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Catching Prespawn Spotted Bass on the Black Warrior River
Winning angler and guide Russell Jones reveals how to find and catch prespawn spotted bass. Discover the best spots, techniques, and lures for success in late winter and early spring.
By Eileen Davis
“Depending on weather patterns, fishing for prespawn spotted bass on the Warrior River begins in late winter or early spring,” says winning tournament angler and guide Russell Jones from Coker. “A few weeks ago, my partner and I caught a 5-fish bag of spots weighing 24 pounds. I have caught a couple over 6 and several over 5 pounds, but those are special days. As for smaller fish, if you find them stacked up, it’s possible to catch 100 without moving.”
Finding Spotted Bass on the Warrior
The Warrior River is riverine for nearly its entire length and stretches from Bankhead Lake, which is approximately 15 miles west of Birmingham, southwest to Demopolis. If you know where to look, all five lakes on the river offer excellent fishing for spotted bass.
“Find the places where spots spawn,” Jones said, “and that’s where you find fish. Pea gravel, shell beds, and anything with a hard bottom that doesn’t lose its composition in the river’s current are places where they will spawn. If you are not familiar with fishing rivers, a good place to start your search is at the mouths of creeks. Some have a patch of gravel the size of a truck bed, while others are half of a football field.”
To determine if a likely spot has a hard bottom, Jones watches his sonar for strong returns. If he sees a second bottom line below the actual bottom, this second sonar return is an indication of a very hard bottom. This double echo has bounced off a hard bottom up to the surface and bounced down again. The second sonar return is picked up by your sonar and is a sure sign you have found gravel.
Jones confirms the type of composition by dragging his jig on the bottom. He then takes time to create a waypoint and enter a short description.
In between creek mouths, Jones finds spotted bass on transition banks. Places where clay banks turn to rock, a creek channel that swings close to the bank, or vertical banks that turn into flats. Most transition banks are visible on the shoreline.
Whether fishing creek mouths or transition banks, Jones looks for fish in water less than 10 feet deep. During a warming trend, he catches fish off the hard bottom, but finds them deeper after a cold front.
“When cold fronts arrive,” Jones said, “spots pull back to deeper water, on a point or the first drop off. They do not go far. After a few days of warmer weather, they return.”
Catching Warrior Spots
Jones’ primary lures for late February and March are a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, a wobble head jig and a Carolina rig.
“I throw either a ¼- or ½-ounce Rat-L-Trap a lot,” he said. “If it’s windy, I use a ½ ounce, but I prefer to fish slower using the ¼ ounce. Traps are great for covering a lot of water and making long casts. I fish them on 12-pound and 15-pound fluorocarbon InvizX by Seaguar.
“To fish on the bottom, I use a Carolina rig or the wobble head jig. I fish a ½-ounce wobble head on 15-pound InvizX. For the Carolina rig, which I fish with a 1-ounce tungsten weight, I switch to 50-pound TactX braid. I dress the jig with a creature bait and the Carolina rig with either a trick worm or lizard. When it’s windy, I fish with the Carolina rig.”
Since spotted bass enjoy a steady diet of crawfish, Jones is alert to their color. In spring, as water temperatures warm, crawfish change colors. Typically, they start the season with a darker color, such as brown or green, which helps them blend into the murky waters. As water temperatures increase, the crawfish begin to molt, shedding their old shells and revealing new, brighter colors. The first molt often results in a vibrant red or orange coloration, followed by a more vibrant blue or green coloration in subsequent molts. This transformation is thought to help the crawfish attract mates and protect themselves from predators.
Jones continued, “I am always looking into the throat of the fish to learn the color of the crawfish they are eating. Coloring is important because they change often. They have a stage where their bottom is almost white. You would never think to drag a green pumpkin and white lure on the bottom, but it works!
“I keep bottles of black, chartreuse and red dye on the boat. If crawfish are red, I will dip half of my green pumpkin lure in the red dye. Or if I need to make it darker, I’ll use black.”
When Jones arrives at one of his waypoints, he first scans the area with forward-facing sonar. If he does not see fish, he will fish the area, but he will cover it quickly. “If I see fish on sonar,” he said, “I slow down and spend more time trying to figure out what the fish want.
“The most important thing you can do to be successful on the Warrior River is to just spend time on the water.”
To book a guided fishing trip with Russell Jones, visit his website. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram or TicTok @russellfishing.
Click here to read more about how successful anglers find and catch Bama’s bass.