Outdoors: ‘Bass capital of the world’ still holds many lunkers
By John N. Felsher
Dating to 1962, Lake Eufaula garnered an early reputation as the “Bass Fishing Capital of the World.” Officially dubbed Walter F. George Reservoir, the impoundment covers 45,181 acres along the Chattahoochee River and spans part of the Alabama-Georgia border. The main river and numerous creek channels combine to create 640 shoreline miles.
Over the years, Lake Eufaula produced many double-digit bass. It still holds excellent numbers of 1- to 4-pound bass and plenty 5- to 8-pounders. It still produces occasional double-digit fish with some topping 12 pounds.
“The lake is well known for producing big bass and big stringers of bass,” says Jack Tibbs, mayor of Eufaula and owner of Strikezone Lures (www.strikezonelure.com). Sometimes, it takes more than 26 pounds with five fish to win a tournament. It produces some double-digit bass as well as good numbers of crappie. Most people come to Lake Eufaula to catch bass and crappie, but catfish are often overlooked. Fishhound.com named Lake Eufaula the best catfish lake in the United States.”
The best lunker fishing naturally occurs in late winter and early spring as giant females swollen with roe stage on ledges before moving into the spawning flats, but Eufaula can produce big bass all year long. Spawning traditionally peaks under the full moon in March. Spawning usually ends in April, but anglers sometimes still find big fish on the beds in May, especially after a cold winter.
As grass grows thicker in late spring and summer, anglers fish matted vegetation with unweighted soft plastics. Try working frogs over the grass tops or hit the mat edges with big Texas-rigged worms. Later in the summer, target deeper creek channels, humps and ledges with Carolina rigs, deep-running crankbaits or heavy jigs.
In the fall, bass often return to the shallows. Target them with topwaters, spinnerbaits and crankbaits. In the winter, anglers need to fish slowly and deep. As hunting seasons open, many anglers may find themselves alone on the best fishing spots.
“The fall is one of the best times to fish Lake Eufaula,” says Sam Williams of Hawks Fishing Guide Service (334-687-6266/www.hawksfishingguideservice.com). “The weather is more pleasant and so many people are hunting instead of fishing. When the water turns cool, grass holds more heat. During warm days, the grass provides cooling cover.”
Some of the best fishing occurs in Cowikee Creek near Lakepoint State Park Resort. Some holes in the creek channel drop to more than 30 feet deep, making excellent conditions to run deep-diving crankbaits, jigs or Texas-rigged plastics. On one trip, Williams and I used his electric motor to troll shad-colored lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits next to the drop-off edges in Cowikee Creek. We not only caught largemouth bass, but crappie, hybrid stripers and a big channel catfish on the same lures just a short distance from the resort.
“Trolling is a great way to find bass,” Williams says. “When bass anglers see crappie anglers trolling, that’s a good time to fish because both the bass and the crappie are feeding on threadfin shad. When the shad are up, the bass are up. Bass also eat small crappie.”
Not far from where Cowikee Creek enters the main channel near Bird Island, water depth plunges rapidly from almost nothing to about 60 feet deep. Throw baits up into shallow cover near the shoreline and work them out toward deeper water. Let baits fall over the ledge edge.
“Bird Island is a good place to fish early in the morning,” Williams says. “Later, fish the deeper drops with a Carolina rig or deep-running crankbait. Early and late, fish the shelves near the shorelines. A north wind blows baitfish to Bird Island. During a west wind, the Bradley Unit on the wildlife refuge has good protection and can produce good fish.”
Several other creeks also hold lunker bass. Look for creeks with good access to both shallow and deep water and prime woody or weedy cover. In addition, several organizations built numerous artificial reefs throughout the lake to attract fish.
“The Old Creek Town area south of Lakepoint has a lot of ditches and stump fields,” Williams says. “Reeves Branch is another good place to fish. It has an old farm pond that flooded when the lake filled up. White Oak Creek has some good fish. It has some big stump fields near it by the main river. That’s a good place for cranking and jigging.”
About 25 miles downriver from Lakepoint, deep bluffs near the causeway or the riprap near the dam can hold fish. Also try Sandy Branch, Pataula Creek, Hardridge Creek, Thomas Mill, Barbour, Chewalla and Chenyhatchee creeks.
Because the lake straddles the Alabama-Georgia line, anglers can fish in the main waters with a license from either state. For Eufaula area information, call the Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce at 800-524-7529 or visit www.eufaulachamber.com.