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Guntersville : Bass 10 May Hotspots

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Lay Lake’s “First-Stop” Postspawn Bass Pattern
10 shallow-ledge locations for postspawn bass in May.
By Ronnie Garrison
Originally published in the May 2017 issue of AON
Caleb Dennis grew up fishing Lay Lake before heading off to fish on the University of North Alabama tournament team. Caleb said postspawn bass will stack up this month on the first good ledge structure heading out of spawning areas.
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Lay Lake is known for its big Coosa spotted bass, but it has an excellent population of quality largemouth, too. This month, both the spotted bass and the largemouth are beginning to stack up on “first-stop” postspawn ledges, where you can find schools of bass and catch both on predictable patterns and baits.

At 12,000 acres with 289 miles of shoreline, the riverine lake runs from its dam at the upper end of Mitchell Lake to the Logan Martin dam. The upper end near Childersberg has smaller creeks and ditches entering the river that form good ledges, and the power plant near Wilsonville has outflows that create current even when the river is not flowing.

Caleb Dennis grew up on the shores of the lake and went to Fayetteville High School, where he was on the fishing team partnering with Sloan Pennington (who was featured last month on Wilson). They are now teammates at the University of North Alabama, where they won the Cabela’s Collegiate Series tournament on Lake Dardanelle last year.

Caleb has been fishing Lay Lake most of his life and has learned it well.

“In late April, the bass are coming off the spawn and moving to the deeper summer river ledges,” Caleb said.

The structure and cover near those spawning creeks and coves are their first stop before going to the deeper ledges. This first-stop structure is easier to fish since it’s in more shallow water.

Caleb has spent a lot of time finding those first-stop ledges and learning how to get the postspawn bass to bite. A key is current. If the current is not moving, the bass are unlikely to bite very good. Fortunately, dams at both ends of the Lay Lake create current during most days in May.

You don’t need a lot of baits to catch those postspawn bass. A Strike King 5XD crankbait in a shad color, like sexy shad, a brown 1/2 -oz. Davis football jig with a watermelon-red NetBait Paca Craw and a Carolina rig with a watermelon-red finesse worm behind a 3/4-oz. sinker cover most fishing.

On slow days, especially if the current is not moving, a 1/4-oz. Davis shaky head with a finesse worm will draw bites, and he always has a Davis Kingpin topwater bait ready for schooling action or to throw early in the morning.

In early April, when Caleb took me fishing to show me the following spots to fish in May, the Lay Lake bass were still shallow. He landed about 10 keepers—and even let me catch three. His best five weighed about 16 pounds, showing the quality of bass in the lake. While the bass weren’t yet on the 10 locations listed below, they were shallow nearby, and by now they will be on these postspawn locations.

No. 1: N 33º 08.624 – W 86º 29.009 — If you put in at Cedar Creek Marina, go out to the river and head upstream to your right. Stop at the first creek on the left, which is Kelly Branch. It’s the last creek before Paradise Point Marina. The downstream point of Kelly Branch has a wooden seawall in front of a two-story house. There is a small dock on the river side of the point and a white boathouse in the cove behind the point.

Out from this point, Kelly Branch enters the river and forms a good ledge running parallel to the point. Keep your boat out in the channel in about 20 feet of water, and cast up on top of the ledge into about 6 feet of water. There are some big rocks and stumps on a hard-clay bottom here—it’s the kind of place bass love to hold.

Fish your crankbait along this ledge, bumping the bottom on the ledge, and fish your crankbait out over the drop. Fish from just upstream of the dock to a little downstream of it. Follow up with a football jig or Carolina rig.

No. 2: N 33º 09.937 – W 86º 29.068 — Go across the river upstream of Paradise Point Marina to the first small double cove past the marina and across from it. The upstream point of the upstream cove is very rocky, and the bank upstream of the cover is very rocky, too. There is grass along the edge on the point and some grass along the rocks.

Start fishing at the point where the rocks start, working upstream. Cast all your baits to the rocks, and work them out, bumping bottom with your crankbait and letting your other baits follow the contour drop. You can get in closer to the bank and parallel it if you are getting most of your bites in close to the bank.

No. 3: N 33º 10.905 – W 86º 30.136 —
Beeswax Creek is on the left going upstream. The upstream point where it enters the river is a big flat that runs way out to where the channels intersect. This is one of the first places bass hold after moving out to the river. Red channel marker 38 sits well off the bank here.

If your boat is sitting off the bank, you will see four tall pines in a tight group that stand out from the other trees on the bank. Stop out from them in the river channel in 20 feet of water, and cast up to water that is about 7 feet deep. Use your crankbait, bumping the bottom and you fish it back toward the boat. Fish your way upstream along this ledge. Caleb says lots of bass stack up right here in May after the spawn.

Fish upstream with your crankbait, and then go back over this ledge with a jig or Carolina rig. If current is moving, the bite is much better and the crankbait will allow you to cover the ledge more quickly for active fish. Go back over it with slower-moving baits to pick off some of the bass holding here that are less active.

No. 4: N 33º 10.970 – W 86º 30.098 — A couple of hundred yards upstream, a small cove enters the lake. The ditch from this cove runs out to join the river channel, and bass move back and forth from this ditch to the one at Beeswax. Sometimes they will be on one location, and then the fish will move to the other ditch the next day.

You can find bass along all of the ledge between the creek and the ditch, or you can concentrate on the sweet spots at the two channels. Stay out deep, and cast up shallow on both the ledge and the channel confluence. Probe for a hard bottom, which is typically where the bass will concentrate. Stumps and rocks on a clay bottom are ideal.

No. 5: N 33º 11.712 – W 86º 29.740 — Upstream at green marker 43, a pipeline crosses the river. The river narrows down noticeably here at an area aptly known as “The Narrows.” The pipeline runs out from the bank in a depression, and where it hits the river ledge is another break that holds bass. The ledge is running parallel to the bank here.

Stop out in the river channel, and work your baits across the break from the pipeline. Fish it with both a crankbait and a jig. Also work a Carolina rig on the break. Fish with the current, making your bait move in a natural direction. If no current is moving, try your shaky head for less-active bass. Usually, the more current there is, the better they bite—up to the point the current is too strong to hold the boat and fish effectively.

No. 6: N 33º 12.131 – W 86º 29.203 — Dry Branch enters the river on the left bank near green channel marker 49. The channel from Dry Branch runs out and creates a highway for spawning bass to follow out to the river. Where the Dry Branch channel cuts the river ledge is a key spot.

Stay out in the river channel, and fish both sides of the creek channel, casting your crankbait to shallow water and bumping bottom as you work the plug to the river ledge. Caleb makes long casts with the crankbait by fishing it on a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy Enigma rod. Make sure your casts cover both sides of the ditch channel. Work it close to the edge of the ditch out to the channel, and also cast across it so your bait comes off the flat into the creek channel itself.

Slide a football head along the same patterns. This will help you find stumps, rocks and clay bottoms that attract the bass. A Carolina rig does the same thing. With a shaky head, slide it along until you hit cover, and then shake it in place to make tempt a bite from a sluggish bass.

No. 7: N 33º 12.093 – W 86º 28.904 — Upstream, the river makes a bend to the right, and the channel itself makes an even sharper turn. Up on the bank, a yellow slide marks the area you want to fish. At the yellow slide, a flat runs out 4 to 5 feet deep before dropping into the river channel.

Here, as in other places, keep your boat in deep water, and cast to shallow water. Baitfish usually move from the flat out, so that is a natural movement for your lures. Fish along the ledge, covering it for about a hundred yards. The bass will concentrate in key spots and move from day to day, so you need to probe for those feeding areas.

No. 8: N 33º 11.961 – W 86º 27.647 — Across the river and upstream, red channel marker 56 sits near the upstream point of as narrow opening to a big bay behind it. The opening is on an outside bend of the river and is just downstream of a long island in the river.

The upstream point is flat, but the downstream point is steep and has a couple of docks on it. The river channel ledge where this ditch cuts it is not too far off the bank and is about 13 feet deep on top. Bass spawn back in the bay and move out to this ledge as the water warms.

Since this downstream point is deeper, Caleb usually fishes a shaky head here. He keeps his boat in the channel and works both sides of the ditch and up and down the ledge around it, hopping and shaking the jig-head worm when it comes into contact with cover.

No. 9: N 33º 13.767 – W 86º 28.206 —
The power plant sits on the left bank upstream above the island, on the left side. When you first see it and get close, slow down just downstream of the start of the open area at the plant. A small ditch comes out of the trees where a cold-water discharge makes a current—and this discharge runs most of the time. There is a small green sign, almost hidden by bushes, on the upstream side of it.

Stop out from the ditch, and cast a shaky-head jig and square-bill crankbait to the outflow. Work them back with the moving water. Try to cast into the mouth of the ditch. There was a definite color change here, and Caleb caught several keeper spots on a crankbait by running it out of the ditch along the current and color break. He says you can often catch a lot of keeper size bass at this location in May.

No. 10: N 33º 14.572 – W 86º 27.447 — Up in front of the plant, the main discharge creates a strong current in front of the opening. The discharge comes out of a metal structure just upstream of a walkway at a concrete ramp that has a big pipe at the top of it.

Keep your boat in close to the bank, and cast upstream above the outflow. Run a crankbait into the current, and then fish it with the current downstream. The bottom is about 18 feet deep right on the bank, so get in close. Also fish a jig heavy enough to get down to the bottom in the current, and fish the jig back the same way as the crankbait.

All these places produce May bass for Caleb. Give them a try, and use his favorite baits. Or stick with the baits you have confidence in. May is a good month for good catches of Lay Lake’s postspawn bass.
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