Shallow Bass All The Time On Weiss
Catch heavy sacks from bank cover year-round.
Joe DiPietro | August 25, 2010
Regardless of the season, long-time pro Terry Tucker, of Gadsden, Ala., likes to fish shallow for big bass on Weiss Lake. On a recent trip, in blistering triple-digit temperatures, he boated what would have amounted to a near 20-lb. tournament sack while flipping a variety of shallow cover.
If a sack like that is possible from the shallows when water temperatures are in the 90s, you can bet this pattern will hold up in September.
There may be no other angler who knows the art of flipping for Weiss bass better than Terry. Although he has won, or placed among the top-five boaters, in countless FLW, BFL, B.A.S.S. and other tournament series on lakes all over the country, he said he considers Weiss Lake his home.
“I was 8 years old when they made this lake, and I’ve been fishing it ever since,” said Terry, now a young 53 years old. “I really feel confident and at home on this lake. It has been a good lake to me over the years. I don’t ever use any electronics, because I know it like the back of my hand.”
Terry’s favorite way to target Coosa spots and largemouths on Weiss is to flip 1/2- to 3/8-oz. jigs in shallow water. He said he occasionally steps up to 5/8-oz. jigs when necessary, which isn’t very often.
“I’m an old-school bass fisherman,” Terry said. “I’m a shallow-water fisherman — no matter what — and bass are a shallow-water fish.”
On the day Terry and I fished Weiss Lake, the mercury rose into the triple digits by about 10 a.m. Despite the blistering heat, combined with water temperatures in the low 90s, it didn’t slow Terry down a bit. Right out of the gate he was catching good fish.
“It really doesn’t matter how hot it is, the bass are still going to be in shallow water,” Terry said. “I’m looking for those big, resident fish, and they don’t move around much. A lot of folks don’t realize there’s plenty of oxygen in the shallow water when it’s hot. You’ve got to remember all the boat wake and other waves hitting the bank oxygenates the water. Bass stay in shallow water all year long.”
Terry prefers a flipping jig with a Prowler Pro Craw trailer for penetrating bank cover.
“I mainly fish two jigs, one that imitates crayfish and one that imitates bream, because that’s a bass’ two main food sources,” Terry said. “That’s why I stick to basic colors like greens, browns, oranges and blacks. Now, we’ve got a good shad population, and so sometimes I’ll fish white, too.”
Next to flipping jigs, Terry said he relies on swim jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits as his other go-to baits on Weiss Lake.
“I think anyone who comes here and uses jigs, crankbaits and spinnerbaits will catch fish,” Terry said.
Terry and I started our day at first light and made our way well up into the Coosa River channel at the top end of the lake. The water was a bit low from what Terry calls “fall out,” or the drop in water level due to the previous day’s generation.
“When the water’s up, the fish will be right underneath the undercut banks where trees grow on the bank,” Terry said. “Sometimes it’s a little bit tougher when the water is down like this.”
It didn’t seem too tough for Terry, though.
After motoring down, Terry stopped the boat along a section of river channel that had not been hit by the sun yet, and he began flipping a jig with a green Prowler Flappin’ Craw trailer.
“It’s all about using the right baits in the right areas,” Terry said. “I fish jigs a lot more aggressively than most guys because I’m after that reaction strike. I don’t want to give that fish time to think. I want him to slam it out of instinct.”
After all his years of flipping jigs, Terry made it look easy to drop the lure right underneath an overhanging tree or dead-fall. I carefully watched and tried (poorly) to mimic his pitches.
Fishing a Shimano Castiac baitcasting reel spooled with 20- to 25-lb. test monofilament on a 7-foot, 6-inch Kistler “Lighter Than Air,” extra-heavy rod, Terry looked like the epitome of a close-combat fisherman.
“I love to go one-on-one with the fish,” Terry said. “I’m confident in what I do, and I stay with it — win or lose.”
It was only a few minutes after Terry began fishing that he boated his first largemouth. He swung it quickly into the boat out of instinct, as if he was fishing a tournament. After few quick photos of the 2-lb. fish, he dropped it back in the water.
“That’s a pretty fish, but it’s not the big one I’m looking for,” Terry said with a smirk.
Terry continued to work his boat up the side of the old river channel. He positioned the boat parallel to the bank, staying about 10 to 15 feet off the steep clay banks.
“You want to fish all the undercut banks, blowdowns, logjams and other structure along the shore,” Terry said.
In just a few more minutes, I heard a loud sploosh, and Terry was hooked up again. After a quick battle, Terry boated a nice bass in the 3-lb. range.
“You don’t give any warning when you’re getting a bite,” I joked with Terry. “Most of the other bass fishermen that I’ve fished with call the bites and give a little bit of warning like: ‘Oh … there’s one,’ before they nail the fish with a heavy hookset.”
Terry chuckled and explained, “I guess that’s because I’m always concentrating so hard; every time I fish it’s a tournament. So, I can’t help but be on point. You never know when that next bite may be the fish that makes the difference between winning and losing.”
Terry re-enforced advice every angler should hear when flipping. Keep a close eye on your line.
“When you’re flippin’, you see it more often than you feel it. You’ve got to stay focused, because that one bite could make all the difference,” he said.
We fished along the old river channel bank for another short while without a hit.
“These fish are usually in groups, so I’ll fish pretty quick to cover a lot of water until I find them,” Terry said. “You may fish a few hundred yards of bank without a bite and then catch four or five fish right in one area.”
Terry and I both looked up under an overhanging tree and saw a nice bass flash after something. No sooner had Terry flipped his jig under the tree and, wham, he was hooked up with a fiesty spotted bass.
Terry boated the fish and commented on just how tough Coosa River spotted bass are.
“The Coosa River spot is a breed of its own, and it’s a real fighter,” he said. “They grow a lot chunkier, and they sure are a lot meaner.”
We took a few quick pictures, and the angry fish of about 3 pounds hit the water and swam off like its feelings were hurt.
One advantage Terry said he has over most other anglers on Weiss Lake is how long he’s been fishing it.
“I still remember how the original river was. People have become so dependent on electronics — I only use them on lakes I’ve not fished before,” he said.
Terry’s fishing style also makes a difference in his eyes.
“I’m after that reaction bite,” he said. “I fish a lot more aggressively than most guys. If you give that fish just a second to think about it, he’s gonna turn away.”
Wham! Another fish hit Terry’s jig and bent his rod over. Terry hoisted a largemouth of about 4 pounds in the boat.
“That’s more like what I’m after,” he said.
Another few casts with his jig and Terry boated another spot — an ugly looking fish of about 2 pounds that had one eye damaged and a chunk of flesh missing right at his dorsal fin.
“He’s seen his better days,” Terry said, dropping the fish back into the lake.
Other early morning tactics that work well for Weiss bass include fishing soft plastics in the grass beds.
As the day continued to warm, Terry slowly stopped catching fish in the main river channel thanks to the blaring heat that was setting in.
“It’s time to switch up and try a little something different,” Terry said. “By this time of day, the fish are starting to head to the overhead cover of docks.”
While Terry doesn’t discount fishing for bass on ledges in the heat of the day, he says the catch rates while fishing this way depend a lot on the generation schedule.
“If you’re going to fish the ledges, you’ve got to do it when they’re pulling water,” he said. “The bottom line is, bass are shallow-water fish. Sure, some of them can be caught on ledges, but most of them stay shallow no matter what.”
We ran to a large mass of logjams down the lake.
“This is a great spot to hit when they’re generating,” Terry said.
We saw bass busting shad in less than a foot of water, and Terry changed up to a spinnerbait but was unable to entice a bite. After giving the logjams along the river channel in the mid-lake an hour or so, Terry called it time to go fish docks just as the day’s heat was really starting to get bad.
“He’s a cover-oriented fish,” Terry said. “He’s not going to go deep. But, they will move under certain docks to get out from underneath the sun.”
Features of productive docks that Terry recommends include older docks with lots of posts, cross members, rod holders, lights and brushpiles around them.
“A lot of the time it’s the brushpiles around the docks that keep the bass there, not so much the docks themselves,” Terry said.
Anglers need to put their time in fishing docks to figure out which ones are productive.
“It’s a matter of time on the water and experience,” Terry said.
Another tip Terry offered in general is to fish off the beaten path.
“A lot of guys drive right through areas holding fish but never fish them,” Terry said. “Those areas get lots of traffic but not much fishing pressure.”
Terry motored up and headed to a backwater cove full of old docks.
“People tend to leave the older docks alone,” Terry said. “After all, dock fishing is just a process of elimination. Sometimes you can’t get bit on one side of a dock, and then you fish the other side and get hit.”
As the day wore on, the temperature kept climbing. Standard bass fishing convention told me the bite was certainly over for the day. Nonetheless, Terry was not ready to give up. So, we headed down the lake to a set of docks Terry said he knew held big fish.
“The last tournament I won on this lake, I got my big fish off these docks,” Terry said. “This area gets a lot of traffic, but not many people fish it.”
As the air temperature crept on past 100 degrees, I must admit I wondered if we’d see another fish.
Then, wham, Terry set the hook into a small largemouth that came flying out the water in an impressive display of acrobatics. After boating the small but feisty largemouth, Terry dropped it back in the water.
“Now we’ve got something going again,” he said. “It’s that secondary bite of the day.
“I knew something would happen again. See, this just goes to show they’re shallow-water fish. Sure some fish move off to ledges, but most of them always stay shallow.”
In another few minutes, Terry landed another 2-lb. bass.
“I pulled a 6-lb. fish out from under this dock that helped me win a tournament here once,” Terry said.
We worked our way around a large group of docks.
“See that dock there?” Terry asked. “There’s a big fish under that dock. I just know it.”
We fished one side of the dock without a hit.
“It must be on the other side,” Terry said.
Sure enough, as we made our way around to the far side of the dock, Terry reared back hard, his rod doubled and a solid largemouth came to the surface.
“I just love it when a plan comes together,” Terry chuckled.
The largemouth was easily between 4 and 5 pounds.
“You see that dock over yonder, it’s going to have another big fish under it,” Terry said.
We trolled toward the dock. Terry flipped his black-and-blue jig under it with deadly accuracy and sure enough, his rod bent over and a largemouth in the 5-lb. range broke the surface.
“That’s the big boy I’ve been looking for,” Terry said. “I do believe if today had been a tournament this fish would have sealed the deal. That’s a great way to call it a day.”
Terry wanted to be sure to thank his two major sponsors, Prowler Lures and Renegade Marine.
As we loaded up the gear for the run back to the boat ramp, Terry shared a heartfelt and sorrowful story of the recent loss of his good friend and tournament competitor David Pope, of Waco, who passed away of leukemia July 31.
“I never fished with him, but I competed against him who knows how many times, but we were just the best of buddies,” Terry said. “He used to pour a lot of jigs for me. He was just a great friend and a great fisherman.”
Terry said he dedicated this article and fishing trip to David.
“The fishing industry will never be the same without him,” Terry said. “I enjoyed his friendship, and he will be missed by me and many, many others in the industry.”
Anyone headed to Weiss Lake after bass, say a prayer for David. Terry said, “It just might bring you good luck.”
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