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Spooks For Lay Lake October Bass
Want some harrowing topwater action? Don’t wait for Halloween. Zara Spooks on Lay will give you goosebumps.
 
By Mike Bolton
Originally published in the October 2017 issue of AON
 
Fishing guide Reed Montgomery shows off a couple of hefty Lay Lake bass that were tricked by his Zara Super Spook.
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It was an unusually chilly morning for this time of the year. The chill was fueled by a heavy cloud cover, a north wind and a spitting rain. Reed Montgomery idled his Ranger boat past the Beeswax Creek Bridge where Kevin VanDam won the 2010 Bassmasters Classic.

He dropped the trolling motor, and the guide with almost 50 years of experience on Lay Lake explained how the rip-rap around the Beeswax Creek bridge to this day still draws fishermen who hope to duplicate some of the magic that VanDam found there.

He said that was a good thing because the now-famous bridge draws attention away from the shallow-water grass patches just a few hundred yards beyond its concrete pillars.

It was a short time later that I made my first cast of the morning, and my Zara Spook plopped down in a 5-foot-wide opening between two grass patches. I began walking the bait back to the boat, and it had only gone about 8 feet when the water exploded with the unmistakable sound and sight of a fooled bass.

“That didn’t take long,” Reed laughed as he took the 3-pounder out of the net. “The bass love a Spook here.”

If you are one of those fishermen who would rather catch one bass on topwater than 10 any other way, Lay Lake is a great place to be in October. You usually think about spooks and hobgoblins at the end of the month around Halloween, but Zara Spooks are the ticket on Lay Lake all month long

Reed, who is 66 now, told a story of how as a 16-year-old he caught a mess of Lay Lake bass, and someone who saw his catch at the ramp offered him money to tell them how and where he caught the fish. That made an impression that propelled him into the guide business. Almost 50 years of guiding experience on Lay Lake has taught Reed every slough, creek and rock on the lake. It has given him keen insight into most of its secrets, too, but he insists that how well Zara Spooks work on the lake in October is no one’s secret.

October is when the Lay Lake largemouth and spotted bass begin their annual pilgrimage from the ledges to the creek mouths and into the creeks for their annual shad feast. Both threadfin and gizzard shad move into those areas as the water cools, and they, too, feed heavily. It makes for a marriage made in topwater heaven.

“The shad come out of that deep water looking to feed,” Reed explained. “At first they are feeding on the algae, plankton and phytoplankton in the creek mouths. We used to believe that they were in the creek mouths because the wind had blown them there, but we learned that they are actually there because they are feeding on the algae and stuff that the wind blows in there.

“They’ll eventually move up into the creeks around the weeds where they find plenty to eat. If you can find the shad, you’ll find the bass because they will be following them.

“October is generally when you really start seeing the water temperature fall and the migration begins. When the temperature gets down into the low 70s, the bass that aren’t already in the grass are going to start coming off the ledges and come shallow looking for shad. All the deep-water bass are going to come shallow.”

Following the shad is the key as the bass begin the transition from the ledges. The shad will gather in the mouths of creeks at first. Reed primarily targets Beeswax Creek, Dry Branch and Bulley Creek at this time. He’ll also venture to Cedar Creek and Spring Creek.

“They’ll be pretty shallow in the creek mouths, usually 5 to 6 feet,” he said. “You just throw that Spook right up against the bank or the weeds and walk it back to the boat. You can start at the mouth of the creek and work your way back into the creek until you find them.”

How long during the day the bass will hit Spooks depends on the conditions, he says.

“If it is cloudy or if it’s been cool and you get a warming trend, they’ll hit it all day sometimes,” he said.

Reed changed tactics on this day and piloted his boat away from the weeds to what appeared to be open water.

“On occasion you’ll find largemouth and spotted bass together, but it’s rare,” he said. “The largemouth like the shallower water near the weeds, and the spots like more open water. This is a big flat here where the deep water comes up into about 5 feet of water real quick. It doesn’t look like much, but the spots love to get on this flat even though there’s nothing really here.”

On his third cast, a hefty spot came up and nailed his Spook.

“I wish we were fishing in a tournament today,” he said. “These fish we’ve got this morning will do well in some of these tournaments they’ve had around here lately.”

Reed says the perfect situation on Lay Lake in October occurs on those years when Alabama Power draws the lake down for several days to do a dam inspection. The lake normally stays close to full pool year-round, but the draw-down leaves the weeds high and dry and sends baitfish scurrying without cover. He said these draw-downs are a bass-fishing bonanza.

Alabama Power Co. spokesman Michael Sznajderman said the draw-down doesn’t happen every year, and there are no plans to inspect the dam this year, but it’s something Lay Lake anglers should be aware of for future years.

Reed says another October bonanza is when the bass start schooling.

“They don’t school here as good as they used to, but you need to be ready when you see it because the schools don’t stay up feeding on the shad long,” he said. “If you have to crank up the motor and go where they are schooling or run over there with the trolling motor, they’ll be gone by the time you get there.

“That’s why I like that big Spook. Even with 20-lb. Big Game Trilene, you can cast the thing a mile, and that’s what you need for schooling fish. Even if you are not fishing topwater on Lay in October, you need to have a big Spook tied on in case you see some schooling fish.

“I love that big ol’ Super Spook for a lot of reasons. You can throw it a long way, it has big hooks, and it has rattles. The bigger bass like to feed on those big gizzard shad when they can find them, and a Super Spook mimics that. That big Spook also ‘walks’ better than a smaller Spook.”

Pelham’s Jason Hamaker is one of the favorites every time he enters a tournament on Lay Lake. You’ll catch him throwing a Spook on Lay Lake in October, too. He’s primarily a spotted bass fisherman, and he says a Spook and the clear water that can be found on the lake’s lower half makes for a deadly combination in October.

“Spots are a lot more sight-oriented than largemouth, so the first thing you want to is to locate clear water,” Jason said. “They are a lot easier to catch in clear water.

“There’s not much rain in October. You can find clear water from the Narrows on down. The water is a lot deeper, and there’s not much boat traffic in October. There are a lot of rocks on the lower end, so it typically stays clearer than the upper end.”

Jason says while a fisherman might concentrate on main-river points with topwater plugs in October, Lay Lake’s main-river points on the lower half are too deep for that tactic. He said he instead targets the weedlines on points in the creeks. He said Paint Creek, Waxahatchee Creek and Sawmill Branch on the lake’s extreme lower end offer miles of weeds and points in the creeks that can keep a Spook fishermen busy all day.

“You’ll want to walk the dog with a retrieval speed that’s pretty quick,” Jason explained. “It all depends on the point as to whether you’ll want to throw straight at it or across it. It depends on how the point breaks. The bass aren’t going to be far off the bank, maybe 4 to 5 feet off the grassline. That’s where the bigger fish will be.”

He says there is really no reason to venture out of the three creeks in October.

“There’s a really good population of big fish in those creeks,” he said. “I’m talking about an abundance of fish. And on those years when they draw the water down in October to inspect the dam, the fishing in those three creeks is really good.”

Reed says other lures will of course catch bass on Lay Lake in October, but he believes nothing produces big fish with the consistency of a Spook.

“A KVD Sexy Dawg, a Pop-R, a buzzbait and even some of the older lures like a Torpedo or prop baits like a Nip-I-Diddee will all catch bass here, but the Spook always seem to catch the bigger fish. I once caught a 7-pounder and an 8-pounder both on the same day, and I’ve never had a day like that fishing other lures.”

Jason agrees.

“I throw a Sexy Shad some, but the Super Spook is just more consistent,” he said. “I like to throw one that has a yellow or chartreuse side on it because I like to fish in that clear water for spots. I think they can see the color, and it gives them something to target.”

Reed prefers an all chrome Spook because he believes that is exactly what the bass are feeding on in October.

Zeke Ezekiel, of Wilsonville, is another Lay Lake tournament angler who has found success on Lay Lake. He fishes for the bigger spots and says you definitely need a Spook in your fishing arsenal when fishing there.

“Any chugger bait like a Pop-R will catch fish in October, but I prefer a Zara Spook,” he said. “It just seems to work better in the clearer water.

“Of course, how well topwater works all depends on how the water cools and the water color. You’ve got to remember that you’ll be fishing a little deeper on Lay than you will on other Coosa River lakes. So if you should get a lot of rain, and there’s a lot of color, the topwater fishing isn’t that good.

“We generally don’t get much rain in October, though.”

He says the best topwater fishing on Lay will come in the final two weeks of October in the creeks like Waxahatchee Creek, but he said a fisherman shouldn’t overlook throwing a Spook on the main river early in the month.

“The shad will migrate from the deeper water to the banks at first,” he said. “Don’t overlook the seawalls, points and rock outcroppings. I’ve had a lot of luck fishing a Spook on the points and bluffs near the Narrows. You can parallel the bluffs with a Spook and do quite well. You can use the wind to your advantage and fish the wind-blown bluffs and points.

“Following the shad is the key. Once the shad move to the creeks, the bass won’t be on the bluffs anymore. I like Waxahatchee Creek. I like throwing a Spook parallel to the weedline. That’s not all I am going to throw. I’ll also throw a jerkbait and swim a jig or some creature bait through the weeds on up in the day.”
 
 
 
 
 
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