Coosa River White Bass Run

According to our fishing trip and to electro-shocking results by the WRD Fisheries Section, the white-bass run on the Coosa is late this year — and was just getting cranked up last week.

Brad Bailey | April 2, 2002

At long last, the white-bass run is on at the Coosa River. It was late this year.

The Coosa River is where the WRD Fisheries Section collects white bass for the state’s hybrid bass stocking program. On Friday, March 8, Fisheries biologists were on the river using electro-shocking gear and found no white bass. But by Friday, March 15 a few white bass had shown up around the Highway 100bridge, about halfway between Rome  and the Alabama line on the Coosa. Significantly more white bass showed up in the same area by Monday, March 18 (see WRD Fisheries Coosa Fishing Report on page 66.) The annual spring run of fish up the Coosa is on. Finally.

On March 18, I was on the Coosa River with two of the best river anglers around, Bobby Lambert and Berman Bennett. The men are cousins, both are retired, both live in the immediate area, and both are fishing fanatics. This time of year, when the fish are biting, Bobby and Berman are on the Coosa daily.

We put in at noon at the Mayo Lock & Dam, a Floyd County park located a few miles south of Rome, and motored straight across the river to anchor up in a backwater just out of the main current. Bobby and Berman had a dozen or so rods stacked in the boat and a thousand or so jigs of every description.

Bobby and Berman fish tandem-jig rigs in the Coosa, to both increase the weight to keep the jigs down, and to double their chances of catching a fish.

“When the fish are in here, you will get double hookups all the time,” said Berman.

Berman Bennett, of Lindale, with a string of some of the white bass, yellow bass and crappie we caught from the Coosa River on March 18, 2002.

We began to cast into the edge of the current and pulled our jigs across a ledge into the slack water. Almost immediately, Berman caught a small yellow bass. And then another, and another. Bobby and I caught nothing. Before long, Berman had spotted us 10 fish to none.

“It happens that way sometimes,” said Bobby. “The angle your jig comes across the ledge makes a difference. Berman’s in the front of the boat and he has the right angle.”

Bobby was also keeping a sharp eye on what color jig Berman was catching fish on. Color counts, too, he said. Most of Berman’s fish were hitting a metal-flake green tube jig with a chartreuse tail, and soon Bobby had tied on the same jig and was also catching fish.

Jig speed also counts. Both Berman and Bobby were retrieving their jigs more slowly than me. They were getting hit, and I was not.

The retrieve speed can also make a difference in what you catch. “Slow and deep and you are more likely to catch crappie,” said Bobby. “For white bass you use a faster retrieve.”

Location is the next key to catching fish on the Coosa. The best spots are places where something breaks the flow of the current, giving the fish a place to hold with less effort. Blowdowns, creek mouths and sandbars all provide eddies for the fish to lay in.

Bobby’s rods are strung with 6-lb. line. “You could probably get away with 8-lb. line when the water is dingy,” he said. “And the heavier line helps you straighten hooks and pull jigs out of the brush when you get hung up.”

Bobby Lambert holds a white bass on the left and a yellow bass on the right. The fish are similar, but the yellow bass run smaller and have a definite yellow cast to their bellies. For pint-sized linesides, the yellow bass fight well, especially on ultra-light tackle.

You can’t get too attached to your jigs when fishing in the Coosa. We lost 20 or more jigs in an afternoon. The loss was negligible compared to the thousands (literally) of jigs these two guys have.

The hot jig on the river the day we fished was the metal-flake green tube jig with a chartreuse tail, but several combinations worked. One of their favorites is a Baby Assassin grub in pearl with a light blue back.

Metal-flake blue tube jigs with a white tail have been consistent producers, although that combo didn’t catch fish the day we were fishing.

Usually when the water is relatively clear, light colors like pearl work best. When the water is dingy, darker combinations work better. Berman and Bobby said that an orange tube jig with a chartreuse tail is a hot pick in dingy or muddy water.

Bobby is always experimenting with colors.

“I like to try different colors,” he said. “You might find something they like better than what you have tied on.”

Minnows can be effective on the Coosa, too, but you have to be able to keep the minnows down in the river current. At the end of the line is a 1/2-oz. or heavier bell sinker. A foot above the weight a 6-inch dropper line with a minnow hook is tied in, and often a second dropper line and hook is tied in two feet farther up the line. With the tightline minnow rig, you can expect to see your catch of both catfish and stripers increase.

Berman often fishes a single jig under a cork. “I like to see that cork pulled under water,” he said. He casts the cork into slack water and then pops the bobber a few inches at a time to make the jig dance.

Bobby and Berman have been fishing together nearly 50 years, and they have a name for every hole in the river. We motored downstream to a place they called the “Dock Hole.” It’s maybe 300 yards downstream from the ramp at the Lock, and it’s the first place that cows can get down to the river. There is no dock there, although there may have been in the past.

We made 15 or 20 casts to the bank without a hit and moved on.

“If the fish are there, they will hit pretty quick,” said Bobby.

We tried several places downriver but still in sight of the Lock but we had no luck. The fish that the WRD Fisheries personnel were catching that same afternoon near the Hwy 100 bridge had evidently not made it to the Lock area in big numbers. In the late afternoon, we moved back to the Lock and began catching yellow bass again.

Jigs that catch fish: Some of Bobby and Berman’s favorites on the Coosa are (top to bottom) pearl Baby Assassins (Top two), green metal-flake/chartreuse, black/chartreuse and white tube jigs on 1/16-oz. lead-heads.

Part of the attraction to fishing the Coosa is the variety of fish. During an afternoon, we caught a total of 51 fish, including six different species. We caught 27 yellow bass, eight white bass, eight striped bass, seven crappie, one bream and one buffalo.

The stripers we caught were all small, less than a pound, but there are some big ones that come up from Lake Weiss on their spawning run in April. On March 13, another regular Coosa River angler that Bobby and Berman know as Capt. Dave caught a 26 1/2-lb. striper from in front of the Lock.

The Lock is legendary for producing lots of fish, which means that it is also popular, and on a sunny Saturday during the spring, crowded.

“On Saturdays in April, the parking lot will be full, and you just about have to take a number to fish the best holes,” said Bobby.

At press time, on March 22 the fishing had picked up on the Coosa according to Scott at the Lock & Dam bait shop. The white bass that both WRD Fisheries and Bobby and Berman and I caught were all small, and likely males. Generally, the male white bass precede the bigger females, but by the time you read this, more and bigger white bass, and crappie, should have arrived at the Lock and all along the river.

The run will continue throughout April, and you can still catch white bass and crappie in the river and sloughs off the river all summer long.

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