Fall Fishing on the Tallapoosa River / Lake Harris
Fall Fishing on the Tallapoosa River / Lake Harris
By Reed Montgomery
This small impoundment is now entering its 19th year as Alabama's youngest and "Best Big Bass Lake". There are some skeptics on this subject, but no other Alabama reservoir can stake claim to so many trophy bass being taken. Many recent catches, some largemouth bass weighing of near state record proportions, have been caught with such consistency in the last few years, its just a matter of time before Lake Harris gives up a new state record largemouth bass.
Since Impoundment (1983) there have been dozens of bass on record, many weighing in the teens. Three, are a 15 lb. 1 oz. bass, a 16 lb. 2 oz. bass and the biggest on record of these "monsters" a 16 lb. 4 oz. bass. The latter of which, came very close to breaking the long-standing Alabama state record bass of, 16 lbs 7 ozs. A few years back there was even one huge, unfortunate largemouth bass, that had lived a life much longer than most Alabama bass in man made reservoirs. It was found, deceased, and when weighed at 17.50 pounds, turned out to be the biggest bass Lake Harris has ever yielded. All of these bass on record are largemouth bass.
This Summer showed things came to a crawl, especially for anyone boating a bass over 10 pounds. Smaller, spotted bass, striped bass, white bass and huge schools of largemouth’s schooled all Summer, giving anglers lots of action. But still the question was pondered by many, "Where have all the BIG bass gone?"
As Fall Progresses the bigger bass, over 10 pounds will begin to emerge. The colder it gets, the more likely an angler has of a chance to connect with one of these Lake Harris monsters. Many summertime bass have already occupied ledges, points, river channel drop-offs, humps, submerged islands, feeder creeks, isolated cover and rock bluffs, for the last three months. This includes the miles of standing timber, brush and stumprows left here, with the completion of the dam in 1983.
Water temperatures approached 90 degrees this Summer and drove many of these BIG bass either to the deep, suspended offshore, or buried up in some thick cover. All the while, this made it very difficult to locate the bigger bass species. Even when an angler was fortunate enough to discover the whereabouts of these often elusive fish, provoking a strike, then became difficult with such a small strike zone. The month of August was hot, but still showed lower air temperatures and more rain recorded, than last Summer's season.
As September slowly displays cooler days and nights, the water temperature begins to fall into the 70-80 degree range. This brings the baitfish to the surface and the bass are right below, as they begin their "fattening-up session” for the mid-to-late Fall feeding period. Included are many influences such as rain, of which cools the water, stains the water, and creates current, moving bass even shallower. Cooler days, accompanied with clouds, will help keep Lake Harris’s BIG bass in the lakes cover-filled shallows, for longer periods of time. Some...often cruising and feeding all day.
On Lake Harris, falling water temperatures are always accompanied with falling water levels. The lake is dropped for Winter pool each Fall, often 10 feet or more. This winter pool concentrates a lot of bass, including the edibles they feed on, baitfish, crayfish and minnows, all crowded into a much smaller lake. Then the feeding really begins, as bass that were already shallow, and bass that were deep "join forces" as they meet along depth changes and share the same cover. This creates overcrowding and competition among BIG bass. Catching smaller bass is usually easy on Lake Harris and even with a 13-16 inch imposed slot limit, many bass over the legal mark, can be taken on each outing to this beautiful lake in Eastern Alabama.
To really be successful at fooling some of the age-old behemoths that now live in Lake Harris you must employ special lures and tactics. These bass, like other bass over the magical 10 pound mark, have huge appetites. They eat huge mouthfuls as well and lures that mimic or simulate these over-sized meals, are best for attracting BIG bass and provoking them to strike. This is not to say smaller offerings will not provoke a strike from these BIG bass. Many BIG bass have been caught on small worms, lizards, crayfish or jig combos.
Small crankbaits, rattletraps, spoons, grubs and spinnerbaits also take a lot of these picky feeders. Even minuscule topwaters have been attacked by these bass as they explode on a well-placed lure. But landing these line stretchers is another thing. This especially holds true, for many unaware first timers to this true, trophy bass lake. Especially when your lures are adorned with small hooks, using light line and your equipped with rods & reels, usually associated with smaller fish species. You don't go after an elephant with a BB gun! Especially with all the cover and deep water structure these bass are adept at getting into and breaking you off. Come prepared when trophy bass hunting on Lake Harris.
If you are really serious about landing these trophy bass, come loaded with stout tackle, strong line, dependable rods and reels, sharp hooks and a big, long-handled net. Tailor your tackle on the big side. On top, try big noisy lures. Buzzbaits always fill the bill for big bass. Always use a trailer hook (for a full line of buzzbaits see: www.rippler.com) on buzzbaits.
Other trophy bass lures of Fall are Zara Super Spooks, Excaliber's suspending jerkbaits, Chuggers, Pop-r's, Big prop-baits, Floating worms, Soft plastic jerkbaits, and even Frogs and Rat imitations. All of these lure choices, in the hands of skilled and determined angler, are capable of fooling these shallow foraging, really BIG bass. Always use heavy line on these topwaters, for bass only key in on the lure. I use Trilene Big Game monofilament line in the 20-25 lb test class and would highly recommend it.
Mid-running lures such as big bladed spinnerbaits, with grub or pork trailers, are good for attracting the bigger bass bite, especially on overcast days in stained, shallow water. Dropping or slow-rolling these spinnerbaits (heavier, 1/2 ounce to 3/4 quarter ounce size models) in mid-to-deeper water situations, also takes a lot of suspended and bottom-dwelling bass. Smaller blades and no trailer, will speed up the fall, big blades and oversized trailers will slow the fall.
I prefer colors of chartreuse and white, with a combination, tandem gold and silver willowleaf blades, to cover both mediums on spinnerbaits. A small gold Colorado blade up front, followed by a #6 to #8 willowleaf blade on the back, is best for this technique. Alabama’s B&G Bait Co. out of Calera, Alabama has developed, ”The Duce” spinnerbait. A dual arm, four blade spinnerbait, in sizes of 3/8ths ounce to 3/4 of an ounce. Big bass love em’. Call (205)668-0257 for more info on these one-of-kind spinnerbaits, sweeping the nation.
Shallow to mid-running crankbaits, rattling lipless lures (rattletraps), along with floating and suspending jerkbaits also cover the mid-water territory fast. Again, stick with bigger lures which provide a bigger silhouette, create more water displacement and emit more vibrations for the BIG bass to home-in on. Rattles in these mid-runners help in stained water conditions.
Bottom-bumping lures take a lot of BIG bass on Lake Harris each Fall and Winter. Many BIG bass are fooled with oversized worms, tube baits, lizards and crayfish imitations. Jig combos, simulating crayfish, are high on the cold water menu and are responsible for many of the BIG bass on record caught during the cooler months. Sharp hooks, lures with rattles (or inserted) and fish attractants, are recommended on all of these lures. When a BIG bass is caught, search the area, for more are usually nearby.