Hot Times on Logan Martin

Listen as two local experts explain how to beat the heat and catch some black bass from this Coosa River impoundment. They can make your August angling a bit easier this year!

Chad Lynch of Auburn is an avid 23-year-old bass fisherman. People who know Chad consider him an unusually focused young man. He entered to Auburn University with one goal in mind - to become a professional bass fisherman! Along with his text books he took his bass boat to school with him. With the support of his parents, he'll graduate from Auburn in August with a degree in marketing, but instead of heading for the office, he'll begin to fish the professional bass circuits.

One of Lynch's favorite lakes for summer fishing in the Cotton State is Logan Martin.

"I fish six months a year at Logan Martin, and I don't believe there's a better lake in the state," Lynch explained. "The lake has an abundance of underwater structure and numerous spawning flats that drop off into the river channel. Too, plenty of creek channels cut through the spawning flats where bass hold. During the summer months, fishing deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina-rigging plastic worms will produce bass almost anytime you fish this lake."

Because of Logan Martin's closeness to Birmingham, a large number of metropolitan anglers call the impoundment their home lake. Jeff Walker of Birmingham is one of those anglers. He grew up on Logan Martin and has fished the lake for most of his life. His job as fishing-tackle guru at Mark's Outdoors Sports in Vestavia requires that he know not only what the bass like to bite at Logan Martin but also where to fish the baits for the most success.

"I love to catch spotted bass at Logan Martin," Walker reported. "I know where to find them and how to catch them. Generally I can catch some pretty big ones."

No boast, just fact!

Before we have these two experts tell us how to have our strings stretched and our rods bent at Logan Martin this month, here are some things you need to know about the lake.

Chad Lynch fishes Logan Martin regularly and prefers to find its largemouth bass. Photo by John E. Phillips

Logan Martin Lake is 30 miles northeast of Birmingham and 25 miles west of Anniston, and it lies in Talladega and St. Clair counties. This 15,263-acre Coosa River reservoir was impounded in 1964.

The Alabama Power Company manages Logan Martin, primarily for the generation of electric power. The lake has 275 miles of shoreline along its 48 1/2-mile length sandwiched between Logan Martin Dam (on the south) and Neely Henry Dam (at the northern end of the reservoir).

At full pool, according to fisheries biologists' reports, the lake sits at 465 feet above sea level and has a depth of 69 feet. During the cooler months between October and April, Alabama Power lowers the lake by 5 feet.

Statistics supplied from bass club tournaments ranked Logan Martin in the overall top third of the 25 lakes included in the Bass Anglers Information Team (B.A.I.T.) report, released by the Game and Fish Division of Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The annual report gives a synopsis of tourney data compiled by the state from information submitted by participating bass clubs.

Logan Martin ranked No. 8 for percentage of angling success (fishermen bringing in at least one fish for weigh-in); No. 3 for average pounds of fish per man-day of angling; and No. 1 for number of bass per man-day. Also on the B.A.I.T. report, Logan Martin ranked No. 13 for average weight of each bass caught and No. 13 for hours needed to catch a bass weighing over 5 pounds. When all categories were considered, the impoundment ranked No. 5 overall.

"Some fishermen think that there are too many bass less than 12 inches long in Logan Martin," noted Dan Catchings of Eastaboga, the District II supervisor for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Catchings added that Logan Martin has two distinct types of habitat, suitable for both spotted and largemouth bass. The lake's upper end from Neely Henry Dam 20 miles southward has a riverine appearance. Below that, however, from the Riverside area to Logan Martin Dam, the lake looks like a typical reservoir with numerous creeks and sloughs.

"The shoreline of the lake is extensively developed," Catchings continued, "with numerous homes and cabins, as well as several marinas and campgrounds."

Logan Martin has three free public boat ramps and several pay-as-you-go launch sites.

Catchings mentioned that many anglers consider the area above Stemley Bridge as mainly largemouth habitat and the region below the bridge as being primarily inhabited by spotted bass. This sentiment partially stems from the differences in the incline and makeup of the riverbanks. Still this view does not constitute a rule etched in stone. Anglers can catch both spots and largemouths from one end of Logan Martin Lake to the other.

Catchings suggested that anglers targeting the lake's lower end pay close attention to the mouth of Clear Creek, a productive place to find spotted bass. This creek, on the east side of the lake, also contains many sloughs holding largemouths, as does Rabbit Branch, just across the river's main channel.

"Going upriver, the Stemley Bridge area has banks along each side that are good spotted bass habitat," Catchings continued. "Above Stemley Bridge, the mouth of Poorhouse Branch is a good place to try for both largemouths and spots. Then in the spring and fall, move up into Poorhouse Branch to fish."

Poorhouse Branch enters the lake from the eastern side of the lake. Other areas that hold largemouths on the east side of the lake are the mouth of Choccolocco Creek and Blue Creek. On the western shore, Dye Creek has good largemouth habitat but is heavily fished, while Broken Arrow Creek is good as well.

"If you like to skip jigs under docks and catch bass, you can't beat Logan Martin for this style of fishing," explained Chad Lynch.

Dion Hibdon, the winner of the 1997 BASS Masters Classic on Logan Martin and one of Lynch's mentors on his road to becoming a professional bass fisherman, used the tactic to claim that Classic crown. This tactic is a way to take large numbers of fish, primarily spotted bass.

Let's face it. Regardless of how good you are at fishing for bass, or how much you believe in your baits, on some days in August, you find the fish hard to catch. On Logan Martin, such a situation calls for a change of luck, based on switching your location. "If I just need to catch some bass, I go downriver and skip jigs under docks," Lynch noted.

Lynch recommended the docks in Rabbit Branch for the dock skippers. "From Rabbit Branch down to the dam, you find a lot of docks and piers with spotted bass beneath them. If you go upriver from Rabbit Branch, the second major creek on the left (west) is Cropwell Creek. This creek also has plenty of docks in it that are loaded with bass. One of the advantages of fishing Cropwell Creek is that is gets restocked almost every weekend."

That "stocking" comes from the release of tournament catches from competitions held by Pell City Lakeside Park, Aqualand Marina, University Marine and Sailing Center at Pine Harbor Marina, Lakeside Landing or Town and Country Food Mart.

Another of the angler's favorite hot-weather destinations is Choccolocco Creek.

"Even in August you often can discover 70-degree water if you go all the way back in that creek to Jackson Shoals," Lynch said. "Because the water in the main lake is so hot at this time of the year, shad school up in the back of that creek. Bass follow the shad."

When this happens Lynch casts topwater popping baits or stick baits. He also tries spinnerbaits or shad-imitating crankbaits.

However, when he becomes serious about finding largemouths, Lynch moves to other areas.

"Look for cool water, especially in August," Lynch advised. "You can go to the backs of many of the creeks on Logan Martin, find that cool water and catch bass in 1 1/2 to 2 feet of water."

Although you may catch large numbers of bigmouths if you fish these areas, more than likely you won't catch very big bass there.

"If I wanted to catch a really big largemouth this month on Logan Martin, I'd fish the area of the lake above Stemley Bridge and below the I-20 bridge as you go upriver," Lynch continued. "I'd fish under the overhead railroad tracks where the river turns hard back to the right (north)."

Lynch targets the numerous deep-river channel ledges in this region, tossing a diving crankbait in the citrus color.

"Below Riverside Marina, just downriver from where the power lines cross the river, you see a creek to your right (west) called Seddon Creek. It has a well-defined creek channel and a good ledge that's a textbook region for finding and catching largemouths. This place is one of my favorite spots to fish crankbaits.

"I use a 7-foot rod with 10-pound-test line so I can get the bait down and keep it down. I try to keep my boat in 20 to 25 feet of water and cast the crankbait up in the shallow water. I want to keep the crankbait moving and have the bill of the bait touching rocks and trash along the bottom. Once the crankbait touches the structure, I kill the bait, which often is when the bass take it. If a bass doesn't take the bait when I kill the lure, then I continue my retrieve and kill the bait the next time it hits structure."

Although Lynch usually fishes for largemouths using this technique, he occasionally catches a few spotted bass too. But because he uses large-size crankbaits, Lynch generally takes bigger bass.

"I've even caught a few 5-pound spotted bass in this area using this technique," Lynch noted.

When not fishing a crankbait this month, Lynch turns to a Carolina-rigged plastic worm.

"When I fish in hot weather at Logan Martin, I like a 3-foot leader," Lynch said. "I use a centipede or a finesse-type worm in the green-pumpkin color this time of year. I always dip the tail of my worm in a chartreuse dye. Another color that works well this month is sour-grape with a chartreuse tail."

When Lynch fishes a Carolina rig, he believes he gets more strikes by using a weight with a rattle. "Below the lead, I add a rattle to my line to put the rattle between the lead and my barrel-swivel," Lynch explained.

Lynch casts his Carolina rig onto a flat. Then he starts dragging the plastic bait over the lip of the break and works it down the edge of the slope.

"Each time my lead touches a piece of cover, I shake my rod tip, which causes the lead and the rattle to give off sound," Lynch observed. "I really believe that the rattle draws largemouth bass to the bait, especially when the lake has little or no current."

"My favorite bass to fish for at Logan Martin is a big spotted bass," Jeff Walker stated, "and my favorite area of the lake to fish for big spots starts right below the U.S. Highway 78 bridge and goes to just below the I-20 bridge. Coming downriver from the Highway 78 bridge, I like to fish the sloughs and the mouths of those sloughs just south of the I-20 bridge of the left (east) side of the river, going downriver.

"I prefer to fish topwater baits here early in the morning. After I fish this section of the lake at daylight, I go to the back end of Seddon Creek, almost to the railroad. This creek has a deep channel in it, and you usually can locate some good-sized spotted bass all the way in the back of the creek.

"Once I fish this area, I keep going downriver until I reach the mouth of Dye Creek, one of my favorite areas to fish, especially for spotted bass."

When the morning spotted bass bite ends, Walker heads back upriver under the I-20 bridge to the mouth of Blue Eye Creek.

"You find some very productive stumprows, underwater islands, and deep dropoffs and ledges in the middle of Blue Eye Creek," Lynch explained. "A Carolina-rigged plastic lizard or worm, a lipless crankbait or a jig can produce some extremely good bass fishing later in the morning."

During the heat of the day, you are likely to find Jeff Walker in Choccolocco Creek. This creek has plenty of cool-running water and structure, plus a well-defined creek channel. All of these factors make it ideal habitat for spotted bass.

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