with Karen Rae Elkins
There is something special about Coosa River lakes in June. The bass, both spots and largemouth, are stacking up in predictable places and feeding. Neely Henry is one of the best on the chain for a trip this month.
The Alabama DNR calls Neely Henry “one of the best-kept fishing secrets in Alabama.” Running 77 miles from its dam to the Weiss Dam, it covers 11,235 acres that vary from a river run on its upper end to shallow flats and creeks on the lower end.
Built in the late 1950s, many of the creeks and ditches are silted in and the shallows are full of grass. It can be a dangerous lake to run since there are few markers and many creeks have stump fields and shallows that will eat lower units. Be very careful when running this lake.
Largemouth are in the lake in good numbers in the 15 to 18 inch range according to the Alabama DNR. The DNR also calls the spot population “exceptional” for large fish and the numbers of spots in the 14 to 20 inch range is one of the best in the state.
Karen Rae Elkins was born in Huntsville but moved closer to Neely Henry Lake when ten years old. She grew up fishing and loves it. The farm she lived on had five ponds and she would fish for anything that would bite, but one day she got her fathers’ bass fishing equipment, caught some bass and was hooked herself.
Her father owned The Fishing Hole bait and tackle store in Anniston so she was exposed to a lot of fishing talk. When her father retired he asked her to fish tournaments with him and they competed on the Guys and Dolls and Cartersville Couples Trails, as well as in many local tournaments.
When the Women’s Bass Tour was started Karen saw how many lakes in her area were on the schedule so she signed up. She really likes the camaraderie and fun from this trail and says it has made her a better fisherman.
This spring Karen agreed to run the Team Trails tournament trail on the Coosa River and is also starting a Youth Tournament Trail in this organization. She fishes the tournaments as well as running them.
Karen’s best five fish limit came a few years ago on Neely Henry when she brought in 18.18 pounds. And she won a tournament on April 4 this year with five weighing 14.4 there. She likes fishing and likes competition so tournaments are a good fit for her.
Sponsors mean Karen is able to fish more than she would be able to without them and her sponsors include: Mojo Weights, Reel Grip, Bo’s Jigs, Team Trail Tournaments and JJs Magic. She also supports the Magic Foundation and Second Chance, to organizations that are very important to her.
“The bass are feeding in the grass in June and are fun to catch,” Karen told me. The spawn is over and the bass are hungry. She likes to start out shallow in the mornings catching these bass, then moves to points, humps and ledges later in they day when water is moving. And a third good pattern is fishing docks.
For fishing the grass Karen likes the Mojo rig and says it gives her a slight edge over the more common Texas or Carolina rigs most fishermen use. The Mojo rig gives the bait a little different look. It is a thin cylindrical weight with a rubber band you insert so you can “peg” it on your line.
“Start with your weight six inches from the bait then move it closer if you aren’t getting bites” Karen said. A variety of plastics will work in June and she tries different ones until the fish tell her what she wants. A Sweet Beaver is always a good choice but she also catches bass on Zoom Finesse Worms and Brush Hogs and Strike King Lizards.
A few basic colors work well on Neely Henry. Watermelon Red, Junebug and Green Pumpkin are all standard colors. And Karen always dips her baits in JJ’s Magic, saying that attracts the bass and makes them hold the bait longer. She will often dip the tails in either red or chartreuse but if she does not want this flicker of color she uses the clear to add scent.
Around docks Karen flips a Bo’s Jig and really likes the color named for her. The “Karen’s Jig” color has green pumpkin, black and root beer strands in it. She tips it with a Sweet Beaver or a Zoom Chunk and works the jig under the docks, around all pilings and in any brush around the docks. This works well when the sun is bright.
If current is moving bass will stack up on points, humps and ledges to feed. Karen likes a crankbait that runs seven to ten feet deep for fishing those areas and her favorites include Lucky Craft CB Square and Jackall Muscle baits.
Karen showed me around Neely Henry a few weeks ago and the bass were just starting to move onto their June holes. We put in down the lake and fished early, then took out and went up to Gadsden and fished the river some. The lake is varied and the patterns can differ.
The following spots all hold bass this month:
1. N 33 53.547 – W 86 06.603 – Back in Canoe Creek just downstream of Canoe Creek Marina you will see some brush tops out in the middle. This brush is on a hump where the channel swings across the creek and grass grows on it in June, too. It is a good place to find bass, especially if there is any current moving down the creek.
Going up the creek watch for a nice house on your right with a gray dock with a “For Sale” sign on it. Stay on that side of the creek since the shallow hump is out in the middle. When you get near the gray dock look to your left and you should see the brush on the hump. If you get to the marina you have gone too far.
Karen will start on the channel side and fish all around the hump, pitching her Mojo rigged Sweet Beaver of Brush Hog into holes in the grass and moving it through the thinner areas of grass. For some reason Junebug with a chartreuse tail seems to work especially well here.
Drag your bait through the grass and work it slowly and carefully. Be ready to set the hook when you feel any weight or your line moves at all. If there is current try to throw your bait so you work it with the current in a natural movement.
2. N 33 51.375 – W 86 03.217 – Running down the main river from Canoe Creek you will see the opening to Greens Creek on your left. Off the upstream point are two small islands. Idle in to the point but do not go between the islands. There are lots of snags here.
When you get to the point you will see an older dock to the left of two cement boat ramps that are side by side. Start at that dock and work around the point, fishing around to the inside of the point. Fish the grass here with a Mojo rig, work a crankbait over the shallows and pitch a jig and pig to the docks.
The jig and pig is especially effective if the water is clear and the sun is bright, driving the bass to the shade. Fish all the cover carefully. Karen says she has caught several five-pound-plus bass on this point.
3. N 33 50.619 – W 86 04.472 – Beaver Creek is a good big-bass creek and Karen has several types of cover and structure she fishes in it. As you go into the mouth you will see Greenport Marina on your right. There is a seawall in front of the store and storage area then a long point runs upstream. There are picnic tables on the point. Off the end of this point is a hump or island, depending on the water level. When we were there it was slightly under water.
Start near the store and fish the seawall toward the point. Fish the Mojo rig and crankbaits along here. This is the only place Karen will rig an Old Monster worm on her Mojo rig. The extra big worm attracts quality bites on this spot. Work from right on the seawall out to several feet deep. There are patches of grass to fish and some other cover.
When you get out near the end of the point fish the hump and around it into the cove behind it. Work the whole area carefully but Karen says the best area is the seawall at the store, so pay extra attention to any cover here.
4. N 33 50.175 – W 86 05.807 – You can run into Beaver Creek on plane until you see the silo ahead on your right. Stay to the left side going in. When the silo comes into view it is a good idea to slow down and idle the rest of the way due to stumps and shallows.
When you get back about even with the silo on your right you will see a grass point on your left. There are cattails, rocks, grass and stumps starting at this point working upstream and the channel swings on this side making it even better. Shallow grass near deeper water is usually better, but keep in mind deeper water here might mean seven feet deep.
Fish along the left bank working your Mojo rig through the grass. Try to hit any stumps you can see and also probe for hidden stumps with your weight. Fish on up this bank and there will be a grass island on your right and some big rocks on your left. There is a spring in the rocks that keeps the water cooler and moving some here. Fish around the rocks and the island, too. This is one of Karen’s best tournament holes.
5. N 33 50.054 – W 86 06.448 – Idle on back into the creek until it narrows down. The bottom back here is sandy and there is lots of grass and stumps to fish. And overhanging trees in some areas provide shade. Work all the cover in the water, including the fence rows running off the bank, with a Mojo Rig and a crankbait.
Fish slowly and carefully. Some big bass hold up back here in June. When you catch one bass work the area hitting every bit of cover, there is often more than one in a spot. You should go as far back as you can get your boat if you are catching fish.
Karen says two or three kinds of cover together makes for a hot spot to catch a bass. Look for wood in the grass, combining two kinds of cover. If there are also rocks or a drop it makes it even better. Fish any combinations of cover carefully.
6. N 33 44.973 – W 86 03.559 – Run downstream and watch for a big round point on your right. On the upstream side is a boat ramp and there is a dock on the downstream side. The house has a “For Sale” sign.
This point has deep water just off it where the old channel swings by but it comes up quickly with a shallow ledge on the downstream side. Current coming down the river hits this point and moves across it, creating an eddy on the downstream side. Fish a deep diving crankbait here, casting up near the bank and working it across the shallow water, making it dig bottom, and then over the drop into deeper water. Fish with the current, moving water makes the fish bite much better here and other spots. Fish all around this point, covering both the upstream and downstream sides.
7. N 33 48.742 – W 86 04.032 – At the mouth of Shoal Creek the downstream point is good and all three kinds of cover you want to fish is one it. Current hits this point, too, and there is deep water just off shallow water. There is a wood house with a tin roof and three dormers on it. AS you go into the cove on the upstream side there is a gray boathouse with turquoise doors on it.
Start at the dock and flip a jig to it, especially if it is sunny. Work a crankbait all around the point and the upstream cove. Then fish a Mojo rig in the grass. Work each as you come to them to cover the area completely.
Current hitting this area makes it better but wind blowing in helps, too. Wind will create a chop on the water, breaking up the light and making it more likely a bass will hit an artificial bait, and it also moves water, creating a current. Wind is your friend as long as it is not too strong to control your boat.
8. N 33 48.634 – W 86 03.764 – Across the river is a big bluff rock wall and a small rock island off it. The bluff wall is on the upstream side of the opening to a big cove and the water is very deep off it. Three was an old trotline hanging on the rocks with some dried fish on it the day we fished. It looked like some kind of voodoo charm! This is a great spotted bass hole and Karen works all around it.
This is a good spot to rig a Finesse worm on your Mojo Rig and throw it right on the bank. Move it slowly and let if fall down the face of the rocks. Don’t move it much or it will fall too far, dropping past fish too quickly.
There is a stump row on the downstream side of this point, too, another combination of types of cover. Fish them with the Mojo Rig but also flip a jig and pig right against the rocks and work it out, trying to hit stump.
9. N 33 48.891 – W 86 05.325 – Run back into Shoal Creek and watch on your left for a yellow house with a brown roof and a boathouse with two doors in front of it. All the way across the creek is a big flat and hump with stumps on it. On the bank on that side you will see a mobile home on the bank. Idle straight toward the mobile home and watch your depthfinder.
You will be in about 10 feet of water on the flat then it will come up to about five feet deep. You will still be a long way off the bank, in front and upstream of a red door dock in front of the trailer. There is a stump rod on this shallow hump and a small ditch runs out near it.
Karen will work back and forth along this drop fishing crankbaits and a Mojo Rig. She will work it a long time because she says you never know when bass will move up on this spot and feed. And it constantly replenishes itself from the deeper water nearby.
10. N 34 00.816 – W 85 57.072 – It is a long run upstream of the bridges in Gadsden so it is a good idea to trailer up here if you can. Going upstream from Gadsden watch for a rock bluff wall on your left just as you see the trailers at Tillison Bend Park. You will be upstream and the same side of the mouth of a fairly big creek that has a blowdown across it.
Start at the beginning of the rock wall and fish it all the way past the first three docks, a very long way upstream. Karen says it takes a long time to work this spot correctly and you can spend most of a day on it. It is worth it, this is where she caught the 18 pound limit in a June tournament.
Karen keeps her boat in close to the wall in about 11 to 12 feet of water and makes three casts before moving up the wall. On cast will be in toward the wall as a slight angle with the Mojo Rig. She then makes a long cast to the wall ahead of the boat and works it back at an angle to the boat The third cast will be straight ahead of the boat and is worked back to the boat.
Fishing like this covers all the water from the face of the wall out to 12 feet deep or so. To do it right can take hours working along here. When she gets to the docks Karen fishes a jig and pig around them. Current always makes this spot better. Karen says she does not even fish it if the water is not moving.
11. N 34 01.170 – W 85 58.766 – Run back downstream and you will see a golf course on your left and more holes across the river on your right. You are close enough to see the sharp bend back to your left going to the bridges and the water station in the bend.
Watch for a creek opening on your right that goes back to the golf course. You will see some big PVC pipe going into the water and some smaller pipe running out above the water and dropping down on the river side. As you idle into the creek there is another set of pipes and they are for the pump house you see on the bank that waters the golf course.
When you get back a ways from the river the creek splits and straight ahead it will go around and under a wooden golf cart bridge. Go back to the bridge area and fish all the grass and stumps in the back of this creek. Karen will pitch a jig to wood cover in the grass and also run a shallow diving crankbait over the grass that is under the water.
Another trick Karen uses in this and similar spots is to Mojo Rig a big lizard like the Zoom Magmum or the Strike King 3X lizard. These big baits draw strikes from big bass. Work them through the grass back in this creek in June.
12. N 33 59.205 – W 85 59.855 – Run downstream past the bridges and watch for a big three story yellow house with white roof and trim on your right. The house sits on the beginning of the upstream point of Big Willis Creek on that side and looks like it is in a park.
Across the river from the house is a small ditch that is not real noticeable as you run by. You will see the bank flatten out and go back a little. This old ditch has filled in but it creates a shelf in front of it that holds good fish.
Keep your boat out from the bank and cast a crankbait to the bank. Dig the bottom coming out the shelf to the edge of the drop. This is a good spot that does not get a lot of pressure since it is not real noticeable.
13. N 33 58.493 – W 85 59.664 – Run down the river past the old closed park on your left and watch for a small creek opening on that side. There are to white PVC poles on either side of the opening and a pasture or field on the downstream side of it. The poles mark two big stumps.
Karen fishes the mouth of this creek and works the stumps with her baits. She fishes on down the bank a hundred feet or so, fishing the grass and wood cover. Bass often stack up here and current helps.
Also work into the small creek. There are stumps, fence rows and grass beds to fish in it.
14. N 33 57.190 – W 85 57.768 – Run down the river until you see a long narrow island well off the left bank. This small island sits in front of a river ledge with trees on it that separates the river from a big slough behind it. There are houses and docks in the slough and a bunch of wood duck nests, especially on the downstream end around the docks there.
There is a small opening on the upstream end of this slough and Karen often starts there in the morning, fishing into the shallows, working grass and stumps. When you get to the other end where it opens back up there are two PVC poles, one with green paint on one side, that mark the channel going it.
Karen will fish the edges of this cut and the area around it, probing for stumps and trash. She will also work up the river side of the ledge, it drops off pretty quickly and is hard clay. Bass hold all along it.
These 14 spots offer a wide variety of kinds of places to fish, with some on the main lake and more up the river. There are many more similar spots. Check these out to see Karen’s patterns then explore to find more, just be careful.
Karen guides on Neely Henry and you can contact her to get her to show you first hand how she fishes here. Call her at 256-454-3804 or her web site at www.karenslake.com. You can also get information about her Team Trails tournaments.