Holt on Tight: Eufaula Bass are Still Shallow
Steve Holt goes up the river looking for late bedding fish
Steve, using what he called a “no-brainer” spinnerbait, cast to a large grassbed on the lower end of Lake Eufaula. He pulled the spinnerbait through the bed and allowed it to slowly fall off an edge, blades flashing as it disappeared into the depths.
“That is why I do not use a trailer hook,” said Steve. “Without the trailer hook, did you see how it moved through that grass? I may miss a fish now and then, but I get five times more bites. It balances out with a lot more fish instead of staying hung up all the time. The only reason I didn’t get a bite then was because there wasn’t one there!”
Steve Holt of Colquitt has been fishing Lake Eufaula for more than 20 years. He’s an excellent bass fisherman and enjoys fishing tournaments when they come to Eufaula. This year he’s fishing the BFL Bulldog division, and he’s third in points on the co-angler side.
Steve knows April and May are prime times to catch good stringers of bass as they move in and out of the shallows during their bedding process. Steve admitted to me the only thing he does better than fishing is talking, but the day we fished on Lake Eufaula he backed his talk up as he patterned the bass correctly and loaded the boat with fish after fish.
“We are now fishing the early stages of bedding on the south end of Lake Eufaula,” Steve said in late March. “During the later stages you will find the bass a tad deeper and farther north in the lake. Bedding will occur to some extent everywhere of course, but normally the fish will start at the south end of this lake and finish on the north end. The river will be the last place the fish bed. Water temperature and the time of year play big parts in getting the bass to move, but what I think may trigger bass movements more than anything is daylight. I may be the only one to believe this, but look around at how daylight effects so many other aspects of nature.”
We were fishing a cove the locals call “Shag Nasty,” which is the first slough north of Pataula Creek. As we pitched our baits toward the bank into coffee weeds and watermelon grass, Steve explained why the cove is known for such good bass fishing.
“There are not many coves in this area, so the fish are more concentrated. The farther south you go there are more coves, so the fish are scattered,” said Steve. “Do you see the sand on this bank? The sand is also pulling the fish into this cove. That is one of the things that makes this cove so good year after year.”
Just off the edge of the grass, Steve caught the first fish of the day, a large female, on a Sworming Hornet spinnerbait. After fishing down the north bank, Steve decided to fish the bank again, this time throwing a watermelon/red lizard on a split-shot rig. The split-shot rig is simply a split-shot weight placed on the line above the lizard or worm allowing the bait to suspend off the bottom or above the grass.
“I like to use this split-shot rig during real tough conditions like on the third day of a tournament when the fish have been under a lot of pressure,” said Steve. “Everyone fishing has been throwing spinnerbaits, and at the end of a three-day tournament the fish can tell you the make and model of most of the spinnerbaits. You can use this split-shot rig and catch fish other fishermen could not catch. I usually fish with the shot about 9 to 10 inches above the lizard, but it is flexible, and you can adjust the distance if needed. This will usually catch fish when the fish are slow.”
Steve got quiet. He intently watched his line.
“Get ready, I’ve got one on,” said Steve.
He set the hook, and another large bass was pulled into the boat.
“He was just holding my lizard, then I noticed my line swimming off away from me,” said Steve.
“You can fish over fish with that spinnerbait, but he was weak to this lizard.”
Steve unhooked the bass, and we placed it in the livewell to be weighed later. We were curious how much our best five of the day would weigh.
“Normally when I’m up here fishing Lake Eufaula, I hunt the shad, but the shad are not that important during this time of year,” said Steve. “Bedding is what the bass are doing right now, and that’s what’s on their minds. The largest number of fish are now on the bank. If they’re not on the bank, they are holding at the first deep drop-off. This will continue through May as the fish rotate through to bed. After they bed, they will then go back to the first drop off, then slowly start to migrate to their summer staging areas.”
Steve alternated between the chartreuse/white spinnerbait and the split-shot-rigged lizard. Casting about 2 feet from the edge of the grass, Steve groaned as he missed a fish that hit at his spinnerbait.
“Threw in close to him and he almost jerked my rod out of my hands,” said Steve.
Steve had barely finished talking about the fish he missed when he set the hook and pulled in another fish. This fish was a small bass that Steve quickly unhooked and released.
I asked Steve, “If you were fishing this cove today and not catching any fish, what adjustments would you make?”
“I would not make any adjustments, I would change locations,” answered Steve. “I know what pattern the fish are on, and it is just a matter of finding the fish. We’re fishing behind a major tournament, and this cove was full of boats three days ago. This cove has been fished hard. I would try to find a place that hasn’t been fished as hard and has had less pressure. The good thing about today is the wind has been blowing 20 to 25 mph, and it has kept the locals out. Normally there would be two or three boats in this cove. Wind is your friend in a lot of ways. The fish bite better, and it keeps people off of the lake.”
Steve pulled back on his rod, setting the hook into another good fish. This time he landed a nice 4-pounder that had the lizard in its mouth. We had fished this area before with spinnerbaits. The hefty fish was just another example of how you can catch fish by going back over used water with a lizard.
Steve told me earlier that if you ever get someone fishing out of their tacklebox, you had him beat. Well, he had me beat because I broke down and finally asked him for one of those split shots.
“I have several other places to fish, but as long as we are catching fish and good quality fish, there is no need to move,” said Steve. “If I am fishing a ledge and getting bites, I’ll anchor down most of the time.
“Once I was fishing a tournament at West Point, and at weigh-in a fellow came up to me and said, ‘Man I thought I fished slow, but you didn’t move all day.’ I laughed and told him I had anchored.”
I felt a sharp hit on my line. I pulled up and set the hook. Changing to Steve’s split shot paid off nicely for me as I pulled in a nice bass weighing more than 4 pounds.
A few minutes later Steve called my attention to his line moving through the water.
“Look at him run, there he is!” said Steve, as he set the hook hard.
I watched as a large bass broke the surface of the water fighting to throw the bait from its mouth.
“A bedding fish is a strong fish,” said Steve. “I feel they are the strongest while on the bed, more so than any other time.”
We were having a great day. As we fished the grass, we continued to catch good fish in water less than 3 1/2 feet deep.
I asked Steve about other colors and what he thought would be effective during the bedding time on Lake Eufaula.
“I am not a big fan of colors,” answered Steve. “I’m throwing something a lot of people do not throw, and that is the watermelon/red. They are beginning to fish it, but it is the presentation that matters the most. Fishing slow is a whole lot more important than the color. You cannot fish a spinnerbait too slow. If you think you are fishing too slow, then slow it down some more. I can not emphasize that enough.
“I like using a Fat Albert on the spinnerbait; it gives it a lot of lift.”
This “lift” allows him to fish his spinnerbait slow by providing buoyancy.
As we moved to another cove, just above the East Bank Recreational Area, Steve noted two fishermen fishing just off the east bank.
“We have only seen two bass boats on the lake today because the wind has been so bad,” said Steve. “Most people will not fish on a day like this, in 20-plus-mph winds. That is one thing about tournament fishing; you must learn to fish all conditions. A lot of people will not fish if the water is too high or too low, the water is muddy or wind is too bad. You end up eliminating a lot of fishing.
“The two men back there fishing off of the bank are fishing the elements. In other words, they are letting the weather and the wind determine where they fish. They are up against the bank out of the wind, which is more comfortable. The place they are fishing will hold fish, but it is the wrong time of year. They may catch a few, but that is not where the majority of the fish are located now. We are fishing a pattern. We know what the fish are doing. All we need to do is apply that knowledge and find the fish. I always try to eliminate the bad odds. If I do it right, I will catch fish. If I do it wrong, it will not matter what bait is used.”
As we continued to talk, we fished around a small point where Steve caught a 6-pounder the day before. Hoping “Big Mama” was still in the area, we slowed down and worked the bank carefully.
I had a hit and my line started moving to my left. Knowing the fish just had to be the “Big Mama,” I set the hook hard and in one jerk nearly pulled the small bass into the boat. As I released the fish, Steve was laughing.
“I told you you’ll get your arm broke around here,” he said.
Having my arm broke by a good fish is one thing; however, breaking my arm myself is another, I thought, as we continued to fish.
“I also like a ChatterBait,” said Steve. “The fish will hit it twice as hard as they hit a spinnerbait, and you will have a tendency to catch bigger fish. We’re doing so well now with what we’re using that there is no need to change.”
The last place we decided to try was a small cove just above the George Bagby State Park Marina. The cove, typical of the others we fished that day, was around 3 feet deep and had various grasses growing off the bank. A friend of Steve’s had tipped us off that he had caught several good fish in the cove earlier that morning. We worked the east side of the cove and managed to catch a few more fish using the same techniques. These last fish brought our morning total to 16 bass caught.
Steve, being familiar with the marina, wanted to stop and weigh the fish on our way out. We picked out our top five fish and with the help of park volunteers, Gene Sanders of Atlanta and Tom Fowler of Jacksonville, Fla., we weighed the fish on the park’s digital scales. Our top stringer weighed 21.49 pounds. Our big fish came in at 5.15 pounds, followed by a 4.99 and 4.50. It was a good day in anybody’s book. Steve had nailed the pattern.
“I haven’t fished this place in a while, but I knew the fish were here,” said Steve. “Most people will always ask you, ‘Where are you catching fish?’ This is the wrong question. What they need to be asking is, ‘How are you catching fish?’”
On this fishing trip, Steve provided the answers. During the end of April and in early May, fish coves on the lower end of the lake. Find shallow water with good grass, and work it slow using a spinnerbait, lizard or worm. During the end of April and early May, start by fishing on the lower end of the lake in the coves. Remember, the more isolated the cove the more concentrated the fish will be. Then through mid-May toward the end of the month look for bedded bass on the north end of the lake. Bedding bass will be moving in and out of the coves.
The next several weeks will be a great time to catch some bedding bass on Lake Eufaula.
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