When you think of fishing, most people are transported to a Mayberry-esque dreamscape of them and their father or grandfather spending time together in their youth, tranquil, pristine, and altogether enjoyable. However, Alabama is home to the most impressive collection of competitive bass fishing lakes in the country. With $80,000 boats screaming across waterways at 80 mph, anglers competing in weather so cold that the eyelets of the rods freeze over and so hot that you have to deal with dehydration issues, this ain’t Andy and Opie waltzing down an old dirt road.
The first-ever bass fishing tournament was held in Alabama, on Smith Lake, in 1967, and since that time, 12 of 49 Bassmaster Classic events (The Super Bowl of Bass Fishing) have been held in the Yellowhammer State. And the 50th Anniversary will be returning this year.
When the Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) was formed, it was in Montgomery, Alabama, and is currently headquartered in Birmingham. The heart and soul of bass fishing is right here in our state.
A comprehensive synopsis of Alabama’s bass fishing prowess would take volumes, so a quick overview of the main fisheries and river systems will have to suffice.
Tennessee River and Lake Guntersville
The Tennessee River makes up the main fisheries of North Alabama. Starting in Northeast Alabama with Lake Guntersville, this vast river system has produced some of the most impressive 5-bass limits in the nation for generations. Lake Guntersville is continuously ranked in the top 25 lakes in Bassmaster’s Top 100.
Next on the chain is Wheeler Lake, with the river city of Decatur, this place has held multiple Bassmaster Elite events, and the legendary Decatur Flats has produced 20+ bags for generations.
The final stop of the Tennessee River within our state is Pickwick, located in Florence to the Mississippi border, and into Tennessee. Pickwick has jumped onto the scene recently with its ledges revealing large numbers of huge largemouth and smallmouth, difficult to catch before, but with modern graphing technology, and the advent of deepwater spoons and super deep water crankbaits, she’s revealing some of the green and brown monsters for which the Tennessee River is known.
The sandwich between Wheeler and Pickwick is Wilson Lake, which hosts the finest smallmouth fishing in Alabama, having produced the state record, as well as many 7+ pound bronzebacks.
Black Warrior System and Lewis-Smith Lake
As we move South, we encounter the intimidating deep, clear, Lewis-Smith Lake. Known as the “Dead Sea” to anglers for many years, this relatively young lake (backed up in 1960) has long been home to some of the world’s biggest Spotted Bass.
These fish are now known as “Alabama”’ spotted bass, because the ones grown here are so much bigger than everywhere else in the world. Scientists began studying the genetics of the fish and realized they are a different breed than the rest. The only place that surpasses Smith Lake Spotteds in size is California — but that is because California imported the Smith Lake genome.
With the introduction of Blueback Herring into the lake around a decade ago, Smith Lake has leaped into one of the most desired fishing locales in the state. Huge stringers of massive spots and largemouth are found here, sometimes in the spring breaking 25 pounds.
The rest of the Black Warrior system — Bankhead, Lake Tuscaloosa, Holt, Oliver, et al — offer some incredible fishing, but do not have the same appeal as other lakes for a variety of reason: namely lack of adequate boat launches and their remoteness. But if you are looking to get off the grid and go catch huge bass, do not overlook the border river of the University.
Coosa River and Lake Eufala
The rest of the state revolves around two major rivers, the Coosa River, world renown for the “Coosa River Spot” — a spotted bass so mean and so large, that many Bassmaster Classics have been won and lost chasing these creatures.
Lay Lake has hosted the Classic as much as anywhere, Logan Martin in Pell City, Neely Henry in Gadsden, both have hosted major events, Weiss Lake, long known for its crappie fishing, is becoming a hot new bass lake in Center. Mitchell and Jordan, south of Lay on the Coosa chain, are some of the best-spotted bass fishing lakes known, but due to their small size, rarely get big tournaments. However, if you are looking for a place the locals go, they often put into these lakes to chase the big Coosa bass, without the pressure of some of the bigger lakes.
The Georgia border in the far southeast of the state hosts the most famous bass fishery of the 1980s, Lake Eufaula. A place where gators patrol the banks, and where huge largemouth lie. This place is known as “The Big Bass Capitol of the World” and lives up to its name. If you want to fish big water and chase huge bass, there is no better place than Barbour County.
There are several other major lakes and fisheries that we don’t have time to cover extensively:
- Lake Martin in Alexander City has hosted multiple huge bass tournaments
- Demopolis has one of the great fisheries at the convergence of the Tombigbee and Black Warrior.
- The Tennesaw Delta has some tidal waters that also produce big fish routinely.
If you want more information about fishing in Alabama, I would suggest Mike Boulton’s The Ultimate Guide to Alabama Fishing (https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Guide-Alabama-Fishing/dp/1594210942). It is considered an absolute essential to any angler in the state.
And, if you are interested in competitive fishing, I suggest you check out Alabama Bass Nation (albassnation.com) to become involved in a local club. It’s how amateurs qualify to fish the Bassmaster Classic every year. And, as long as Alabama the Beautiful keeps protecting her fisheries, there’s a good chance, you may be fishing a lake outlined here. No matter where you are in the state, the odds are good that you’re only an hour’s drive from world-class rivers and lakes.
27 Days until Football Season
Ed. Note: C’mon, we couldn’t do an all-Alabama countdown and ignore the State’s amazing bass fishing history and all of its angling opportunities. Fortunately, Coach Kyle Morris was kind enough to drop by and give us a scouting report on the fisherman’s paradise of the Yellowhammer State.