Lay Lake’s Early Fall Bass Make their “Move”
By Capt. Reed Montgomery
In scenic Alabama, Coosa Rivers’ Lay Lake was impounded in 1914. This is the fourth man-made impoundment of six Coosa River lakes, which occur from northeast Alabama to south Alabama. It is located near the town of Columbiana, Alabama. Lay Lake has endured the test of time. It has now been almost 100 years since that inception, and each fall season, Lay Lake undergoes some major changes as waters begin to cool throughout the remainder of September and October.
The Coosa River breed of spotted bass, and the lakes’ natural inhabitants, the largemouth bass, help make up just some of the game fish available in this 50-mile long, man-made reservoir. These are the two bass species most anglers target. Both of these game fish have some major changes of their own to make during this early fall period as well, and these are changes for the better from a fishing point of view.
It has been a long, hot summer season. In August, many days exceeded the one hundred-degree mark. These are temperatures that all anglers - just like these bass they are constantly pursuing - would rather avoid if they can! Most Alabama anglers just stayed at home this past summer season as air temperatures rose into the upper nineties. Or, many of these rather reluctant would-be daytime anglers simply resorted to a more comfortable trip spent night fishing during the mid-summer months of July and August.
Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass
The daily position and routine of these two bass species - established over the last three month’s of the summer - is slowly winding down to an early autumn move towards the lake’s shallows. Finding the schools of both Coosa River spotted bass and some of the heftier largemouth bass is predictable and involves following the baitfish schools into the shallows as well.
The month of September begins with blistering, ninety-degree days. This matches the lake’s hot water temperatures that hover in the low-to-mid nineties. Not surprising, since September is still officially late summer here in Alabama. Yet as September moves along, the air temperatures will slowly drop into the eighties-much to the delight of Alabama anglers. By mid-to-late September, these temps can even be lower, provided the long, hot summer season has not extended its very unwelcome stay. It’s important for anglers to understand the effect of these changes on the lakes’ spotted bass and largemouth bass population.
Spotted bass have for the most part have spent their entire summer season congregating along places like the lower lakes’ deep, main river drops. As late summer transitions into early fall during September, Lay Lakes’ waters begin to cool. There are many places to find spotted bass. Specifically, the honey holes where these fish gather (often in huge schools) include along old river channel ledges and drop-offs, old creek channel and river channel junctions, and along some of the lower lake’s deep rock bluffs.
The Coosa River spotted bass of Lay Lake can be found in some places many anglers might overlook in September. This particularly includes the mid-to-lower lakes’ standing timber. These miles and miles of very evident trees were left standing in Lay Lake when the lake was re-impounded in the mid sixties. In the midst of and below the timber are treasure trove hotspots of old road beds, old house foundations, deep holes, bottom irregularities and depressions, ridges, submerged humps and underwater islands, old river bars, rock piles and loads of stumps formed when some trees were removed.
Largemouth bass, like the lakes’ spotted bass, can be found all throughout Lay Lake. But generally, when anglers are targeting any of the lakes’ plentifully different types of aquatic weeds, they are going to catch largemouth bass. And the good news is that some of the largemouth bass are hawgs exceeding 10 pounds. Even a few trophies weighing in the “teens” have been fooled into biting by some very fortunate anglers! Statistically, many of the big largemouth bass now on record were taken during the early fall season from September into the month of November.
The Technique of Looking Back
Prior to your planned fishing trip in September or any month for that matter, take a look back at the last few weeks’ conditions. This is always a great way to get good fishing-relevant information and it is easily obtained all on your own. The weather and the lake’s previous conditions are at the top of this list You can always use this helpful information in many ways to help you locate Lay Lake’s bass, and with some dedicated experimentation, knowing these previous conditions will help you figure out how to catch these late summer / early fall bass.
Part of your angling pursuit involves intercepting the basses’ travels towards the lake’s shallow feeder creeks, main lake flats, and the many small cuts and pockets featuring skinny water found lake-wide. Continue to keep in mind that you have a really good chance at fooling some of the lake’s biggest bass during this early fall season in September.
But first, you’ve got to figure out where the fish are holding with the information you obtain. It’s advisable to think about what conditions arose recently and therefore, where those big bass characteristically were supposed to be. Ask yourself if they were still in that late summer frame of mind or have they already “moved shallow” as you look back to discover that water temps are much cooler than you expected. The core of this technique is to review the conditions that existed over the last few weeks.
For most anglers, the task of observing the previously hot conditions of late summer is easy. But the astute anglers’ eye may see even more by noting subtle changes and nuances. You’ll often be rewarded by noting the past and present conditions in the most thorough, even microscopic way. The phrase that “There are none so blind as those that cannot see ” could not be any truer.
Quiz Yourself About the Weather
Some simple questions you pose to yourself can produce some extremely useful answers.
Ask yourself about any daily variations in heat. There is a big difference between air temperatures over one hundred degrees, ninety degrees, or eighty degrees. Or perhaps, did the temperatures (unnoticeable by most anglers) drop into the upper eighties for the last two weeks and get even cooler at night?
Persist in questioning yourself about the oft-overlooked “little things.” Such subtle questions include whether were you primarily daytime fishing or night fishing recently. Considering this will give you a more enlightened outlook on the upcoming days of fall. For instance, if you spent your nights pursuing bass on the lake, it may be hard for you to assess any recent trends and changes in daytime temperatures that came into play as summer unfolded into early fall.
Think about it: some anglers have not fished during the daylight hours for almost three months! If you are one of those anglers, it may be time for a major change in your daytime bass tactics since the month of September has already come upon you!
This might even mean encountering your first daytime cool spell in quite some time. Then, by all means, make plans for a leisurely day of fishing all alone. Your choice of solitude will leave you free to a get meaningfully reacquainted with the lake and the bass you’re constantly after. Just this one trip alone will aid you in your outlook for the remainder of the fall season.
Pay very close attention to whether it rained for any length of time. Even just one day of rain, especially a day featuring heavy rain all day, can make a difference in the conditions of the lake’s headwaters and its major feeder creeks. Indeed, unexpected stretches of two to three day downpours will have an even more profound effect on these same conditions.
Of special interest are those days of possibly wonderful angling following these sudden rainy fronts during the early fall season. Since the bass have not seen these conditions for months and months, anglers should be on the lookout for hordes of big bass suddenly moving into the shallows and feeding on the “incoming meals” brought by the downpour.
There are three other effects you should consider when assessing the effects of significant new rainfall on Lay Lake. Firstly, be aware that a sudden influx of rainwater run-off can warm the incoming waters found in the backs of creeks. Secondly, this can create a lot of current in these specific areas, which shifts around the meals these bass prey on. Thirdly, “generous” rains can change otherwise clear water into a stained water situation. These factors are generally positive early fall conditions that often move bass into the shallows to feed.
Adjust Your Sights Regarding Cold Fronts
Have there been any early fall season cold fronts? Be aware that several cold nights in a row, coupled with several cool days, can suddenly drop the water temperature down ten degrees or more. In just a few days time, the stagnant hot water these bass were accustomed to for the last three months can drop into the low eighties, seventies or even the upper sixties by late September!
Ask Yourself About Lake Conditions
Has Lay Lake gone through any major changes in its appearance lately? Determining this involves looking at the status of all of those aquatic weeds. Since there was some spraying of poisons to kill these aquatic weeds this past summer season, this may be an important factor. Some of the weeds may have already “naturally” withered, died or turned brown in the hot summer sun. More so, previously poisoned weeds hit with a sudden cold front condition or two will quickly shrink away. This effect can lower the water temperature significantly by the end of September. Most important, be aware that bass avoid these dying weed conditions.
It’s essential to consider lake levels. For instance, in the previous summer, Lay Lake- usually kept at or near “full pool” year round- had suddenly been lowered a few feet due to a late summer drought. Supposing the annual dam inspection, which occurs every fall season, may show the lake down one to three feet for a week or two If so, did this lower-than-normal lake level take place this past summer or just recently? These dynamics bear careful consideration.
The exact opposite can occur as well with the lake level suddenly on the rise. Whether the additional waters are a few inches to a foot or more over normal, “full pool” levels from recent heavy rains are conditions that always move bass into the shallows. Also ask yourself at what depths did you find bass at the same time last year during the late summer period.
You’ll find that a careful examination of all the above factors will keep you dialed into the fall movements of Lay Lakes’ fabulous bass.
Captain Reed Montgomery
Reeds Guide Service
Web Site: www.fishingalabama.com