Eufaula March Bass In The Trees

When Lake Eufaula bass move up in March, Wilber Ramos goes looking for them in the trees.

Brad Bailey | April 26, 2006

Wilbur Ramos pitches a Baby Brush Hog into a tangle of branches. When the bass move up in March, they often hold, and spawn in the wood structure.

Our second bass of the day, a bass that would top two pounds, hit Wilbur’s Trick Worm as the worm slid through an open area in the grass. The fat bass, as dark green as a farm-pond fish, splashed across a salad of green weeds covering the water and into the net.

“I love Eufaula in March,” said Wilbur. “The fish are just starting to get real active.”

The bass had hit a watermelon/blue flake worm, but Wilbur decided to switch to a junebug Trick Worm, and he cast it back to the same area.

“Here you go,” he said, as the line jumped. He quickly reeled up the slack and set the hook on another Eufaula keeper.

Two casts, two bass.

Wilbur Ramos and I started fishing Eufaula at daylight February 16 on a flat located between a creek run and an extensive stand of flooded cypress trees. We had put in at Thomas Mill Creek park on the Alabama side and put on rain gear to make the run down the lake, rain spattering off Wilbur’s Ranger. Just above the dam, we crossed the lake to an area south of Sandy Creek. Wilbur was looking for bass that were beginning to move up preparing for the spawn, and to find the best fishing, he was watching his temperature gauge.

Wilbur, who lives in Fortson, began bass fishing as a kid catching big bass on Lake Okeechobee in Florida. These days, he starts his fishing season on Lake Seminole in January and February to take advantage of the early season for staging pre-spawn and spawning bass. Two weeks before our trip, Wilbur and his bass-tournament fishing partner Kelly Hewett of Marianna, Fla., won the Tri-State bass tournament on Lake Seminole with five bass that weighed 18.6 pounds. The key to that win was finding active bass in spring water that was warmer than the surrounding lake.
By late February, Wilbur begins fishing Eufaula, extending the amount of time he can fish for staging and spawning bass, and early in the season he is looking for slightly warmer water.

“Two degrees can make a lot of difference,” he said.

The water temperature on the flat was 55.7 degrees. On our way into the trees, we worked the edge of the flat with spinnerbaits and picked up one odd bass. The fish looked like it had a 5-lb. head attached a 2-lb. body. We averaged the weight of what was apparently an ancient largemouth to about 3 1/2 pounds.

“They are starting to move up,” said Wilbur. “They follow the creek channel in from the main lake, then move up on the flat before they go into the shallows to spawn.”

After we had fished the edge of the trees, Wilbur nosed his bass boat into the flooded cypress trees, squeezing between the trees and scraping overhanging branches. The south-facing water, sheltered from the wind, was warmer. The temperature gauge read 57.1 degrees.

“All the bass don’t spawn at the same time on Eufaula,” he said. “I think they get started earlier on the south end of the lake, and even a little bit sooner if you can find a protected pocket with warmer water. “The bass ought to be in here,” he said, as he put down the spinnerbait and picked up a worm rod.

“A lot of people rip a spinnerbait through here,” he said. “What I like is a subtle, quiet approach that looks more natural.”

Along that line, one of Wilbur’s prime baits back in the trees is a Zoom Trick Worm on a split-shot rig, with one slight variation. He fishes the worm on a 2/0 wide-gap hook, but instead of using a split-shot weight, he uses a 1/32-oz. Water Gremlin. The tiny, bullet-shaped weight, pinched on the line just ahead of the worm, makes the worm sink slowly, and its cone-shape allows it to come through grass without bringing back a sample of weeds on every cast.

Wilbur with a solid keeper from Lake Eufaula.

Wilbur fishes the worm just like you might fish a Super Fluke, moving it slowly, letting it rise and fall as he twitches it along. The strikes almost always comes on the fall.

“Watermelon/blue flake and kudzu are good colors,” he said. “And junebug is always on standby.”

He fishes the worm on a baitcaster spooled with 10-lb. fluoro-carbon line made by P-line.

Wilbur watches for pockets and sand patches in the grass and for any ripple that might indicate a bass just under the surface. The water, about two feet deep, was already becoming clogged with grass. Wilbur often uses a push-pole for access when his 36-lb.- thrust trolling motor won’t move the boat in all the greenery.

Wilbur caught three more bass back in the trees by casting and pitching a Trick Worm to openings, sandy spots and to the base of trees. I picked up one more bass on a chartreuse, willow-leaf spinnerbait on the way out at the edge of the flat.

“This is just the first wave of bass,” he said. “By the first of March, there will be bass beds all back in the trees.”

When the bass bed back in the grass and trees, you can bet Wilbur will have a floating Rapala tied on. “I like a Rapala because it is subtle,” he said. “If you use a chugger or a buzzbait in this shallow water you are going to spook the bass. I just cast a Rapala into the openings and twitch it very lightly. It is a slow bait to use, but it’s very effective. The bass don’t usually blow up on it, they just suck it under like a bream would.”

As the spawn kicks in, trees become Wilbur’s prime pitching targets. After noon on our trip, we fished trees on the side of a hump between two goose-infested islands out from Sandy Creek. Wilbur began pitching a Baby Brush Hog to submerged trees.

“The bass will lay right up against the trunk of a tree,” he said. “You want to get your bait right to the root ball.”

Pinpoint accurate pitching — an underhanded cast that propels the bait low to the water underneath overhanging limbs — is a huge advantage.
Wilbur dropped the green-pumpkin-with-green-metalflake-colored lizard imitation right into a tangle of limbs at the base of a clump of willows, then set the hook on another keeper bass — the seventh of the day. He fishes the lizard imitation with a 1/4-oz. weight to get it down through the limbs. “You can’t be afraid of fishing in the bushes and roots,” he says. “That’s where the bass are.”

The 1/4-oz. weight is also an aid when fishing for bedding fish.

“The weight keeps the bait in the bed,” he said. “Then you just twitch the line to make the legs and tail vibrate like the lizard is chomping down on the eggs. A lot of people cast into a bed, pull the lizard out and wonder why the bass doesn’t chase it. Why should they? It’s out of the bed. If you work it in the bed they’ll get it.”

Whether he is fishing grass-choked stands of cypress or clumps of trees on the bank, Wilbur keeps track of where he sees fish (and Polarized glasses are a big asset). If he spooks a fish off a bed, he will often return quietly later in the day to make a long cast to the same spot.

“If you can remember where they are, and make a good cast without the bass knowing you are there, your chances of catching the bass on the first cast are a lot better.”

By the first week of March, the front-end of the spawn will be under way at Eufaula. Just tie on a Trick Worm, a Rapala and a plastic lizard and you should have a ball pulling fat bass out from the roots of trees — just look for water that’s a little bit warmer.

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