Tips for March and April

Short tips for trips from around the state to some of Bama’s best fishing.


By Eileen Davis

Largemouth: Lake Guntersville

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville is known for its big bass fishing, and the fishing is good again this year. Anglers can expect to catch 15 bass a day weighing 3 1/2 to 5 pounds. “There are a lot of 4 to 5 pound bass on the lake,” reports winning tournament angler and guide Jordan Lee. “The numbers have decreased over the years, but the quality size fish are still there.”

To find the best bass fishing spots, Lee recommends using side scan sonar to locate patches of eelgrass on the main river channel. Eelgrass offers the best fishing in March, as it is thicker than hydrilla and stays green. “By staying on the main river, you can find groups of fish and some good size fish as well. My favorite area is from mid-lake down to Siebold. It’s always a prime area to fish, as the bass stage on the river. Instead of relating to the bank, bass use the grass lines at depths of 7 to 8 feet.”

To work eelgrass effectively, Lee uses 7-foot, 4-inch rods rigged with swimbaits and lipless crankbaits in 1/2- and 3/4 ounce weights. He uses the heavier lures when he wants to cover even more water. “The only reason not to throw a swimbait is if water visibility is less than a couple of feet. The Red Eye is the best lure for dirty water. Retrieve the lures so they are in the grass, but not so deep they get hung.”

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Largemouth: Lake Wedowee

According to biologists, Harris Lake is home to a large number of big fish. Winning tournament angler Jackson Bonner agrees, saying Harris probably holds the next state record for bass.

Bonner recommends fishing Harris Lake’s rocky banks from February to May when fish are nearshore. Springtime, he said, is “like a stick of dynamite” for fishing the lake. When water temperatures reach 57 to 60 degrees, fish move shallow, and targeting fish up the Little Tallapoosa River in muddy water with the warmest temperature is ideal. As the water warms, moving downstream on the river channel and looking for flats leading to steep banks is best.

Bonner’s favorite lure for both locations is a Bagley balsa squarebill crankbait. Reaction strikes occur when the squarebill deflects off targets, which include rock piles and wood cover. If unfamiliar with Harris Lake, Bonner suggests fishing the rocky banks between the SR 431 Bridge and the Swagg Boat Ramp with a 1/2-ounce black and blue jig in February and March to catch at least one bass over 5 pounds.

Harris Lake has gained a reputation as a top fishing destination in the southeast, drawing anglers from across the region. It is a must-visit destination for serious anglers looking to catch their once-in-a-lifetime fish.

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Crappie: Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake in Alabama is a small lake with big fishing potential, says veteran guide Brad Whitehead. Whitehead has fished the lake for more than 20 years and reports catching between 50 and 70 crappie per day, measuring 9 to 12 inches in length. He recommends using small jigs and casting towards visible wood cover. Whitehead also suggests looking for transitions in the bottom substrate as fish tend to congregate in these areas.

The lake is filled with stumps and brush, providing natural cover for fish. There is also a lack of fishing pressure on the lake, making it an excellent location for fishing. Whitehead recommends anglers use a side-pulling technique with 9-foot B’n’M rods designed for side-pulling, GPS to maintain constant speed and three rods per angler.

Whitehead suggests that anglers who want to fish Big Bear for crappie should bring their own boats, as there are no rental facilities available. Additionally, he recommends wearing polarized sunglasses to help spot fish and submerged structure in the clear water.

Overall, Big Bear Lake may not be as well-known as some of the larger lakes in the area, but its healthy crappie fishery and lack of fishing pressure make it a hidden gem for anglers looking for a productive and enjoyable fishing experience.

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Spotted Bass: Lake Oliver

“Without a doubt, Oliver is awesome,” said Dustin Connell of Clanton. “My best five-fish bag of spots weighed 32 pounds. I have caught four spotted bass there weighing more than 7 pounds; the largest weighed 7.6 pounds. I believe the Warrior River holds the next state record.”

With limited access to the riverine lake, there is low fishing pressure and shad are larger than on other nearby rivers. Connell says current is essential to finding fish on Oliver, as it positions them in eddies, current breaks and creek mouths, and stimulates them to feed.

In March, the fish in Oliver Lake will be prespawn, some will be trying to spawn or they will be holding on current breaks in the middle of the river. To find bedding fish, look for places out of the current with a hard bottom, and productive areas to fish are eddies, irregular features along the bank, seawalls and creek mouths, where the water is less than 8 feet deep. For bass feeding on shad in the river, Connell prefers swimbaits and spinnerbaits.

He recommends fishing all creek mouths and the area around North River in March. Due to the size of the reservoir and its limited access, Oliver Lake provides a unique opportunity for anglers to catch high-quality spotted bass.

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Spotted Bass: Lake Martin

Professional fisherman Logan Parks shares his strategy for winning tournaments on Lake Martin during the month of March. Parks focuses on catching five spotted bass weighing between 2 and 2.5 pounds and at least one big largemouth. He targets prespawn and spawning fish on deeper points that are 45 to 60 feet deep in front of shallow pockets. Parks looks for suspended fish using forward-facing sonar and runs-and-guns points until he finds fish. 

His go-to lure for catching spots suspended over deep points is the Berkley Champ Minnow. In shallow water, Parks follows the spots where they spawn on the same points. Two of his most productive lures for this situation are the jerkbaits and Neko-rigged plastic worms. Parks likes to fish mid-lake, particularly the Blue Creek area.

He makes long casts to reduce the risk of spooking fish in clear water, and since spotted bass are known for following lures, the greater distance extends the time for bass to attack his swimbait. When the water temperature climbs into the 60s, Parks follows the spots to shallow water, where they spawn in areas where the bottom transitions from rock to hard clay. Another place to look for spawning spots is docks on secondary points that lead into pockets.

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Largemouth: Logan Martin

Winning angler Tucker Smith says when water temperatures on Logan Martin warm into the high 50s, it prompts bass to move to shallow staging areas to prepare for spawning, making them more predictable. Smith targets shallow clay flats and points between 1 to 6 feet deep. These areas have a hard clay bottom that warms up first and is where prespawn bass stage to feed and develop their eggs. Smith believes that the primary condition for winning a tournament in March is current. The right combination of current and water color can result in 20 bass caught from one spot.

To fish Smith’s pattern, anglers only need two lures: a bladed jig and a jerkbait. His favorite lure is a chartreuse and white 3/8-ounce Shock Blade by Picasso. He dresses it with a swimbait trailer. Smith’s other lure is a shad colored JerkMaster Jr. by Livingston Lures. Regardless of which lure Smith is throwing, when he catches a fish, he repeats the cast. “There is not just one bass sitting up there,” he said.

Sandwiched between Neely Henry and Lay Lake, Logan Martin is the third lake on the fertile Coosa River. It covers 15,263 acres and stretches for 48.5 miles from dam to dam. Smith learned and perfected this and other patterns while growing up on Logan Martin, which has served him well in winning tournaments. 

“There’s just something about the bill on the jerkbait digging into the clay,” he said, “that produces big bites and heavy bags. Bass hate it jumping around on a clay bottom. You will need a jerkbait with a strong bill for this technique.”

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Spotted Bass: Black Warrior River

Russell Jones, a winning tournament angler and guide from Coker, says spotted bass can be found in all five lakes of the Warrior River, with pea gravel, shell beds, and hard bottoms being ideal spots for spawning. He also suggests looking for transition banks where clay banks turn to rock, or vertical banks turn into flats.

Jones uses a Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, a wobble head jig, and a Carolina rig as his primary lures during late February and March. Crawfish are a favorite food of spotted bass, so Jones pays attention to their color and will dye his lures accordingly.

He advises anglers to spend time on the water and use forward-facing sonar to locate fish. If he sees fish on sonar, he slows down and spends more time figuring 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,” says Jones.

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Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

“Beginning in late February,” said charter captain and shore guide Stan Crooke ([email protected]) “sheepshead school so thick that if you present your baits correctly, you will catch one right after another. An average fish weighs 4 to 5 pounds, with big fish weighing 10 to 11 pounds.”

For boaters, Crooke says the best places to drop baits are rocks, reefs and rigs. If fishing from shore, he recommends the Gulf State Park Pier and the Perdido Pass jetty and seawall.

Whether fishing from boat or shore, Crooke prefers fishing two hours before and after a tide change to take advantage of slower tidal flows so he can stay in contact with his bait without using heavy sinkers. A light sinker is essential for feeling a sheepshead bite.

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

“Even if I don’t book a charter,” said guide Patric Garmeson (www.uglyfishing.com), “I am looking for a reason to go sheepshead fishing in March. When water temperatures warm between 65 and 70 degrees, the big fish begin to appear on the rigs. The sheepshead we catch range from 3 to 4 pounds up to 7 to 10 pounds.”

Garmeson recommends searching around an oil rig for sheepshead before choosing where to fish. While he does use down and side imaging to locate fish, he prefers spotting fish near the surface.

“If you drive by the rig,” he said, “and see three or four fish on a single pole, then you have a very large school in that area.”

To catch these hard fighting fish, the guide spools his reels with 20-pound braid, which he ties to a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader with a No. 6 Kahle hook. He completes the rig with split shot and live shrimp.

Sheepshead: Mobile Bay

Beginning in March, veteran guide Captain DeJuan Tedder targets sheepshead moving into Mobile Bay. He says waves of migrating fish stage on concrete structures, steel pylons and rocks. Nearly everything that breaks the current with barnacles attached attracts fish.

“These structures hold good numbers of sheepshead weighing 5 to 10 pounds,” Tedder said. “It’s not unusual for my clients to catch a 10-fish limit from one spot.”

To catch fish, Tedder positions his boat on the down current side of the structure and has his clients lower live shrimp to the bottom on a Carolina rig with a No. 2 Kahle hook. He uses enough weight to hold the bait near the structure.

For a guided sheepshead trip, telephone Captain Tedder at (251) 978-9711 or visit www.gulfadventures.net.

Flathead Catfish: Jones Bluff

Jones Bluff on the Alabama River offers some of the state’s best fishing for flathead catfish.

“If you want to have a fish fry,” said Damon Abernethy, Assistant Chief of Fisheries, a trip to Jones Bluff will produce flatheads weighing between 7 and 40 pounds, but it’s the smaller ones that are best for frying.”

To catch flatheads, Abernethy first goes bream fishing; live bait is essential for this predatory species. He says anglers can use two different techniques on the same night by fishing with a rod and reel and setting limblines. Set the latter just before nightfall on a small green limbs. Select flexible limbs, as a stiff limb will allow a big fish to straighten your hook.

Since limblines are so effective, Abernethy only sets a dozen. Once the limblines are set, anchor up current from creekmouths and cuts, then use your rod and reel to catch actively feeding flatheads. 

Largemouth Bass: Lake Guntersville

In March, anglers fishing Lake Guntersville typically catch prespawn fish weighing 3 to 4 pounds, with enough 5 to 6 pounders to keep excitement levels high. Moreover, there is always the possibility of hooking a 10 pounder.

“The numbers of bass are phenomenal in March,” reports winning tournament angler and veteran guide Mike Carter of Flatrock. “If you find the right flat and grass edge, it’s not unusual to catch 40 to 50 fish.”

One of Carter’s primary patterns this month is to fish grassy flats adjacent to deepwater. He uses side-imaging sonar to find fish-holding points or indentions in the weedline at depths of 8 to 10 feet.  

To book a fishing trip with Carter, visit www.anglingadventures.info.

Largemouth Bass: Lake Guntersville

Depending on the weather, the bass factory known as Lake Guntersville starts producing 5-pound prespawn bass in late February and shifts into high gear as the dogwoods blossom in April. It usually takes a 5 pound average or better to win a tournament this month. Occasionally, an anchor fish weighs 7 to 9 pounds.

In March, target fish in water 6 feet deep or less in good spawning creeks like Chisenhall and Siebold. Look for scattered patches of submerged weeds with new growth.  

Use a Rat-L-Trap to search the flat and try to hang it in the grass. Often, the strike occurs when you jerk it free.

For a guided day of fishing on Lake Guntersville, telephone Alex Davis at (256) 298-1178 or visit his web site at www.spinnerbaitkid.com.

Largemouth Bass: Lake Eufaula

Assistant Chief of Fisheries Damon Abernethy recommends Lake Eufaula as a place to hook big bass in 2019. Winning tournament anger Shane Powell of Dothan agrees and says anglers can catch a limit of 5 pounders from beds when the fish are spawning.

Powell explained, “Look for fish, not the beds, by searching with your trolling motor on high. If a fish is on bed, she will slowly swim off, as if she does not want to leave. Mark those spots on your GPS to fish later. Fifteen minutes later, slowly approach the area to find the bass. The key is to present your bait to the fish so she does not realize you are there.”

Sight fishing for bedding bass requires clear water, so Powell targets creeks on the south end of the lake. He says Sandy Branch on the Georgia side holds perfect habitat and clear water to fish for bedding largemouth.

Flathead Catfish: Wheeler Lake

Legendary guide Mike Mitchell is shifting his focus to catching flatheads during their prespawn period. These apex predators are preparing to reproduce and are very aggressive in their feeding behavior as they try to build up energy reserves for the breeding season. Fishing for flatheads is typically best from mid-April to mid-May when water temperatures are in the 60s. 

When targeting prespawn flatheads, Mitchell usually catches between five and 10 fish weighing 20 to 50 pounds. He releases all blue and flathead catfish weighing more than 15 pounds. 

In early spring, when water temperatures cross 59 degrees and climb into the 60s, flatheads migrate to feeding areas near where they will eventually spawn. Mitchell finds the best fishing from 10 to 25 miles below the Guntersville Dam. As water temperatures warm into May, Mitchell moves upstream to catch prespawn fish from the tailwaters below the dam.

Mitchell prefers fresh cut bait in early spring and live bait such as shad, bream, and red horse suckers closer to the spawn. When fishing for monster flatheads, Mitchell sets up on a promising spot with six heavy-action Big Cat Fever rods with reels spooled with 40-pound-test Slime Line monofilament. He finishes the rig with a 2- to 3-foot leader of 100-pound-test monofilament tied to a Boss Kat circle hook in sizes 7/0 to 10/0.

For more information on Mike Mitchell’s guide service, visit his Facebook page at Southern Cats.

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Largemouth Bass: Weiss Lake

“Fishing on Weiss in April is excellent,” said winning tournament angler Brian Shook. “It takes from 24 to 27 pounds to win and during one tournament last year it took a 6-pound average to win. If the water temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees, you can catch all you want using the right baits.”

Shook’s favorite lures for April are 1.5 Strike King square bill crankbaits, ChatterBaits and Rat-L-Traps. 

This time of year, he likes to fish the lures mid-lake in Cowan, Spring and Three Mile creeks. 

“Look for swings in the creek channel,” Shook said, “where they meet docks. The big females use those creek channels to move up to the docks to spawn. The pilings provide vertical structure. One day, you will catch them on an outside post and then two days later if the water warms they will be on an inside post ready to spawn.”

Book your stay today with Walcox Point and experience the best of Weiss Lake!

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Largemouth Bass: Lake Eufaula

Though this month has a reputation for producing big largemouth by targeting prespawn fish, winning tournament angler Ryan Ingram of Phenix City reveals post-spawn bass offer a more consistent pattern. He says anglers can use his winning pattern to catch big fish from the end of February until the end of May.

“Prespawn bass come up and go to the bank so fast that they are not dependable,” Ingram said. “If you find them in practice, you will probably be disappointed on tournament day.”

To find post-spawn bass, Ingram targets fish positioned on the first drop-off adjacent to spawning flats. Work the first contour line by fishing brush piles, snags, stumps and irregularities like points and ditches. Effective lures are crankbaits, willow-leaf spinnerbaits and football-head jigs.

Crappie: Millers Ferry

“Millers Ferry is a really good crappie reservoir,” said Tommy Purcell, District V fisheries biologist, “and the best fishing for crappie is from Chilatchee Creek to the dam. 

From late March to early May, anglers report catching high numbers of keeper fish with a few weighing 2 pounds or more. During this time, crappie are either spawning or migrating to spawning areas. It’s not unusual to catch spawning fish throughout the month.

For current fishing information, telephone McDonald’s Grocery & Sports store at (334) 682-4523 for visit them in Camden on Highway 221.

Crappie: Lake Martin

During the day, Lake Martin’s crappie anglers find slabs in brush piles 6 to 12 feet deep. These mostly man-made fish attractors offer excellent fishing, but require some effort to locate without side scan sonar.

Anglers new to the lake have an option well known to the veterans who fish Martin. It’s as easy as finding docks with the pier lights on. The clear water makes night fishing extremely deadly, and it’s fun for the family. Crappie congregate under the lights, and they are not as spooky. 

Of course, not every dock holds fish. The water must be at least 8 feet deep, and have hardwood cover nearby.

For a guided fishing trip for bass or crappie on Lake Martin, call Chad Miller at (334) 300-5337.

Spotted Bass: Lake Jordan

Between mid-March and the end of April spotted bass spawn on Lake Jordan and that makes this the best month to catch both quantity and quality fish. 

As the last lake in the chain on the Coosa River, Jordan’s fertile habitat consistently produces some of the best bass fishing in the state. Catches of 5- to 6-pound spots are possible.

Fish water 2 to 10 feet deep over hard-bottom shorelines and points. Sight fishing for bedding bass is not possible due to low water visibility.

A heavy spinnerbait fished on the bottom is the best big fish lure in March. Early in the morning, Zara Spooks draw explosive strikes.

For a guided day on the water, call Chad Miller at (334) 300-5337.