May Bass In The Weiss Grass

The weeds at Weiss are behind schedule this year, but according to lake expert Frank Cobb, when they start topping out, expect the bass fishing to blast off.

Kevin Dallmier | May 1, 2005

They say the best laid plans of mice and men (and bass fishermen) often go astray.

Such was the case when Frank Cobb and I decided to get an early taste of Lake Weiss’s famous springtime weedbed bassin’. In the only stroke of good fortune we encountered, after an initial batten’ down the hatches forecast of strong storms and hail, the afternoon of our trip turned out to be partly cloudy with mild temperatures. The only remnant of the weatherman’s doomsday prediction was a strong and gusty wind. Throw in a blown transmission on the way to launch ramp at Rooster’s Fish Camp on Cowan Creek, weeds that were still several weeks away from greening up, and the wind keeping us off some good holes, and you have enough to test the mettle of any two dedicated bass anglers. Despite the challenges, we were able to get on the lake, catch a few fish, and preview what will be some great bass fishing in May.

Frank Cobb has been running the Lake Weiss Team Championship tournament trail for 14 years, so he knows something about Lake Weiss and the fish it can produce. With an average turnout of 120 boats for each of the eight open tournaments he puts on from March through September each year, Frank has seen a lot of brawny largemouths come out of this sprawling 30,200-acre Alabama Power reservoir on the Coosa River in northeast Alabama. Add in that Frank grew up near Lake Weiss, his family once operated a fish camp on the shores of Cowan Creek, and he runs a tournament trail dedicated to nothing but Lake Weiss bass fishing, and you could say the man knows something about bass fishing, Weiss style.

Frank Cobb with a Weiss bass caught off a rip-rap bank in April. In May, the weedbed bass fishing should be in full swing.

“I love Cowan Creek,” Frank said. “I grew up here, and I couldn’t tell you the number of big fish I have caught right here when I was a kid. We used to troll Hot Spots when they first came out. Just throw them out behind the boat and troll. We caught a bunch of big ol’ fish that way back then.

“There are lots of good places on this lake to fish,” Frank continued, “but Cowan Creek is just dynamite in May and June when the weeds are up. There are probably more tournaments won here than anywhere else on the lake.”

Since Cowan Creek’s weeds were just starting to green at the time of our trip, after plotting strategy on the dock we decided to hit some of Frank’s other favorite Cowan Creek holes in addition to giving the newly emerging weedbeds a try.

Heading out from the ramp at Rooster’s Fish Camp, Frank shut down the big motor barely after the boat had got up on plane. As we glided toward the causeway over the Cowan Creek arm on County Road 22, Frank grinned and said, “That causeway a little ways up there is the first place we are going to fish. I shut down here though because just like deer hunting, I like to ease up on them. These rock points by the bridge are always good, and ought to hold some feeding fish today with the wind blowing.”

As we started fishing the first rip-rap point, Frank pointed across the narrow channel with his rod and said, “If I have ever laid eyes on a 10-lb. bass, it was right there. I’ve got one over nine on my wall, so I know what a 10-pounder looks like. He hit a jig right there. Where the rip-rap makes a point by the bridge. I was fishing by myself that day, and my net was laying in the bottom of the boat with a tackle box on top of it. I got him to the boat, but by the time I was able to get the net free, he was gone. The big ones always get away they say, so I guess it is true.”

Frank picks the grassbeds in Cowan Creek as prime vegetation to work in May with a buzzbait or spinnerbait. In April, the grass was just beginning to grow.

On this day though, the bridge only gave up a solid thump on Frank’s spinnerbait, and a fish that barely nudged my jig. Both of us missed our chances. Before moving on to the weeds, Frank suggested we hit one more hole on the causeway.

“Down by that first metal sign along the road on the east side of the bridge,” Frank said, “is a small culvert that comes under the road, but it is deep, you can’t see it. It has given up lots of good fish over the years.”

We headed that way and got the same results — one bump but no takers on a spinnerbait.

As we idled under the bridge headed back into Cowan Creek to some of Frank’s favorite weedbeds, Frank commented, “If I was coming to this lake for the first time and didn’t have time to fish anywhere else, I would just fish right here around these points we just hit. Throw a red-shad Culprit worm, and if you stick with it long enough, you’ll catch some fish. The other bridges near here on Spring Creek and Three-Mile are good, too.”

As we headed up the creek arm, it became progressively narrow and more shallow. Brown weedbeds soon became visible on either bank. Frank hugged the left bank, explaining there was a creek channel on that side, making it one of his favorite weedy shorelines to fish.

“Bass use the weeds for everything in May and June,” Frank said. “They will get back in holes in the weeds and spawn, and of course the shad get up in them too, so there is always plenty to eat.

“Right now, the weeds back in here are just starting to green up, but they aren’t really growing good yet. But, they might hold a few bass already. We’ll see. I like this part of the creek a lot, but you need to be really, really careful running up in here. It is dangerous if you don’t know where you are going. Best idea is to idle back in once it starts to shallow up.”

We fished a stretch of bank heading toward another bridge crossing, this one U.S. Hwy 411 that crosses the very back of Cowan Creek. There were scattered patches of brown weeds all along the bank that we probed with a spinnerbait and stickbait. “In a few more weeks, all of this will be covered in weeds,” Frank commented, “a lot more than these few little brown patches of last year’s weeds we’re seeing. Come here in May and June, and fish a buzzbait or spinnerbait along this stretch, and you can wear them out. The best bite on the buzzbait is going to be early in the morning, but sometimes they will hit it all day. I  like to start out with the buzzbait, and then go to a spinnerbait, which is my all-time favorite lure, but a little later during the day.”

At one spot shortly before the bridge, an indentation in the bank made for a very shallow, small cove. Scattered patches of weeds were visible just under the surface. As Frank’s spinnerbait fluttered past one patch, he reared back on the rod in response to a good thump. Again, the hook missed its target. To emphasize what could have been, the fish left a muddy boil behind for us to see.

“That was a pretty good fish I think,” Frank said. “I’ve had several good hits this afternoon, but they just don’t seem to want to take it all the way. They are missing even with the trailer hook. Must just be swiping at the blades.”

Passing under the small bridge at the very back of the creek arm, Frank pointed out an island in the shallow slough and several other bars and points that will be full of weeds in May.

“Anywhere in here will be good fishing in a few weeks,” Frank suggested. “Around that island, over there where the creek channel comes in, those shallow humps, all will be good.”

We combed these areas with a spinnerbait, and since evening was fast approaching, even tried a buzzbait, but got no takers. At least in this area, there were finally some signs of shad activity, which was something Frank had been sorely missing at all the other areas we had fished. Like most Weiss anglers, he looks for the shad to show him the way to the bass.

After giving the weeds in the back of the creek arm a try, we decided to head back toward more open water near where we started.

“We fished the east bank,” Frank said as we idled along, “because the creek channel is on this side and the wind is blowing in on it. But, the west bank over there has plenty of good weedbeds, too. You really can’t go wrong fishing weeds anywhere in Cowan Creek. They are all liable to hold fish.”

As we headed back toward the causeway, Frank mentioned he wanted to hit one little hole before we found some more weeds. On the south side of the causeway, just to the left of a decorative lighthouse on the shoreline, was a small culvert connecting the main lake to a small pond.

“This pipe is always worth a try, no matter what,” Frank said. “Once we get done with it, we’ll go down the bank and go through that big culvert over there and into the pond.”

The small culvert didn’t produce for us, so we headed toward the big culvert, and along the way we spooked some fish that were laying near the surface just out from the big culvert. From the boil they left, they were respectable fish.

“We should have fished that before we came up on it,” Frank groaned. “I bet those fish were good spotted bass. There is a little point that comes out here in front of this big culvert and it drops off good. Spots like to hang out here.”

The pipe was just big enough to allow Frank’s Ranger boat free passage, and after passing under the road we came into a small pond.

“This place used to be a well-kept secret,” Frank chuckled, “but not anymore.”

Our plans to fish the pond side of the first small culvert were stymied by a boat anchored up on it with some folks crappie fishing who said they weren’t having much better luck than we were. Passing on around them though, we came to a stretch of rip-rap along County Road 22.

“This bank is good,” Frank stated. “You’ve got the rock along the road, a little bit of brush, and a few weeds. That building right up there on the bank was our fish camp years ago. I used to stand up there and look down and see the bass swimming around in this corner here by the road. Me and my Hot Spot did pretty good right here.”

A few minutes later, Frank’s corner paid off again with our first largemouth, a small fish that hit a crankbait. Hoping this was a sign that things were turning on, Frank fished several other areas in the pond, but with no luck. Passing back through the big culvert, we remembered to make a few casts out over deep water where we had spooked the fish on our way in. Frank’s intuition was right, and several nice spotted bass caught in short order were the result. Besides the fish we caught, we both missed several fish, all on stickbaits and crankbaits. Every now and then, a boil would indicate a shad had just met its demise for a spot’s supper, and at one point shad even went frantically skipping across the surface with a nice spot in close pursuit.

With the cool spring darkness about upon us, we finished where we started with a few more casts at the County Road 22 bridge hoping to pick up a few fish we had missed the first time. The day ended like it started though with no hookups.

“I wish it was May,” Frank lamented as we loaded the boat. “If it was May, the weeds would have been up and we would have caught some fish. April can be a tough month on this lake, but May and June make up for it by being fantastic. Just remember the weedbeds I showed you, and come back in a month or so and I promise you will catch fish. Fish a spinnerbait, a buzzbait early or late in the day, or even slow down and fish a worm, and you’ll catch fish — nice fish — from the weedbeds in Cowan Creek.”

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