Cotton State Bass Prospects
April 01, 2011
Anywhere you turn in Alabama you find bass waters. But some of those are just a cut above the others. Here are the places to target this year.
Trying to pick a winner of the Miss America pageant with all the attractive, talented and intelligent contestants is difficult, and most anglers find choosing a best bass lake in Alabama just as hard.
Here are some choices that might make that decision a bit easer, whether you are looking for largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass in the Cotton State.
Lake Guntersville, the state's largest reservoir, stretches for 75 miles from Nickajack Dam in Tennessee, south to Guntersville Dam. It's also one of the top picks for the best largemouth bass lake in the state.
Damon Abernethy, a state fisheries biologist, explained that Guntersville has an extremely good forage base and ideal habitat for bass. That habitat is composed of milfoil and hydrilla weed beds that consistently produce big bass.
At a 2010 BASS Elite Tournament held on Guntersville, longtime professional angler Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Ark. reported catching more that 100 bass a day.
"When you're throwing back 4- and 5-pound bass, you know you're fishing one of the top bass lakes in the country," Davis said. "I'm not sure that catching five bass weighing a total of 20 pounds each day will keep you in the top 10 anglers in a tournament on this lake. Guntersville is the most phenomenal largemouth bass lake ever."
Some fishermen, however, may find reports of Guntersville's outstanding bass fishing deceiving. Two anglers can fish there on the same day, and one will load the boat, while the other may strike out.
"Because there's so much grass and numerous places on Guntersville that look like they'll hold numbers of bass, many anglers think that anywhere they cast a lure in the lake they'll catch a bass," explained BASSmaster 2010 Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. "However, I've learned that Guntersville bass may school-up on certain spots, and then catching 100 bass a day won't be difficult. The secret is locating those areas."
Also on the list as one of the best largemouth bass lakes in Alabama is Lake Eufaula, locally known as the Bass Fishing Capital of the World. Eufaula has remained one of the hottest bass lakes in the nation for years, although the largemouth population has had its ups and downs.
In recent years fishermen at Lake Eufaula have complained about the number of spotted bass turning up in the Chattahoochee River reservoir. The fear is the abundant spot population might displace the largemouths, which has happened in a number of other southern impoundment In fact, many Eufaula fishermen make a regular practice of keeping and eating any spotted bass they catch. On the other hand, all the largemouths are released.
Fortunately, today anglers still are catching numbers of 5-pound and larger bass at Eufaula, thus guaranteeing its selection as one of the top five bass lakes in Alabama.
Lewis Smith Lake covers 21,200 acres and is located on the Sipsey Fork of the Warrior River in Walker, Winston and Cullman counties. The impoundment has produced four past world-record spotted bass. For that reason one would expect it to sit atop the list of great spotted bass waters in the Cotton State. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Jordan Lake
Rather, Damon Abernethy chooses 6,800-acre Jordan Lake on the Coosa River as his No. 1 spotted bass lake in the state for this year. But, he does have one qualifier added to the pick.
"For Lake Jordan on the Coosa River to be the best spotted bass lake in Alabama, the area must have current," Abernethy emphasized. "If there's no current on the lake, I'll have to pick Lake Martin as Alabama's best."
The current created as water is released through Bouldin and Jordan dams creates ideal conditions to get the spots feeding.
Abernethy also mentioned Martin Lake as one of the top picks for spotted bass. Located on the outskirts of Alexander City in central Alabama, 39,180-acre Lake Martin is an impoundment on the Tallapoosa River, with 700 miles of shoreline. Known as the most popular recreational reservoir in Alabama, Lake Martin attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and provides ample opportunities for anglers to catch quality spotted bass.
Anglers catch those spotted bass by fishing the points on the main river, according to Abernethy. And, unlike on Jordan Lake, the spots actively feed when the current is not running.
Abernethy selects Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River in the northwestern section of Alabama as the best Alabama smallmouth bass lake. Running 50 miles from Pickwick Landing Dam in Tennessee to the Shoals area below Wilson Dam, 47,500-acre Pickwick Lake touches Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama. The smallmouths at Pickwick are finicky biters and prefer current coming through the lake. That makes the Shoals area at the head of the impoundment a prime area.
BASSmaster Classic champion and two-time Angler of the Year winner Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark. showed just how good the lake can be on a trip to Pickwick some years ago. When the current started moving through the reservoir, Nixon's first cast to a little ledge on the main river produced a 6 1/2-pound smallmouth. As soon as he got that bass in the boat, I cast my bait to the same ledge and boated a 6-pounder.
Roger Stegall of Iuka, Miss. has been a tournament bass fisherman for over 30 years and has guided on Pickwick Lake for more than 20 years. He has fished the lake for even longer.
Stegall has seen an 8 3/4-pound smallmouth come from Pickwick and he's also weighed in a five-fish limit of smallmouths that tipped the scales at 27 pounds, 6 ounces.
A 5-pound smallmouth would come close to a state record in most states. But an abundance of food, ideal habitat and a catch-and-release ethic on Pickwick makes such fish very common catches.
You also can find excellent smallmouth action in the upper end of Wilson Lake in the Wheeler Dam tailrace. These waters yielded the Alabama state-record smallmouth. The fish weighed 10 pounds and 8 ounces and was caught by Owen Smith of Fairfield.
Anglers regularly catch numbers of quality smallmouths here. Wilson gives 6-pound and larger smallmouths.
CONCLUSION Whether you're fishing for smallmouths, largemouths or spotted bass, Alabama waters have plenty of them. You can find these fish, which leaves the only question to answer: do you have the fishing skills to catch them!