Road Trips

  • 11/30/2015 1:07 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Music Cats and Blue Cats 

    Colbert County, Alabama is a special place. A place that is especially attractive to anglers, but also to tourists in general. Anglers are attracted to the great fishing and tourists are attracted to the area’s beauty and a rich history in the music culture. 

    Brian Barton is a fishing guide in Colbert County. Just talking to Barton will get you excited about fishing there. Barton specializes in catfish, smallmouth bass and stripers. I travelled to Colbert County to sample the catfish possibilities. 

    One of Barton’s specialtie is half-day catfish trips. Although any trip can be influenced by weather and the bite can change, Barton has an expectation based on his experience. “On an average trip, say 7:00 am to lunch, I would expect 15 to 18 catfish with a 50/50 chance of a 40 pound-plus fish and almost always one fish in the 20- to 30-pound range. Half of those fish are going to be perfect eaters in the 3- to 10-pound class.” 

    Alabama Music Hall of Fame

    The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is a treasure trove of music history.

    Barton lives in Muscle Shoals, AL, an area referred to as “The Shoals.” Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, Sheffield and Florence make up this area that has a long history in the music industry. It was, in fact, the birthplace of the famous Muscle Shoals Sound. “There was a sound here called the Muscle Shoals Sound,” explained Barton. “You know that song, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd? There is a line in the song that says ‘Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers’.” 

    “The Swampers were a group of five men and they had a unique sound that couldn’t be reproduce anywhere else,” continued Barton. “That sound brought all these musical cats in here to do their recording. People like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket Little Richard and a whole lot more came here to record.” 

    Now, visitors to “The Shoals” have the opportunity to investigate some of that music history by visiting such places as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the W.C. Handy Home and Museum, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio Museum and the famous FAME Recording Studios. 

    Net Catfish

    Barton nets a nice "eater."

    With music history as a backdrop Barton is making music of his own. He regularly hooks up willing clients to drag-screaming catfish on Wilson Lake, the smallest of the TVA lakes. “There is 17 miles of water, dam to dam,” reported Barton. “These Wilson fish are different than Guntersville and Pickwick fish. Wilson is a bathtub lake and a little hard to fish.” 

    Barton went on to explain that Guntersville and Pickwick have more off shore structure to fish. “Wilson doesn’t have as many Islands, ditches, mounds and humps and because Wilson is much deeper it also has slower current flows. That’s OK though, because I am often the only one on the lake. I don’t see many other boats unless it is a weekend or holiday.” 

    Catfish are so plentiful in Alabama there is no limit on the numbered of fish anglers can keep, however they can only keep one fish over 34 inches. Barton is a conservationist at heart. ”I release all fish over 10 pounds and prefer to release everything over five pounds,” announced Barton. His clients can keep 10 fish each under the 10 pound weight to take home for the dinner table. 

    Catfish 2

    The author gets one for the dinner table.

    Barton says the best time to make those meat fishing trips are April, May and June and then later in September and October. “Meat trips are high demand,” commented Barton. “I think people look at catfishing in two different ways. The first is recreational because they get to have fun catching them. The other is to put some good food on the table. They are likely to carry 75 or 100 pounds of dressed fish home for the freezer. They view taking the fish home as a trade off for paying the guide and having the fun of catching them.” 

    Anglers don’t have to bring a thing as far as equipment is concerned, Barton has some of the best already on board and ready to go. “When I gear up for a meat trip I use B’n’M Silver Cat spinning rods. I spool the ABU Garcia Reels with 30-pound test Vicious Braid. Anglers are welcome to bring their own gear if they want, but it’s not necessary.” 

    CatfishBarton with a pair of nice "eaters."

    Targeting eaters is primarily a shallow water thing. “We will be fishing 15- to 20-feet deep as opposed to open lake fishing for big cats which would be in 50- to 70-foot water,” explained Barton. That is the difference between catching the eaters and the trophy fish.” 

    “We are going to be casting, using split shot for weight and smaller hooks on spinning gear. I like Tru-Turn hooks, either a 1/0 or 2/0 standard crappie hook. Our targets for meat fishing are 2 to 5 pound fish. We will catch an occasional 8 to12 pounder, but with a good drag you can handle those bigger fish on the light tackle. It is more fun too.”  Catfish 3

    The primary baits for eater catfish is shad guts, chicken livers and cut shad minnows. “Shad guts work really well if you get it fresh,” said Barton. “They can be a problem if you buy them at the bait shop and they have been frozen and thawed a couple times. Then they can be hard to keep on a hook. Fresh is best for casting.” 

    “You can just go to the store and buy some good old fashion chicken livers,” advised Barton. “They are a great bait for the eater catfish on the Tennessee River. If I had to choose between store-bought frozen shad guts and chicken livers, I’d take the livers.” 

    “If you can get small 2 to 3 inch gizzard or threadfin shad you can use them whole,” explained Barton. “For eaters though, I would cut larger shad down to about the size of a silver dollar. If my “no catch no pay” was on the line I would downsize even further with smaller hooks and smaller baits. My all-round favorite bait is small pieces of cut shad.” 

    Barton described our day’s fishing hole as a series of locks and canals that had been build to aid navigation on the Tennessee River. “They are like locks that you see today,” explained Barton. They are made out of concrete, just a smaller version. They flooded all that structure and man you can catch some cats around it. You talk about a catfish honey hole.” 

    “It is a hangy jungle down there,” warned Barton. “The catfish get suspended on top of all that structure. If you can keep your bait up above the jungle you can catch some fish and get them out. I don’t know what it is, maybe old trotlines over the years, but that old lock structure is full of hangs and it is full of fish.” 

    Barton likes to use the Spot-lock feature on his Minn Kota trolling motor or anchor right in the middle of a lock. “I have never caught any big catfish here. I use light tackle and target the eaters. Just cast out over the lock, which is about 20 feet deep, and pull it off the ledge where it drops to deeper water. It requires a little skill, but it is fun and productive fishing.” 

    Barton recalls many memories of great fishing days over the locks. One included his son and a need for some catfish for a fish fry. “It was on April 19on lock 5,” revealed Barton. “We documented it. Me and my son bought a 2 quart container of fresh shad guts, normally enough to fish for two days. It was a Saturday morning and we got on the water above the lock at 7:00 am. We were out to catch some catfish for a fish fry. We ran out of shad guts at 9:30 am and had 89 catfish.” 

    “We had fish laying in the floor. We had fish everywhere and every one of them was a perfect one- to three-pound fish. Those locks are stacked up with them. That’s why I like to guide on them for meat trips.” 

    SmalliesTwo nice smallies that came from Pickwick Lake. 

    Barton also guides for stripers. 

    Barton also guides for smallmouth bass, stripers and trophy catfish. Each species is a little different. Fishing for smallies and stripers is mostly on nearby Pickwick Lake. 

    Stlriper

    Chasing catfish, however, be they eaters or trophy cats, will find Barton on his home waters of Wilson Lake. 

    Visit Barton’s website at Brian Barton Outdoors or he can be reached by email at rianbartonoutdoors@aol.com

    For more information on Colbert County visit their website at http://www.colbertcountytourism.org

    Epilogue: On a personal note, there are plenty of fine eateries in the Shoals area. One I liked in particular was a place called Champy’s. It is one of those places that is so good you want to tell everyone about it. They are known for their chicken, but everything we had, including the onion rings and believe it or not the tamales we had as starters. Just mosey on in when you got a little time to wait on your order. The chicken is prepared fresh while you wait and it is worth the wait! Don’t miss it if you are in the area.

    The other place that came out on top was a little Mexican diner that Brian Barton told us about. It is a family run place and the food is outstanding. If you need a Mexican food fix, Casa Mexicana is the place to get it. I guess I should confess, we went to Casa Mexicana twice during our short stay in the Shoals. It was that good.


  • 10/02/2015 1:06 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Runnin’ and Gunnin’ for West Point Strippers 

    West Point Lake, near LaGrange, GA, is both a productive and fun place to fish. The area offers anglers a variety of fish and non-anglers plenty of things to do. The anglers in the party will have the opportunity to catch large mouth bass, strippers, hybrids, spotted bass, crappie, bream and catfish. Popper Lure

    For non-anglers the city of LaGrange is only minutes away with shopping, dining and other entertainment. Activities range from dabbling in Civil War history at Bellevue, the antebellum home of noted Georgia statesman Benjamin Harvey Hill, to examining life in ancient Israel at Explorations in Antiquity. If more modern adventures are your cup of tea a real-time walking tour of downtown LaGrange is available and there’s an APP for that. 

    With a shoreline of more than 500 miles anglers have all kinds of nooks and crannies to investigate. The lake contains over 26,000 acres of surface water as it tracks along and even crosses the Georgia/Alabama State line. 

    When the Corps of Engineers created lakes like West Point it was mainly for flood control and hydroelectric power. The huge bonus of that activity was the provision of excellent habitat for fish and wildlife and general recreation opportunities for residents and visitors to Southwest Georgia. When the dam was built and the lake was flooded, numerous trees and other structures were left standing. That standing timber provides excellent fish habitat. Man-made fish attractors have also been added to the lake to improve angling opportunities. 

    Anglers that enjoy fishing for schooling strippers and white bass will love West Point. Like any unknown lake, a first time visitor would be ahead to hire guides for a days fishing before venturing out on his or her own. You can learn more from a guide on a half-day trip than you can learn on your owns in months. 

    Choppy Water

    The lake will vary based on generating schedules or flood control activities. “Sometimes they are dumping water for flood control purposes and the water level can drop,” commented Matt McClung, an area guide.  “When that happens it changes the location of the fish because some of their habitat is lost to the lower water level.” This is exactly why it is beneficial to hire a guide who is familiar with current conditions.   

    McClung reported that the lake has been producing a lot of white bass and smaller strippers all summer. “To find the hybrids busting on the top it is nice to have it calm,” explained McClung. “They get hard to spot in the chop of a windy day.” 

    On the day I fished with McClung the weather did not cooperate. We didn’t get the calm day he had hoped for. Nevertheless, it did not take long to spot the white flashes of a feeding frenzy in the choppy water. 

    McClung is very much a fish for fun guy and likes to throw artificials. He started out throwing an umbrella rig. “It’s called a Yellow Hammer Rig,” explained McClung. “It is made by a tour fishing buddy of mine, Kyle Mabrey.” Yellow Hammer Rig Stripper

    “I throw these at anything,” continued McClung. “If you are around schooling baitfish the umbrella rig works. It is like a smaller school broke off of the bigger school and it provides a great attraction to hungry fish. The Yellow Hammer is heavy enough to get it way on out there. I often catch three on one cast using it. The one drawback is that it will wear you out if you throw it all day long.” 

    I left the heavy lifting to McClung and his Yellow Hammer Rig. I was tossing a white inline spinner bait that the bass loved. McClung hooked up first and the school went down. “We have the possibility of white bass, hybrid stripped bass, stripers and spotted bass,” declared McClung. “Spots will mix right in with the others and occasionally you will even pick up a large mouth in there with them.” 

    A few more casts followed without success after the school went down. “We gotta’ go,” instructed McClung. “There is nothing like a topwater bite and we need to find some more on top.” 

    We ran down the lake until another school was spotted and repeated our process of casting to the school. This time McClung handed me a topwater popper. The fish just went crazy over it. If one would miss it another would strike. The topwater bite was indeed the most fun of the two lures I had thrown. 

    Another boat that had spotted the frenzy came in and also started hooking up. The area containing the surface breaking fish was big enough that several other boats could have fished them too. Just like the first school, this school went down and the action stopped. “That’s the way it works,” explained McClung. “You fish them as long as you can and then move on to the next school.” Stripper Ron

    “If you don’t find schooling fish on top you can start trolling and catch them,” explained McClung. “It’s just not as much fun for me. I like to be more active and involved with my fishing.” The run and gun approach fits him just fine. 

    “When the striper bite gets strong is when the bait gets suspended over the humps,” said McClung. “The fish will be in the main channel in 15 to 20 feet of water where some of that timber comes all the way to the surface. When it is calm the bait will suspend there all day long, unlike a windy day in August where bait gets pushed around and is hard to keep up with. That’s why we are having to run so much today.” 

    Shoreline anglers can also catch strippers, especially in the fall when the water begins to cool. “A lot of times in the evenings and the morning the bait will go to the bank.  An example is when it gets cooler overnight and the shoreline cools down. The bait will move into that cooler water. The wind might push them in there too.” According to McClung everything gets predictable in the fall.  “By mid September the bait is going to hold in the timber during the day and come into the creeks, especially the small creeks, every single evening. The fish will follow them in. During the day they are basically roaming the main channel and will follow that bait when it moves.” 

    We motored by Pyne Road Park where tournament weigh-ins are held on West Point. It has a giant ramp, one of the biggest in the country. “Anglers come right here on the bank and catch plenty of strippers,” replied McClung. “When the fish come up in this creek in the fall they are easily reachable by anglers casting lures under popping corks.” 

    “Sometimes they come up to the surface, sometimes they just stay down,” explained McClung. “Anglers will be standing side by side along that bank when they are running. You can throw on em’ and catch em’ with bucktail jigs, spoons or whatnot. It is absolutely predictable in the fall of the year.” 

    Fishing is not the only thing going for West Point Lake and the LaGrange area. Other water related activities include boating, skiing, tubing, jet skiing and more. If you just want to relax there is an inviting sandy beach to sunbathe and unwind. Of course a sunset ride around the lake in a rented pontoon boat can be pretty relaxing too. 

    So bring your own boat and use a slip at the Highland Marina Resort, or take the hassle out of travelling and just rent one. Whether you are fishing or just exploring one of their center console boats will do the job. 

    Where to Stay 

    Any traveling fishing trip requires a place to stay and one of the best for fishing West Point Lake is Highland Marina Resort. It is located just outside Lagrange and right on the banks of the lake. Even the non-anglers in the party will have plenty to do at Highland Marina Resort. Resort

    What a great view. Notice the reflections in the windows

    Whether it is for the great fishing or just a family getaway, it would be pretty hard to beat a stay in LaGrange at Highland Marina Resort on West Point Lake


  • 08/31/2015 1:01 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Three ways to catch crappie on Lake Blackshear 

    What began as a fishing excursion turned out to be a whole lot more. The destination was Lake Blackshear near Cordele, GA. Blackshear is known as a good crappie lake and I wanted to get a sampling. Road Trip-Lake Blackshear-Photo-1

    As you get off I-75 and turn west into Cordele it looks like any other busy Interstate intersection. You see the usual array of restaurants, gas stations and hotels, but as you drive through the development around the interstate you find the charm of a small Georgia town and a friendly atmosphere oozing with southern hospitality. 

    Our first stop was actually just outside and opposite the welcoming gates to Lake Blackshear. You can tell at first sight this little country store is going to be something different. Maybe it is the huge pink pig on the porch? With a little research I found out that the Stripling’s General Store dates back over 50 years from humble beginnings as a small grocery store to what it is today. It has been in its current location near Lake Blackshear since 1991. 

    Stripling’s is an outdoorsman’s dream store. Hunters and fishers alike can stop in and stock up for the days activities. I always look first for the Beanie Weenies. They had em’ and I knew I have found my food source for my visit to Blackshear. 

    The little general store handles a full line of grocery items. Specialty items from pickled quail eggs, jams and jellies, and jerky will appeal to most outdoorsmen’s tastes. Every morning their warming cases are stocked with breakfast items and before noon they are filled with hot grab-and-go lunch items. Their carryout food is quick, easy and delicious. 

    The Stripling reputation for service and quality comes from a long history that started with a special recipe for Stripling’s Sausage. Sausage is their specialty, but their meat case holds so many options it will give a hungry angler just what he looking for. Believe me, you don’t want to miss this place. As they say at the store, “You Never Sausage A Place.” 

    We left the Stripling’s General Store and headed to Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club. The name itself indicates golfing possibilities. If you are a golfer you will love it. The beautiful golf course is recorded on Golf Digest magazine's list of four star-rated courses. Just like the rest of the area the course is immaculately kept and beautiful.Road Trip-Lake Blackshear-Photo-1.5

    We were greeted at the registration desk with more southern hospitality and a clean and comfortable room was ready for our stay. The screened-in porch overlooking the lake was perfect for sipping coffee and watching the sunset. 

    There is an excellent workspace with a comfortable chair and Wi-Fi for connecting to the world outside if needed. Given the natural surroundings of the resort, I have to confess that my desire to connect with others was not that high. I was more into the wild deer passing through the grounds, the Canadian Geese honking on the lakeshore, and the crappie fishing on the lake.   

    The resort sets inside the Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park. Operated by the State of Georgia, the park is a tribute to Georgia's military veterans. A museum on site displays medals, uniforms, weapons, vehicles, aircraft and other items that span the time from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. 

    Lake activities include boating, jet skiing, water skiing, fishing and swimming. You can bring your own boat or rent one at the Georgia Veterans State Park Marina. With all the various activities available on Blackshear I was there to sample one. My mission was to find out more about crappie fishing on Lake Blackshear.   

    Dock Shooting for Crappie 

    After a great nights rest at the resort, I met up with local angler Rusty Parker. Parker has been fishing Lake Blackshear since he was around 4 years old. He lives in Cordele and considers Lake Blackshear his home lake. 

    The shoreline of Lake Blackshear is lined with residential docks. It is the perfect setup for anglers like Rusty that like to fish around docks for crappie. Dock shooting is a method of using the leverage of a fishing rod to sling small crappie jigs back under and around docks. 

    “My favorite style of fishing is dock shooting,” remarked Parker. “I have been doing it now for about 25 or 30 years. It is a very productive way to catch crappie on Blackshear.” Road Trip-Lake Blackshear-Photo-2

    It is all about angles and obstructions according to Parker. “You have to read the docks,” instructs Parker. “You have to avoid things like crossties and cables that might hang you up. The crappie like the shade produced by the dock and if you can choose the right angle and shoot the bait under there the chances of catching one are good.” 

    Parker has perfected the technique to the point that he can sail his tiny 1/24-ounce jig through an opening no more than 4 or 5 inches above the water and only a few inches wide. “I want that tiny jig to sink at a slow rate. I shoot it back under a dock and leave it alone as I watch the line for the smallest of movement. Sometimes you don’t feel a thing, you just see the line move. That’s the time to set the hook.” 

    Parker makes it sound easy, but in reality it takes a little skill, probably best achieved through lots of practice. Parker likes to remind anglers that the same technique, once developed, can also be used to fish train trestles, bridges or overhanging trees with great success. 

    “You are always going to catch fish on Blackshear,” said Parker. “There is someone out there catching fish anytime. The heat of the summer is the toughest, but I don’t ever give up. The best time to come is in the fall. Once the water temperature begins to fall the bite picks up. When the heat wave starts breaking down and you start getting into the 50s and 60s on Blackshear that is the time to fish.” 

    Fishing the River Channel 

    Stephen Cremshaw is another local angler with years of fishing experience on Blackshear. He has been pinned with the nickname “Mr. Wildlife” because of his knowledge of all the plants and animals around the lake. One of his favorite methods to catch crappie on Blackshear is fishing the old river channel. 

    “I like to suspend on the old channel of the Flint River,” explains Cremshaw. “I set several poles on each side of the boat and slow troll the river channel parallel to the old riverbank.” 

    Cremshaw’s techniques are back to basic and he uses the same set up year around. “I like to use 16-foot telescopic poles, no reels,” informs Cremshaw.  “I use single minnow rigs. The double minnow rigs they sell for crappie don’t work well here.” 

    His setup seems simple enough, but he adds his secret ingredient. “I add colored beads to my rig to attract the crappie. Just a little plastic bead, you will be surprised how it will catch their eye.” 

    Over time Cremshaw has tweaked his presentation until he discovered what he thinks works best on Blackshear. “Selecting the beads has been trial and error.  I have found green and red to be the standard colors that work most of the time. I am up to three beads now. It depends on the time of the year. You have to try them until you find the right combination.” 

    Cremshaw’s completed rig includes a 3/8-ounce bullet weight slid up the main line followed by three beads and a swivel. Once the swivel is tied it holds the other items on the line. Then he adds a 12-inch leader with hook and a minnow. “I like to start shallow near the old river bank and work out to deeper water. Once I find the right depth I use Humminbird side imaging and down imaging to stay in the depth of water where the crappie are holding.” 

    Cremshaw says the crappies see those beads out of the corner of their eye and come over to investigate the beads and find your bait. He says some colors don’t work on certain days, so don’t be afraid to experiment. 

    Lake Blackshear Brush Piles

    A third way to catch crappie on Lake Blackshear is to fish the brush piles. Over the years anglers have put out their own brush piles to attract crappie. This is a legal activity as long as the brush piles do not interfere with navigation in any way. Once deployed the brush piles become public property. Modern technology, like that created by Humminbird, has made it easier to find these submerged crappie havens. Road Trip-Lake Blackshear-Photo-Scott

    Even though he lives in Cochran, GA, crappie fishing pro Scott Williams considers Blackshear to be one of his home waters. He has fished the lake for many years and has placed a few of those brush piles himself. Scott and his daddy Billy Williams were recently named the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year. They know a little about crappie fishing.  

    According to Scott, when the fish are in the main lake they tend to congregate around brush piles. This is where they are most of the summer. “If I haven’t done any prefishing I will use side imaging on brush piles,” comments Williams. “Go from brush pile to brush pile until you find some fish on them.” 

    Once Williams finds some fish he throws out an orange buoy marker over the brush. Next he loads up his Driftmaster Rod Holders with 16-foot B’n’M Poles and prepares to push up on the marker with six or eight rods deployed. “When I fish isolated brush I use single rig minnows,” explained Williams. “You won’t get hung as much.” 

    “You have to watch the poles closely, advises Williams. “Sometimes the bite is detected only because one of the B’n’M Poles looks different than the rest of them. That might mean a tip that is closer to the water, a line that goes sideways or a pole that has straightened up as the fish bit and swam up.” 

    “I like to see a rod tip that straightens out. Most of those bites where the rod tip comes up are good fish. I get excited when I see that rod tip come up. If you get on the right spot and catch one fish, there are likely to be more. Summer pattern fish are schooled up in deeper water. If you don’t have good electronics they can be hard to find. I depend heavily on my Humminbird to find them.” 

    Williams always begins his approach downwind from the buoy. This allows him to push up to the pile, catch a fish, and let the boat drift back away from the brush. “I like my buoy to be in front of me,” explained Williams. “I will fish upwind to the marker buoy, set right on top of the fish, and then let the wind push me back.” 

    “If you catch more than one fish on a push and spend time over the school thrashing around they can be spooked by the commotion,” explains Williams. “That is why I let the wind push me back. I want the school to stay calm so I can approach it again.” 

    Williams also warns anglers to watch the depth they are fishing. “You definitely want to be above the fish. They are rarely going to go down to feed. You want to use your sonar to determine depth and keep the bait just above their eyes. “ 

    Williams’s final advice for anglers is to be patient. “You gotta’ be patient. Sometimes you can run up on a bush pile on Blackshear and run out of minnows without even moving. Others times you pull up catch 3 or 4 or 5 and they quit. My Humminbird tells me they are down there, but they don’t bite. Knowing they are there gives me confidence to stay.” 

    EpilogueRoad Trip-Lake Blackshear-Photo-Epilog

    After learning about three methods for catching crappie on Lake Blackshear I am ready to go back and do it again. The beautiful lake, the bountiful fishing, the outstanding accommodations and the natural beauty of the region are a draw for any outdoorsman.

    Lake Blackshear is definitely a candidate to be placed on your bucket list of places to visit. Once you add in the friendly atmosphere and the southern hospitality you will find in the area it should move Lake Blackshear and Cordele, GA to the top of your list.

  • 07/24/2015 12:58 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    The hometown spirit is running rampant 

    When the urge grabs me to get outta’ town for some relaxation, fishing and adventure I often look to Alabama. A recent trip to Weiss Lake in Cherokee County, Alabama added a new destination to my list. 

    I was travelling to cover the Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest (BCQ) event on June 10, 2015. The BCQ is a grassroots tournament trail that offers local catfishermen the opportunity to participate in a national tournament trail and the chance to qualify for the national championship to be held in Memphis, TN later in the year. 

    WCC-David Brooke

    The current World Champions of Catfishing, David Shipman and Brooke Wilkins

    were on hand for the BCQ on Weiss Lake

    “The locals have done well in past tournaments and they usually do,” stated Ken Freeman, organizer of the BCQ.  “The locals often have a step up on the travelling pros and are often in the money. These local tournaments also get the towns involved in the bigger picture of promoting catfishing.” 

    Get involved they did. Local towns like Leesburg, Centre and Cedar Bluff were all sponsors of the tournament and personnel from the different towns provided volunteers to help facilitate the tournament. Even the Cherokee County High School Bass Fishing Team was on hand to drive anglers from the water to the weigh-in site in golf carts. That hometown atmosphere and spirit of cooperation is something that cannot be manufactured, it is either there or it’s not. In Cherokee County Alabama that hometown feeling is running rampant. 

    HS Bass Team

    Nestled in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and bearing the moniker of Crappie Capital of the World, Weiss Lake and the surrounding area provides the perfect getaway for anglers and non-anglers alike. 

    It is pretty obvious that crappie angers are going to like the area. I saw some evidence of big crappie in the lobby of Weiss Lake Lodge where I stayed during my visit. On display in a glass case was a 4-pound and a 3.99-pound mounted crappie. All across the top of the south wall was numerous other huge crappie mounts giving further evidence to the moniker, Crappie Capital of the World. 

    Weiss Lake Lodge

    The lodge itself caters to anglers of all types by providing a large parking lot with security surveillance cameras, battery charging stations, fish cleaning station and freezer storage for your catch. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

    In addition to Weiss Lake Lodge there are numerous other lodging opportunities in the area. Visitors can choose from motels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, cabins, camping and RV sites, all with in easy distance of the lake and its facilities.

    Ken Freeman and some of the BCQ staff stayed at Bay Springs Country Inn. “They treated us like family,” said Freeman. “No request went unfilled. It is a great place to stay whether you are fishing or looking for other adventures.” 

    Jim Forrest is a local crappie guide and board member of the Weiss Lake Improvement Association (WLIA), a nonprofit organization that involves itself with projects like fish habitats, channel marker maintenance, educational projects with kids and things that just make the area a better place to live and visit. The all volunteer organization is another example of the goodwill that exists in the county. 

    JIm Forrest Weiss Lake

    Forrest describes Weiss Lake as a 32,000-acre impoundment averaging about 8 foot deep. “There is a lot of shallow water in the coves,” explains Forrest. “Weiss is known mainly as a crappie fishing lake, but it is also getting popular with the bass anglers. We have a real good population of large spotted bass here making it popular for tournaments.” 

    “We are known mainly for our crappie fishing,” continued Forrest. “We usually start around the first of October with our guided trips for crappie. The season goes until April or maybe the first part of May.” 

    3.25 crappie-Forrest-RS

    Forrest did have a caveat for boaters on Weiss Lake. “You look out over the lake and it looks like wide open water. There are channels out there that run 25 to 30 feet deep, but in reality this lake is a very shallow lake. There is also 2 and 3-foot water right out there in the middle. There are a lot of stumps, a lot of shallow areas that aren’t clearly marked.” 

    Weiss is like a lot of lakes, you have to be careful. Your best bet is to go with a guide for your first experience. That would give you a chance to learn about the lake. Forrest says most guides are happy to show you the ropes and get you started. “Guides can help you find out where they are biting and how you can get to them without tearing your boat up,” concluded Forrest.  

    Forrest pointed out that the area is much more than just the fishing. “It is a great place to come fishing, but there are lots of other things to do and interesting sights to see. We have some nice waterfalls, nice hiking areas and camping areas too. Cherokee County is just a beautiful place to visit.” 

    Forrest specifically pointed out Little River Canyon. This is truly a special place and unique because most of Little River flows right on top of Lookout Mountain in northeast Alabama. Outdoor enthusiasts will encounter forested uplands, waterfalls, canyon rims and bluffs, pools, boulders, and sandstone cliffs. There is no end to the outdoor activities Little River Canyon offers. 

    Another especially majestic site is Cherokee Rock Village. Leesburg Mayor Ed Mackey introduced me to the site. Mackey was having breakfast at Coosa Corner with Public Judge Melvyn Salter and Scooter Howell, Chairman of the Cherokee County Park Board preceding their visit to the weigh in at BCQ. They all seconded the mayor’s proclamation that it was a beautiful and interesting place to visit. 

    Cherokee Rock Village-1 rs

    “They have done a lot of work over there in the last ten years,” said Mackey. “There is so much history up there.” According to information on the Cherokee County website, Native Americans lived in the area from 8000 B.C. to the to the time of the Cherokee Indian Removal in 1838 and the resulting Trail of Tears.  Today the park is owned by Cherokee County and administered by the Cherokee County Parks and Recreation Board. Cherokee Rock Village-2 rs5

    “It was always called Rock City down the years when I was growing up as a kid,” continued Mackey. “There were just old sawmill roads out there. Chattanooga also has a Rock City so ours was changed to Cherokee Rock Village. They have put a welcome center out there and a nice pavilion making it more convenient for visitors.” 

    Cherokee Rock Village has become popular with rock climbers. The park has enormous boulders rising as high as 200 feet and measuring 70 feet wide in places. Even the U.S. military has been there for training. It is a must see attraction for rock climbers, hikers and anyone that enjoys the outdoors. The view overlooking Weiss Lake is nothing short of spectacular. 

    Weiss Lake rests comfortably in what is known as the ABC Triangle of Atlanta, Birmingham and Chattanooga. Day trips to surrounding attractions can be made with the knowledge that you will be returning to the quiet peaceful countryside around Weiss Lake to complete your day and refuel for your next adventure. If Weiss Lake and Cherokee County, AL is not on your bucket list, it should be. 

    A complete list of area attractions can be found on the Cherokee County website. Information on the BCQ can be found on their Facebook page.

    Photo credits: Thanks to Jim Forrest for the picture of his client with a 3.25-pound crappie and Joy Perry, Events Coordinator for the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, for the great shots of Cherokee Rock Village. 


  • 06/30/2015 12:15 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Where the catfish are big as Volkswagens 

    As the sport of catfishing grows and tournament trails like the Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest look for new destinations to attract catfish anglers, Henderson Kentucky is high on the list. Setting on the banks of the Ohio River with Indiana on the other side, Henderson is known for catfish, big catfish. But there is more. 

    The boat ramp facilities are tremendous with two expansive ramps to handle the boating and fishing public. At the top of the ramp is the old town area with plenty of outstanding food choices, boutiques, and gift shops. Nearby parks offer great family opportunities and the community is just plain welcoming. 

    Bridge sundown

    I had a chance to visit Henderson during a Big Cat Quest event that brought catfish anglers from around the nation to test their skills on Ohio River catfish. The format of this particular tournament was hourly, meaning there were prizes awarded for the heaviest four catfish during each hour of the event. The result was a steady flow of big cats coming to the scales all day long. Bridge Big Cat

    Kyle Arnett, Henderson County Tourism Commission Executive Director, met me at the weigh in site with an offer to go to lunch, which I quickly accepted. As it turned out we were there during the W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival. I learned that it was the 25th year that Henderson had held the event. Handy lived in Henderson for about a decade before leaving to make his place in history as an accomplished musician and composer. 

    Kyle Karen

    The travel time to lunch was short, since the barbecue part of the festival was set up on Main Street, next to a down town park. Vendors lined the street with all kinds of slow cooked pig meat. There were plenty of drinks available to wash it all down. My choice was a large RC Cola from the company that originated in the area and is a sponsor of the event. 

    I had to make a choice between so many good-looking opportunities and it wasn’t easy. I decided on a Slaw Burger from Tom’s Market. This sandwich on a bun starts with a BBQ pork patty, add somepulled pork on top of that, and then add the slaw. A touch of BBQ sauce makes it awesome. I think I will have to go back next year just for another one. The good thing about this is that Tom’s Market, which includes Mrs. Tom’s Kitchen, has a Lunch-Slaw Burgerretail storefront and you can get a Slaw Burger anytime.

    The park next to Main Street was full of happy friendly people. We sat at a picnic table to eat lunch and visit with some locals. We talked about everything from catfish to BBQ as if we had known each other all our lives. We had sat only a few minutes before the town’s mayor, Steve Austin, came by to welcome us further. That’s just the kind of town Henderson is. 

    Earlier in the day there was a New Orleans style walking parade with colorful costumes, moms, dads, kids, dogs and strollers. The parade was a real family affair. A blues band on a flatbed trailer, pulled by a pickup truck, led the whole thing through the downtown streets. It doesn’t get any better than that. Blues Band

    The real kicker for outdoors folks like me came when I learned that the thread that ties this Nature related community together is none other than noted ornithologist, John James Audubon. Audubon chose Henderson in the early 1800s as a place to paint and study birds. 

    As the story goes, Audubon came to Henderson on a flatboat in 1810 to establish a retail business. The problem was, he was much more interested in birds than business. His business did not prosper, but his legacy lives on in Henderson. 

    The Audubon Sculpture Walking Tour is an example of his influence and commemorates the relationship with Audubon. Visitors can walk and view bronze sculptures that portray paintings by Audubon. Louisville sculptor Raymond Graf created the sculptures to depict Audubon paintings in three dimensions. It was part of a project to bring public art to the community of Henderson while recognizing the town’s connection to Audubon.   Pre-Parade

    Another sign of Audubon’s influence is the feather logo used by the Henderson County Tourism Commission. “The feather is kind of a multiple thing,” explained Arnett. “It has been around a long time and it means a lot of things. Henderson is a lot of things. It is on the Ohio River with an historic downtown. It has all these great parks and other great attractions. But, the one thing that ties it all together is the feather because of the history of John James Audubon. It is the abundance of nature that is in Henderson that is the reason behind the feather.” 

    “John James Audubon lived in Henderson in the 1800s and his presence is still well documented,” continued Arnett. “Even the official county tourism car is wrapped in an Audubon print to recognize the Audubon presence in the area. Even if you were not familiar with Audubon you see nature and the birds in the logo.” 

    “I remember my grandma always telling me about the fish in the Ohio River,” remarked Arnett. “She said they were as big as Volkswagens. “That’s why anglers want to come here and we love it. Having the tournament here means economic development. It me


    Parade

    ans commerce. People are staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and buying gas at the corner station. We hope they will experience enough of the town that they will want to come back and visit again, even when there is not a tournament going on.” 

    Although the tournament was my reason for being in Henderson, and it did not disappoint, I was taken by the atmosphere and friendliness of the town to the point that I definitely want to visit again.

    For more information on Henderson visit the website at http://www.hendersonky.org.


  • 02/01/2015 12:14 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Whether choosing a weekend getaway, a longer vacation, or a group function you can’t go wrong choosing Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. It was a fishing tournament that drew me to the area, but I discovered a lot more than fishing.

    Crappie USA, a national crappie tournament trail chose the area because of the well know crappie fishing on Crescent and Dead Lake. The crappie are big and abundant, every crappie anglers dream. The organization completed a very successful two-day fishing event on the lakes. Darrell Van Vactor, President and CEO of Crappie USA praised the facilities and the support of the area businesses. “We are very pleased with the facilities and excellent support of the tourism folks. We are proud to be here with them as our hosts.”

    Happy Crappie Angler

    The tournament weigh-in was held at Bull Creek Camp Ground, which offers the perfect facilities for anglers. When you consider the winning weight, based on 14 crappies, was 29.77 pounds you realize immediately that calculates to an average weight of over 2 pounds per fish. That is a measure of a superb crappie resource, and one of the many reasons to put the area on your bucket list as place to visit.   

    The Palm Coast and Flagler Beaches area offers plenty of lodging possibilities in all price ranges. If you want luxury accommodations you will find them. If you want beach access you will find it. If you want kitchenette type facilities you will find them too.

    I stayed at the Hampton Inn at 150 Flagler Plaza Drive in Palm Coast (386-439-8999). I was greeted with a friendly smile when I walked in to register and again by every staff member I came in contact with during my stay. This is a friendly place, extremely clean and well kept. They offer a morning breakfast that got me off to a good start every morning of my stay. This is just one example but there are plenty more similar places to stay. A quick trip to the Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches website will reveal plenty more choices, some of which will fill your personal needs for lodging.

    If you like the outdoors and prefer a campground type of atmosphere you will find that too. The area is blessed with miles and miles of Florida’s natural beauty in places far away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. The Bull Creek campground mention before is a case in point. RV parks, a boat ramp, boat slips, and a great little restaurant are all located on the banks of Dead Lake, which is only a canal away from the larger Crescent Lake.

    Bull Creek Camp

    You can bring your own boat and investigate the waters of Dead and Crescent Lake or simply take it easy and fish from the banks around the campground. A few miles from Bull Creek is Russell Landing, a part of Haw Creek Preserve. This rustic little park sets in a cypress and hardwood swamp that borders Haw Creek. It is old Florida beauty at its best. It features a boat ramp for easy access to the creek, a pavilion for group outings, and a hiking trail that wanders into the hardwood canopy. Water access along the bank allows easy shoreline fishing.

    Russell Landing Creek

    If you prefer to be back in the city you will find plenty of parks, walking trails, and bicycling opportunities. Visitors can also enjoy the Intracoastal Waterway and miles and miles of fresh and saltwater canals just begging for a kayak to launch. 

    Continue your travels east and you will find Flagler Beach. The beach is natural, unspoiled and beautiful. Visitors are served up with 19 miles of cinnamon colored sand in a laid-back and low-key atmosphere. According to their website, “You are more likely to see dolphins and turtles than rowdy spring breakers, and entertainment comes in the form of the colorful characters who populate the town.” Flagler is a real getaway from the crowd kind of beach.

    How about a day trip to Princess Place Preserve for birding or take a look at the old lodge that stands as Flagler County’s oldest intact structure. History buffs can take the three-hour Flagler County Historic Bus Tour out of Bunnell, FL. If you want to reach out a little further just head for St. Augustine, the oldest city in the U.S. It is less than an hour away.

    Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches is not just for families. The Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWA) chose Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches as their destination for their annual conference in 2016. 

    "FOWA's choice of Flagler County for our 2016 Writers Conference was based on several things,” explained Tommy Thompson, Executive Director of FOWA. “One, Hammock Beach Resort, our Conference host hotel, is without a doubt one of the nicest establishments on Florida's east coast, offering a wide variety of lodging, dining and meeting choices.  Second, the fact that the Palm Coast and The Flagler Beaches Chamber of Commerce has arranged for unprecedented access to Marineland will give FOWA members fodder for multiple stories dealing with marine science and the environment.”

    The FOWA conferences are not all work, so recreational opportunities were important in their site selection too. “Opportunities to fish, paddle and explore the backwaters and Atlantic waters of Flagler County are numerous,” continued Thompson. “I expect those to be the highlight of many of our attendees' trip to the area."

    I won’t even try to name the many great places to eat. Regardless of your favorite cuisine you will find it. I do recommend you click here for a sampling of what’s available. If you are in the vicinity on Friday or Saturday morning, don’t miss The Flagler Beach Farmers Market. You will find some of freshest produce, seafood, plants, honey, baked goods and handcrafted items that Florida has to offer. We brought back what my sister used to call “bee butt honey.” It has the comb in it, but gratefully there are no bee butts. Mm! Mm! Good! 

    I haven’t even mentioned surfing, paddleboards, or golfing. How about Marine Land or the Flagler Beach Pier? Yep, its probably gonna’ take more than one visit to do it up right.

    When it comes right down to it there is no place to stop when listing or describing all the opportunities available to visitors of Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. You are just gonna’ have to hitch up your wagon and “Escape to the quiet side of Florida.” You will be glad you did.


  • 09/02/2014 12:11 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    "It is just kind of a fishing paradise if you like river fishing"

    Since there is a famous one in Italy and another in New York, the folks in northwest Georgia like to call their city ‘Georgia’s Rome’ to distinguish it from the others. Distinguishable it is.

    Rome is a friendly city nestled in among seven prominent hills that create magnificent vistas in every direction. Running between those hills are three rivers that form what is described as North America's most biologically diverse river basin. That Coosa River Basin draws the attention of anglers and water lovers of all sorts.

    Rome is located at the head of the Coosa River. The Oostanaula River comes flowing from the north and the Etowah River from the east to form the headwaters of the Coosa River Basin. It continues south through Alabama and, then to Mobile Bay.

    One local angler that knows about the fishing in and around Rome holds an IGFA World Record for a fish caught on the Etowah River. Todd West developed a passion and a goal to use a fly rod to catch a record spotted bass on 2-pound tippet. After weeks and months passed without success his goal was finally reached. In April of 2013 Todd paddled his feelfree Kayak on the Etowah River and caught a 3 pound 14 ounce spotted bass that topped the old record by over a pound. alt

    Photo: The Coosa River Basin is filled with all kinds of wildlife and scenic beauty. 

    Todd describes the Coosa River Basin as one of the top bass fisheries in the Southeast, with many other species to target. “Big largemouths and big spots are all around,” states Todd. “There are also hybrid bass, stripers, monster bluegill and catfish. It is just kind of a fisherman’s paradise if you love river fishing.”   

    If you are downtown Rome you are in walking distance of the boat ramp. “You can enjoy a morning on the water and meet friends downtown at one of many restaurants to enjoy your favorite food while you tell tales of the morning excursion.” 

    There are 30 different restaurants in the downtown area. Todd jokingly says, “You always run into someone you know, even when you don’t want to.” Visitors will experience the friendliest people around. They might not run into someone they know, but they will likely leave having made a new friend or two. 

    Todd describes Rome as a very special town, a very eclectic town. “There is a mix of people. You have the good ol’ boy southern types, you have the hippie types and you have the laid back outdoorsy types. It’s from big money to no money and everybody kinda’ gets along.” 

    Rome is one of those places where visitors feel relaxed. “Visitors always tell me they feel at home here in Rome. It feels comfortable, they say. People don’t feel out of place here,” says Todd. 

    Todd’s kayak fishing buddy Cody Black totally agrees with his assessment of Rome. “Rome is a beautiful place,” says Cody. “You can always bet on running into other kayak anglers who are friendly people and enjoy the pursuit just like me and so many others.”  

    alt

    Photo: Cody Black (L) and Todd West (R) heading to the Etowah River with their feel free kayaks.

    Cody has been fishing the Rome area more than normal this year, partly because of the Reel Krazy Kayak tournament series. “Rome has access to beautiful river fishing, especially the Etowah. A little further north you have the Rocky Mountain Recreation Area that has two lakes with more than 550 acres of water. It holds some absolute monster largemouth bass along with good crappie and bluegill fishing.” 

    Brushy Branch, in the western part of the county, is only 30 minutes away and another good local fishing spot, according to Cody. “There’s always a good chance of catching a really good bass on Brushy Branch.”   

    It doesn’t seem to matter where you go around Rome to fish, you can always expect to see beautiful scenery and meet some friendly people. “You could be floating down the river and see nothing but farmland as far as you can see. Then all of a sudden you see gorgeous mountains and forestland. Rome has it all as far as scenery, and to top off all that beauty you might just land a trophy bass.”  

    A national catfish tournament trail chose Rome as the site for its August 2014 tournament because of good catfishing in the Coosa River. Ken Freeman, event organizer for Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest described the Rome event as a grassroots series and part of the national tournament trail. “The thing about this tournament,” explained Freeman, “is that we provide a small town atmosphere where local anglers are able to participate in a national event and possibly qualify for a national championship. It also helps to get the towns involved in the bigger picture of promoting catfishing.” 

    Just to give an idea of what the catfishing can be like, the tournament winning father/son team of George and David Harrison approached the 100-pound mark with their 5 fish bag of 94.73 pounds. Their biggest catfish weighed in at 40.49 pounds. “No secret to the fishing today,” said David. “We had some good fresh bait and got into some good holes.” alt

    Photo: Bass Pro Shops Big Cat Quest chose Rome as the location for its August tournament

    Underlining what others say about Rome, Freeman commented, “There is no better people to work with in the USA. From the largest city we visit to the smallest place we go, Rome is a first class act. It is a great place for anyone to stop in for a visit while travelling, or better yet make it a destination.” 

    Rome even has local advice available for anglers. Retired game warden, Ben Winkelman is the director of the Rome - Floyd Eco Center. “Anglers in particular enjoy coming here,” said Winkleman. “We have a wide variety of warmwater fish species that are found here in this river system. They can come in and get a closer look at largemouth bass, channel catfish, blue gill, shell crackers and different sunfish that are prevalent to this region.” 

    Obviously, the more anglers know about the fish they target the more successful they are. “We have staff on duty during the day that can answer angler questions about things that affect fishing,” stated Winkleman. “Things like dissolved oxygen, thermoclines and where fish generally hang out at different times of the year. Most of the folks that work here have a good knowledge of where fish would be and why they hold at different depths in different seasons, based on dissolved oxygen, food source, and how all those things come in to play with fishing.” alt

    Photo: The Eco Center is a must see for anyone visiting Rome, especially anglers.

    Anglers will also enjoy a visit to the center just for the history of the fishery. One very interesting aspect of that fishing history is the fate of the sturgeon. The center even has a live one on display in one of its many aquariums. Winkleman can explain to you how the desire for caviar nearly devastated the stock. 

    Rome is more than just for fishing, so this road trip should be a family affair. First of all the friendliness of the town will be welcomed and enjoyed by the non-anglers. Secondly, there are scores of things to do in and around the area. 

    In addition to the Eco Center, which should be high on the list, there are numerous things to do in Rome. There is camping, geocaching, swimming, horseback riding, golf, hiking, kayaking and more. 

    Plenty of lodging facilities, like the Quality Inn where I stayed, provide a clean, comfortable room with attentive staff at the end of the day’s activities. 

    Georgia’s Rome is a destination to put on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed. 

  • 04/27/2014 12:09 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Angler’s Paradise – In Search of Smallmouth Bass 

    Some places are preordained to be visited by anglers and their families. Edgar Evins State Park is one of those places. This beautiful state park is located on the shores of Center Hill Lake. The steep hilly highlands create an angling and sightseeing paradise just waiting to be explored. Day trips to other highland reservoirs in the area can be easily accomplished from this one central location. 

    Full kitchens and two level accommodations characterize the cabins. They are clean, roomy, efficient and economical. A large window opens up to a great view of the lake with a patio just outside. The park has a large onsite marina with restaurant and gift shop as well as seasonal campgrounds.

    Smallmouthalt

    Many anglers like to visit the park to fish for smallmouth bass in Center Hill Lake. A long time resident of the area and smallmouth angler Ken Reece describes smallmouth bass as much more aggressive than the largemouth. He recommends fishing for them on the lower end of the lake. “I find more smallies on the lower end,” says Reece. “They like the clearer water. You will also find some Kentucky bass, but not as many largemouth.” 

    For anglers new to Center Hill Reece recommends choosing one of the many small creeks that feeds the lake and fishing it thoroughly. “Set your trolling motor down, start on one point and fish all the way to the back and out the next side. Try different baits all the way through. 

    “This technique will speed up the process of figuring out what is going on that day as far as whether they are on rocks, on mud, on gravel.” Once a pattern is developed, move on to other feeder creeks and fish the conditions that were found to be productive. 

    Photo: Ken Reece with a spinner bait smallmouth

    His prospecting includes throwing lurs like Bandit crank baits on light line. “You just get more bites on lighter line. The action is better. You put a crankbait, like a Bandit, on 6-pound test line and it will dive 2- or 3-feet deeper than the same bait on 8- or 10-pound line. Given the water clarity, that extra depth may be the difference in a fish seeing it and coming up to get it.” 

    He adds, “You gotta’ be a patient fisherman and skilled fisherman to land fish on light line. You have to play them easy when you hook up, but you will get more bites on light line.” alt

    His prospecting arsenal will includes a Buckeye Shad. “I like several rods rigged and laid out with different baits in different colors when trying to pattern the fish. The Buckeye Shad is a traditional favorite here on the highland lakes. It has a presentation that gives the appearance of an easy meal. You definitely want them in your tackle box. ” 

    As a third favorite option Reece will have a couple Zorro Aggravators rigged and ready. He has a tendency to start with spinner baits simply because he has caught so many bass on them. “I really like spinner baits, but don’t get stuck on one bait or color. Be willing to experiment with others and you will catch more in the end.” 

    Photo: Jim Duckworth with a smallmouth on Buckeye Shad 

    The Aggravator has double willow blades that produce a lot of flash and it comes in a variety of bass catching colors. Reece recommends a steady retrieve at various speeds to determine what the bass are looking for on any given day. Reece adds a 3/0 trailer hook to the existing hook to increase his hookup rate. 

    Other Fishing and Outdoor Opportunities 

    The fishing is great, but it is not the only thing the area has to offer. In addition to great smallmouth fishing, anglers will find many more species to fish for. Largemouth and Kentucky bass are among the favorites. The area also offers crappie and white bass fishing. A short drive to the Cumberland River provides the opportunity to catch record stripers. alt

    Trout fishermen can enjoy the opportunities provided near the park too. Brown, rainbow and brook trout can all be taken in the area. 

    Non-anglers in the party will enjoy the abundant wildlife the area has to offer. The park itself boasts of three different owl species, numerous hawks and wintering bald eagles as well as the rare Cerulean Warbler, a summer resident of the park’s mixed hardwood forests. 

    Kayak and canoe enthusiasts can enjoy all of the above and more with an adventuresome paddle down the river below the dam. Deer and turkey are often spotted watering along the shore. 

    Walking trails wind through stands of Tulip Poplar, Oak, Hickory, Buckeye and Wild Cherry. Adventuresome visitors can climb the spiral staircase at the observation tower to gain a spectacular view of Center Hill Lake and the surrounding hillsides. Truth is, however, you don’t even need to climb the tower to view some stunning vistas. 

    Photo: Trout Fishing Opportunities

    For more information, contact the park directly at Toll Free1-800-250-8619 or visit the park website at http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/edgar-evins.

  • 11/26/2013 12:06 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Red Hot Bass Fishing on the Red River

    This is the second of a two part series about fishing opportunities near Shreveport-Bossier, LA. The first part can be read here. Bass, are a popular target in area waters and the Red River is nothing less than fabulous for chasing burly bass. Add the outstanding accommodations, plenty of good grub, the casinos, and Shreveport-Bossier makes an attractive destination for anglers, friends and their families.

    The fishing is so good that the Red River attracts all kinds of fishing tournaments, from local, state and regional bass clubs to national pro championships. The river has always been good bass fishing, but recent developments are going to make it better and even more attractive to anglers.

    This new development is a stocking program that guarantees bass fishing is going to get better in the river. The program recently supplied 28,000 Florida strain largemouth bass to the Red River. The stocking was a joint effort or the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and the Red River Waterway Commissionalt

    This placement is part of a five-year plan to introduce $50,000 worth of bass fingerlings annually into the five pools of the Red River. The fingerlings, ranging from 4- to 7-inches, were distribute evenly into the pools created by the locks on the river. Anglers can access any of the pools depending on where they launch and can travel from pool to pool by using the locks that separate them.

    Recreational anglers will be impacted greatly by these stockings. "These fish should have a huge impact on recreational fishing," explained LDWF Secretary Robert Barham. "A few years from now, some of these fish will grow to be 10 pounds or more."

    Photo: Corps of Engineers Locks createfive pools on the Red River. 

    The geography of the river offers about every type of cover and structure a bass angler could wish for. There is plenty of standing timber both shallow and deep, fallen logs, brush piles, rocks, grasses and lillypads. Many anglers like to get off the river and fish the many oxbow lakes, sloughs and creeks that can be found connecting to the river. The river itself can be challenging with tugboats and barges occupying their share of the water but the abundance of fish makes the challenge of a little commercial traffic worthwhile.

    Favorite times to fish the river depend on who you ask, it really does become a personal preference, because there are fish all year long. One pro angler chooses summer as his favorite time.

    “My favorite time to fish the Red River,” says pro angler Homer Humphreys, “is when it is so hot you have to cover your line clippers and lead weights up with a wet towel to keep them cool. Everyone else is crying about how hot it is, but I'm filling the boat with bass.”alt

    Homer credits his success to a long history of bass fishing and the experience that came with it. “In the summer when it's really hot, no fronts are coming through, the weather is stable and those fish are predictable. I know that if I throw right there by that stump they are gonna' be there.”

    Photo: Standing timber in oxbow lakes off the river hold plenty of big bass. 

    That predictability makes summer fishing easy according to Homer. “You don't have to think about it that much in the summer. You just throw a Caroling rig in that standing timber in an oxbow and you are gonna' be hooked up. You can also throw a crank bait and do real good.” As far as color, he likes chartreuse so he recommends starting with a chartreuse/white, or a chartreuse/blue in your favorite plastic.

    The quality of today's rods and reels are much improved over Homer's early days of fishing. He advises anglers to take advantage of the action in the rods, keep the drag adjusted on the reel and pay attention to the hook set. “The rods are so good now you can feel the fish immediately when they strike. You want to make a sweeping hook set with the rod bending to apply pressure and the drag set so the hook penetrates. You got em' before you set the hook.”

    Homer also described one of his favorite techniques for catching bass when they are in the heavy grass. He calls it punching. The reel needs to be spooled with 50- to 60-pound braid, rigged with a heavy bullet weight, a heavy hook and a plastic bait. This rig will punch right through a hydrilla bed or other matted grass to get down to the fish. The heavy braid is needed to pull big bass out through the mats and back to the boat.alt

    “A punch bait is designed to go places other baits ain't going. I usually start with a one ounce weight. To select the size weight to use , make it the lightest you can to penetrate the grass. You might have to go to 1 ¾ or 2 ounce weights to penetrate the grass if it is thick and heavy. It seems unreal to have a little piece of plastic on the hook with a great big weight, but if you wanna have your arm pulled off by a big bass give it a try.”

    Photo: A few simple components make up the punch bait.  

    Homer suggests using the punching technique when you have a high sky and a high pressure system. If you find mats with two different kinds of grass punch in at the edges. “The fish station themselves at the edge of the different grasses. Take for instant a hydrilla and a water hyacinth mat. Punch in on the intersection of the two and you are likely to hook up.”

    Regardless of the type of bass fishing you like to do, you will find it on the Red River near Shreveport-Bossier. It is not only the fishing that's good, non-angling members of your party will find plenty of attractions to keep them busy and entertained too. It is a beautiful area of Louisiana and deserving of a visit regardless of the purpose.

    For more information on the Shreveport-Bossier area visit the following websites:

    http://www.shreveport-bossier.org

    http://www.explorelouisiananorth.org

    http://shreveportbossiersports.com

    http://www.redrivercruise.com

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/shvsb-courtyard-shreveport-bossier-city-louisiana-boardwalk

  • 10/23/2013 12:03 PM | Ron Presley (Administrator)

    Caddo Lake, A Bassin' Paradisealt

    This is the first of a two part series about fishing opportunities near Shreveport-Bossier, Lousiana. Bass, are a popular target in area waters, but species like crappie, brim and catfish can also be fair game. Add in outstanding accommodations, plenty of good grub, the casinos, and Shreveport-Bossier makes an attractive destination for anglers and their families.

    One popular angling destination in the area is Caddo Lake. The impoundment has a surface capacity of up to 26,800 acres behind a dam on Cypress Creek. Nine boat ramps around the lake give anglers easy access. The geography of the lake includes beautiful cypress trees, Spanish moss, lily pads, other vegetation and oil wells. 

    Caddo is full of oil rigs. Near by Oil City had a big oil boom and people got rich from selling mineral rights. Historically, the lake was the site of the first over-water oil well. According to one website, sightseeing trains ran from Shreveport to Oil City to see the rare development of an oil well in the water. Today Oil City is the home of the Louisiana State Gas and Oil Museum. The lake that was the location of an oil boom in the early 1900s has become a bass boom today.

    Numbers and numbers of double digit fish come out of Caddo ever year according to local fishing legend and pro bass angler Homer Humphreys.

    He advises anglers to go to Caddo and start pitching worms around the cypress trees. “You need to thump that cypress stump,” says Homer. “That's what they want. Other lakes are not necessarily that way, you may just want to pitch beside it.” Wildlife officials have set a 14 to 17 inch slot limit on Caddo. “These fish are heavy,” says Homer, “you can catch a 9 pounder that wont make the slot!”

    Fish stories like that are among the reasons that bass anglers like to visit Shreveport-Bossier and fish Caddo Lake where the fishing is year-round.alt

    Summertime anglers should know that Caddo bass stage in the deepest water around scattered cypress trees. Anglers will find an average of 70 trees per acre in Caddo. In the shallow water the cypress will be thick and close together, in the deeper water they are more in scattered clumps.

    The bass respond to temperature changes and when the temp goes up the bass go deep. “They don't just swim in and out,” reports Homer. “They are gonna' follow a highway, just like we do.” Those bass highways are sloughs, creek beds and ditches. “If you can find a 7- to 8- foot slough that's were they will go in the summer. When it gets hot they get deep. You're gonna' catch a 8- or 10- pounder if you can follow their migration.” Once bass locate in a stand of scattered cypress in deep water they migrate from tree to tree making it necessary to fish each tree thoroughly.alt

    To target big fish on Caddo, Homer likes to pattern-fish duck blinds. The uninitiated should understand that duck blinds on Caddo are big, set in among the cypress trees. Hunters build them to cover their entire boat so they provide a lot of structure. Homer explains that the non-aggressive fish will be on the outside trees or on the corner of the duck blind. The aggressive fish, the ones you don't have to make bite, will be right in the center of the blind, where the hunting boat would set. “Remember one thing. The easy fish are setting there with their nose facing the center of that duck blind because no grass grows in the shade. They are just setting there waiting for something to come through the clearing.”

    “I fish the aggressive spots first and then come back and fish the non-aggressive spots.” Homer advises anglers to not change baits too often. “There is nothing wrong with switching baits,” says Homer, “but if it is a tough day, a hard day, just pick a color that is traditionally good on this lake and stay with it.”

    Homer gives an example of picking a watermelon colored lure because the crawfish are greenish, or pick an orange lure because the crawfish are orange. It depends on what the natural bait looks like. He warns, however, that a lot of people make a mistake by pulling a crawfish out of the livewell that a big ole bass has coughed up to match the color. “You are not matching the natural crawfish color,” says Homer, “because the amino acid has already changed the color. You should take a bait that you have confidence in, one that your know worked day in and day out on the lake you are fishing. Start with it and stay with it. Just fish it and you will end up having as good a day as you can.”alt

    In the spring the fish are thinking about spawning and move in from the scattered trees in deep water to shallow water where the trees are closer together. Homer says you have to be observant to be successful. “The more pressure they get in shallow water the deeper they are gonna spawn next year. Take notes and keep track. Okeechobee, anywhere, the same thing is true. The thing is, you gotta know how to read the bottom.”alt

    Big fish will be in the grass in certain conditions, but not in others and weather affects everything. “You get a big wind, 15- to 20- mph and they won't normally be in the grass. They will be right in front of it. When you pull up to a grass flat you start in the middle and work your way out.”

    With cloud cover fish usually scatter, but not always. “I have seen em' suck into the grass with clouds that made everyone fish scattered. Throw a frog up there, if the water temp is right, and boom you're hooked up. You gotta' be willing to take chances.”

    Homer says his experience goes against the popular theory that early and late is the best fishing time. He catches more big bass between 10 am and 2 pm than any other time. “ You can always watch weather changes come around noon. The period before and after the change is the time to be fishing.”

    He especially likes Caddo during bad weather. “If you go down to Florida and get a big temperature change, like 20 or 30 degrees, those fish just lock down. It don't matter if you are fishing for a half-million bucks or a cup of coffee. Here at Caddo it is just bass-ackwards.” He explains, “When a big bad front comes through or super cold weather, the bite is good. The fish want to eat. In January we have caught em' when it was snowing.”

    alt

    In a final tip to anglers Homer says he likes to give any bait a fair chance to catch a bass. Recognizing that the lure has been chosen carefully to meet existing conditions and past success, he advises anglers to be patient. “I give a bait 45 minutes. In that amount of time, as much as I am casting, I should raise a fish. Most people don't have the patience to give the full 45 minutes to what they think should be a good spot. You gotta make a commitment if you want to catch fish.”

    Travelers should be aware there is much more to Shreveport-Bossier than just the fishing. It is a beautiful area of Louisiana and deserving of a visit regardless of the purpose.

    For more information on the Shreveport-Bossier area visit the following websites:

    http://www.shreveport-bossier.org

    http://www.explorelouisiananorth.org

    http://shreveportbossiersports.com

    http://www.redrivercruise.com

    http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/shvsb-courtyard-shreveport-bossier-city-louisiana-boardwalk

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