Special Time For Weiss Bass
Lee Pitts said Weiss is more than just a crappie-fishing lake.
In my experiences with guide Lee Pitts, he is one of the most optimistic members of the fishing community around Lake Weiss. So when he welcomed me with the “It’s tough” warning on a trip to Lake Weiss in late July, I knew the fishing must indeed be slow.
Despite ideal mid-summer fishing conditions—air temperatures in the low 80s and dropping water temps—Lee suggested the fishing had regressed rather than improved in recent days.
“It seems like the fish don’t know what to do,” he said as he greeted me at the dock at Little River Marina near Cedar Bluff.
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The day’s slow bite was an anomaly for Lee, who had been guiding clients to excellent catches of largemouth and spotted bass entrenched on deep ledges and others lurking around the multitude of docks that exist on Weiss. His year on the 30,000-acre fishery along the Georgia/Alabama line also included a win in the June ABA Weekend Series tournament with a 21.22-lb. limit.
“I’ve been out trying to crank up some of the deeper fish this afternoon,” he said. “They are just not where they have been since they established their summer patterns. I don’t know if this cooler weather has caused them to move and suspend off the ledges or if more fish have already started to move shallow. You would think the cooler weather would really make them feed.”
Characteristically, however, Lee managed to salvage the positive out of a difficult situation.
“It may be tough right now,” Lee said, “but the best fishing on Weiss is just around the corner. If you want to see what type of bass fishing can be found on Weiss, come later in September and on into the fall. That’s when it’s at its best.”
With looming thunderstorms serving as a backdrop to our late-afternoon trip, Lee and I started looking for shallow bass. A short run found Lee circling one of the myriad of islands on the lower end of the lake and targeting wood cover and clay banks in only a few feet of water with a Talon jig. Wind action had actually created a moderate stain in the water.
“On those good days, the wind will push in on these clay banks and position fish underneath, sometimes in only a foot or so of water,” Lee said. “Almost all of these banks are undercut, and the bass will hold around them and under them waiting for something to slosh out.”
The first action of the trip occurred as Lee flipped his jig around a small laydown. Inching the jig past the end of the cover, Lee slammed back on a subtle bite, only to have the fish come loose after a few moments.
“That felt like a good one, although you never know,” he said. “It wasn’t one of those electric bites; it actually felt sort of mushy.”
A quick change of scenery quickly yielded the type of fish common to Weiss. We moved down the main lake toward the Highway 411 causeway, and Lee began flipping the jig under the docks on the east bank. He swam the jig away from the dock and attempted to contact brushpiles that abound on the periphery.
That type of structure can most likely be attributed to another fishery on Weiss, which is known nationally not as a bass lake but rather by the moniker of “Crappie Fishing Capital of the World.” Unlike those found on other big reservoirs, property owners on Weiss are also fishermen. A common occurrence is for these homeowners to stack brushpiles in a semi-circle around their docks in order to attract crappie.
A byproduct of this process is that the brushpiles not only attract crappie but also black bass as well.
“One thing to look for is lights on the docks, and another is the angle of the rod holders,” Lee said. “The lights and the rod holders indicate that there is probably brush scattered around the dock. The angle of the rod holder is usually a dead giveaway about where the brush is located. The angle will guide you to where the brush is located.”
Another feature of the docks actually produced the best bass of the trip. Lee suggested anything around the docks that provides cover will potentially hold fish. He almost called the catch as he pointed to the ladder on the side of the dock.
“There’s something about the placement of these ladders that hold fish, especially when there is current moving, and there’s a little current moving now,” he said.
A cast or two later, he set the hook on a bass that immediately surged back under the dock. Lee deftly maneuvered the fish away from danger and finally worked it boat-side. The largemouth weighed in the 3-lb. range, typical of the tournament quality fish on Weiss.
“That fish was right where it was supposed to be,” Lee said, adding that at times there are patterns within the patterns on Weiss. He mentioned at least three related to fishing the docks during the trip: fish that suspend under the docks, fish that hold on the perimeter in the brush, and fish that relate to the posts and ladders of the docks.
“Even in the hottest weather and with hot water temperatures, there will be some fish positioned somewhere around the docks on Weiss,” he said.
Lee said he bypasses another structural feature of Weiss that holds fish earlier in the year. When quizzed about the abundant bank grass, he said he much prefers wood cover to the grass at this time of year.
“That’s not to say that you won’t find a few fish holding in the grass, but I’m usually looking for the closest piece of wood cover outside the grass. That might be a log that’s floated up or the corner of a dock. While the grass fishing can be excellent in the spring, I find the fish prefer wood as the year progresses. The grass gets sparse later in the year and loses its canopy.”
With rain showers evident all around the lake, Lee made one final stop before we cut our trip short.
“I want to see if I can catch that fish that bit earlier,” he said. “I don’t think I ever got a hook into it.”
Lee re-traced his path back to the undercut bank where he started, and a fish again struck as he worked the jig off the end of the laydown. The largemouth proved to be a small keeper.
“I don’t know if it was the same fish that hit earlier,” Lee said, “but you can get these fish to hit again if you don’t stick them too bad. If I think I’ve missed a good fish, I might go back to a spot several times during the course of a day.”
Despite the tough trip, Lee reiterated that the fishing will only get better as summer gives way to fall. Lee suggested a drastic change occurs on Weiss at some point in September. Depending on weather conditions, the fish will begin to migrate from their summer haunts to the shallowest water found on the lake.
“In most years, you’re still going to find some fish deep in early September,” Lee said. “As the weather begins to cool and the amount of daylight gets less and less, the baitfish will begin to move, and the bass will follow. I really think the diminishing length of days causes the fishing to change as much as anything.”
Lee said the largemouth will move as far back into creeks and pockets as possible. The spotted bass, a main draw on all Coosa River impoundments, will set up on shallow main-lake points and the shallowest humps.
“At that time of year, you can’t get too shallow,” he said. “The fish will literally hold in a foot of water.”
Lee targets the shallow fish mainly with a three-lure lineup: a square-bill crankbait, a spinnerbait and a jig.
He acknowledges that there are other ways to catch fish—the bass will hit a topwater bait at times, for example—but the three lures are his confidence baits dictated by years of experience guiding and tournament fishing on Weiss.
He shallow cranks with a Lucky Craft 1.5 in a shad color. Lee has gone almost exclusively with Lew’s rods and reels, and he pulls the crankbait with a 7-0 medium-heavy David Fritts model rod paired with a Speed Spool Tournament Edition reel. He fills the baitcaster with Suffix mono up to 17-lb. test, depending on the amount of cover that he’s fishing.
“If I’m on a bank with heavy cover, I will usually throw 15- or 17-lb. line,” he said. “If it’s more of an open-water situation, I might drop down to 12 for the square bill.”
He works the little crankbait around wood cover, parallels rip-rap with it and also drags it across chunk-rock points, an ideal holding place for spotted bass.
At times, he will follow up with the spinnerbait, a 3/8-oz. model from Talon. He tosses the spinnerbait on a 6-8 Lew’s medium-heavy rod and Lew’s reel filled with 17-lb. Suffix.
“I usually downsize the blades,” Lee said. “They don’t want that big thumper blade on Weiss for some reason. I want something I can keep moving. I don’t want them to get a good look at it, but rather react.”
After scouring an area with the moving baits, Lee said he is likely to re-fish strategic spots with a jig. His favorite is 3/8-oz. model from Talon that he trails with a Biffle Bug trailer in Bama Bug. As a slight change-up to the traditional jig, Lee also occasionally alternates the Gene Larew Hard Head swing jig with a Biffle Bug trailer into the rotation.
“Regardless of where I am fishing, I usually don’t leave an area unless I have thrown the jig at least a few times,” Lee said. “If they don’t hit the crankbait or the spinnerbait, there will be those times when they will respond to the jigs when they won’t touch anything else.”
He throws the jigs on a 7-6 Lew’s flipping stick, high-speed Lew’s baitcaster, and either 65-lb. PowerPro braid or heavy Suffix mono.
“Usually, there’s enough stain in the water that the braid doesn’t make a big difference,” he said.
When quizzed about his use of mono, Lee said the stretch of mono provides a buffer for his extreme hooksets and also for the intense, last-minute surges of spotted bass.
For those early September deep fish, Lee reverts back to his summer techniques, lobbing Norman DD22 crankbaits or Talon round-head jigs over the ledges and deeper humps.
“You’re always going to have a few deep fish regardless of the time of year,” Lee said. “I know other people have gone to other crankbaits, but I haven’t found anything better than the old DD22 on the ledges.”
He also emphasized that the round-head jig paired with a Gene Larew Salt Craw trailer is a spotted bass killer.
Regardless of the approach, Lee said fishermen should learn to recognize Weiss as something more than a crappie lake.
“It’s the start of some great (bass) fishing on Weiss,” Lee said. “Not that many people recognize Weiss as a great bass lake, but they need to come here in late September or October to see just how good it can be. The bass fishing in the fall can be phenomenal.”
To book a trip with Lee, contact him at (256) 390-4145. Also look him up at leepittsoutdoors.com.
The website provides all information regarding trips on the lake. Unlike many bass guides, Lee will also put clients on any numbers of species, including crappie, bream and stripers. He also guides in Alabama on Tennessee River reservoirs, especially Guntersville, in addition to the upper Coosa River lakes in Alabama.
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