March 13, 2018
Located in two different regions of the state, the best Alabama bass fishing is located at Guntersville and Eufaula lakes.
Alabama offers a lot of great choices for bass anglers, which is probably why it's home to B.A.S.S., as well as many professional bass anglers. However, at present two lakes really stand out for anglers, one in the northern counties, one in the southeast.
Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in Alabama, running 75 miles and 69,000 acres at full pool, as well as drawing more anglers than all other TVA lakes in the state combined. It is also rated as one of the top bass lakes in the nation.
Guntersville sprawls through the foothills of the Appalachians, creating a wide variety of bass habitat, from shallow stump flats to offshore bars and submerged road beds to bridges, as well as plunging submerged cliffs and creek valleys.
However, the biggest factor has always been the vegetation. Guntersville is loaded with submerged cover, including native coontail and lily pads, along with vast fields of hydrilla and milfoil. Additionally, stands of water primrose, marked by yellow flowers, vine their way along the shores and shallows.
While the hydrilla gets too thick in some areas, its prime bass cover in areas where it's scattered and submerged a few feet or dotted with lanes and potholes. In fact, hydrilla is the top bass-producing cover in the lake for most of the year.
Of course, prime bass time at Guntersville, as in most lakes, is in the pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn periods, roughly from mid-March to the first week of May, though it can vary a week or two either way depending on temperature and sunshine.
The various bays around the lake tend to turn on at different times, but when fish are found in a given bay, other bays that are close by are likely to hold fish as well. Among the better-known spawning areas are Brown's Creek — a huge bay on the west side, bisected by the S.R. 69 Causeway — Honeycomb Creek, Spring Creek, Town Creek and Siebold Creek, all in the lower part of the lake.
The central part of the lake is dominated by the two large bays — North Sauty and South Sauty. North Sauty is more popular, as its upper end gets loaded with spawning fish, as well as anglers, when the time is right. The upper end of the lake also has plenty of productive creeks, sometimes turning on a week or more later than the rest of the lake; Roseberry Creek, Crow Creek, Mud Creek and several others are all worth exploring in the Scottsboro area and farther north.
Now frog fishing is very well known at Guntersville, but it is not a particularly effective springtime tactic — it kicks in around mid-September most years, when the weed mats are at their thickest. It is much better to try buzzbaits, spinnerbaits, swimjigs and swimbaits pre- and post-spawn, and soft plastics during the spawn itself.
While the standard Texas-rigged, 6- to 8-inch worm does plenty of business during the spawn, anglers should consider an unweighted wacky-rigged stickbait, a shaky-head with a small floating worm or a drop-shot rig. These worms work better because bass get conditioned to conventional presentations, so finesse gear can help.
While Guntersville is not the bass machine it once was, where anglers routinely caught 5-pounders, it is still a great piece of water, and biologists report that a big year-class of bass is on its way up, promising a return to elite status of previous years.
Also, a local conservation group is in process of putting 50,000 Florida-strain largemouth into the upper end of the lake in the bays around Scottsboro. If enough of these fast-growing fry survive, they're likely to kick that section into high gear within three or four years.
Lake Eufaula, an impoundment of the Chattahoochee River on Alabama's southeast border with Georgia, has been on a roll in recent years, returning to some of the glory it had decades back with exceptional numbers of large largemouth bass, as well as plenty of stripers and hybrids.
Three of the top 10 tournaments for bass weighed in over 5 pounds were held on Eufaula in 2015, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources' BAIT survey program, including the No. 1 and No. 3 events, allowing it to edge Guntersville, which also had three of the top 10 tournaments, but further down the list.
Now Eufaula does not produce fish-on-every-cast action, but it is great for those in search of larger bass, rather than a steady bite. The 46,000-acre lake extends north about 85 miles from the Walter F. George Lock and Dam and has approximately 640 miles of shoreline.
The bass action at Eufaula is mostly shallow in spring, with pre-spawn fish going shallow in early March. The spawn is usually the second or third week of March through the third week of April, with post-spawn fish still hanging around stump flats, brush piles and other cover at depths from 2 to 10 feet into May, varying a week or two either way in warmer or colder springs.
Like many other impoundments, fish tend to turn on when the dam is creating current, and this current action tends to be strongest on main-lake channel edges, points and humps.
However, the lake has a lot of nutrient to grow algae, so visibility is limited in most areas. And some of the feeder creeks are surrounded by farmlands, which in spring produce a lot of muddy runoff. Those surrounded by forest, on the other hand, tend to stay clearer, and can be more productive when the rest of the lake is murky.
In the lower reservoir, Pataula Creek, White Oak, Cheneyhatchee and Barbour, among other creeks, are likely to hold post-spawn fish through much of April and into early May. These down-lake waters also tend to be clearer than those on the north end during wet springs, when waters can get so muddy bass have a hard time seeing baits in some areas, but it's mostly a look-and-see situation — a big rain on one end of the lake may not mean runoff on the other end.
There are a lot of areas both on the main lake and up its many feeder creeks where water 20- to 30-feet deep sits right next to stump rows in 1 to 2 feet of water. These are obviously great spots to run a square-bill crankbait or spinnerbait, but they can also be dangerous places to run a boat. Get out of the unmarked channel by a few feet and lower units might find a stump just inches under the surface.
Now water temps of 68 to 72 degrees F are perfect for spawning, but sometimes larger fish go on the beds with temperatures as low as 65 degrees. A chilly April can mean a temp gauge is a great friend. Find the warmest creeks and stump flats and ease along looking for beds. Rip-rap banks found around the lake's many bridges and areas where culverts run in, as well as shallow, sunny bays can be early warmup spots.
Now grass can be hard to find in some areas of Eufaula because of the water clarity, but fish do find it and use it. When water levels are right, they also hang out around the hundreds of boat houses around the lake, particularly those with deeper water or those next to natural cover.
When the water rises, the fish sometimes follow it into grass or brush along the shoreline, making it worth exploring after a rain or when the dam is closed. Green pumpkin stick-type worms fished wacky-rigged can be deadly around docks for those with the patience to cast them on 10-pound-test-braid on spinning rigs and let them flutter slowly to bottom. Lily pads are in many creeks, and some draw spawners. A frog, buzzbait or a white swimjig, does the job in these areas.
Now Lakepoint Resort, on Cowikee Creek just north of the beautiful antebellum town of Eufaula, is a great place to stay, with full amenities, quality boat ramps and dockage just minutes from action. Bagby State Park and Resort, on the Georgia side just a short distance above the dam, also provides waterfront lodging.
The ramps with a $3 fee on the Alabama side include Lake Point State Park, Cheneyhatchee Creek, White Oak Creek, Hardridge Park, and Highland Park. There are no fees charged at boat access sites owned by the city of Eufaula (Old Creek Town and Barbour Creek), or the public ramp at Thomas Mill Creek owned by Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. The northern section of Lake Eufaula falls within the 11,160 acre Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, headquartered on Highway 165 approximately 10 miles north of Eufaula.
Consider planning a trip during turkey season for a cast and blast, as much of southern Alabama is loaded with wild turkeys.