September Bass On Lake Eufaula
The bass can be scattered, but Joe Durham Jr. says to start in shallow grass and work to deeper structure for a good day of fishing.
At times, Lake Eufaula bass seem a bit confused in September. You can catch them from shoreline grassbeds, and on the same trip you can catch some bass 30 feet deep on ledges, so it can be confusing to try to figure out a consistent pattern. You will have to try a variety of things to catch them this month.
Lake Eufaula is just south of Columbus on the Chattahoochee River, and this famous reservoir is the self-proclaimed “Bass Capitol of the World.” The catches and tournament results seem to support that claim. The lake’s 45,000 acres of water are rich in nutrients and vast vegetation beds have provided great habitat for bass.
The past couple of years have not been nice to the habitat, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers often seeming to do the worst possible things for the fishery. But there are signs that it is changing, and local businesses hope the fishery will continue to attract fishermen and their money from all over the world.
Joe Durham Jr. grew up in Albany and practices law there now. His dad taught him a love of the outdoors at an early age, taking him to local ponds fishing for “anything that would bite.”
Reading outdoor magazines, including GON, got Joe interested in fishing for bass in big lakes. He got his start on Eufaula in a “big bass” tournament with his dad in 1996, the year he graduated high school.
Joe now fishes almost every tournament on Eufaula. He tied for the win in a BFL there in June with five bass weighing 19-lbs., 14-ozs. He has done well in other big tournaments and spends many hours studying the lake, building brushpiles and experimenting with different lures.
In team tournaments, he often fishes with Roger Beaver and they build brushpiles together, too. Joe tries to fish as many Reel Money and Chewalla Team Trail tournaments as possible.
Joe’s love for the lake led him to try to head up anglers’ concerns and work with the corps. He says they are cooperating, identifying ways to spray for invasive grass while protecting native vegetation like water willow and lily pads. They are also training their contract sprayers on identifying beneficial plants to avoid spraying them. But it will take time to recover from past damage.
“September can be one of the toughest months on Eufaula,” Joe said.
That’s because bass are getting ready for their fall migration, and they are very scattered. The bass move a lot, so they are not holding consistently in one place. And they even move around more on a single structure like a ledge than they have been all summer.
First thing in the morning, Joe will start fishing grassbeds for those shallow, early feeders. He then moves deeper and deeper as the morning progresses, searching structure and cover until he’s fishing 30 feet deep on a typical September day at Eufaula.
For the early bite, a toad and a frog work well, especially early in the month. Later in the month, the bass get a little more active, so Joe said he will have a buzzbait ready. And a swim jig will get bit most of the month.
Although Joe loves a crankbait and always has some ready to fish a variety of depths, he says other baits are usually more productive this time of year. It may be that the bass just don’t want to chase a moving bait, or maybe it is because they have seen so many crankbaits the past few months.
For deeper fishing, Joe will have a Carolina rig, shaky head, football jig and drop shot ready to tempt fish on ledges and points. Sometimes he has to put a plastic bait in a fish’s face and keep it there to make it bite.
Joe showed me the following 10 spots the second week in August. He was getting ready for a tournament that Saturday, so we did not “wear the fish out” like many anglers seem to want to do in practice. When he caught one, we moved on, and we did not fish some of the spots where we saw fish in what looked like a feeding position, saving them for his Saturday tournament.
No. 1: N 31º 49.842 – W 85º 09.777 — The grassbed that runs from the ramp in Cheneyhatchee Creek to the osprey nest is an excellent one this month. It is deeper than most grassbeds along the front edge, which helps make it good, and there is wood mixed in the grass, making it even better. Start at the ramp, and fish to the osprey nest toward the mouth of the creek.
When the lake is full, keep your boat out a long cast from the visible grass. Water willow will grow out to 3 or 4 feet deep, so if you get in close to parallel the grass, you see you may be on top of some fish.
Cast a frog or toad up into the grass and fish it all the way back to the boat. Joe works his baits fast, trying for a reaction bite. Reaction bites usually result in better hook-ups for Joe. He likes a popping frog like the Spro in natural colors.
Also try a Horny Toad type bait and a swim jig. If the lake is not full, get in a little closer and work your bait along the outside edge. Forward-facing sonar helps you keep your bait on the edge.
No. 2: N 31º 50.565 – W 85º 08.824 — Humminbird Point is the upstream point of Barbour Creek, which is the next big creek upstream from Cheneyhatchee. Go to Humminbird Point and you will see a narrow slough running back just a few yards inside the main-lake point. The ditch coming out from this slough is deep, and it and the river channel both offer bass easy highways to the grass on the point.
The top of the ridge is a hard bottom, and bass feed up on it, as well as in the grass on the bank. Stop out in water about 25 feet deep in the ditch, and fish up the ditch, casting a Carolina rig across the point, dragging it from the river side up and over the top of the point and then down the ditch side.
When you get in close enough to the grass inside the point at the ditch, fish your toad, frog and swim jig in the grass around the point, and fish up the river bank to the next point. When you come across any wood mixed in the grass, like blowdowns and logs that have washed in, pitch or flip a jig to it, working all through the wood here and on other grassbeds. The wood can be a key holding spot in the grass, so fish it carefully.
No. 3: N 31º 52.159 – W 85º 07.555 — Going up the river, look for a big island is on the right before you get to the railroad causeway. It is called “Rabbit Island,” and the grassbed on the downstream end is very good. The river channel is not far away, and there is a ditch and drop-off just off the grass, making an easy path for the bass.
Go to the grass on the end of the island on the river side and fish upstream along the grass. Fish a popping frog, toad lake the Zoom Horny Toad in white or blue glimmer or swim jig through the grass. Pay attention to where the bass are set up. If most of your bites are coming back in the grass, make longer casts. If you are near the edge, shorten your casts to concentrate on the edge.
Watch your electronics for the drop that is out from the grass where the bottom goes from a couple of feet down to about 6 feet deep. Work the drop with your Carolina rig, pulling it from the grass out to the drop and down into the small ditch. Here and at other places, try to follow the path the bass use, working deeper as the day progresses.
No. 4: N 31º 52.682 – W 85º 07.971 — Go to the bank on the Alabama side of the river, and watch for a small shed with about seven palm trees in front of it. The grass along the bank up to the small creek at the railroad causeway is a good one to fish this month. It has grass and wood.
Anytime you fish grass like this, watch for anything different. Wood or a change in the type of vegetation is a key place to hit. A patch of lily pads in a water willow grassbed, a clump of reeds that edges a grassbed, a stump in the grass—all are prime targets for a jig.
Joe likes a 3/8-oz. green-pumpkin Picasso Hawg Snatcher jig with a Big Bites Baits Fighting Frog on it. He often dips the tails of the trailer in chartreuse JJ’s magic for added attraction.
No. 5: N 31º 52.825 – W 85º 17.833 — Go up to the railroad trestle and idle straight downstream from the second piling from the Alabama bank. A ridge runs along the river channel here, and it rises a little into a hump that is about 16 feet deep on top. Bass stack up on this hump and feed up and down the ridge.
Stop on the river side in 25 feet of water, and cast across the hump, bringing your bait up one side, across the top and down the other side. Cover water from 16 to 25 feet deep. Joe’s favorite bait is a 1/2-oz. green-pumpkin Picasso Football Jig tipped with a Big Baits Fighting Frog. He said it works better for him than any other jig he has tried.
Also try a Carolina rig, shaky head and drop shot here. Fish all around the ridge and point, trying different angles. Sometimes fish want a bait moving in a certain direction, and angles often make the difference in bites. And current here and other places will make the bite much better.
No. 6: N 31º 53.344 – W 85º 07.737 — The old Highway 82 roadbed runs parallel to the road causeway about 100 yards out from it. Bass use it as a path from the river channel to the grassbeds and docks between the causeways. There are some brushpiles and patches of rubble on it, and some places are higher than others. You have to search for the key spots where bass are holding each day.
Start out at the river channel and idle while watching your electronics for cover and fish. Or just fish it. Stay to one side and cast across the roadbed, bringing your bait up one side, across the top and down the other. Feel for cover on the bottom.
Try your Carolina rig, jig ’n pig, drop shot and shaky head. Joe likes a 1/2-oz. Picasso head with a green-pumpkin or redbug Senko, Trick Worm or finesse worm on it. He drags it along with little shakes to attract bites.
No. 7: N 31º 53.249 – W 85º 06.818 — Go to the bank between the causeways, and fish all the docks and grassbeds. Start near the road causeway, watching for where the old road comes out. It is marked with white PVC poles. Fish hold on the roadbed, as well as on the grass and docks.
Fish your drop shot on the old road and around the grass by rigging a 1/8-oz. sinker about 10 inches below a finesse worm or Senko. Work it in shallow water.
When in deep water, switch to a 5/8-oz. sinker. Sometimes bass are very finicky, and you have to go light with a drop shot. Joe will also go down in line size all the way to 6-lb. test to give the bait better action.
Fish the grass, and work each dock with your jig when you come to one. Some of the docks have posts, and bass will hold on them, and some have brush around them. Probe for any brush around the docks.
No. 8: N 31º 53.784 – W 85º 07.837 — Go to the upstream point of Chewalla Creek, and fish the grassbed there. It has deep water just off it, and it stays shady longer in the morning, giving you more time to fish here. Keep your boat in about 10 feet of water, and cast your baits into the grass. Since it is deeper, you can get in closer and parallel the grass, keeping your bait in the strike zone longer.
Start at the point, and fish into the creek to the first dock on the bank. Here and at other places, a little wind helps, and any current moving will make the bass bite better. Cloudy days will keep them up shallow a little longer, too. Use the weather to your advantage.
No. 9: N 31º 54.817 – W 85º 07.199 — Old Town Creek Park is on a long point coming off the Alabama bank upriver from the causeways. Run up to the park, stopping at the old swimming area near the point. It is a little hard to see if the water is up since grass is growing in it now.
Joe says this grassbed is often overlooked, but it is a good one. Fish your frog, toad and swim jig through the grass early, and work your jig and even your drop shot along the edge and around any wood cover. Joe likes the Picasso swim jig, since it comes through grass without getting hung in it. Fish to the corner where the bottom gets very shallow.
No. 10: N 31º 55.011 W 85º 07.005 — Go around the point that is upstream past the fishing pier, and idle toward the ramp. A rip-rap bank runs from near the pier toward the ramp, and about halfway down the bank a long shallow point comes out straight and there is a ditch running along it. Bass hold and feed out on the end of this point. It is one of the places they gather as they start their fall migration, so it is a good place for you to find them.
Stop out in 18 to 20 feet of water, and fan cast the point with Carolina rig, shaky head, jig and drop shot. There are some rocks, stumps and brush that hold bass here, so probe for it with your baits and concentrate your casts there.
These places had fish on them in August, and they will get better this month. They are typical of the kinds of places Joe catches September bass. Give them a try to see his patterns.
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