channel.

When you get to Old Town Creek Park swimming area, just downstream of the fishing pier, a ledge runs way out from the swimming area toward the Georgia bank. It is called the “Closeline” because it runs so straight and far. Dwayne will keep his boat on the upstream side of this drop and fish all along it, casting up onto the top of the flat and working his Carolina rig down the drop.

There is some brush on this drop and the drop runs about even with the bank at the swimming area. If you look at the bank you can tell how it continues on out in the lake. If there is any current this is an excellent place and you can fish it out 100 yards or more. Current helps here just like on all other holes where there is a drop.

10. N 31 53.025 – W 85 07.843 – The last hole Dwayne showed me is a long point with rocks on it running out from the Alabama side. It is easy to find because there is a railroad on top of this point. The point he likes to fish is the railroad causeway on the Alabama side.

Dwayne will start on the upstream side of the causeway and work around the point with a crankbait or spinnerbait, casting up near the rocks and fishing back out. If there is current running around this point the bass will stack up on the rocks to feed on shad moving downstream. It is a good place all day long and is easy to find.

Give these spots a try and then use what you see on them to find others. There are acres of grassbeds on Eufaula and many of them hold bass. And the miles of river and creek ledges hold bass this time of year. Eufaula is one of our best lakes in September. Spend some time there.

August Bass at Lake Juliette

August Bass at Lake Juliette

Ready for an August bass fishing trip where you can fish, not bounce around from wakes of off-shore ski boats and yachts? Where the sound of skidoos never irritate your ears? Want to fish a lake full of big bass, where five pounders are brought in regularly and ten pounders are not unusual? Then plan a trip to Lake Juliette.

Located about 15 miles east of I-75 near Forsyth, Juliette is a 3000 acre Georgia Power lake. It is on Rum Creek but that creek is so small water is pumped in from the nearby Ocmulgee River to keep the lake full. Since there is almost no run-off, the lake is extremely clear for middle Georgia.

Clear water means lots of underwater plant growth. Grass grows thick in most parts of Juliette and breaks the surface from ten feet down in many places. In early July there was a distinct grass line 21 feet deep in most of the lake, with a 2 to 3 foot line of grass growing that deep. Bass love that grass.

You are restricted to a maximum 25 horsepower motor on your boat, so you will need a smaller boat to get around. In August a depthfinder is invaluable and you need one that will clearly show the grass. You can put in your bass boat and use the trolling motor but Juliette is big enough that you can not fish much of it that way.

Two ramps give good access to Juliette. Dames Ferry near the dam has a double paved ramp, picnic area and campground. Holly Grove on the upper end of the lake does not have any camping. The upper end of the lake if full of standing timber at and just under the surface, and you must follow the channel to avoid stumps and trees. Since you are restricted in the size of your motor, choose the ramp closest to where you want to fish.

Kevin Whidby grew up fishing Lake Juliette. He lives in nearby Gray and started fishing the lake with his father and uncle as soon as it was opened. He has been fishing the monthly tournament there most months for the past 15 years, first with his father and uncle, then out of his own boat a few years ago.

Over the years Kevin has done well in the tournaments. His biggest bass ever out of Juliette is a 10 pound 11 ounce monster, and he caught a 10 pound 6 ounce hog in a tournament there. It was not big fish that day, another fisherman had one a few ounces heavier.

In the June tournament Kevin came in second place with four bass weighing 9 pounds 12 ounces and had one bass weighing right at 5 pounds. There were two other 5 pounders brought in that day by 21 teams. A few days later when he and I fished the lake for a few hours after work, he landed a 4.25 pound bass on a spinnerbait and I landed one around 3.5 pounds on a Texas rigged Mag 2 worm. Bass that size are caught on most trips.

Kevin keys on the grass in August. He looks for a shallow hump or long point near deep water where the grass on top comes to the surface. Early in the morning and on cloudy days he says the bass move up in this shallow grass to feed. He will throw a topwater plug, Trick worm and Fluke, and a spinnerbait to these shallow feeding fish.

As the sun gets up the bass back out into the deeper grass. Then is when Kevin rides with his depthfinder looking for bass holding along the grass edge. He is also looking for baitfish since the bass will not be far from them. When he finds bass holding near the bottom he will cast a Carolina rigged Finesse worm, Trick worm or lizard to them.

Since the bigger bass tend to suspend off the bottom, Kevin likes to use a light 1/4 ounce lead on his Carolina rig and a two foot leader. The lighter lead allows the bait to fall more slowly and give suspended bass a chance to hit it. It also comes through the grass better.

Since the bass tend to hold right on the edge of the grass, Kevin will start by getting his boat over the shallow part of the structure and casting out into deeper water. Bringing the bait to the grass edge works best if the bass are concentrated. If they are scattered, he tries to hold his boat right on the grass edge and make parallel casts to it, covering as much of it as possible on each cast.

When the bass are suspended off the bottom and won’t hit the falling Carolina rig, Kevin will make a long cast with a spinnerbait and allow it to fall to them before making a slow retrieve, keeping it at their level as long as possible.

Bass will position on different parts of the structure and may move every day. Some days they will be on the steep drop side, others they seem to favor the more sloping side of the structure. There is so much grass on all the bottom that they can find the edge on whatever kind of bottom they want.

The following ten spots are all good in August and Kevin fishes them. They will give you an idea of the kinds of structure you should fish at Juliette this time of year. There are lots more similar places on the lake to discover, too.

1. N 33 02.908 – W 83 46.199 – If you put in at Dames Ferry Ramp, come out of the cove to the main lake and head upstream toward the power plant. The first long point on your right runs way out and continues underwater. The upstream side drops off fast and the downstream side slopes into a flat on the cove side, offering bass different kinds of bottom contour. Both sides have lots of grass on them.

Start by keeping your boat out in deeper water and casting topwater, soft jerkbaits or a spinnerbait across the shallow grass. Work all the way around the point with these baits, covering all the grass from different angles. When your spinnerbait hits a clump of grass, jerk it free and continue the retrieve. Bass will often hit when the bait jumps forward after being pulled free.

Watch your depthfinder as you fish around this point, and then ride it after casting to it. Go over the edge of the grass looking for bass near the bottom. If you find a concentration, move up on top of the point and cast out past them to the clean bottom. Work your Carolina rig up to them and then into the edge of the grass for any holding there.

If the bass are scattered, get out and cast parallel to the drop in the grass, keeping your bait as close to the grass as possible. Also cast a spinnerbait and let it sink almost to the bottom, then slow roll it back for suspended bass.

2. N 32 02.377 – W 83 46.016 – The big cove upstream of you has a point in the middle with a visible roadbed running off it. The point is marked “Quail Head” on some maps. The road bed comes out into the cove and turns toward the downstream point you just fished. There is a shallow spot out in the middle of the cove on the roadbed, too.

Keep your boat off the road and cast to the grass on top of it. Watch for visible grass sticking out of the water, sometimes it is just visible, depending on the water level. Fish it all the way across then come back with your boat shallow, casting out to the edge of the grass and fishing it from shallow to deep.

On this spot as others you can find a 3 to 4 foot tall wall of grass down around 21 feet deep. This wall is where the bass hold. Keep your depthfinder on and learn how the grass grows to help you find the bass.

3. N 33 02.047 – N 83 46.254 – Run across to the opposite side of the lake, the left side running upstream away from the dam. You will see some big rocks on a island near the dam, Taylor’s Island on some maps, and you want to fish the second main lake point upstream of it. There is a small pole out on the point on the downstream side that will help you identify it.

Idle in toward this point slowly since it runs way out in a big flat. On the downstream side of the point there is a good drop on the channel side and a good grass line on the drop to fish. Fish it like the other spots, fishing shallow first then working out to the deeper fish.

4. N 32 02.373 – W 83 46.346 – Back across the lake just off the upstream point of Quail’s Head, a hump comes up shallow about 100 yards off the bank. The point on the bank is clay and white rock and the hump comes up to about 8 feet deep when the lake is full. Grass grows on it and bass hold there all summer long.

Watch out when looking for it, there are two big rocks on it that will eat a lower unit if the water is down any at all. You should be able to see the grass sticking out of the water on this hump and the bottom color will show if the sun is out.

5. N 33 02.675 – W 83 46.943 – Head on upstream and you will see a small island on the left with a long point running out across the channel. The island is just downstream of Persons Point and the shallow point runs way out off the bank. There is a small patch of standing timber in the cove upstream of the point and a small pole on the point to help identify it.

Kevin says he likes to start way out on the point out near the channel and work up it toward the bank. Bass will hold on both sides of this point as well as out in the deeper water on the end. Check it all out, and don’t forget to cast across the shallow grass with your spinnerbait and topwater baits.

6. N 33 03.234 – W 83 47.215 – Straight across the lake are two big bays. The one on the left headed in is Buzzards Bay and it has some white box-looking structures in it. You want to go into the cove to the right of it. There is a point running across this cove and you will be almost on top of it when the box structures disappear behind the trees on the point between the two bays.

Wind often blows into this cove and that makes it even better. Wind will make the bass move up more shallow to feed, and position them on the windy side. Stay out from the point and cast across it first, especially it the wind is blowing across the point. Then get up on the point and cast out toward the lake, into the wind, and bring your bait back to the grass edge with the wind.

7. N 33 02.695 – W 83 48.404 – Back across the lake, directly across from the power plant, a rocky point runs out and drops off, then comes back up into a rocky hump a few feet off the bank. The bare rocks are visible off the point, but there are many others underwater. This point and hump are right at the mouth of the first creek with standing timber.

The timber, rocks and two creek channels make this an excellent place to find August bass. Fish all around the point working the rocks and grass on it from all angles. Bass will hold on either side of the point so check it all out.

8. N 33 02.801 – W 83 48.542 – The upstream point on the right going up, the one on the cove for the power plant, holds a lot of bass this time of year. It is deep on both sides but comes up real shallow. The main lake point is excellent and the smaller secondary point going into the power plant cove also holds fish. There is a flat between them with grass on it.

Fish both points and the flat shallow first. Then work around the two points and the outside edge of the flat, fishing the grass line off them. This is right where the timber starts on this side so bass have a variety of places to hold, and can run in and out of the timber to feed.

9. N 33 03.066 – W 83 49.397 – Head up past the Settling Pond Dam but go slow, there is a lot of timber in this area. The point on the upstream side of the cove with the settling pond dam in it runs out to the middle of the cove and there is an old duck blind on it. This point runs way out into the timber and is very shallow.

Fish the point all the way to the end and watch toward the channel. You will see a hump coming up that breaks the surface if the water is down any. You can see the red colored bottom if the lake is up and there is a big stump on it. Work around this hump like you fished the point running out to it.

10 N 33 03.029 – W 83 49.928 – Ease out to the channel and head upstream to the roadbed crossing just upstream of a point. You can see it well defined on the right and can see where it comes out on the left bank, too. Fish the drops on both sides of the roadbed as well as the point where it comes out of the water.

Kevin told me he has caught two bass over eight pounds each off this roadbed. Fish it with a spinnerbait down deep as well as a Carolina rig. You can cast across it, working both sides, or sit on one lip and cast parallel to the drop, working one side then moving to the other.

Kevin catches a lot of bass off these ten spots, and there are many others similar to them. You can discover some by studying a good map, but to really learn the lake you have to do like Kevin, get out there in a boat with a good depthfinder and ride the lake. It will pay off in quality bass this August.

The tournament at Juliette is the last Sunday each month out of Dames Ferry. Their end of year tournament is in October and the trail starts over in November, so now it a great time to learn the lake and start fishing the tournaments in a couple of months.

Entry fee is $50 per team and that includes a $5 big fish pot. Payback is one place if five boats enter up to three places if enough boats enter, and $10 per boat is held back for the year end Classic, which is the top 15 boats from the year, by weight.

They fish from daylight to 3:00 PM and you can show up at the ramp 30 minutes before daylight to enter, or call Greg for more info at 478-471-1254.

Tallapoosa River Float Trip for Redeye Bass

Tallapoosa River Float Trip for Redeye Bass

By David Rainer
Alabama DCNR
from The Fishing Wire

The cast was about 2 inches too long, and the topwater fly plopped down gently on a chunk of flat rock underneath the blooming mountain laurels on the Tallapoosa River north of Lake Martin.

One slight twitch of the fly rod tip and the Ol’ Mr. Wiggly fly slid into the current. The fly didn’t have time to float downstream. It was immediately inhaled by one of the Alabama-specific species, the redeye bass.

I lifted the fly rod to set the hook, and the fish went airborne.

Guides Drew Morgan and Craig Godwin immediately pumped up the volume when they saw the fish.

“That’s a big one,” they both shouted. “Try to keep him out of the current. Keep the rod at about a 45-degree angle.”

After several runs near the three-man inflatable raft, Morgan finally stabbed the net in front of the fish to end its freedom – only momentarily, of course.

The tape measure hit 12 inches, and I was immediately eligible to be entered into the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division angler recognition program as a master angler. It also happened to be the first redeye bass of my long fishing career.

Horseshoe Bend was our origination point, and the river had settled down from recent rains to levels that would make the trip a breeze with no portage involved.

It didn’t take long for these aggressive, beautifully colored bass to make it a float trip that will never be forgotten. Although trips with Morgan, or any of his guides at East Alabama Fly Fishing, often result in hooking a variety of species of fish, including Alabama bass, striped bass, hybrid stripers, carp and numerous sunfish like bluegills and redbreasts, this outing produced a redeye bonanza.

Morgan, a history teacher at Auburn Junior High School, got into the guide business after gaining the necessary tool.

“I fished this river a lot with canoes and kayaks,” Morgan said. “I really enjoyed catching bass on a fly rod, but that’s hard to do out of a kayak or canoe. A guy I knew had this drift boat. He told me, ‘Take this out and start fishing with it.’”

The owner knew Morgan would fall in love with the diversity and comfort the drift boat afforded, and it wasn’t long before ownership of the vessel changed hands.

“I had to have the boat,” Morgan said. “I took the bait – hook, line and sinker. At the same time, I was thinking about starting a guide service. This stretch of river is big enough for guiding. I’m not moving people off their honey holes. It’s beautiful. The fish are predictable, and you can pattern them. I just needed the boat. Once I got the boat that was stable and was comfortable for clients, we opened the guide service.”

The drift boat gives Morgan and his passengers access to the whole river at decent water levels. It can float in 2 inches of water and slides over the slick rocks that crisscross the river in numerous places.

“We can go where other boats can’t,” he said. “And it’s stable so you can make casts to the best spots.”

Five years later, the business has grown to include three other guides – Godwin, John Agricola and Justin Wilson. Agricola and Wilson guide on the nearby Coosa River.

“Justin is really knowledgeable on spotted (Alabama bass), hybrid and striper fishing on a fly,” Morgan said. “And he has a power boat, so he can run all over the lakes. He fishes the tailwaters a lot on the Coosa.

“John has a flats boat, and his specialty is catching carp on a fly in the backwaters of the Coosa. That’s a really cool experience. You’re sight-fishing for carp. You try to drop that fly right in front of them. It’s kind of like fly fishing for tailing redfish or bonefish.”

Morgan limits his guide time to three days a week when school is out to spend time with his young family. During the school year, he’s limited to Saturdays.

“It was kind of a way to make a little extra income during the summer,” he said. “But I limit it to three trips a week. I want to continue to enjoy coming out here.

“Craig and I have been fishing together for a while, and he can guide during the week because he owns his own photography business.”

Our trip covered the middle section of the Tallapoosa from Horseshoe Bend National Military Park to Jaybird Creek boat launch at the north end of Lake Martin.

“That stretch is 6 miles and it’s mostly shoals the whole way,” Morgan said. “I find fish in this river like being in the shoals. The area we floated was Irwin Shoals. It’s very scenic. Even if it’s a tough bite, you get to float down the river and get to see things you normally don’t get to see.”

Morgan said the stretches of the smaller rivers are often overlooked by most recreational users.

“You don’t really feel like you’re in Alabama sometimes, but it is Alabama,” he said. “The lakes are really popular, for good reason. But people don’t realize there are beautiful rivers and streams you can float-fish too.”

Morgan mentioned scenic rivers in the Upper Piedmont area of Alabama that run from Fort Payne to the coastal plain, including Little River, Cahaba, upper Tallapoosa and upper Coosa.

“East and northeast Alabama have a lot of great places to fish, especially the redeye bass,” he said. “Redeye bass are endemic to Alabama, which means they don’t live anywhere else. These fish like current in cool Piedmont streams with a lot of flow. They like clean water. This river is so clean, and it has so much oxygen in the water that these fish live in the shoals on this big river.

“Redeye bass are our own version of trout fishing, but I think it’s cooler than that because the redeyes are native. They are colorful, very aggressive and eager to eat. I think this is something really special for Alabama to have in our waters.”

What fisheries biologists have recently discovered is that each river system may have variations in the black bass population that make them distinct to the rivers they inhabit.

“Presently the redeye bass of the Tallapoosa River are now called Tallapoosa Bass (Micropterus tallapoosae),” said Nick Nichols, Fisheries Chief with the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. “We are conducting a research project in conjunction with researchers from Auburn University to better determine the status and genetic characteristics of these riverine black bass species in Alabama.”

When Morgan is targeting the Alabama (spotted) bass, he looks for water where the current slows from the upper reaches of the Tallapoosa.

“They can put a big bend on a five-weight rod,” he said. “A 2-pound spot that has lived in this moving water is a good fish on a fly rod. If you mix in bluegills and redbreasted sunfish, they’re a whole lot of fun to catch. It’s a fun day of fishing, especially during the summer when we’re catching everything on top. I don’t guarantee fish, but the fish in the summer are pretty eager to eat.

“What I do like about river fishing is I think it’s easier to find fish. You’re looking for ambush points and hiding places.”

Morgan and his guides will accommodate anglers of all skill levels.

“I have clients that are all over the board,” he said. “I think more people are getting into fly fishing. I hear this story all the time, ‘Yeah, granddaddy fly-fished all the time, but we started fishing the lakes and didn’t fly-fish as much. Now I want to get back into it again.’

“Then we have clients from all over the South who want to come catch a redeye. The word is getting out about this species. Fly anglers, especially, like to notch different species on their belt. And, I’ve got people who see this boat and want to fish in it to let the guide do the work so they can concentrate on fishing. You can’t do that in a kayak or canoe. There’s something for everybody in the Tallapoosa.”

Morgan also has other motivation to put a fishing rod of some kind in people’s hands.

“Mainly, I want to get people into the sport,” he said. “If they want to come with me, that’s fine. But I just want people to get on the water, buy a fishing license to support the state and appreciate what we have.”