A Coosa River comeback in Alabama

The Bassmaster Elite Series season was back on this past weekend in Alabama at Neely Henry Lake, an impoundment on the Coosa River. This body of water was a new adventure for me and one that I had never seen before last week. Strong storms with heavy rainfall last week caused the lake to flood before the event, making for a roller coaster tournament to say the least.

My wife Shelby and I have been in the U.S. for the past couple of months, because the tournament schedule has been steady and because of the difficulty to cross the border back to Canada at this time, so on our off weeks in between tournaments we have been doing quite a bit of fishing at waterbodies near where the next tournament it. For anybody that may not know, we are only allowed three practice days just before our tournaments and prior to that the lakes are off-limits for a month. Fishing on waters near the tournament venues can be helpful in figuring out what the bass might be doing once we get to work.

Before the tournament we spent a few days at Logan Martin Lake, another Coosa River waterbody that is known to have pretty good fishing. We had a great place to stay there and had a good time, catching a bunch of largemouth and spotted bass. It was an enjoyable place to fish so I was excited to get to Neely Henry to start practice since it was only separated from Logan Martin by a dam. Surely the fishing would be similar.

When I launched my boat on Neely Henry for the first day of practice I realized that it was a lot narrower and river-like than Logan Martin and the water was a lot dirtier. After a few hours of fishing and not catching much I realized that these lakes were actually quite different and it was going to be a battle to catch a five fish limit every day.

Over the three practice days I managed to catch three or four fish per day, employing a variety of techniques. About halfway through practice the storms hit and we got a significant amount of rainfall in a 24 hour period. The water started to rise quickly and became muddy, forcing the postponement of the first day of tournament. It was not how I envisioned the week going before I got there.

My friend Seth Feider from Minnesota and I visiting before heading out on day three at Neely Henry Lake. Feider is my travel roommate and the current angler of the year leader with three events remaining.

When the tournament started we were essentially heading out on a new body of water because the water levels rose several feet. I choose a backwater area to start my day where the water was clear before the tournament but when I arrived to start fishing, it had become muddy. Several other anglers also started the tournament in this area but it was quickly evident that the fish had either moved or they were not biting because nobody was catching anything.

After about an hour I left and went to a second area where I caught a nice one pretty quick but then went several hours before I finally caught a second fish. Just before it was time to check in I caught a third keeper but I ended up two fish short of the five fish limit. My three fish landed me in 76th place after day one, which was not good.  

On day two I decided to go back to the area where I caught my fish the first day but I was going to try some different techniques and I was hoping that I would have a better chance to catch a few fish first thing in the morning. Almost immediately I started catching fish and had a limit within the first hour. It was easy and fun, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t figure things out better the first day but you never stop learning in this sport. Casting a swimjig to shallow weeds along the bank, I ended up catching 13-8 and jumped up to 41st place, making the day three cut and earning a good paycheck. It was a season-saving day so I was very happy.

On day three the water dropped about a foot from the day before and the weeds where I caught my fish were now almost dry, to shallow to hold bass. I fished around the areas where I caught them the day before and managed to wrangle up a limit weighing 9-9 that moved me up a few more places to finish the tournament in 34th place. It was a solid end result after the tough practice and start to the event. You just never give up and you never know what might end up on the end of your line. We have a week off here in Alabama before fishing again next week at Lake Guntersville, a popular tournament venue on the Tennessee River. It will be my fourth tournament there in the past three years, so it’s a place that I’m familiar with and I’m looking forward to getting out there.