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Successful Fall Fishing on Coosa River / Neely Henry Lake

Successful Fall Fishing on Coosa River / Neely Henry Lake Successful Fall Fishing on Coosa River / Neely Henry Lake
By Reed Montgomery

The city of Gadsden, Alabama borders Neely Henry Lake, Impounded in 1966. This is the second of six Impoundment's on the Coosa River System. The people of this fair city have a public launch that separates the upper, more river-like lake headwaters from the much wider, lake downriver. During Fall, this is as good as it gets in north Alabama. Neely Henry lake is known for its hard-fighting Coosa River Spotted bass that inhabit this cover-filled lake in the Fall. The bigger, much shallower dwelling largemouth’s in the 6-8 lb range, seem to come alive, as lake waters cool into the 70's.

Upriver Neely Henry narrows, exhibiting many small creeks and pockets for bass and baitfish to take refuge in this Fall. Many, of both predator and prey, will forage very shallow in these stump and brush-filled backwaters during late September, October and November. That is until lake levels begin to drop. Bass will hold in the mouths of these creeks as Neely Henry lake, like upper Weiss lake, is also dropped this Fall.

With water levels falling from 4-5 feet, this draws a lot of crayfish and baitfish out of these backwaters to the safety of a much deeper river nearby. But not for long. The bass are there waiting, for many were already homesteading these areas and feed here regularly. Others have joined the pack, as they too were forced from their shallow water homes with falling water. In and around these creek mouths, bass will feed along shallow to deep water drop-offs, ledges, points and flats. Many lures will work here.

Topwaters can be "The Big Bass lure" at any time. Shade, current, cloud cover, rain, the availability of baitfish and cover, can govern this bite during the day. But early in the morning and very late in the day, is always a good time for Buzzbaits, Zara Spooks, Pop-r's, prop-baits, floating worms and soft jerkbaits.

Mid-range lures take suspended bass usually not actively feeding, holding away from cover in these creek mouths. Spinnerbaits, steady retrieved, slow-rolled, dropped or retrieved with a erratic movement, can induce some arm-wrenching strikes from both spotted bass and largemouth bass around these creek mouths. When fished around all the wood and rock cover bordering these retreats, these flashing, vibrating lures, attract the big bass bite.

Crankbaits and rattletraps, are great "search lures" when fan-casting these creek mouths. Various colors, sizes, retrieves, depth variances and even line size should be experimented with on these lures. Water color, baitfish size and bass activity, should determine your lure choice. Jerkbaits attract the bigger, more weary bass looking for that "injured look" in an easy-to-catch meal. Fast, erratic retrieves with both floating and suspending models, such as Pradco's 'Excaliber' signature series, will trigger strikes other lures fail to attract.

Just above or near bottom there are many lures for the much slower (and often bigger) creek mouth bass. Worms, lizards and crayfish imitations, both Texas and Carolina-rigged are good all through the next few months. Colors, sizes, weights and actions should vary. Jigs with plastic crayfish or pork trailers simulate crayfish that bass dine on around these creek mouth bottoms. Adding rattles or fish attractants to these lures will increase your chances of getting quality bites. Flipping or Pitchin' with oversized Jigs and Trailers, is a popular "Big Bass" tactic in these Neely Henry Lake, upriver waters. Tube baits of all sizes are also good here.

Jigging spoons is good for fooling these bottom-oriented bass. This tactic, unlike other lures, will put a lure, "right in their face" for a much longer period of time. When vertically jigged in these creek mouths, spoons will quickly take more than one bass, especially when conditions such as wind and current, position schools of bass often bunched-up in key spots. Try different types of spoons, sizes, weights, actions, even different colors or finishes, and different depths to determine the bass's choice. Work from deep to shallow water to avoid spooking bass, many of which are caught right out from under the boat. Light line enthusiasts and finesse anglers can also mop up around these upriver creek mouths with small worms, lizards, grubs, tube baits, shad imitations and jigs.

Downriver Neely Henry Lake is a much different fishing situation, especially when the lake is dropped 4-5 feet. Roadbeds are exposed, brushpiles are visible around piers, as are stumprows and rocky banks in the backs of feeder creeks. This is also a time when schooling takes place due to bass and baitfish retreating to deeper flats, pockets and creek backwaters. These bass will hit on top all day when it is cloudy or during rainy, light-wind conditions. Crankbaits and rattletraps are great for searching out inactive bass, most of which suspend or go down deep, when not schooling. With all the exposed cover, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits make a good search combo. Fan-casting brushpiles, stumps, laying logs, and the few remaining weeds and blown-down trees can connect an angler with the year's biggest bass.

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