Weiss Bass Move Shallow In September
Guide Warren Barnes marks a map and tells us how to catch Weiss bass.
No matter how tough the fishing gets, someone always catches bass. September is a tough month for most bass fishermen, but tournament weigh-ins still produce big catches. Weiss Lake is a good example. You can have some great catches this month by learning some of the lake’s secrets.
Weiss is like two lakes in one. The main lake below the “Big Bridge,” the Highway 9 bridge at Cedar Bluff, offers more typical lake structure with points and deeper banks. Above the bridge, get outside the channels and you’re on vast stump- and log-filled flats, and even the marked channels can have logs in them. Both of the areas, above and below the bridge, can be outstanding this month if you know where to look.
Weiss is a 30,000-acre Alabama Power lake. An Alabama license is required unless you’re fishing up the Coosa in Georgia waters. Warren Barnes grew up in Rockmart and fell in love with Weiss. He now guides on Weiss, Neely Henry, Guntersville and Allatoona, and Warren said it is amazing the number of 4- and 5-lb. largemouths in Weiss. There are also a lot of big spotted bass in the lake. Warren’s best tournament catch from the lake was five fish weighing 24 pounds. That catch came in September and is one of the reasons he likes Weiss so much this month. He has discovered some good patterns that hold up each September.
“Every September many big bass make a move in anticipation of the shad going shallow, and you can catch some big fish in very shallow water,” Warren said.
He keys on this early movement and concentrates on shallow cover where cooling water comes out of creeks and coves. He also likes heavy shoreline cover back in the creeks where the biggest bass seem to head early this month.
On the main lake, Warren finds schools of fish on points and will concentrate about 8 feet deep on cloudy days. On sunny days, the fish will more likely be out in 17 to 18 feet of water. Early in the morning before the sun gets on the water, bass may be very shallow, but they will quickly back off as it gets bright.
Current and wind make a difference on many spots on the lake, and Warren says sometimes the current will turn the bass on like flipping a switch. Some of the places he fishes are much better when the wind blows across them. And water clarity makes a difference. Warren prefers stained water where he feels the fish bite better.
Warren keeps several different baits tied on for September fishing. He will have a Jackall DD cherry crankbait ready for bumping the bottom on points and ledges and will follow it up with a Carolina-rigged Zoom watermelon U-tail worm. Both baits work especially well on the main lake. A Revenge spinnerbait will catch fish on the points and around shallow cover. Warren likes one chartreuse and one white willowleaf blade and a chartreuse-and-white skirt. He can fish it fast in shallow water or slow it down to get deep on the main lake.
One of Warren’s favorite baits is a Reaction Strike 5-inch Revolution Shad swimbait. He throws it over points and ledges, especially if he sees any topwater action. He likes the American shad color. This swimbait will often draw a strike from the biggest bass in the area.
For a more subtle bite, Warren will have a Gamakatsu jig head with a Jackall Flickshake worm on it and a Revenge black-and-blue jig with a GrandeBass black-and-blue 3 1/2-inch Megachunk trailer. He also likes the GrandeBass Rattlesnake stickbait and will fish it with a light Texas-rigged sinker or weightless. He dips his plastic baits in JJ’s Magic and says it is the best dip and dye he has ever used.
Warren showed me the following 10 spots a couple of weeks ago. The bass were just moving onto them, and they will be more consistent now.
No. 1: N 34º 13.809 – W 85º 38.843 — If you put in at J.R.’s Marina, as you come out of the cove with the ramp, watch to your left. There is a small pocket, and then a deeper one with a shallow flat point between them. The end of the point is clay, but it has big cement slabs forming a seawall on the downstream side a short way into the cove. This is an old roadbed that runs out and drops off, and it has rocks, stumps and brush. If you come in from the lake, go past the small island off the right bank as you near J.R.’s. Watch for a rock rip-rap point on your right. It is just downstream of the bigger pocket, and the point is upstream of it on your right coming in this way. Although bass will hold here all year, cooling water coming out of the pocket attracts more bass to the area as shad start to move up. It is a good transition point for fall fishing. The shad will be scattered early in the morning with bass chasing them, but the baitfish will ball up later in the day.
Stop off the point, and ease in. Watch for topwater activity, and throw your swimbait to it. You can catch some big bass this way. Then slow-roll a spinnerbait across the point, working from very shallow out to about 10 feet deep. Follow this with your crankbait, making it hit bottom. If the bass don’t want a fast-moving bait, try a Carolina-rig or a jig-head worm. Fish all around the point covering water from very shallow all the way out to 20 feet deep. Warren says he has caught fish from all angles here, but the downstream drop is usually better. Keep your boat on the deep side, and cast up on top of the point. Big rocks hold spots as well as largemouths here, but Warren expects to catch more spots.
No. 2: N 34º 06.356 – W 85º 34.841 — Head across and out of Little River, and stop on the point on Hog Island that sticks out the most into Little River. The point has a post with an orange cone marker on it at the edge of the water. If you are facing the point with your boat out in front of the small tree with the big base, you will see how it flattens to your left and drops off to your right. Keep your boat in about 20 feet of water in front of the tree, and fan cast toward the bank. There is a good transition area here where the drop changes from the flat to a sharper incline going into the river. Warren works his Jackall crankbait down the drop, hitting the little ledge and working from left to right, making a cast every few feet. He will then follow up with a Carolina rig or a jig head, fishing the drop in the same way. You will be covering water from 2 feet deep all the way out to about 18 feet deep.
This is another good transition point where bass move into the river from the lake. It has that important transition from a flat bottom to a more vertical bottom. The river channel swings in near the bank, so this is one of the first places the bass move to in the fall. Current really helps this spot and hole No. 1.
No. 3: N 34º 12.938 – W 85º 36.634 — Run up to the bridge, and stop just downstream of the main channel cut-through. It’s on your left going upstream. You will see an old bridge abutment and a steep, rocky bluff-type bank, and then you’ll see a small dock with three telephone-pole posts across the front and a light on a tall pole. Stop at the dock, and keep your boat out in 30 feet of water. The small pocket upstream of the dock — between it and the rip-rap on the bridge — has a ledge across its mouth, and it holds bass. This is another transition area where the bluff bank changes to a flat in the little pocket. You want to fish the drop across the mouth of the pocket.
Start with spinnerbait slow-rolled or a crankbait dug across the lip, fishing from the shallow pocket out to deeper water. If your boat is in 30 feet of water, a short cast will put your bait in 6 feet of water, and you will cover the drop from about 6 feet out to 15 feet deep. Work across the entire pocket. Before he leaves, Warren will flip a jig ’n pig or jig-head worm around the dock and will also work the rocks on the rip-rap, but most of his fish come off the drop across the mouth of the pocket. Don’t be in too big a hurry to get to the dock or the rip-rap.
No. 4: N 34º 12.917 – W 85º 36.597 — Go to the upstream side of the rip-rap, and start casting to the rocks on the point. Keep your boat way out, and keep going straight upstream, not following the contour of the rip-rap. There is a point that runs off the end of the rocks, and the river channel makes it a good ledge.
Many people fish the rocks and miss it. Sit in 30 feet of water, and cast across the point. Fish your crankbait and spinnerbait down the drop right on the bottom, and then bounce a jig-head worm or your jig ’n pig down the drop. Warren says there are three big stumps way out on the end of this point, and they almost always hold a good bass — if you take the time to find them. Current will make the bass move up the point toward the rip-rap, and then when the current dies or when the sun gets bright, they back out to the point.
No. 5: N 34º 12.480 – W 85º 35.189 — Go up the bank from the bridge to the mouth of James Branch. There is a small island off the left bank going into the branch and a line of docks on the left bank. Bass move onto these docks and hold here as the water in the branch cools, and then they move on back into the first pocket on the left. Start fishing these docks at the dock that sticks out the most. It has a roof over it and a pontoon lift in it. There are several pole holders on the railing and lots of brush under it. Early in the month, especially if it has stayed hot, bass are more likely to be on this dock and the docks back downstream.
When it starts to cool off, the bass are more likely to be on this dock and the docks upstream into the creek.
Fish all the docks, getting your jig ’n pig back under them in the shade. Also try a jig-head worm. If the bass seem reluctant to hit a fast-falling bait, try the Rattlesnake Stickbait. Skip it under the docks weightless, and let it fall slowly by the posts and brush. If the wind or current make it move too much, put a small bullet sinker in front of it, but weightless is better. Between the dock where you started and the next one downstream, you will see a rock right on the bank. A rock ridge runs out here between the docks, and your lower unit will hit a big rock if you get in too close. Stay way out, and run a spinnerbait over the rocks. Warren says he won a tournament here after finding these rocks by accident when his lower unit hit one during practice.
No. 6: N 34º 09.514 – W 85º 36.310 — Go back down to the river channel, and follow it across and up the river. When you get to the creek just downstream of the Alabama Queen Resort, the condos that look like a riverboat, stop and idle in on the downstream point. There were two logs sticking up way off this point when we fished. As you idle in, you will find a roadbed that runs across the mouth of the creek. It runs from the downstream point of the creek across to the pocket inside the point that the condos sit on. There are big rocks and old asphalt on this roadbed as well as brush and stumps. Fish will stack up on this roadbed in September, especially if wind is blowing into the creek.
Warren likes to keep his boat on the lake side of the roadbed and cast up across it, working a jig-head worm, spinnerbait or crankbait across the road and drops on each side. He says he has his best luck on the jig-head worm, but he hangs up and loses a lot here. Warren said if he gets one fish per lost jig-head, he is doing good. It is too rough to work a Carolina rig here. Fish the entire roadbed. Your boat should be in 20 feet of water, and the roadbed tops out at about 7 feet. Bass will often stack up in a small area, so work it slowly. Warren said he caught five here weighing 21 pounds last year on a jig-head worm one day.
No. 7: N 34º 06.356 – W 85º 34.841 — For a change of pace, run to the back of Cowan Creek. Warren usually drops his boat off plane and starts idling when he sees the white PVC markers on stumps. He goes all the way to the second bridge, the one way in the back with tunnel-like openings under it. Start fishing just downstream of the bridge, hitting the steep banks with overhanging trees on both sides with a jig ’n pig. The bottom drops straight off several feet deep. Work the openings to the tunnels under the bridge, and then go through one of the first two on your left. Fish the brush and trash hung up on the right upstream side, pitching a jig ’n pig back under the bridge if you can get it past the hanging vines.
After fishing the bridge, Warren will put his trolling motor on high and go up past the church. Then he works grassbeds, brush and overhanging bushes on both banks. He usually starts fishing where the clear bank ends, past where people fish from the bank. Warren will work up the creek channel, hitting every bit of cover with a spinnerbait and a jig ’n pig. There are some big stumps out in the creek that are hard to see, but watch for them; they often hold a big bass. Work up the creek for several hundred yards, and then work back out. Warren says he has fished upstream without a bite many times only to get some good fish working the same cover on the way back out. You should see schools of shad back here by early September, and that is the key to catching fish here. The big bass seem to move up the creek this far and wait on the shad to come to them, and then they follow the shad and the dropping water back out later in the fall.
No. 8: N 34º 07.324 – W 85º 34.850 — Head out of Cowan Creek, and watch for where the road runs right beside the creek on your right. Just downstream of this, you will see a house and a dock with a big willow tree just downstream of it. Past the willow, a line of trees runs across at an angle and stops at the edge of the water. There are some chairs and what looks like an old swing frame near them. At the dock, the channel swings in close. There is a flat from the willow tree down to the end of the line of trees, where it drops off again. This is a good example of the kinds of transitions Warren looks for. The bottom changes from very flat to deeper and goes from soft silt to hard, with scattered rocks. We idled along this bank, and I was amazed at the picture of the rocks Warren’s Sidefinder depthfinder showed. The detail from it showed why this is a good spot. Start fishing at the dock, and work downstream past the trees. Make a pass with a crankbait, and then go back up with a jig-head worm. Warren says he will often make several passes here, changing baits each time and catching fish on each pass. Between the dock and the big willow, right where the flat begins, is a good rock spur that runs straight out.
No. 9: N 34º 12.770 – W 85º 31.663 — Run up the river, following the channel carefully and watching for logs. Go past the big open area, and stop where the bank comes in on both sides. On your right is a narrow island that runs along the channel, and on your left is a series of docks and pockets. Stop at the first dock, and start fishing upstream. There is usually some current here, and bass hold on these docks. Flip a jig ’n pig, jig-head worm or stick bait to them, hitting every post and all brush. Work upstream so you have better boat control and also so your bait comes back with the current. After five or six docks, the bottom drops off faster, and there is a stretch with no docks but some big rocks. Warren will fish along this steep bank to the next dock at the mouth of a small pocket — the perfect place for bass to hold as they move into the pocket.
No. 10: N 34º 12.354 – W 85º 33.155 — Go back downstream to the powerlines, and carefully cross the river ledge under them. It gets very shallow going across the river ledge into the big open area behind the stumps, back toward Poole’s Ferry and Godfrey’s Island. Be very careful in here. Go downstream past a big island to a series of small islands that are long and narrow. They are on the edge of a ditch that runs downstream. Bass stack up in here in September. Start at the upstream end of the first small island at the willow tree out in the water. There are grassbeds and blowdowns all along this bank. Stay in close, and flip a jig ’n pig or a stick bait to the cover, working it slowly and carefully. You will be fishing water only a couple of feet deep, but it holds fish. You can also back off past the edge of the ditch and cast your crankbait or spinnerbait across to the bank, and then work it back out across the lip of the ditch. Bass will hold in the ditch and then move in close to the bank to feed. Current usually moves along this bank and helps.
September is a great month on Lake Weiss if you get out there and find where the bass are holding and feeding on transition areas.
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