Written By Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service
In the past, there were over 250 miles of navigable waters for anglers and boaters to explore in Alabama, along the now famed Coosa River System. As long ago as the early 1900’s, the natural current flow of this major, Alabama River system was uninterrupted…that is until modern day man came along.
Without any man-made dams to block Alabama’s anglers adventures back then – using their boats for navigation – their travels could take them uninterrupted, while navigating upstream and going north of the mid-Alabama region.
Today, this is where the Coosa River System joins up with the Tallapoosa River System to create the headwaters of the Alabama River System, now called Jones Bluff Reservoir. It’s waters border the state capitol of Montgomery, Al. Jones Bluff Lake dam was completed in 1972, creating the lake.
Heading up the Coosa River System, going upstream, all the way from Montgomery to the far Northeastern corner of Alabama to the small town of Centre (where the headwaters of the incoming Coosa River System originates at the Alabama / Georgia state line), shows that consistent travel by boat is now, just not possible.
By the year 1914 all that changed.
Lay lake, impounded in 1914, was the first man made impoundment to officially be, “damned up” on the lower portion of the Coosa River System. This fifty mile long reservoir, is situated near the town of Columbiana, Al. Within ten years, another dam would be built on the lower Coosa River System.
Next, in the year 1923, Mitchell Lake was created, with its headwaters situated right below Lay Lake dam, located near the town of Clanton, Al. Mitchell Lake is a much shorter, man-made lake (much shorter than upper reservoir, Lay lake which is over 50 navigable miles long), with only about 20 miles of navigable waters, from Mitchell Lake’s dam to Lay Lake dam upstream.
In short order, the next Coosa River System dam to be built, was only five years away.
Jordan Lake (today, the last of six lakes on this Coosa River System) is located not to far from the state capitol of Montgomery, Al. Jordan Lake dam was completed in 1928. It would be the last, man made Coosa River System impoundment, to be constructed by the Corps of Engineers for a long, long time!
Jordan Lake (like upper, Coosa River reservoir Mitchell Lake), is only about 20 navigable miles in length. It is located near the small mid-Alabama town of Wetumpka. It is the last of three lakes on the lower portion of the now age old, Coosa River System. Back then, it would be the last Coosa River System, man made lake, to be constructed for a long, long time.
There were now three man made lakes on the lower Coosa River System, all built by the Corps of Engineers during the period of the early 1900’s. All of these lakes located in mid-Alabama, were complete and open to the public by 1928.
It would be over 30 years before another man-made dam, Weiss Lake dam, would be complete. Creating another new Coosa River impoundment (in fact there were three more lakes / dams to be built), on the upper portion of the Coosa River System. This new lake began, with the headwaters of the incoming Coosa River System out of Georgia.
Weiss Lake was the next lake to be created and this rather sprawled-out lake would be complete in the year 1961. It would be the last, man-made impoundment (constructed, by man, building another dam), on the mighty, Coosa River System. Could this possibly be the last lake to be built in Alabama? No it was not. (Sorry, there were more.)
Weiss Lake was created when the Corps of Engineers built Weiss Lake Dam (including Weiss Lake power house dam as well), in the year 1961. This new, man made impoundment’s headwaters is the origin of the incoming Coosa River System located in northeastern Alabama along the Georgia State line, near the town of Centre, Al.
Next, was Logan Martin Lake, located near the town of Pell City, Al. It was created only three years later, and dam construction was complete and the new, 50 mile long lake was opened to the public in 1964. It is a man made lake that is crossed at its mid section by the Interstate 20 bridge. This half way point of Logan Martin Lake is about 25 miles downstream of another dam. One dam that was nonexistent at that time, but soon to be built on the Coosa River System. Called, Neely Henry Lake dam.
Neely Henry Lake was the last lake to be impounded along the Coosa River System in the year 1966. It is a fifty mile long, man made impoundment, located near the town of Gadsden, Al. A major Alabama city that borders the lake at it’s mid section. Neely
Henry Lake, like all other Coosa River Lakes, has something in common, that damning up the lake did not change.
That’s what the rest of this article is really all about! Fishing a major Alabama River System during the hot, Summer season!
The headwaters of all six of these man made impoundment’s, still features a more narrow, river-like appearance, winding all throughout the scenic Alabama countryside, taking place in the mid-to-upper portion of each lake. (Only Mitchell Lake remains somewhat wide in its upper portion, along the headwaters of the lake, featuring many islands).
If you were navigating your boat (going with the flow below any dam, heading downstream), on any of these lakes, it would begin to look much more like a “widened out, lake-like appearance” especially from mid lake, to the lower lake dam.
Which in turn also features…lots of people living there and more and more water bound vessels daily, especially on Summertime weekends and holidays. Boats of all kinds like ski boats, pontoon boats, runabouts, flat bottomed boats, v-hull boats and many, bass boats. Including hordes of water bound vessels, like Sea-doos and Jet ski’s! Anglers can count on sharing these mid-to-lower lake areas, all summer long! Unless you head north!
So, summertime bass anglers, make plans now…to head upriver!
Not only can bass anglers find a little more seclusion (away from the summertime crowds), in these lake headwaters, the further they go up the river bound waters of any of these lakes, but included, is the good chance of hooking into some really big, undisturbed bass of all types (except smallmouth bass, there are none on the Coosa River System).
Big, Coosa River Spotted Bass, Trophy-sized Largemouth Bass and some Big, Tackle- testing Striped Bass (or Hybrid Striped Bass), are all found here during the entire summer season. If your lucky (or a very skilled and knowledgeable angler), you can find and even catch all three of these bass species, on any given day in any of these Coosa River Lake headwaters!
There are many small cuts, pockets and the mouths of small streams and major incoming feeder creeks to explore in these lake headwaters. Using your boat’s electronics and a variety of lures, including map study and utilizing many various types of lure presentations as well.
Some places on this Coosa River System, will practically guarantee you of a really good chance at fooling a few big bass, no matter what the conditions! Fishing the dam area and the mouths of these out-of-the current places, is where many summertime bass of all breeds (and the prey they dine on), congregate. Especially during the hot, summer months of June, July and August, and on into late September, as the cooler months of Fall arrive.
There will be drop-offs, from shallow eddy areas to deep main river channels, places featuring swift current being generated from the dams above, positioning bass here all summer long. Bass anglers can actually fish each spot very thoroughly, and then move on to the next place, hopping up the river, with dozens of spots to target in a days time.
Current related water, cooler water, wood and rock cover, bottom irregularities and plenty of incoming baitfish and crayfish as daily meals, can cause some huge schools of bass to gather here feeding daily.
This especially holds true when water is being generated at the dams found upstream (or even down stream dams ), of each reservoir. (Note; You can check the water generation schedules and monitor each lake’s level by calling Alabama Power’s reservoir information number, 1-800-lakes-11.)
LURES AND TECHNIQUES FOR FISHING COOSA RIVER LAKE’S ; THE HEADWATERS, BELOW DAMS AND THE MOUTHS OF SMALL CUTS, POCKETS AND INCOMING CREEK MOUTHS
Today’s bass anglers have hundreds of lures to choose from when going on any bass fishing excursion, especially during the hot, grueling months of the summer season. But still, when applying your interests to this type of summertime bass fishing there are many lures to consider and an array of lure choices for bass anglers to select from. When fishing both shallow water and deep water situations in the summer season, never leave any lures at home.
The headwaters of these man made lakes (excluding Weiss Lake’s headwaters, running out of Georgia), all feature a chance for Alabama bass anglers to target many breeds of bass. Fish that all reach a dead end in their upstream travels, located at the tailrace waters found below each upstream dam.
Feeding daily, these summertime bass can often be found mingling together in some relatively shallow waters. Places like flats and rocky shoals near the dam.
All summer long, there is some very excellent bass fishing, right below these Coosa River dams, heading south are; Weiss Lake dam, Neely Henry Lake dam, Logan Martin Lake dam, Lay Lake dam, Mitchell Lake dam and Jordan Lake dam.
The often swift current, cooler water, high in oxygen content and an abundance of bait fish and crayfish in these prey-infested waters found here draw in some big bass! This water, can be less than 10 feet deep.
This could call for the use of many various types of lures for bass anglers to choose from, fishing from top to bottom in the available water column, near these dam discharge waters. Rocks, boulders, an irregular bottom and lots of wood cover, call for the use of heavy, abrasion-resistant fishing line. Braided line is suggested or heavy test monofilament line. Including, you could hook into some big, tackle testing bass!
Lures like topwater lures of all makes; poppers, prop-baits, walking type topwaters and buzz baits. This includes those flashing spinnerbaits, vibrating blade baits, in-line spinners, shallow-to-mid running crank baits, both floating model and suspending model hard bodied jerk baits, soft bodied jerk baits, and many various types of sinking lures (or multi-lure combos like Alabama rigs), including tail spinners, jigging spoons, lipless lures and swim baits.
If depths permit, selecting deep diving crankbaits can be an excellent lure choice, when bass fishing around the deeper dams! (More on fishing deep diving crankbaits in Part Two!)
On bottom, in this often swift current, could call for the use of Texas-rigged worms of all kinds, all colors, choosing various sizes of weights and selecting either smaller size lures or using bigger more gaudy-type plastics.
Soft plastics like small-to-large profile lizards are good choices as well, including smaller or oversized crayfish imitations, beaver-type lures, multi-legged creature baits, rattling jig combos and other soft plastics. Fished either on a jig head or with the use of a bullet weight. Carolina rigs too!
But summertime anglers should keep in mind to bring plenty of lures, lots of extra hooks, spare fishing line and various sizes of weights. For these jigs, soft plastics and other bottom bumping lures, do all hang-up constantly in all the rocks, boulders and wood cover found here.
So be patient, and when fishing below these Coosa River dams keep in mind, you will for sure lose some lures in a days time. So bring plenty, and bring plenty of patience as well.
There is a big difference in the way bass anglers choose to fish these out-of-the current places. Much more different than when fishing for multiple species of Coosa River bass on any other spot on the entire lake.
Trouble is, most bass anglers that fish these upper Coosa River Lake waters, go about fishing the mouths of these out-of-the-current refuges during the summer season, the wrong way! Including, there are many other places most astute river anglers ignore!
But that’s all to be explained later on! In Part Two of, “Alabama’s Coosa River System For Big, Summertime Bass” So Check Back Soon…To See How Its Done! You don’t want to miss this info, before you plan another fishing trip to Alabama’s Coosa River System!
Thanks and Good Fishin’
“Over 50 Years Fishing, Exploring and Guiding on All of Alabama’s Lake’s For Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Spotted Bass and Striped Bass! See my Website www.fishingalabama.com and like us on face book too!
PART TWO COMING SOON!