December Bass at Millers Ferry
with Skip Spurlin
The Alabama River has some great bass lakes on it and Millers Ferry ranks high among them. All the river lakes contain excellent populations of largemouth and spotted bass and this is a good time to catch both species on Millers Ferry. As the water cools they follow patterns that you can take advantage of right now.
Millers Ferry is officially known as William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir and covers 105 miles of the Alabama River south of Selma. It contains about 17,200 acres of water and over 500 shoreline miles. A Corps of Engineers Lake that officially opened to the public in 1974, it has more than three million visitors each year.
Skip Spurlin grew up near Millers Ferry and has fished it for a long as he can remember. It was the lake he fished in his youth with his Uncle Jerry Hollinghead, Grandfather J.C. Hollinghead and father Gordon Spurlin. He has learned what the bass are doing there over the years with them and fishing on his own. The patterns they follow each fall make finding and catching bass a good bet.
Skip now lives in Opp and fishes several tournament trails including the BFL and Airport Marine tournaments. He also fished some of the Fishers of Men tournaments and a lot of local pot tournaments and charity tournaments on Millers Ferry. He is on the Airport Marine Ranger Pro Staff.
Some of Skip’s best catches at Millers Ferry include a spot weighing a 5.5 poounds, a good fish anywhere, and a 7.5 pound largemouth. His best tournament catch on the lake was a five fish limit weighing 22 pounds. There are plenty of quality spots and largemouth in Millers Ferry.
“Fall fishing is all about the shad,” Skip told me. The shad move off the river into the pockets as the water cools in November and the bass follow them. Then in late December the shad will head back out to the river and bass will say on them. You can catch them on the points at the mouths of creeks and pockets coming and going.
Skip and I were on Milers Ferry in late October, the first cold front of the year and the coldest day up until then, and the shad were already back in some of the creeks. That seemed a little early but you need to follow them and not worry about why they are moving when they do, just stay on them like the bass do. Find the shad and you will find the bass. At times you can see them feeding on top and other times you will need to watch your depth finder to spot the balls of shad in deeper water.
“When you catch a bass on a buzzbait it will be a fat one,” Skip said. Each morning Skip will start with a white or black Lunker Lure buzzbait around wood cover in the mouths of pockets. He will throw this bait on shady banks back in the creeks as long as the fish are hitting.
If they don’t want a topwater bait he will try a silver blade white spinnerbait in the same areas. He will also offer them a Trick worm or Senko around the shallow cover if they don’t seem very active, working the Trick worm by cover and dropping the Senko beside logs and letting it sink to the bottom.
As the sun gets higher or if the bass are not hitting the spinnerbait and buzzbait he will try a crankbait. Skip likes to start shallow with a bait like a Rattle Trap and will throw it around the mouths of creeks and pockets. He likes a one half ounce shad colored bait in clear water and a gold bait in stained water.
After trying the Trap shallow work deeper with a Norman’s Deep Little N then a DD22 in the same colors. Probe for drops, cover and fish around shad in the mouths of creeks on points with these baits. The point between the river channel and creek channel is often an excellent crankbait hole this time of year.
If nothing else works Skip will go to a jig head, Carolina or Texas rigged worm, but they tend to catch smaller bass. He likes a Zoom Speed worm for largemouth and a Zoom Trick worm for spotted bass. On sunny days a green or green pumpkin color is best and on cloudy days he will switch to the same worms in Junebug or redbug colors.
Skip likes the Gee’s Bend area this time of year. He and I put in at Roland Cooper State Park and fished the following holes in late October. There were shad and bass on several of them but we had a tough bluebird sky/cold front day to fish. Each will be even better now and you can catch bass on them on through December or even later. Just remember to find the shad to find the bass.
1. N 32 03.363 – W 87 15.031 – Going upstream from the opening at the ramps at the state park you will pass a long island on your right. Watch to your right for an opening going back into a big area at the state park golf course. There is a small island in the middle of the opening and a green channel marker is lodged in some stumps on the downstream point.
Start here early throwing a buzzbait and spinnerbait around the wood and grass cover on the point. Work back into the pocket behind the point and around behind the island. Fish school up on shad in places like this and feed early around shallow cover. Make several casts to the best looking spots.
Later in the day or if nothing hits shallow work around the island with your crankbaits. Work deeper if you don’t get bit shallow. The water drops off fairly fast on the river side of the island so work this areas back to the downstream point. You can also fish a plastic bait around the cover here.
2. N 32 04.194 – W 87 14.206 – Run up to the next cut on your right and go into it. Be careful if you run in on plane, there are some stumps near the channel. Go around the point on your left and head to the left. Near the back of the creek you will see a concrete seawall and dock on a point on your right. Start fishing on this point.
There is a good grass bed to fish around this point and some wood cover. Work up this bank hitting grass beds and wood cover with buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. This bank stays shady for a good while so it will be better a little later in the morning. Fish all the way up to the last dock on that side. Just past it you will see a causeway coming across the small creek.
If the fish don’t hit a buzzbait or spinnerbait work a plastic bait around the cover. A Trick worm or Senko can be good in the shallows if the bass don’t want to chase your faster moving lure. If shad have worked this far back into the creek there should be bass feeding on them.
3. N 32 04.246 – W 87 14.629 – Back out at the main river stop on the upstream point of this creek. The point between the creek and river has a lot of visible brush off the bank on the river side and you will see a long cedar tree growing on the point. On the map this point is near mile marker 46.
Fish around the shallow cover with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits on the point between the two channels. Also work a jig head worm or Texas rigged worm on it. Skip says the bottom is nasty here with lots of rocks that will eat your bait. You can’t fish a crankbait here without getting hung up on every cast.
Current is critical on these points. Bass will feed much better when there is some current moving. The current will move the shad across the points and position the bass. You will catch some bass without current but not as many and not as big as when it is moving. This point is mostly a spot hole.
4. N 32 04.385 – W 87 14.770 – Across the river is an opening going back to flats of an old oxbow and Skip likes to fish the left bank going it. Start about even with the point on the island between the river and the oxbow and fish all visible cover. The left bank going in is the side the old river channel was on and is deeper and better.
Fish from the area across from the river side island to a point where there is a deep pocket going further in. You will see a field across this pocket and that is as far as Skip usually fishes this spot. The sun gets on the water early here so he likes to start here in the mornings.
This is a good area for pattern that works on some spots. Look for patches and pockets of water hyacinth and flip them with a heavy jig and pig. You need a half to three quarters ounce jig to get down under the mat. Skip says this pattern can be good all day since bass hold in the shade on sunny days.
5. N 32 04.687 – W 87 14.508 – Another good pattern on Millers Ferry is to flip and pitch to shoreline cover along outside bends in the river. Back out on the main river head upstream and the river will start bending to your left a little. Watch for a big oak tree leaning over the water on your right and start fishing there, working upstream.
Flip a jig and pig to all wood cover along the outside bend. The bottom drops off fast and there are lay down trees and logs as well as stumps along this bank. Also watch for any change in the bottom like a ditch or the change from dirt to clay. Those things can concentrate the fish.
Skip likes to flip a three eights to one half ounce jig to the wood along the bank. He chooses a black and blue Eakins or Lunker Lure jig with a Zoom sapphire blue Super Chunk. Fish it on heavy line like 15 to 20 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon to pull bass out of the cover.
6. N 32 05.367 – W 87 14.905 – Up the river you will come to the mouth of Buzzard’s Bay on your right. You can see a lot of standing trees back in the bay and there is a red channel marker just off the upstream point. The upstream point is where you want to fish.
Skip likes crankbaits and plastics on this point. There is a good break in eight feet of water and wood washes in and hangs up on it. Bass will hold in the cover and school up on the flat behind the break. Start with your boat out in 15 feet of water and cast up shallow, covering the flat and drop. Then move on the shallow side of the break and work your plastic baits through the wood cover, fishing deep to shallow.
Skip will throw a Carolina rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog on this point. He likes green pumpkin and dips the tails in JJs Magic chartreuse dye. The Carolina rig is good for fishing the cover on the bottom. Moving water makes shad pull up on the flat on this point and bass will follow them, too. Watch for surface activity while fishing the deeper water.
7. N 32 02.394 – W 87 16.671 – Run down the river past the state park and watch on your left for a line of tall post that run along the bank. They were put there for a seawall or some other structure but stick up by themselves with some wood along their lower edges.
Start fishing at the downstream side of these posts and work upstream. This is another good outside bend area and working upstream helps you position your boat if there is any current. Current really makes the bass bite better so you want to be fishing it when the current is moving.
Skip says you can take a limit of spots weighing 15 pounds if the current is moving and everything is right. Flip a jig and pig to shoreline cover here like in hole number 5. There are also riprap banks and docks along this area to fish.
Fish upstream to the double dock with the workboat tied to it. There was an American flag flying here the day we fished. Skip says flip to all the post on this dock, that wood washes in and hangs up here and holds bass. Work this whole bank probing for wood cover as the water drops.
8. N 32 02.315 – W 87 16.920 – Just downstream of the posts on the same side is a cove that holds shad and bass this time of year. There is a big gray house on the upstream point with a gazebo out on the point. Across from that point they are clearing brush on the lot on the downstream side. That is the side Skip likes to fish.
Start fishing on the riverside of the lot they are clearing. There is wood and grass along that bank that holds bass as they move in and out of the pocket following the shad. Try all your baits along this bank, hitting visible grass and wood cover.
9. N 32 02.903 – W 87 18.535 – Further downstream on your left is the opening to go back to Ellis Ferry landing. The downstream point of this creek has a two story white house behind and a little downstream of it. This point has a bar that runs across and upstream of it and is an excellent place to find spots schooled up.
Fish a crankbait and jig head worm on this point, covering it from all angles. Watch your depth finder to see how the bar runs and work it out to deeper water. A jig head worm is especially good fished along the bar out toward deeper water.
10. N 32 02.493 – W 87 18.493 – Go back into the creek until you see the ramp at Ellis Ferry ahead of you as you round a point on your right. Start at that point across from the boat ramp and work into the creek. Ahead of you there is a causeway that cuts off part of the bay. This is a good bank to start on if you put in here.
Shad will often hold along the grass beds on this bank and they were thick in there in late October. Bass were schooling on them when we fished it and it will be even better now. Fish this bank with buzzbait and spinnerbait early, then work a Trap a little later. It is a shallow bank so stay way out and make long casts.
Fish the docks and grassbeds back until the water out from the bank where your boat is sitting is only two feet deep. Watch for action on top and make casts to it. Also hit dock pilings and brush under the docks. There are enough tournaments held from this ramp that the area is constantly restocked, adding to the fish that are moving in following the shad.
Try these ten spots Skip likes to fish and see what kind of structure and cover he is looking for. Check other areas of the lake that are similar and find the shad on them and you will catch bass.