As I slid my vessel into the fertile waters of Weiss Lake, my mind drifted back to 1985 and a time when life was simpler and youthful ignorance was bliss. My first boat was a gift from my father for an honor roll school year that both he and I knew was hard earned, and if you knew me, you would truly know how hard earned it was.
The Bass Pro Shops two-man Bass Hunter had a classic Minn Kota 55 23-lb. 12-volt trolling motor and a battery often borrowed from my pop’s truck. Being a Georgia resident, Brushy Branch was my only port. Pop was not into purchasing an Alabama license, so to say I learned every nook and cranny of Brushy that his old truck battery would take me would be an understatement.
Today, as I launch from the Hog’s Den, I look across the water of this beautiful lake standing on the bow of a Ranger Z series bass boat with an Evinrude 225 horsepower motor and enough electronics to track the International Space Station. My once-prized possession of a Berkley Cherrywood rod with a Zebco 33 has been replaced with a 3-oz. Irod Air rod and a Shimano Metanium reel. My vintage Plano Magnum double-sided 1152 tackle box, packed with Manns and Culprit worms, Cotton Cordell and Bagley hard baits, has been replaced with storage bins packed to the brim with every conceivable fish-catching gadget made today. Oh, how the times have changed.
My objective today is to get back to my youth. To take what the last 30 years have taught me and to fish these nostalgic waters much like I did back then. We will, however, utilize our GPS and our advance mapping cards to reduce the risk of damaging my equipment and to hopefully ensure my safe return to my truck, as Lake Weiss is well known for its shallow, stump-filled flats spanning miles of shoreline off the rivers that make it up. Many an angler has spent the night huddled on the deck of their vessel waiting on daybreak and the possibility of help towing them home from trashing a lower unit on one of the thousands of submerged stumps that fill this lake.
June can be a tricky time to be pursuing bass on Weiss. The bass are in a transitional period, as most, if not all, spawning activity has been completed, and our quarry has plenty of time on its hand to cruise and find its best suitable habitat for the upcoming dog days of summer.
The largemouth bass and its noble cousin, the Coosa River spotted bass, are relatively simple creatures. We often give them credit for way more intelligence than they actually possess. In all honesty, both species have really only a few objectives in life, and what could be expected from a creature with a brain the size of a Tic Tac.
The spawning cycle is probably the most predictable time of year, as far
as location goes. Shallow to mid-depth protected pockets with hard bottoms are natural places that both species prefer to spawn, and these areas are easy to locate even with the simplest of maps.
These places can be exploited in the spring with relative ease. But where and what do the bass do after this spring ritual? This is a very good question and one I will try to provide a little insight about.
After the spawn is complete, both species will then return back to what consumes the lion’s share of their life’s mission. By far, the single most important goal in a bass’s life, other than reproduction, is to eat. Roughly 11 months of the earth’s trip around the sun consists of the pursuit of a meal. It is my opinion that learning the life habits of various forage bases on the lake will directly affect how successful your trip to the lake will be.
Shad, both gizzard and threadfin, are abundant on Weiss, as well as the heavy population of bluegill and sunfish. Crawfish also play a major part of the bass’s forage base and can be found from the upper reaches of the rivers and creeks all the way down to the dam on the main lake. Knowing this information and utilizing it to prepare your arsenal will be beneficial.
I will try to break down my approach to locating and catching these Weiss bass in June by species.
After spawning, the largemouth bass have a few options that they may take as they set up for summer. As we all know, bass don’t have eyelids. Knowing this fact, as well as knowing the general slothfulness of the largemouth bass, docks are a perfect place for them to set up and create a living space for the rest of the year. Providing shade, as well as vertical structure, docks are perfect places for a largemouth to set up and ambush on any unsuspecting prey that may pass by.
Thinking back about those early days, I had no Down Image or Side Scan sonar to quickly identify the most productive docks. Visual clues above the water were the only reconnaissance I had available. Those clues are still there today, and if you slow down and look closely, you too will see them. A small Christmas tree tip protruding above the water a few inches, rod holders mounted on dock rails and street lights hanging just above the water are all clues that you are probably around underwater structure. Pay close attention to the lights, and you will notice a very telling story. Spiders are drawn to the structure in hopes of an easy meal. If the dock light is working, you will quickly know by the abundance of webs with the multitude of insects attached.
My go-to bait as a young man was a Texas-rigged Mann’s Jelly Worm in blackberry firetail. Thanks Paul Elias! It accounted for quite a few fish back then, and I’m certain it still would now. Today, soft plastic flipping baits, as well as shaky heads, are ideal for probing every nook and shady spot on a dock, as well.
Flipping, skipping and pitching are techniques that need to be mastered for affective dock fishing. I have a few go-to baits that have served me well through the years on Weiss. The wacky-rigged Senko in black/blue will catch heads virtually year-round. I flip this bait under every dock, as well as the dock ladder and gangway. Fluorocarbon line, such as the Sunline FX Sniper, will get you a few extra bites when they get finicky. Oftentimes the bass can be triggered into a reaction strike while on the docks.
I have two main ways of generating this bite. First would be using flipping and pitching techniques with a pegged Picasso 1-oz. Tungsten Flipping Weight with a 3/0 Gamakatsu flipping hook with a green-pumpkin Sweet Beaver or similar creature bait. The Yomama, the Fighting Frog or the old-fashioned Brush Hog are also great choices. I always add a glass rattle and dip the tips of my plastic in chartreuse JJ’s Magic Dippin’ Dye.
The second way to generate the reaction bite is the squarebill crankbait. Looking back to my bait of choice for this bite, it was a Cotton Cordell Big O. I wonder just how many bass have been fooled into eating this bait. I still have several boxes of these in my basement, and even though I know they still catch bass just as well as they did back then, I cannot make myself take the chance on losing them. Call me sentimental, but it is what it is!
Today, there’s oodles of options when it comes to these type baits, but I have had great success with the Strike King 1.5 and 2.5. My color selection is really basic. I primarily use shad patterns with the occasional chartreuse/black combination. It is crucial that every conceivable angle be hit while probing each dock. Trying to deflect the crank off of each dock pole will ensure no bass are left behind.
Those Famous Coosa River Spotted Bass
The Coosa River spotted bass is without question, one of my all-time favorite species of black bass to pursue. Its aggressive attitude and downright nasty disposition when hooked make it a formidable opponent. With an insatiable appetite, they seem to be always ready to get it on. Often thought of as only a river fish and a current-oriented bass, Lake Weiss spots will roam the open water of the main lake, pushing schools of baitfish to the surface. Always be on the lookout for those telltale signs that the feast is about to begin. Baitfish balled up tight on the surface, skipping shad in open water, as well as the distant splashing of feeding bass will often lead you to these feisty fish.
These spotted bass school up in early summer and gorge on shad. One of my favorite ways to catch them this month is using a topwater technique. The Zara Spook has been a long-standing king of the walking baits. It works best with monofilament line, and that was a good thing considering my options were very limited in 1985. Also, the Tiny Torpedo was always close at hand. There is a reason these baits can still be found in every tackle shop around. They simply catch fish.
Today, I am partial to several walking-style baits, such as the Lucky Craft Sammy and the Reaction Innovations Vixen. Key on long, sloping points, as well as humps that are adjacent to the main river channel. As a bonus tip, a Norman’s Front Runner can be used in conjunction with walking baits to add the potential for a double.
If conditions are not suitable for main-lake fishing, these spots can also be caught in the rivers. Chunk rock banks and channel swings are ideal for throwing the Picasso Tungsten Football Jig. A plethora of trailers can be utilized, with my primary colors being in the natural tones, such as green pumpkin and watermelon. It should be noted that if you catch one spot, there are 50 others watching her eat.
Blowdowns along the river will hold fish and can be caught using a variety of techniques. The Mann’s Classic spinnerbait with double Indiana blades was the first spinnerbait I ever tied on. It caught them then, and it will still catch them now.
Spotted bass can get finicky at times, so always vary your retrieve until they tell you what they want. Burning, slow-rolling, yo-yoing and a straight retrieve all have their time.
Pitching a shaky head or a weightless fluke can also be used in these tree tops to catch these spots. I have found green pumpkin and watermelon magic to be my most productive worm color when paired with a Picasso Tungsten Shakedown shaky head. Glimmer blue, albino and pearl have been the best fluke colors for me through the years. I use a Gamakatsu 4/0 EWG hook and sometimes add a pegged 1/8-oz. Picasso Tungsten Bullet Weight if the wind gets up or if I want to slow down my retrieve. As always, I use fluorocarbon line when fishing both of these techniques.
If all else fails, you can always pull out the “Fairy Wand” and tie on your choice of a tube jig or a bobber, sinker, hook and minnow and catch a fine mess of crappie for the table. Weiss Lake is known as the “Crappie Capitol of the World” after all.
I hope that these few tips will make your next trip to Weiss more productive and enjoyable. As always, I stress the importance of bass care. I strongly urge the practice of CPR (catch, photo and release).
Editor’s Note: The author said most of the tackle mentioned in this story can be purchased at Nature’s Tackle Box in Hiram or Gable Sporting Goods in Douglasville. You can also Google these products and buy them direct.