Jaci Skipper cast her Lew’s baitcaster reel loaded with an Ultra Vibe Speed Worm into a stiff 10-15 mph wind at Lake Eufaula. The worm zipped out as though it was being cast by a seasoned fishing pro. But Jaci is only 17 years old and a student at Rehobeth High School in Dothan, Ala. where she is a member of the Rehobeth Bass Fishing Club. She says schools have football, baseball and a host of other sports, so why not bass fishing? She is also a leader in the snare drum section for the marching band. After high school, she plans to begin schooling to become a nurse, but she plans to continue tournament fishing whenever possible.
We were fishing Lake Eufaula on Oct. 5 to determine what the bass might be doing this fall, so we could give GON readers some advice that will put some bass in their boats. We were successful, so stay tuned.
Jaci said the basic November fishing pattern for Eufaula is to fish around the hydrilla in 9 to 11 feet of water with a lightly weighted Texas-rigged worm. She will also catch fish casting a topwater Big Bites Baits Fighting Frog or a white Zara Spook into the pockets of open water around the hydrilla. The bass will remain shallow because baitfish will be shallow until the area gets a few hard freezes in late November or early December. Once that water cool down happens, the bass will move deeper to main-lake points.
Jaci and her sister Laney have learned bass fishing from an excellent tournament angler, their father John Skipper. John won the Stren Bass Championship in 2009 and picked up the grand prize, a 19-foot Ranger Comanche boat that we were fishing out of that day. Although John enjoys tournament fishing, his busy work schedule at the Dothan Medical Center as a biomedical technician and his family obligations led him on a different path when it came to his enjoyment for bass fishing.
After spending time on the water with his daughters, John realized that many more kids would enjoy fishing, too, but many never get the chance. He approached the principal of Rehobeth High School, Bobby Boyd, about the possibility of starting a bass fishing club, and the principal was very supportive, as was Jimmy Aplin, who agreed to be the club’s student advisor.
Before long, they had 18 students from the 7th grade up in the club. Present members are Tyler Meggs, Jaci Skipper, Joshua Yance, Keaton Ready, Reed Whitehurst, Jacob Locke, Drew Cumbie, Laney Skipper, Taylor Owens, Brandon Quattlebaum, Korin Lolley, Shelby Prather, Rob Draper, Griffin Scarborough, Jackson Adkins, Whit Woods, Drew Woods and Payton Herring. The group is closely knit, and they have dedicated this year’s fishing season to Jimmy Meggs, a club volunteer and also the dad of team member Tyler Meggs, who recently passed away.
We started fishing in Hardridge Creek on the Alabama side of the lake. The wind was blowing at 10-15 mph, and the sky was threatening with a damp mist, not the best day to be on the water. But we stayed positive as Jaci said any day on the water fishing is a great day.
One major floating structure you have to deal with on Eufaula is hydrilla. It’s widespread and seems to be growing in coverage of the lake, especially in the coves or where the water is less than 10 feet deep. It’s on the surface, sometimes 2 to 3 feet below the surface, and at places it’s like a shear lateral wall that the fish move around in like a puzzle, said John. On the positive side, it’s an effective cover for all types of fish, is scarce in deeper water, and we did not have any problems fishing around it.
As we started fishing, John was chunking a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog across the hydrilla and into the open pockets, and he got several short strikes. He uses medium-heavy Impulse rods and Lew’s reels loaded with 65-lb. braid for his floating frog fishing. The braid allows for quick solid hook-ups.
Jaci was throwing a 6-inch Ultra Vibe Speed Worm in blue-flake color rigged on a 3/0 Gamakatsu hook with a 1/4-oz. tungsten weight. She also likes medium-heavy action Impulse rods matched with Lew’s reels. Her rod was loaded with 15-lb. Berkley green-moss line. Other good fall colors for worms are watermelon, pumpkin seed, or if the water is stained, go with junebug. Jaci said she has the best luck throwing the worm along the edges of the hydrilla and letting it drop into the deeper water.
We found bass within 50 yards of the north bank along Hardridge Creek and worked up the bank along the edge of the hydrilla in open water. Jaci said that pattern should be good until late November when cold temperatures move the fish to deeper, main-lake structure. We put several 2-pounders in the boat, but we were looking for bigger bass and decided to move.
Next, we tried the main-lake points about a half mile north of the dam on the Georgia side. Jaci and John look for 9 to 11 feet of water on their Humminbird 997 depthfinder as the main comfort zone for bass in the fall, and we worked worms into those areas as we floated along but only picked up a few small bass.
If you’re in the dam area, John Kilpatrick with DNR said efforts have been recently made to brush up the fish attractor sites near the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office. Large cedar trees in the 25- to 30-foot size have been dumped off of barges into the lake at the buoys, so bass should be moving in now.
Worms and crankbaits should produce largemouth and spotted bass at the three fish attractor sites shown on the Atlantic Lake Map on the Georgia side. The plan is to rebrush all the attractor sites in the near future.
Next, we moved to the south side of Gopher Island, which is near the mouth of Pataula Creek. Starting at the west end of the island, hydrilla hugs the shoreline and runs out about 50 yards and extends down the entire island to some cypress trees. We started working the edge of the hydrilla with worms, chrome Rat-L-Traps and white Zara Spooks.
Jaci picked up a few bites on the worm, but the Zara Spook was getting hammered by both largemouth and trophy-sized stripers. Jaci and John said the key to the Zara Spook is the very short, rhythmic, side-to-side jerking action. It requires a little work to use the lure, but it pulled in our two biggest fish of the day, a 5-lb., 12-oz. largemouth and a 10-lb., 2-oz. striper. These big fish were caught in the middle of the day, so fall fishing can include topwater action any time of day.
There is a 100-acre area of floating hydrilla south of Gopher Island with many pockets of open water mixed in. The shallow and productive water runs all the way down to Sandy Branch Park. Jaci said to try the area with a Zara Spook or your favorite shallow-running crankbait in shad or chrome color. Jaci and John also recommend some other locations on the lake for fall bassing.
1) The cove at the George Bagby State Park boat ramp has produced many big bass, so don’t just zip out of the area. Give it a try.
2) Near the north side of Gopher Island, at the mouth of Pataula Creek, try the submerged old Hwy 39 bridge that is about 12 feet below the surface. About 100 feet long, the concrete supports and road top are a magnet for bass. Try worms on the bridge top or deep-diving crankbaits just off the edge of the bridge. The map also shows a submerged pond and dam at the mouth of Pataula Creek, so give it a try.
3) Going up White Oak Creek, try the first cove to the south before you get to the bridge. John caught two 7-lb. bass in this cove this past spring.
4) On Cheneyhatchee Creek, the shallow water drop-offs just above the Hwy 431 bridge can be productive. Likewise, try Barbour Creek, just above the bridge. On Town Creek, fish the main-lake point where the creek splits, just above Old Creek Town Park.
A DNR survey revealed the bass in Eufaula are in very good shape, said John Kilpatrick. The bass have recovered nicely from a poor stretch in 2011. Recent electrofishing studies show there is no disease in the bass population, and the average bass is around 13 to 14 inches.
According to the B.A.S.S. Federation, in 2014 the average bass in a Eufaula tournament weighed 2.4 pounds. Kilpatrick said there are not as many 10-lb-plus largemouth in Eufaula like there were 20 years ago, but it is loaded with bass in the 4- to 6-lb. range. He encourages anglers to remove a few largemouth (14-inch minimum) if desired for the pan. There is no size limit on spotted bass.
Brent Mortimer, a compliance coordinator with the corps, said they stocked 12,000 grass carp in April to help contain the hydrilla, and they treated some heavy traffic areas with herbicides. Homeowners can also request permits to treat around their docks, and 125 have been approved this year.
Some corps parks may be closed for the winter, but call (229) 768-2516 to inquire before you go. For excellent lodge rooms, camping, boat ramp and restaurant facilities, Park Manager Jimmy Smith says give Bagby Georgia State Park a try at (229) 768-2571.
Anglers desiring more info about starting a youth High School bass fishing club can contact John at email@example.com or check out www.highschoolfishing.org.
To go to the Rehobeth Bass Fishing Club’s Facebook page, do a search for RHS Bass Boosters. Support them by giving them a “Like.”