Category Archives: Where To Fish

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Fish Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 11/9/19

Change, change and more change was the week of fishing as everyday was different and produced different results. As many of us expected its been a weird year of weather and this week we went from near 70 to low’s in the high 20’s so finding consistency was as difficult as the weather has been to predict.

However, some great, some good, and some well not so much! The days they were active its was great they days they weren’t we struggled, but the active days produced some days of 30 to 40 fish then it was hard to get a bite.

The baits we kept using were, Picasso buzz baits, Tight-Line swim jigs, Picasso spinner baits, and SPRO Little John square bills. We fished 8 ft. in most of the week looking for grass, active fish and contour changes.

Come fish with us we have guides and days available to fish with you. With the Bassmaster classic coming to Guntersville this winter we are booking out quickly so get your dates and call ASAP to get your preferred fishing dates on the books. We fish with great sponsor products, Lowrance Electronics, Ranger Boats, Mercury motors, Boat Logix mounts, Vicious Fishing, Navionics mapping, Duckett fishing, Missile baits, and more! ing Report, Lake Guntersville 10/26/19

Guntersville Keeper Bass

Where To Catch Spotted Bass in Kentucky


Great Spots for Spotted Bass
By Lee McClellan
from The Fishing Wire

They were not even recognized as a distinctive fish species until 1927. People for many years believed these fish only existed in Kentucky.

In 1956, the Kentucky legislature designated this species the “Kentucky bass” and made them the official state fish. Many anglers, especially in the south-central portion of the United States, still call the spotted bass a Kentucky bass.

They pale in reputation to their black bass cousins, the largemouth and smallmouth bass, but the spunk shown once hooked and their abundance should raise the profile of the overlooked spotted bass. They are also aggressive and readily strike lures.

It isn’t hard to tell when a spotted bass strikes. They shake their heads violently and dive bomb toward the bottom. The larger ones — 15 inches and up — usually grow a pronounced belly as they mature. Spotted bass use that girth along with a powerful tail that pulls against an angler, producing as good a fight as any comparable largemouth bass.

Medium-light spinning rods with reels spooled with 6-pound fluorocarbon line is all you need for catching spotted bass.

Once the fall winds blow, spotted bass begin to school up. They locate along rock bluffs or suspend over points, submerged humps or channel drops.

“At this time of year, if you catch one spotted bass, keep fishing that same spot,” said Chad Miles, host of the Kentucky Afield television show and dedicated spotted bass angler. “There might be 40 or 50 of them there. Spotted bass really school up in fall.

”In early to mid-fall, these schools of spots often trap a cloud of shad against the surface and rip into them. Large, chrome topwater lures tossed into this melee draw vicious strikes. These same lures fished over points, humps and channel drops can draw spotted bass from a good distance below the lure, especially on our clear water lakes such as Lake Cumberland or Laurel River.

Lake.Lake Cumberland holds a bountiful population of spotted bass with many fish in the 14- to 16-inch range. Spotted bass make up roughly half of the black bass found in the lake.

The main lake points from Harmon Creek down to Wolf Creek Dam hold spotted bass from fall through late spring. A 4-inch black finesse worm rigged on a 3/16-ounce Shakey head and slowly fished down those points is a deadly choice.

A hammered silver jigging spoon fished along the old Cumberland River bluffs in this section of the lake also produces spotted bass. Again, if you catch one spotted bass in fall, keep fishing the same area with the same technique. You might catch a dozen or more.

Large crappie minnows fished on size 1 circle hooks with two split shot lightly clamped on the line about 18 inches above the hook make a powerful choice for the large spotted bass in Laurel River Lake. The water of Laurel River Lake is as clear as the air and live bait works best.The upper end of the Craigs Creek arm is a spotted bass hotspot on Laurel, as are the main lake points near the dam and in the lower section of Spruce Creek.

The mid-depth reservoirs in southern Kentucky hold excellent populations of larger spotted bass. Barren River Lake and Green River Lake hold some of the largest spotted bass in Kentucky.

The channel drops along the submerged Barren River adjacent to Barren River Lake State Park and the Narrows Access Area make excellent fall spots to try for spotted bass.In Green River Lake, rock slides and points in the lower sections of the Robinson Creek arm and Green River arm are the best fall places. Green River Lake holds an impressive number of spotted bass longer than 15 inches.

Anglers fishing for largemouth bass in Kentucky Lake often stumble across a football-sized spotted bass. The secondary points in the major bays and creek arms in the middle section of the lake hold some impressive spotted bass in fall.

Smaller profile ¼-ounce football jigs in hues of green, brown and chartreuse attract these fish on Kentucky Lake.Spotted bass make excellent table fare, by far the best tasting of the black bass species, similar to crappie in taste and texture. There is no minimum size limit on spotted bass statewide, but they still count toward the six fish aggregate black bass daily creel limit.

Hit the water and land some hard fighting and abundant spotted bass this fall. Keeping a few medium-sized spots for the table makes a delicious and nutritious meal.

Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.

Where and How To Catch November Lake Seminole Bass

Seminole November Bass with Steven Wells with GPS Coordinates to ten spots

     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.

Locate and Catch More Fall and Early Winter Bass

Late-Season Bass: Search and Destroy
LIVETARGET bass pro Stephen Browning discusses surefire ways to locate and catch more fall and early winter bass

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON – Fall weather can spread bass out in many waterways, making for difficult bites. Given a refined approach, however, fall can provide some of the best fishing of year – especially for big bass.

Noted professional angler Stephen Browning, a seasoned veteran of the FLW Tour, MLF, and the Bassmaster Elite Series, has amassed knowledge of late-season bass behavior that can up any angler’s game right now. Aside from decades of experience on tournament trails, Browning’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management hasn’t hurt his ability to pick apart various waters, either.

The first tip? Cover lots water. And for Browning, that means crankbaits.“For me, fall is all about chunk and winding and covering water, whether that’s main lake stuff or hitting the back of pockets, coves, and creeks. Crankbaits are definitely key in fall and into early winter,” says Browning.For Browning, the biggest factor for finding fall bass to crank is water temperature. “I’m trying to search out water temperatures that are 70 degrees or less, because experience proves that’s the point at which fish get fired up for a super fall bite.”

Winning in the Wind Secondly, he’s monitoring wind. “Besides cooler water, I’m looking for spots where the wind is blowing a little bit. There’s still a lot of fish out on the main lake and not necessarily deep into the pockets. So, I’m going to look at the wind—see where it’s hitting the banks the best. Bass will utilize the wind to kind of break things up. You can burn down a pea gravel bank or a chunk rock bank and still have the ability to catch fish. And they aren’t always target oriented. In my opinion, they don’t like to hold tight to cover when the wind’s blowing, because it’s going to beat them around. So, I think they do more roaming in the wind—if it’s windy I’m going to chunk and wind,” says Browning.For such windy scenarios and main lake fishing,

Browning turns to the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt suspending jerkbait—specifically the RS91S, which is 3-5/8 inches long and dives three to four feet, typically in the (201) Silver/Blue pattern, although Browning has been experimenting with the host of new colors LIVETARGET now offers in this highly effective bait.“It’s kind of a shallower-diving jerkbait, which I utilize for cranking points, rock outcrops, rip-rap, etc. when the wind is blowing. When fishing it, I’m looking for a little bit of visibility… not a lot of stain. I fish it a lot in main lake and main creek areas using the wind and water clarity as kind of a one-two punch. It’s definitely a go-to bait for these situations,” offers Browning.Browning throws the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt on a 6’8” medium-heavy St. Croix Legend X casting rod, Lew’s 7.5:1 Pro TI baitcasting reel, and 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

Another bait Browning utilizes for windy main lake and main creek scenarios is the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw. “It has a very aggressive action and deflects off of cover, so I can utilize it on steeper rocky banks and really cover a lot of water. In terms of color, it depends on the water clarity and temperature. If the water is stained, a lot of times I’ll use LIVETARGET’s Red (362) or Copper Root Beer (361). The latter has a really nice copper hue to it and kind of a whitish-style belly. When the water temperature plummets into the 50s,

Browning also reaches for the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, especially in the Red (362) and Copper Root Beer (361) colors. “The HFC has an aggressive action but is not overpowering. It was designed to randomly dart left and right, mimicking a fleeing craw. In late fall when the water gets really cold it can be a fantastic bait for target fishing for the resident fish that live in the very back ends of creeks and pockets.”

Water Clarity and Target Cranking Browning’s advice for those days when there isn’t much wind is to monitor water clarity. “On calmer days water clarity is a big factor. I’m going to go and try to find some stained water someplace within the fishery. The biggest thing about stained water is fish don’t tend to roam as much on you, and they’re going to be more target related—an outcrop of rocks, a laydown, a series of stumps, etc. that will give those fish a place to ambush their prey.”On those calmer days, Browning will vacate the main lake and main creek areas he fishes when windy and concentrate on the back third of pockets where they have a tendency to flatten out. There, he looks for isolated cover.“I’m looking for that isolated stump, maybe a log, lay-downs, isolated grass patches, or a lot of times people will put out crappie stakes. Especially when the water’s low, bass will utilize crappie stakes.

One of the baits I like for target fishing in the back of pockets is the LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw. I’ll crank it on 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon and only get it down to six feet so I can bang it around, which is key to getting good target bites. I’ll make multiple casts to the isolated cover from various angles giving the fish the most opportunities to ambush my presentation. That’s really key—working cover from multiple angles and making sure you spend ample time on each spot,” offers Browning.When target fishing, Browning is also a fan of the shallow-diving LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait—specifically the BG57M (bluegill pattern) and PS57M (pumpkinseed pattern). “The Sunfish Crankbait has a rounded bill, so it has a nice, tight wiggle to it. For me, especially when the water temperature gets cooler, it becomes another go-to bait for target fishing. I think it kind of gets overlooked by anglers who tend to concentrate on shad patterns, but bluegills are a major forage source in fall and year ‘round that bass will really home in on

.”Water clarity dictates whether Browning will choose the Pumpkinseed or Bluegill pattern, as well as the choice between LIVETARGET’s available matte and gloss finishes. “I use the Bluegill if the water is a bit clearer and the brighter Pumpkinseed in stained water. I like using the gloss finish if the sky is cloudy and the matte finish if it’s sunny. So, you’ve got two different colors and two different finishes for a variety of fishing situations.”In terms of equipment for cranking the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, David Walker Tennessee Craw, or Sunfish Crankbait, he sticks to the same set-up of a St. Croix 7’4” medium-heavy, moderate action Legend Glass rod, a Lew’s Custom Pro baitcasting reel with 8:1 gear ratio and either 12- or 14-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon line. “If I’m concentrating on shallow areas, I’m going to use the heavier line – but if I need the bait to get down six feet or more, I’m going to use the 12-pound line,” Browning adds.

Topwaters Too When targeting the backs of pockets and creeks with grass, Browning urges anglers not to overlook the efficacy of employing a chunk-and-wind topwater routine.“The LIVETARGET Commotion Shad is a hollow-body shad style topwater bait that has a Colorado blade on the back end. It’s a real player in the kind of broken-up grass you find way back in pocket flats. During the fall, adding this bait to the chunk-and-wind crankbait program can really pay off. It comes in a couple of sizes, but I like the 3-½ inch in Pearl Ghost (154) and Pearl Blue Shad (158). The spinner makes a gurgling sound when you retrieve it like you would a hollow body frog, and it’s great for working over grassy areas,” offers Browning.For gear, Browning throws the Commotion Shad on a 7’6” medium-heavy, moderate action St. Croix Legend X with a Lew’s Tournament reel geared 8.3:1, and 50-pound Gamma Torque braided line.

Parting AdviceWhile monitoring water temperature, wind conditions, water clarity, and the amount of visible sunlight are all huge factors for finding fall bass in main lakes and creeks as well as pockets and coves, Browning suggests anglers stay tuned to another of nature’s cues: bird behavior.“Watch for the migration of shad, which have the tendency to move to the very back ends of the pockets in fall, but also know, as mentioned, that bass are feeding on bluegills and craws in lots of other locations. You can really eliminate a lot of water and fish more productively by keying in on bird behavior. They’re going to tell you where the baitfish are. Could be a blue heron sitting on the bank eating bluegills or picking around on crawfish, gulls, or all sorts of other birds either on the main lake or back farther in coves. Really pay attention to where the birds are. It’s definitely one of the small details that gets overlooked by a lot of anglers.”ABOUT LIVETARGETSince its launch in 2008, LIVETARGET has grown into a full family of life-like fishing lures that Match-the-Hatch® to specific game fish forage, with an expansive library of lure styles and colors for both fresh and saltwater fishing. The lures feature industry-leading designs in realism and workmanship that closely mimic nature’s different prey species. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, LIVETARGET won ICAST Best of Show awards in the hard and soft lure categories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

How and Where to Catch December Bass at Bartlett’s Ferry/Lake Harding

How and Where to Catch December Bass at Bartlett’s Ferry/Lake Harding
with Tommy Gunn

By this time of year lake waters are getting cold and bass are not feeding as good as they did earlier in the fall. Colder water means they are less active and more likely to be holding in deeper water. But a few warm days can turn them on and you can have some excellent fishing before the weather really gets harsh.

Some lakes seem to be better now and Bartlett’s Ferry on the Chattahoochee River below West Point is one of them. Also called Lake Harding, the water levels stay fairly consistent because it is a small lake at 5850 acres and generation at West Point keeps it full. The level can change a couple of feet each day but you will seldom see it more than three feet low.

Bartlett’s Ferry is an old lake that started producing power in 1926. It was bought by Georgia Power in 1930 and it is still owned and operated by them. The shoreline is mostly rocky, steep banks on the old river in the lower lake with some creeks offering different kinds of structure over the whole lake. The river above Halawakee Creek has steep outside bends and mud flats. Almost all the shore is lined with cabins and docks.

For a long time Bartlett’s Ferry was known for its largemouth but spotted bass have come on strong there. In the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Creel Census Report in 1996 just under 63 percent of bass were largemouth but by 2005 that was down to 48 percent. The population of spots is probably even higher than that indicates since spots are often culled for largemouth in tournaments.

In the Alabama Bass Anglers Information Team report for 2006 angler success rate at Bartlett’s Ferry was seventh highest of all lakes in the report. But it ranks low on the chart overall due to the average size of the fish caught. You can catch a lot of bass at Bartlett’s Ferry but they will mostly be smaller spots.

The good news is now is the time to catch a lot of bass there and you can bring in some quality largemouth if you fish it right. There is little of the boat traffic that plagues the lake during warmer months and you can fish in peace. Add to that the varied structure and cover and Bartlett’s Ferry is a good choice for this time of year.

Access to the lake is fair with a public ramp on the Georgia side at Idlehour and a public ramp on the Alabama side at Long Bridge. There are other ramps but these are open year round and have a decent amount of parking. There are a good many club tournaments on the lake and a weekly pot tournament goes out of Long Bridge ramp.

Tommy Gunn lives about ten minutes west of Bartlett’s Ferry in Cusseta. He started fishing Bartlett’s Ferry in the mid 1980s with his cousin and they fished many of the pot tournaments there over the years. He still fishes them and also fishes the Bassmaster Weekend Series, placing 7th overall in the Alabama South division in 2007.

Tommy agrees the size of the fish has gone down in the past ten years. His best tournament catch ever was a seven fish limit weighing 28 pounds in the mid 1990s but his best catches for the past few years in the tournaments has been five fish limits weighing 17 to 18 pounds. He landed a nine and one quarter pound largemouth in the 1990s, his best from Bartlett’s Ferry, but has not seen many over eight pounds recently.

Not only does he fish as often as possible, Tommy also makes Jawbreaker Jigs. He got started making them so he could have the colors he wanted but could not find. His jigs are sold in many stores in the area around Bartlett’s Ferry and he makes both skirted jigs and plain jigs for jig head worm fishing.

“I like to fish shallow, there are almost always some fish in shallow water here,” Tommy told me. As long as the water is above 55 degrees he is confident he will have a good catch in shallow water this time of year and he sticks with it until the water gets below 50 degrees. Then it is time to go deeper.

Since he is fishing tournaments Tommy is looking for five good bites. For numbers of fish he would go deeper and catch mostly spots, but he wants largemouth for weigh-in. You can catch fish both ways now at Bartlett’s Ferry and a couple of simple patterns will put you on fish.

For shallow fishing Tommy concentrates on docks. There are hundreds to choose from on Bartlett’s Ferry and many of them hold quality largemouth, and some good spots, right now. Tommy will flip and pitch a jig and pig to docks for bigger fish and throw a crankbait between docks as he moves from one to another.

Some docks are better than others. Tommy likes an older dock with wooden post and some brush or rocks under it. The best ones this time of year are at the mouths of pockets and sloughs. They must be near deep water to hold good fish and that is the most important factor. If there is not seven feet of water just off the end of the dock and much deeper water nearby it will not be as good.

Most of his dock fishing is done with a three eights ounce Jawbreaker jig in warmer water and a quarter ounce jig in colder water. He likes a black/blue/purple or black/blue/brown combination with a green pumpkin Zoom Super Chunk on either weight. Tommy tries to put his jig as far back under docks in places that are hard to get to and that are missed by other fishermen.

If the bite is real tough Tommy will throw a green pumpkin Trick worm on a 3/16 ounce head around the docks. That bait tends to catch more but smaller fish, but will sometimes get hit when bigger baits are ignored.

In deeper water Tommy likes a point or hump that drops off steep into the old river or creek channel. He will throw crank baits across it then back off and fish it with a Carolina rig or a jig head worm. He will start fairly shallow on the structure and work deeper until he finds fish. Rocks or brush on the structure help hold the fish in specific areas.

If the water is 15 feet deep or deeper where he is fishing Tommy will also jig a spoon for the fish. Sometimes you have to jig a spoon in their face, repeatedly moving it up and down, before they will hit. If you spot fish on your depthfinder drop a half ounce spoon straight down to them.

You can pick docks to fish by starting at the mouth of every slough on the lake and hitting them. Choose older docks with post and trash and you will do better. For deeper fish the following ten spots all hold bass this time of year and are some of Tommy’s favorites.

1. N 32 41.259 – W 85 09.095 – Put in at Long Bridge and go under the bridge. Ahead of you an island sits off the right bank. Out to the left of the island a hump comes up to within 18 feet on top and has brush on it. The creek channel swings by it and it drops fast on that side. It is an excellent place to jig a spoon or drag a Carolina rig right now.

Go up toward the island and watch behind you. A long narrow point runs off the left bank going upstream just above the bridge and you want to line up the end of it with the first bridge piling on that side. When you get even with the island you will see the hump come up. It helps to drop a marker out to stay on it.

Fish all around the hump from different directions. If there is any current it will help and you want to sit downstream of the hump and throw back up across it and fish with the current. Probe for the brush and fish it carefully when you hit some.

2. N 32 41.446 – W 85 09.401 – Upstream of the island there is a point and a cove behind it. This point leads to a ridge that runs parallel to the bank on that side. Go upstream staying way off the bank, about even with the point behind the island, and watch for a gray house with two small lighthouses to the left of it when facing it. Start going back and forth out off the bank from those lighthouses and watch your depthfinder. You will see it come up quickly on the back side, topping out at about 9 feet deep, then slope off.

Set up to fish across the ridge, bringing your Carolina rig, jig head worm or jig and pig up the sharp drop. Work the ridge casting over it from both sides. Also watch for bass holding on the side or brush on the sloping side. Jig a spoon around any fish or cover you see.

There is one sweet spot on this ridge right out in front of the gray house, according to Tommy. For some reason fish often concentrate in one small area of this long ridge and you have to fish it to find them. If you catch one bass fish that spot hard, there should be more on it.

3. N 32 41.286 – W 85 09.974 – Head up toward the old railroad trestle. Where the lake narrows down look to your left and you will see the last pocket on that side before the trestle. The downstream point of this pocket runs way out, angling upstream, and is covered with rock. There is a good drop on the inside of this point where the channel from the small creek hits the point and turns.

This is a good spot to throw a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog or Finesse worm. Spots love this point and those baits are good for them. Tommy likes a green pumpkin bait on cloudy days and stained water or a watermelon red bait on clear days and clear water. He will dye the tails of either color with chartreuse JJ’s Magic. Spots seem to really like a chartreuse tail.

Fish across this point from both sides and work it way out. When you get out on the end make some casts from the deep end up toward the bank and fish down the point on both sides. Also throw a crankbait in the shallow part of the point when you are in near it.

4. N 32 41.234 – W 85 10.416 – Go under the trestle and you will see a big pocket open up to your right. About 75 yards off the right point of the trestle a hump comes up to within 6 feet of the surface. If you start from the point at the trestle on the right going upstream and idle toward the far upstream point of the cove on your right you should cross it. The far point has two swift houses on it, one with gourds on cross arms and the other a condo style on a post.

When you find the top of the hump stop and cast all around, working your Carolina rig, jig and pig and jig head worm from deep to shallow. There is some brush here and the channel swings by the outside of the hump, making a good drop on that side. Fish all around this spot.

5. N 32 41.484 – W 85 07.631 – Head down the creek under both bridges and past the ramp. When the creek makes a turn to your left you will see powerlines crossing the lake from a point on your right where the creek turns back right. Go under the powerlines and watch to your left. You will see a rocky point running upstream at the mouth of the big cove on that side. There is no house on the point but it has been cleared of brush under the big pine trees.

Tommy says this is an excellent point because the creek channel swings in on the outside and the ditch on the inside is deep, making that side drop fast. There is brush and rocks all around this point. Start by throwing a crankbait working around it then back off and fish a jig and pig, jig head worm or Carolina rig down the slope. Watch and feel for brush and hit it hard when you find it.

Wind often blows in on this point and makes it better. Wind blowing across any of these spots will help, as it does when blowing in on a dock. As long as you can control the boat wind makes a spot even better.

6. N 32 41.528 – W 85 06.773 – Head downstream to the mouth of the river and go on the upstream side of the first small island with a house on it. Ahead you will see a big island with a red clay bluff bank on the downstream point. That downstream point forms a flat that drops off into the river channel on the far side of the island. There is an old state brush pile out on this point that no longer has a buoy marking it.

Work all around this flat and point, fishing Carolina rigs, jig and pig and jig head worm. Throw a crankbait and jig and pig in the blowdowns on the west side of the island, too. Watch your depthfinder and drop a spoon or other bait down to any brush you see. The point will top out at about ten feet deep way off the bank then drop fast and that is where the old state brush piles are located.

7. N 32 41.645 – W 85 06.541 – Go across toward the Georgia side of the river and you will see an opening a little to your left. The downstream point of this opening is actually the upstream point of a big island. There is trash all over the top of this point. Throw a crankbait across it then work your other baits deeper. Try a jigging spoon in the deeper areas.

Current coming down the river will rush right by this point and make it much better. Tommy likes to stay on the river side of the drop and fish from shallow to deep, especially when current is moving. Wind will often blow across this point making it better, too.

8. N 32 40.986 – W 85 06.194 – Run down to Kudzu Island, the island with a standing chimney on it on your left as you head downstream. If you look right on the edge of the water out in front of that chimney, with it lined up with the tree that is out from the others, you will see the old foundation of some kind of structure. A small point runs out from this old foundation and there is more cover on it.

Stay out from the point and fish all around it with all your baits. This point drops fast and is not very big, but it holds fish. Current coming down the river often stacks fish up on it.

9. N 32 40.733 – W 85 06.177 – Across the river on the Alabama side there is a big island in the mouth of a pocket. The outside bank of the island drops straight off into the old river channel. You will be in 60 feet of water two boat lengths off the bank. There are rocks on the drop and lots of logs and blowdowns.

Tommy says this is and excellent bank to fish after a cold front and during the winter. Bass hold in the cover and can move deeper quickly. Fish a crankbait around the cover. Then work a jig and pig through the branches of the blowdowns and be ready to set the hook and reel hard to pull a big bass out of them.

10. N 32 41.192 – W 85 05.443 – Go back across the lake and head into the big creek on that side. It does not have a name on the map but Boat Club Road runs out on a point in it. Across from the point with Boat Club Road watch for point with a dead pine on your left going upstream. Just past it is a little cove with a house in it that has a turret like room on the front. The dock in the pocket has a Coke sign on it. There were two flags on this boathouse when we were there in mid-November, one a solid yellow and the other a gray/white cross flag.

There is a hump that comes up to 22 feet deep on top on the point just past the cove with the dock and flags. Find it and fish all around it with different baits you can fish that deep. A spoon is good here most of the winter. Try the top of the hump and sides as it drops off.

These are the spots Tommy will be hitting in tournaments this time of year. Try docks all over the lake if the water is still above 50 degrees for bigger largemouth then hit these deeper spots for numbers of fish, mostly spotted bass. You can find more similar spots all over the lake and they will hold bass now.

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; www.fishintampa.com.

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 www.staylittleharbor.com 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: https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/chautauquacreek.pdf

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; www.chautauquareeloutdoors.com. Muddy Creek Fishing Guides is also among the well-known guide operations on the lake; www.mcfishinguides.com.

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; www.thechautauquaharborhotel.com.

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; https://www.tourchautauqua.com. (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.