September is the Transition Month on Alabama’s Lay Lake
Written By Reed Montgomery / Owner of, Reeds Guide Service Alabaster (near Birmingham), Al. (205) 663-1504 Website: www.fishingalabama.com On Face book too!
By summer’s end the bass of Alabama’s oldest, Coosa River impoundment Lay Lake, have gotten pretty set in their ways. After all, they have been prisoners of their environment for many months. So have, Alabama’s Bass Anglers!
Meaning (no pun intended), that these Lay Lake Coosa River breed of spotted bass and largemouth bass must, as they say, “go with the flow ” living out their lives, going wherever the prevailing conditions influence them to go. Including, going wherever the meals that they constantly dine on go as well.
This means in order to survive they must constantly stay with those easy-to-catch schools of bait fish or dine on other easy-to-catch prey, like slower moving crayfish! Schools of bass can follow schools of prey all summer long, often staying together right on into the latter part of the year!
Prey these bass dine on daily (besides bottom dweeling prey like worms and crayfish), such as threadfin shad, gizzard shad and even schools of bream (or sunfish), crappie and minnows, all that are very plentiful and found in numbers lake wide. With Lay lake’s bass gorging themselves, at times, on any or all of these prey found throughout the entire Summer season.
By the end of the summer season these bass have gotten pretty set in their daily routines, but not necessarily getting set up on any one location, for any length of time. If the prey moves…they move with them.
These are characteristically, nomadic bass. Those constantly roaming bass of summer, that stay on the move. They go wherever the meals go. Still, they do have to rest between meals.
So they do have stop-off spots. Places where, at times, several deep water schools of bass may gather together in some huge numbers, often lingering for days, or often for weeks at a time just staying in the general area. If the food stays put.
Then there are those isolated bass, what some anglers could call, “home body bass.”
These are usually the Bigger bass of Lay Lake. Or it can mean a half dozen or so Big, spotted bass or Big, largemouth bass. Or these “home body bass” can turn out to be a small school of big, largemouth bass.
It can even pertain to a school of mixed in bass such as a school of smaller bass consisting of a half spotted bass population and a half largemouth bass population. Bass of any size, those are not edible! Either way, these two bass species of Lay lake can often be found mingling together in one preferred location. This is their temporary home for the summer season. Thus labeling some of them, “home body bass.”
Or, in some cases a “home body bass” can be a Big, trophy-sized bass. One that stays put. A huge, largemouth bass few anglers get the chance to ever hook up with, and usually its a Big bass that does not prefer the company (or competition for food), with other bass.
* Note – A Big, old loner bass may (and it usually does), spend the mid-to-latter portion of its slowly aging life, basically all alone. With the exception of them mating together (with smaller male bass), during the Spring season, or any time during the Spring spawning season, they do have some company. Or some Big bass can be found mingling together for a short period of time, during some mass feeding session, usually with other Big bass.
A lot of these Big and true, trophy-sized bass of Lay Lake, rarely associate with other bass. So rarely do anglers see these big, trophy-sized bass leave the safety of their home, to be found around wood cover, rocks, and thick, aquatic weeds along the lake’s shoreline or some offshore, deep water sanctuary, mingling with other bass.
Now, getting back to the subject at hand. Like said, “September is the transition month on Lay Lake.” With shorter days and cooling water, its time for a change.
Throughout the months of June, July, August and early September these bass have gathered in their most preferred locations, often remaining in one particular area for the remainder of the summer months.
They are either in or near deep water retreats found on the main lake, or some of these summer school bass may be holding below some dam or in some major feeder creek, one that features cooler water, current and deep water close by.
Some bass stay in or near deep water all year round except to spawn. It could be 10 foot of the deepest water available, in an area with flats 1-5 feet deep nearby. Or really, these bass can be found in deeper water whenever they need to or when they just want to be there!
So how deep is deep water on Lay Lake? Can anglers hope to find both Big, spotted bass and Big, largemouth bass in very, deep water on Lay lake? Or, are most bass on this fifty mile long, man made impoundment in relatively shallow water most of the year?
Finding Big bass, even those “schooled up” in deep water on Lay Lake, can happen! This often calls for anglers experimenting away from the lake’s weed-lined shoreline and then, forcing them selves to fish depths of over 30-50 feet deep on the main lake, all day long!
Also, you can find some very deep, unmolested Big bass in water of these depths. For few anglers never even give it a try! They can be deep on any lake. But only if there is a reason for these bass to be in that deep water! That’s the main reason bass in Lay lake’s shallow, wood, rock and weedy water stay shallow most of the time. They have no food (or an abundance of thick cover) in deep water, so there is no reason to be there!
If these summertime bass cannot find meals such as worms, lizards, snakes, frogs, insects, bait fish, or crayfish to dine on at those depths, then there is no reason for them to be there, when these and other prey are found in an abundance in the lake’s shallows!
And, some bass “suspend” in, or out over deep water depths, so they are not always found on the bottom. So even if anglers fish deep water on Lay lake, they must fish a variety of lures at different depths, to really be complete! Lay lake has a lot of water found lake wide, some that is considered to be really, deep water.
There is water almost 100 feet deep on the lower lake! But generally water deeper than 30 feet deep is seldom fished by most of the many thousands of Lay Lake regulars that visit this age-old impoundment during the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter seasons.
* Lay Lake is a weedy, man made lake, that is now over 100 years old, since it was impounded in 1914. It stays mostly, “at or near” normal, full pool lake levels all year round. Its loaded with many types of aquatic weeds. Many anglers just turn their attention more towards fishing the lake’s weedy, shoreline in any season. Few fish really deep water
There is also an abundance of wood cover for anglers to explore such as resident-planted brush piles, piers, boat houses, isolated stumps and stump rows along shallow-to-deep water drop-offs, including lots of laying trees, log jams and standing timber. Some of this wood cover is mixed in with rocks and a variety of weedy, shoreline cover, creating some excellent ambush spots for Lay lake’s Big Bass!
During this transition month, lasting from late September to early October, anglers need to keep in mind, the lake’s water temps are slowly falling. Water temperatures on the main lake have remained close to 90 degrees for about the last three months and these temps will be slow to cool at first.
* Air temperatures can match that water temperature in September. Even when the air temperatures are in the upper 80’s, the water temperature can be the same. During this transition period, anglers can rejoice, there will inevitably be a change for the better! Summer’s over!
As the still, rather “hot” month of September slowly comes to an end, the much cooler portion of the early Fall season finally arrives and October will, to the delight of most anglers, bring in much cooler nights and feature much cooler days than September. Then, suddenly, all of Alabama many lake’s will display much cooler water temperatures.
Which means, much more active bass, than what has been observed by most avid bass anglers for the last 3-4 months. So, these bass that were gathered in some very predictable late summer time haunts, are then triggered to make a move again. Sometimes in one day there can be a mass, sudden move of these bass, towards the lake’s shallows and major feeder creeks for the Fall season.
Where traditionally, the bass of the Fall season will soon gather together as they end up following bait fish schools into the lake’s cooler water found in the fast-cooling shallows.
En route to these fall feeding frenzies Lay lake’s nomadic bass may travel many miles (some go far back in these major feeder creek), before stopping at a preferred location.
So during this change — from the transition period of late summer bass living in a deep summertime spot, to a much shallower location during the beginning of the fall season — there are some very predictable locations for anglers to gather in as well…just like the bass they are constantly after!
THE MOUTHS OF CREEKS
When water temperatures suddenly drop into the 70’s its time for a move. Lay lake’s bass are triggered to move by the sensation the cooler water provides. Not only do they continue to follow the schools of bait fish, but again, there will be those stop-off areas these schools of bass gather in. Often bunching-up in huge numbers, en route towards the lake’s shallows.
Creek mouth points are the first places anglers should look for numbers of bass gathering together, usually taking place from early September to the early October period.
Secondary creek points (found about midways of most creeks) may be places to look for bass that are farther along in their annual fall movement. Or pockets found along rock bluffs on the lower lake.
Or (like the bass), bass anglers may consider a more sudden move towards the lake’s shallow creek flats and smaller, incoming feeder creek’s head waters. This may take place following the creek’s rapidly cooling waters, from the fall season’s first few cold fronts.
But there are many other bass and lots of other early fall locations for anglers to consider dabbling their lures in, as waters begin to cool during this transition period. Traveling throughout Lay Lake’s 50 plus miles of navigable waters, from dam to dam, can be time consuming. Lake waters can be slow to cool in some places (like the deeper water in the lower lake), so timing is important as well.
Its all according to where you fish on a daily basis on Lay lake. The upper part of the lake, the middle portion of Lay lake, or the lower end, of this almost fifty-mile long impoundment. So, here’s some suggestions!
LAY LAKE’S HEADWATERS
The waters found in Lay lake’s headwaters may be the first place to cool as this transition period begins. All summer long, water has constantly been released out of Logan Martin Lake dam upstream, providing a much cooler environment in Lay lake’s headwaters.
This water is taken from the deeper portion of Logan Martin Lake. Right off the lake’s bottom. Although it may be low in oxygen content from the hot, stagnant summer season, it will always be cooler than Lay lake’s surrounding head waters, found right below Logan Martin Lake dam.
Water generated for electricity at this dam provides a constant source of current, providing high oxygen content, cooler water and plenty of stunned bait fish as it is discharged into Lay lake’s headwaters.
So naturally it needs less time to cool. Meaning the bass will be more active here…sooner. Feeding on the meals provided here as well.
From Logan Martin Lake Dam, traveling downstream on Lay lake to the Highway 280 bridge crossing, you will see many rather small, feeder creek mouths. These are the first places for early fall season anglers to target, as waters slowly begin to cool.
Also try fishing the upper and lower ends of islands, deep, outside river bends, ledges or drop-offs close to main lake flats, far up in the creeks, or explore the mouth of smaller cuts and pockets, places many anglers pass up.
These are all excellent places in Lay lake’s headwaters, great choices for targeting Lay Lake’s big bass, when September shows Lay Lake’s waters slowly begin to cool.
LAY LAKE’S MID-PORTION
As waters begin to cool the many creeks displayed at mid lake can cool fast. Bass that were located on deep, summertime drop-offs, on main river ledges, or along main lake flats can suddenly make their move towards the mouths of major feeder creeks.
Or if no creeks are available the shallower water found along main lake flats and in small pockets and cuts nearby, will hold bass. Some bass do not make a long move unless they have to, in order to reach shallow water.
* Some bass were already shallow all summer long.
Again, these transition bass, may be deeper water, nomadic bass. Bass that travel all the way from the deeper waters of the main river — with their travels taking them to the far back ends of major feeder creeks — from September to early October.
* Heavy Fall rains can stain the water fast and cool it down considerably.
LOWER LAY LAKE
If your looking for creeks, the lower portion of Lay Lake has some major feeder creeks. Some creeks that run for miles back in the scenic hillsides and surrounding farm lands.
Waxahatchee Creek (right below the narrows) and Paint Creek (near Lay dam) are both huge feeder creeks, with both creeks located only a few miles from Lay Lake dam.
Both of these lower Lay lake creeks feature aquatic weed-lined banks, small cuts and pockets, lots of resident-built piers, boat houses and marinas.
There is also plenty of natural wood cover like stumps, brush piles, laying logs, trees, log jams and plenty of some very visible, standing timber. Also loads of piers and boat houses.
Not only do these lower lake creeks have loads of weed and wood cover there is plenty of rock cover to explore as well. Rock bluffs, rocky points, sea walls, rip-rap rock lined causeways and the Lay lake dam area (nearby Paint Creek), have rocky banks that hold these early fall transition bass too.
* Keep in mind the lower lake’s deeper water is the last to cool during the fall season.
As the Fall season nears and waters slowly start to cool these bass begin to make their annual fall migration movement towards the shallows of Lay Lake. But be forewarned. It may be a lonely fishing trip, unless you bring along a fishing buddy during the late September to early October period!
School is back in session, football season has begun and deer hunters will soon be out in the woods! You may find very little company, other than the bass, on Lay Lake as October rolls around!
Make plans now to interrupt the travels of these early fall season bass. Long before they all make that major mid-fall move to the mid-to-back portions of Lay lake’s major feeder creeks, including the main lake’s shallow cuts, pockets and flats.
There are schools of Big bass “bunched up” on some very predictable locations on Lay lake. Often these are some of the biggest bass of the fall season. Those “Big bass” that are taken by some very fortunate angler. Taken (and then released), when the odds are increased with less fishing pressure and…there are lots of them, all located on the same spot!
Give it a try this Fall season! Or, you can always call (205) 663-1504 on Reeds Guide Service…first! Close to Birmingham, in Alabaster, Al. Website www.fishingalabama.com “Guiding on Lay lake and all other Alabama lakes for over 40 years”. See and Like Us On Face book too!
Thanks and Good Fishin’ Reed Montgomery / Owner of Reeds Guide Service Alabaster, Al. (205) 663-1504 Website: www.fishingalabama.com “ Lay Lake’s and all of Alabama’s Oldest, Professional, Bass Fishing Only, Guide Service For Over 40 Years” Like Us on Face book too!