Tips for September - October

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

By Eileen Davis

Flathead Catfish: Lay Lake

As fall settles in, flathead catfish are becoming active and voracious feeders, in contrast to blue catfish that remain active through the winter. Flatheads need to fatten up before the colder months, motivating dedicated anglers like Marshall Hughey to fish extensively during autumn. Hughey, founder of the Alabama Catfish Series and an ardent angler, targets trophy flatheads due to their status as apex predators in freshwater ecosystems. His favored spot for flathead fishing is Lay Lake on the Coosa River, known for its diverse topography and ample baitfish.

Hughey’s approach involves using a variety of livebaits, including bream, redhorse suckers, gizzard shad, and threadfin shad. He employs Lowrance ActiveTarget to locate baitfish effectively, streamlining the bait-gathering process. To find flatheads, Hughey seeks out deep holes adjacent to 5 to 7-foot flats, ideal habitats for these predators. As fall progresses, flatheads move halfway up the water column near shallows to ambush prey like bream and shad.

Hughey emphasizes boat positioning as crucial for success, enabling him to fish both the slope cover and the flat simultaneously. He utilizes multiple rods and reels to spread his baits effectively. His bait setup includes Penn Squall reels on B’n’M Silver Cat Magnum rods with K9 “9” Strand Super Braid and a range of hooks depending on water depth.

The introduction of ActiveTarget transformed Hughey’s fishing experience, allowing him to monitor bait and fish behavior in real time. He also employs tactics like cutting bait tails to incite panic among prey, attracting flatheads for faster bites. This comprehensive approach and use of technology have significantly enhanced Hughey’s catch rate and fishing success.

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Crappie: Lake Eufaula

Autumn presents an ideal window for crappie fishing on Lake Eufaula due to the changing conditions that benefit both the fish and the anglers. Cooler water temperatures during this season prompt crappie to feed heavily in preparation for winter. As experienced guide Tony Adams explains, crappie transition from depths of 25 to 30 feet in the summer to shallower waters of 8 to 15 feet in the fall, making them more accessible and increasing the bite rate. Adams strategically places fish attractors made from bamboo or crape myrtle limbs, sunk in concrete-filled buckets, around natural underwater features like creek channels, ledges, and points. These attractors help crappie adjust to varying conditions and enhance fishing opportunities.

Adams emphasizes that various factors influence crappie behavior, including current, shade, temperature, and baitfish presence. When there’s current, crappie position themselves behind cover, improving the bite. On sunny days, they tend to stay on the shaded side of structures. Cold fronts can slow down fishing, but after a warming trend, the bite improves. The autumn season also offers a chance to catch larger crappie, with fish moving from deep water to shallow brush piles. Adams uses live bait or 1/16-ounce Eye Hole Jigs with Big Bite Baits Crappie Minnrs, favoring red, orange, or pink colors and scent bait. This season provides a valuable opportunity for anglers to enjoy productive and memorable fishing experiences, especially when targeting big crappie with the right techniques and equipment.

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Bass: Smith Lake

Fall fishing at Smith Lake offers anglers the chance to catch spotted bass, largemouth bass, and striped bass in a single day. Expert guide Brent Crow, known for his tournament victories, employs varied strategies to maximize success. He targets schooling spotted bass and frequently hooks striped bass while doing so. If spotted bass aren’t biting, he shifts to shoreline cover for largemouth.

A productive day with Crow yields 50-70 spotted bass, with the top five weighing over 15 pounds. Although Smith Lake’s clear, deep waters aren’t known for numerous largemouth, anglers can still expect 10-15 catches, including a potential 6-pounder. Striped bass, caught amidst spotted bass fishing, weigh 10-18 pounds, with Crow’s record being an impressive 40 pounds.

Fall fishing initiates when spotted bass start chasing shad and herring on the water’s surface. Successful topwater action commences from late September, extending into November. Crow emphasizes the importance of timing and conditions like wind and sun for optimal results.

Finding schooling fish is key, as they might host striped bass or form an exclusive school. Schooling behavior indicates the area’s viability. Crow reveals that forage influences their catchability—blue herring-eating predators are easier to catch than those consuming shad.

Notably, the size of the prey determines lure choice. Small shad call for different lures than larger herring. Crow relies on a selection of topwater lures, regardless of whether he’s fishing for stripes or spots.

In cases where open water fishing isn’t fruitful, Crow shifts to creek backs for largemouth. He suggests positioning the boat close to the bank and casting a 3/8-ounce buzzbait towards exposed wood and rocks.

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Striped Bass: Lake Martin

During November to January, fishing expert David Hare employs livebait on downlines as his preferred method for catching striped bass on Lake Martin. The cooler water temperatures during this period lead to a more active striper bite. Hare finds that this time offers excellent opportunities for catching a high number of fish, often reaching 60 to 70 fish on good days or averaging 30 to 40 fish per six-hour trip. However, the introduction of blueback herring into the lake has altered the behavior of the striped bass, making them harder to locate. These nomadic herring prefer deep waters, disrupting the striper fishery’s dynamics.

Hare’s strategy for locating schools of stripers involves using a Humminbird Helix 12 fishfinder with a split-screen setup to show traditional sonar and Lakemaster charts simultaneously. He identifies potential spots with submerged terrain features at 6 mph, then switches to a slower pace and deploys down imaging when he spots fish. Hare uses a Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor for precise positioning over schools.

Hare uses downlines with rods and reels tailored to the size of the fish. He employs 7½-foot Ugly Stik Catfish and Okuma Classic Pro Striper rods with appropriate reels and line strengths. The rods are rigged Carolina style with fluorocarbon leaders and offset circle hooks of various sizes. Blueback herring’s influence has conditioned the striped bass to consume smaller baits, altering Hare’s livebait selection. In addition to catching shad, he uses 2- to 3-inch shiners and Black Saltys, adapting to the changing feeding patterns caused by the herring’s presence.

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Bass: Lake Martin

Dallas Weldon, a Tallassee native and experienced angler, adjusts his fishing strategy on Lake Martin based on whether he’s competing in a tournament or enjoying a casual fishing day. During tournaments, Weldon dedicates the first 90 minutes to catching spotted bass and then focuses on elusive largemouth bass for the rest of the day. In competitive scenarios, he’s achieved success, winning the Angler of the Year title and a tournament on Lake Martin with his partner John Pollard.

Weldon’s fall fishing routine begins when night air temperatures drop into the 50s, usually in September, and ends as water temperatures cool to 56 degrees around late November. For the early morning bite, he targets windblown points and short pockets on the main lake using fast-moving baits such as Zara Spooks, Whooper Ploppers, vibrating jigs, and squarebill crankbaits. He often employs Lowrance ActiveTarget live sonar to scan points and observe fish movements.

In less windy conditions, Weldon starts with topwater lures and switches to lures like a Strike King 1.5 squarebill crankbait or a vibrating jig when wind is an issue. He adjusts his approach based on water conditions and fish behavior. After the morning bite, Weldon continues to fish for spotted bass for fun, locating baitfish balls in lower lake bays and employing a chrome War Eagle jigging spoon for action.

When targeting largemouth bass during tournaments, Weldon scans the banks for dark spots that provide cover for ambushes, such as brush piles, laydowns, and other structures. He uses a 3/8-ounce Heavy Finesse jig or a squarebill crankbait, casting with precision. His success often relies on catching significant largemouth bass during the fall season.

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Spotted Bass: Smith Lake

In autumn, skilled angler Jesse Wiggins employs a successful strategy for catching spotted bass on Smith Lake. As the season progresses, a shift in feeding behavior occurs due to the first cold front in late September or early October, leading to heightened aggression and daytime feeding. Wiggins, a Major League Fishing professional angler, focuses on schooling spotted bass that feed on blueback herring and shad, observable by their splashing on lake points. These points encompass various types such as bluff, rocky, sandy, and clay points, and their location on the main lake is crucial. Wiggins efficiently scans points using Lowrance ActiveTarget, saving time by moving on if no fish are detected.

For tackle, Wiggins casts a Jackall iProp or a Rerange jerkbait when spotted bass are feeding on the surface. He uses a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-action spinning rod combined with a Quantum Smoke reel and 8-pound-test Seaguar Basix fluorocarbon line for the iProp, and a 6-foot, 9-inch medium-heavy baitcasting rod with an 8.1:1 gear ratio Quantum Smoke reel and 12-pound-test Basix line for the jerkbait. To avoid spooking fish, he suggests staying far away while casting to schooling fish. This topwater pattern is effective from late September to December when water temperatures remain above 60 degrees. It’s particularly successful under windy and cloudy conditions, with a strong wind helping to stage the fish on points and overcast skies enhancing the bite. On a good day, the pattern yields 40 to 50 fish, including quality ones over 3 pounds, while a challenging day might result in 10 to 15 bites.

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Bass: Lake Jordan

Jordan, the final reservoir in the fertile Coosa River series, stands out as a prolific source of spotted bass. Renowned for its bass production, the lake also boasts a thriving largemouth bass fishery. Anglers can anticipate successful catches of spotted bass weighing 2 to 3 pounds, along with 3 to 4 pounders and the occasional 5-pounder as the water temperature cools.

Experienced guide and successful tournament angler, John Pollard, explains that as the water temperature drops to the lower 70s, shad migrate from deep waters to the surface, drawing spotted bass along. These bass schools can vary greatly, from substantial groups to smaller “wolf packs” consisting of two or three fish. Contrary to popular belief, the wolf packs can yield bigger spotted bass catches compared to the larger school populations.

Prime fishing moments often occur during early mornings and evenings, although exceptional topwater action can persist throughout the day. Pollard’s favored lure selection includes the Pointer 78 jerkbait, Lucky Craft Sammy walking bait, 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Trap, and an Alabama Rig adorned with 3.8-inch Keitech Sexy Shad on 3/8-ounce jig heads. He employs a flipping stick with 50-pound-test braided line for the rig.

When targeting largemouth bass, Pollard focuses on grassy areas in the same creeks and sloughs. Active largemouths tend to congregate near the forefront of the grass, paralleling it while observing shad activity. Using either a belly rigged swimbait or a 3/8-ounce spinnerbait proves effective in the grassy terrain.

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Bass: Pickwick Lake

Experience an unforgettable fall fishing adventure at Pickwick Lake, where the excitement starts in October as the water cools down. The lake, spanning 43,000 acres on the Tennessee River, becomes a hotbed for fishing enthusiasts seeking smallmouth and largemouth bass. The smallmouth bite, known for its explosive fights, runs from October to December with fish weighing between 3 to 6 pounds, while largemouth fishing yields catches of over 20 pounds for the best five fish.

Renowned angler and guide David Allen follows a strategy targeting both species in a day’s outing. He suggests starting with smallmouth in the morning and transitioning to largemouth later in the day. Fall fishing here is less technical, making it perfect for family trips and live bait drifting. Allen advises using shiners from Perkins Outdoor as well as threadfin shad, caught with a cast net near Wilson Dam. Drift these baits upstream, letting the boat carry them, which can also attract other species like drum, white bass, and striped bass.

For smallmouth, fish the upper lake between 7-Mile Island and Wilson Dam, focusing on drifting over boulders and current breaks. When switching to largemouth, Allen recommends using topwater lures around schooling fish and cover points downstream. He suggests lures like Heddon’s Saltwater Super Spook and Cotton Cordell’s Pencil Popper, both used with 50-pound-test braid for long casts. Children can enjoy casting River2Sea’s Whopper Plopper 130, an effective 5-inch topwater lure in shad color.

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Largemouth Bass: Big Creek Lake

Angler Dwayne Sixbury, an experienced tournament winner from Semmes, highlights the prime fishing window at Big Creek Lake in Alabama from September to mid-October. He attests to the lake’s versatility for various fishing methods, such as shallow water, drop-offs, and surface shad action. Sixbury describes Big Creek as deep, spanning 3,600 acres, with depths up to 60 feet and channels exceeding 20 feet, offering limited structure and cover.

He recommends early mornings and evenings for topwater fishing with lures like Bang-O-Lure or a seven-inch trick worm, drawing strikes from bass up to five pounds. For deeper waters, he suggests using crankbaits like Bevy Shad, Pointer by Lucky Craft, and Rattl’N Vibe by Yo-Zuri. Sixbury relies on sonar and polarized glasses to locate shad near the edge of grass, using buoy markers to cast parallel to weeds. He warns against anchoring and advises against trolling motors to avoid spooking shad.

Additionally, Sixbury mentions the schooling bass phenomenon during summer, likening it to Spanish mackerel behavior. These schools, comprising 40 to 60 bass, are found in shallow sloughs and deep waters. Fishing begins around 7:30 a.m. under calm, cloudy conditions, and Sixbury uses walk-the-dog lures like Zara Spook or DUO Realis Pencil for long-distance casts to reach the schooling bass.

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Largemouth Bass: Lake Guntersville

Mike Carter, a Snag Proof tournament winner, lauds the thrill of fishing with weedless frogs due to the explosive strikes from bass as they attack the lures moving through dense grass. He outlines two fall frog fishing patterns for Lake Guntersville. The first centers on expansive grass mats, with key factors for success being mats in water 1-4 feet deep, a mix of hydrilla and milfoil creating a cheesy muck on top, and the sound of feeding bream, indicating hollowed areas beneath for fish maneuvering. Carter suggests the prime area is mid-lake to upper end.

Sunshine is essential for this technique, with bright sunny days triggering the best bites starting around 9-10 AM. Carter employs a brown or black Snag Proof frog on a 7’6″ extra-heavy rod with a Lew’s 6.3:1 reel and Vicious 65-pound braid. The frog is retrieved with slackline twitching for aggressive action. Immediate hook setting on strikes is crucial due to the thick vegetation.

Carter’s second pattern, “trash fishing,” involves targeting smaller mats in pockets of shallow water, which can yield consistent quality catches compared to larger mats’ feast-or-famine results. Google Earth helps locate these spots, particularly off the main lake. These patterns are active from September through November, extending into December unless floods disrupt the grass mats. Carter reflects that despite not landing every hit, the excitement of frog fishing is always rewarding.

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Largemouth Bass: Big Creek Lake

Big Creek Lake, a 3,600-acre water body 12 miles west of Mobile, serves as a water source for the city. It’s primarily fed by two main creeks and six springs, offers clear water. Despite its depth – up to 60 feet at the dam and 20-foot-deep submerged creek channels – success in September’s fishing contests hinges on weed beds rather than structural features.

Tournament dominator Kevin Hawsey from Georgetown excels at fishing aquatic vegetation in clear water. His achievements include landing sizable largemouth bass weighing up to 9 ½ pounds, even though the lake’s average catch measures 10 to 14 inches due to its infertile water. Hawsey’s late-summer strategies revolve around main lake weed beds, adjusting depth based on light availability. He emphasizes that the early morning bite is crucial for substantial wins, with catches possibly reaching 5-pound largemouths.

Hawsey suggests a systematic approach to locating big fish within shallow waters, advising anglers to target pockets near creek mouths and exploit bass feeding behavior using the grass and bank to trap their prey. Contrary to common practice, he advocates for casting deep into the grass for more significant bites. Hawsey employs a 7-foot rod with 15-pound-test monofilament line and recommends weightless rigged flukes or trick worms on a 5/0 hook as ideal lures.

As the morning progresses, Hawsey transitions to main-lake points where bass move deeper into weeds, seeking baitfish for sustenance. For these points, he opts for a Zoom lizard in watermelon red, rigged either Carolina or Texas style, depending on the fish’s behavior within the weeds.

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Bass: Jones Bluff

Late summer in Alabama offers stable patterns for bass fishing due to the predictable weather and water conditions. Damon Abernethy, Assistant Chief of Fisheries with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, explains that the lengthy summer season allows anglers two to three months to perfect their strategies. While the warm water temperatures reaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit lead to active feeding, bass are also less energetic. Their optimal activity occurs when water temperatures are around the mid-70s.

For successful late summer fishing, considering both current and aquatic vegetation is essential. Current brings forage to bass, while aquatic plants provide hiding spots for ambush. Different reservoir locations, such as creek backs, blowdowns, river ledges, and weedbeds, may yield favorable patterns, often specific to largemouth or spotted bass.

Jones Bluff, a top fishing spot, witnesses strong patterns from late June to early October. Abernethy advises focusing on river ledges, where fish congregate during currents. His preferred technique involves using a jig on submerged river channel edges, following sonar cues for baitfish depth. Tournament strategy involves being prepared with several hotspots to fish when generators create currents. Abernethy’s choice is a ¾-ounce football-head jig for maintaining bottom contact and sensitivity.

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King Mackerel: Orange Beach

Captain Don McPherson of Get Away Charters out of Orange Beach reports September is a good month for catching king mackerel weighting 17 to 25 pounds with the occasional fish hitting the scales at 30 pounds. If you have not experienced a strike from a king, it’s as if your bait hung a passing nuclear submarine.

To catch king mackerel, McPherson trolls a No. 2 or 3 Clark spoon behind a No. 2 planner at 5 to 7 knots. He also free lines live or dead baits as his boat drifts over our many artificial reefs. He finds kings from nearshore out to 7 or 8 miles.             

“Always look for any kind of surface action,” McPherson said. “Bait popping on the surface or diving birds is a good sign kings are present.”

The limit on king mackerel is three fish per person per day, and the minimum size limit is 24 inches fork length. According to the state health department, do not consume mackerel over 39 inches.

Speckled Trout: Inshore Waters

As the residents of Baldwin County sleep soundly in their beds, successful speck anglers maneuver through the quite darkness of our back bays to fish boat docks, bridges and piers – any structure where light shines on the water.

The lights attract baitfish, which in turn draw good numbers of speckled trout. On a good night with an incoming tide, these lights can produce two- dozen keepers with a few measuring 18 inches or more.

Since specks spook easily, use the current to drift within casting distance, then quietly lower the anchor. Once in position, anglers use a variety of baits, lures, and techniques to tempt these scrappy inshore fish into biting. Casting live baitfish or shrimp is always effective, as are soft plastics like D.O.A. shrimp and Berkley Powerbait Tubes. Fly fishermen get in on the action using five-inch streamers.

Rainbow Trout: Sipsey Fork

September is an excellent month for wading in the cool water flowing from the base of the Lewis Smith Dam. Fisheries biologists report the chilly water supports a year-round rainbow trout fishery, which is stocked monthly at a rate of about 3,500 fish.

Anglers catch the greatest number of trout between the dam and the S.R. 69 Bridge. On this stretch of the stream, anglers are restricted to wading. Wading, however, is not possible if Alabama Power is generating hydroelectricity. Fish with caution and be prepared to move quickly to high ground in the event they release water from the dam.

Light tackle is all you need to catch rainbow trout. Spinners, small spoons, salmon eggs, and corn, are excellent baits. Fly-fishing is popular with light rods.

Hybrid Bass: Lake Eufaula

Ken Weathers, retired District IV fisheries supervisor targets hybrid striped bass on Lake Eufaula from late August to early October. Because of a reciprocal agreement with Georgia, there’s a 15 fish limit for hybrids on Eufaula, but it’s not a matter of the lake having a low population. Weathers said when the fishing is hot, anglers can fill their coolers with hybrids weighing between 1 and 6 pounds.

“This is prime time for hybrids,” Weathers said. “During this time, my family and I enjoy fishing for hybrids more than anything else. It’s a blast fishing for them.”

“We troll deep-diving crankbaits on channel ledges and points at creek mouths of Barbour, Cheneyhatchee and Cowikee creeks in 20 to 25 feet of water. Using your sonar, look for the fish to suspend about 15 feet deep. I troll with lures that reach depths of 9 to 12 feet. The best fishing is from late afternoon until dark.”

Crappie: Lake Eufaula

On Eufaula, anglers find crappie remain in a summer pattern that produces good numbers of fish with the occasional slab weighing 2½ pounds. Water temperatures in the upper section of the water column keep these fish at depths of 14 to 30 feet and holding close to vertical cover.

To target deep-water crappie next to standing timber and bridge pilings, cast or shoot 1/16-ounce jigs on ultra-light spinning gear.

The jigs descend at about a foot per second. When you see the line twitch or go slack, set the hook.

According to anglers and biologists, Barbour, Cowikee, White Oak and Wylaunee creeks are best.

Largemouth: Lake Eufaula

With hot days and warm water temperatures continuing into September, anglers wanting heavy stringers target largemouth bass on the main-river channel below the U.S. Highway 82 Bridge. They look for a change in direction or depth on ledges in 6 to 15 feet of water, as the fish hold on these breaks waiting for shad. A Carolina rigged worm is the most effective lure for this late-summer pattern.

For those anglers not trying to win a tournament, schooling bass offers great fun in the back of coves, especially during early morning. The bass will strike nearly every splashing or gurgling bait in your tackle box. At times, it seems like they are competing to kill your lure. Fish the backs Bustahatchee, Little Barbour and Soapstone creeks for these aggressive largemouths.

Flathead Catfish: Jones Bluff

Jones Bluff on the Alabama River produced the current state record flathead in 1986. The giant yellow cat weighed 80 pounds. For anglers who know where to find them, this stretch of the river consistently yields 20- to 40-pound fish. It also has many eating size flatheads.

In September, winning catfish tournament angler Richard Stocks of Valley Grand finds big fish in the river’s deepest holes with a hard bottom, and he catches eating size fish from the snags along the riverbank on the lower part of the lake.

The best time to fish is when Alabama Power is generating electricty.

To access the upper lake, use the ramp off Highway 31 at Coooter’s Pond. For mid-lake, use the ramp at Swift Creek and on the lower lake, there is a ramp north of Edsons.

Channel Catfish: Lake Martin

For numbers of catfish, it is hard to beat fishing for channel cats on Lake Martin’s clear water. On a good day, anglers report catching 30 to 40 fish weighing between 1 ½ to 3 pounds, with a few weighing more than 5 pounds.         

Anglers have the best success drift fishing while using their trolling motors to control speed and direction. This is especially important so you can drift over the same track where you caught fish earlier. If you don’t have GPS, place a buoy markers on the spot.

A couple of productive places on the lake to begin fishing are the flats 15 to 20 feet deep in the coves of Wind Creek and New Hope. It is tempting to fish more than one rod by using rod holders, but you will catch more fish by handholding one rod. It allows you to feel the bite while keeping the bait just off the bottom.

Striped Bass: Lake Martin

Retired striper guide Jim Parramore revealed that his secret for success in September is night fishing. “The time to fish is from sunset to midnight,” he said. “And the best period to fish are the days before a full moon.”

Fishing at night produces school-size stripers weighing 8 to 12 pounds, with the possibility of catching a trophy exceeding 35 pounds. When he was guiding, one of Parramore’s clients caught a 50 pounder while night fishing.

In September, fish between the mouth of Blue Creek and the Kowaliga Bridge. Depending on the thermocline, stripers hold 30 to 60 feet deep. To reach the fish, use downlines baited with lively gizzard shad.

Spotted Bass: Logan Martin

As summer ends, the weather is still hot and fishing can be tough. The shad on Logan Martin have spawned three to six times since March and bass can easily select from the menu of available sizes. Fortunately, stable fishing conditions in September produce predictable behavior for spotted bass weighing up to 3 pounds.

Logan Martin’s three most effective late-summer patterns are main lake points with manmade brush piles, main lake humps and the submerged river channel.

In early morning, work points with either a Zara Spook or fast moving jerk bait. When the bite dies, try the deepwater hump just upstream from the dam or the old river ledge mid-lake. Crankbaits, heavy spinnerbaits and jigs work best for this structure when the water is moving.

Flathead Catfish: Millers Ferry

On Millers Ferry, yellow cats remain in a solid summer pattern that produces good numbers of fish with the occasional big fish exceeding 30 pounds. Although, the small 5 pounders taste best.

Flatheads hold in prime river holes, which are outside bends with a tangle of old snags. The best fishing is after sunset, especially if there is a current.

Anchor upstream from the hole, and fish one bait shallow and the other on the bottom. To satisfy the appetite of old whiskers, live bait is essential, and many anglers prefer bream.

For current fishing information, call or visit the Millers Ferry Marina located off Highway 28, (334) 682-5125. Hours of generation for the lake are available by calling (334) 682-4655.

Flathead Catfish: Warrior River

In September, the tributaries of the Warrior River hold jumbo flatheads weighing 20 to 40 pounds. The big cats move into the feeder creeks in the spring and stay until late fall. Anglers have found that hard-bottom creeks with holes at least 12 feet deep can hold huge catfish.

As you move up the creek, look for logjams next to deep holes on outside bends. These are major daytime resting areas. Fish the shallow flats upstream from these holes from sunset to midnight.

The most effective bait is a live gizzard shad fished on a slip-sinker rig with a 3-foot leader.

Striped Bass: Lake Martin

“Striped bass fishing improves in October as the water cools,” said veteran striper guide Steve Smith (205-365-5226).  “The cooler temperatures allow the stripers to follow shad into the river and creeks. When they migrate to shallower water, I focus on fishing Hillabee and Coley creeks and upriver in the shoals area.”

On some of his best days in October, Smith has caught as many as 28 fish. With the double stocking by the state some years ago, he expects a large population of 20-pound fish in 2018. “When you find them,” he said, “the fish are fairly concentrated and the fishing is good.”

To catch stripers chasing shallow baitfish, Smith deploys planner boards and rigs the bait so that it appears free-swimming about 35 feet behind side planer boards. For bait, he uses gizzard shad and redhorse suckers, which he catches from the Neely Henry tailrace.

Spotted Bass: Smith Lake

“On a good day in October,” revealed winning tournament angler and guide Craig Daniel (256 347-4096) of Cullman, “an angler can catch 50 spotted bass on Smith. The fish will weigh 2 ½ to 3 pounds and will be fat from eating blueback herring.”

To find spots, Daniel looks for herring, as it is the most important factor in finding fish. He says sometimes the herring give their location away when fish are busting them on the surface, but mostly he relies on sonar to search for them at depths of 5 to 12 feet.

“The best lures that time of the year,” revealed Daniel, “are Zara Spooks and buzzbaits.”

Crappies: Lake Eufaula

Crappie enthusiast recognize Eufaula as a lake where they have the potential to catch heavy slabs weighing more than 2 pounds, as well as good numbers of quality fish. Biologists report an abundance of 10-inch crappie.

As waters cool this month, fishing transitions from a summer to a fall pattern. Hungry crappie form schools in pursue of baitfish in the creeks. They often follow creek channels when stalking shad.

To find crappie, use sonar to locate schools of baitfish about halfway back in the creeks, then slowly troll jigs or minnows through the area. Creeks known to hold fish in the fall are: Barbour, No Name, Rood, Wylaunee, and Cowikee’s two forks.