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  • Warrior River System - Bankhead Lake

    DAY: This is the origin of the Warrior River near Birmingham, Alabama. To most of the locals its just known as "The Warrior". A dam was built in 1916 to back up this old river and Bankhead Lake was created. This inundated old houses and buildings, feeder creeks, streams and the incoming Big and Little Warrior Rivers, creating a vast lake full of fish-holding cover. It still produces good catches of bream, catfish, crappie, striped bass, spotted bass and some BIG largemouth bass.

    When summer arrives and the residents hit the water it can get crowded at times, but there are many places to escape the crowd on the Warrior River and adjoining Little River, near Howton's camp...that is if you can stand the heat. Far back in the many feeder creeks or far up the river headwaters are places with current, shade, cooler water and some big ol' bass. One factor always holds true on The Warrior River. Find the baitfish and you will find the bass.

    Spotted bass, largemouth’s and striped bass stay with these baitfish all summer, as they follow them up in the many creeks and small pockets off the main river. Schooling takes place at times and the fishing can be fast and furious. On the main river, boats, water skiers, jet skis, sight seers, pontoon parties and more traffic gets thick. Fishing and concentrating gets pretty unbearable on top of the hot sun bearing down. Travel far up the river or explore the creeks to get away from these water vehicles and to cool off.

    Thick weeds, logjams, rock bluffs, creek mouths, points and islands are just a few of the cover-filled areas on this long and winding river. Conventional lures always get a few bites. Spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, worms, crankbaits, rattletraps, various topwaters and weedless lures all work well, when fished in the right spot. Jigging spoons on the main river channel always gets some bass. A good tactic is to fish from river buoy to buoy as you work your way up or down the river. When a few bass are caught rework the area with bottom-bumping lures such as worms and jigs for less active bass. If fishing during the day is to hot or crowded try the peaceful setting of night fishing.

    NIGHT: There are at least three night tournaments out of Howton's camp each week. Participation is good usually resulting in a good payback. If tournaments is not your cup of tea, then you can get a head start on the crowd for night fishing by launching before 6 p.m.. When its hot the bass bite better at night, its much cooler, more comfortable and much less boat traffic than during the day.

    Fishing this cover-filled river takes some knowledge of your surroundings, because after dark everything looks the same. Run the lake during daylight hours to better familiarize yourself with obstacles and choice fishing spots. Look for landmarks that are easily seen after dark. Barge traffic runs all day and night and can be hazardous when one approaches. Stay far away and prepare for huge wakes afterwards. When running at night use a spotlight and run at moderate speeds, floating logs are always in this river and can't be seen ...until its to late.

    Best lures for fishing on this portion of the old Warrior River for nighttime are a matter of preference. Its a known fact that more tournaments are won with worms (all sizes) on a regular basis. Frogs, rats and buzzbaits also take their share of the topwater bite. There are weeds, lily pads and scummy backwaters that these lures will penetrate when other lures just hang up. Spinnerbaits always take some hefty bass especially just before sundown, at dawn and after dark when bass track down a lure. Experiment, there is always something in your (or your buddy's) tacklebox that these nighttime feeding bass will hit.

    Links to other summer fishing tips on Alabama Lakes:
    Alabama's Featured Lakes :Tallapoosa River System- Lake Harris and Lake Martin
    Coosa River System- Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Mitchell Lake and Jordan Lake
    Warrior River System - Bankhead Lake and Demopilis Lake
    Tennessee River System- Gunthersville Lake , Wheeler Lake, Wilson Lake and Pickwick Lake


    Summer 2003 Bankhead Lake

    By Reed Montgomery
    Reeds Guide Service (205) 787-5133
    Website: www.FISHINGALABAMA.com
    Impounded 1916
    Lake Level: Full Pool
    Water Temperature: Upper 80's


    Bankhead Lock & Dam was completed in 1916. This backed up the waters of the Big Warrior River and the Little Warrior River. Basically, this created "Bigger Rivers," more than a lake, like expected. Although dozens of major feeder creeks, do create many backwaters. Big Yellow Creek near the dam, offers plenty of cover for bass to hide in and for anglers to search this summer, when both day and night fishing. Valley Creek (just above the Big bridge), twists and turns throughout Bankhead Forrest. It is bordered by many small, weedy cuts and pockets, and is a very scenic Creek, with towering rock bluffs featured for over 10 navigable miles.

    Bankhead Lake. Or just known by the locals as "The Warrior" is also a very recreational lake during the summer months. Getting away from all the jet skies, water skiers, pontoon parties and dozens of other anglers, seems impossible at times. But there are ways to avoid the Warrior River crowd this summer.

    Getting on the water at dawn, will help an angler avoid the crowds, at least for a few hours, and always shows some excellent fishing. Fishing late evening hours, or traveling far up a major tributary, will also show less company this summer. Or just do like most of the Warrior River anglers and just go night fishing. This nocturnal bassing, always shows plenty of seclusion, and usually much more cooperative bass, that often slow down during hot, summer days. There are also several night tournaments held throughout the week and on weekends, out of Howton's Camp at the junction of the Big and Little Warrior Rivers. Or you can find bass nighttime bass tournaments around Smith's camp and The Big Bridge area (both just below Valley Creek) as well.

    If looking for some peace and quite this Summer, choose your fishing destinations carefully, or simply avoid the mid lake region during the day. From Valley Creek upriver, to the junction of the Big Warrior River and the Little Warrior River, can become very crowded, especially weekends, usually from about 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. As mentioned, early morning, late evenings or night fishing will show less company.

    As for fishing this mid lake region, it can show a variety of fishing situations this summer. Small creeks, log-filled cuts and pockets, and throughout Bankhead Lake main lake flats, are all loaded with wood and weedy cover. Scattered logjams, trees, brush and stumps, are found lake wide. Many main lake points, creek mouths, islands, and dozens of rock bluffs, all offer the deep water angler many choices this summer. River ledges and drop-offs, all account for some huge schools of fish, that congregate in these more comfortable surroundings, all throughout the summer months. Many of these largemouth and spotted bass, found in deeper water, go unmolested by the bank beating crowd.

    Traveling up the lake can send an angler in two directions. Launching at Howton's camp and taking an immediate right, will send you up the Little Warrior River, that winds up through the hillsides for over 20 navigable miles. Barge traffic, comes from this direction, and heads south to the gulf, after being loaded near Birmingport Hwy. that crosses the Little Warrior River. These huge barges are responsible for the ever changing terrain of the Little Warrior River.

    Log jams are rearranged every week and are featured in every river bend, creek mouth, the heads (upper ends) of islands found here, and all along main river flats. These wooded structures (and other washed in debris) are homes to the many big largemouth bass taken on Bankhead Lake year round, and most logjams harbor some big schools of bass. These bass relate to the shade and current found here during the summer. You will also see many piers, boat houses, marinas and other fish holding structures in this mid lake region, that are excellent places to fish both day and night this summer.

    Leaving Howton's Camp, at the junction of the Big and Little Warrior Rivers and taking a slight left heading north, will send you up the Big Warrior River. This section of the Warrior River goes for miles and miles, all the way to rocky shoals, found below Smith Lake Dam. Like fishing the Little Warrior River, this upper lake section offers weeds, wood cover, rock bluffs, piers and boat houses, and plenty of scattered logjams, for the summertime angler to investigate.

    About 5 miles up the Big Warrior River (from Howton's Camp) is Lost Creek, junctioned by Wolf Creek. These two scenic backwater feeders, feature vast weedbeds, like Lilly pad fields (often entire pockets) loaded with this natural, aquatic weed. Huge log jams, scattered for over one mile, fill the entire Lost Creek mouth, including the upper and lower main lake points, making it very easy to find.

    *NOTE: For fishing tips and lure suggestions on Bankhead Lake (and all other Alabama Lakes) for both day and night fishing, go to my website: www.FISHINGALABAMA.com and click on "Fishing Tips" on the cover page.

    Visit the Warrior River impoundment, known as Bankhead Lake, this summer. Or call Reeds Guide Service (205) 787-5133. I grew up fishing this huge waterway and know Bankhead Lake very well, after over 40 years of exploring the Warrior River.
    "Over 40 Years Fishing Alabama's Lakes for bass and stripers"
    Winter Fishing on Bankhead Lake

    Lake Level: Full Pool
    Water Temperature: Low to mid 50's

    Winter on the Warrior

    Although its named Bankhead Lake, locals just call it, "the Warrior." I grew up fishing this huge expanse of water, renting a boat (before I could even drive a car), learning the basics of bassin' in a small upriver area called, Lost Creek. My, how the times have changed since then.

    Bankhead Lake stretches, from far upriver at the lakes headwaters of the Sipsey River found just below Smith Lake dam, to the lakes downriver dam Bankhead Lock and Dam, built in 1916. It is also joined by its smaller sister waterway, The Little Warrior River, located at midlake. This huge feeder river shows barge navigation and over 20 miles of navigable water, from the junction of these two rivers, before reaching the headwaters of the Little Warrior River.

    Its been 40 Years since I began exploring the winding waters of these two rivers. Even back in my earlier years, while fishing in every season under varying conditions, it was a challenge. During that time I always discovered new places, new lures and new techniques for catching the spotted bass and largemouth bass, this old winding river harbors. I'm still learning today.

    One thing that makes this very old river system (88 years old) so unique, is that its ever-changing. New logjams, aquatic weeds of all types, fallen trees, logs, brush and other washed-in debris from years of flooding, always show new cover for bass to hide in.

    Development along both the Warrior River and Little Warrior River, has shown the population booming and new cover for bass and the prey they feed on. New piers, boat houses and marinas spring up every year.

    Barge traffic has its effects too. Siltation from years of constant flow from these huge tug boats and as many as 4-5 barges, has filled in many of the rivers bottom areas. Throughout the years it has gotten so bad, that dredging the main river channel is a constant job, just to keep it deep enough to navigate.

    Winter on Bankhead Lake, can show many anglers struggle. Often, these are locals and very adept anglers, anglers that fish tournaments every week and usually show great sacks of bass caught during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons.

    But for some reason, the dead of winter, has many anglers giving up on the old Warrior. But Winter and early Spring is when some of the biggest spotted bass and largemouth's are fooled, only by the persistent angler that refuses to be beaten, by an age old river that has many secrets to unlock. Actually its as simple as the rest of the year. Find the prey and you will find the predator.

    Huge, baitfish schools can be found cruising the waters of the Warrior River. Baitfish that bass dine on daily, such as threadfin shad or gizzard shad, eventually grow to sizable proportions. When small, any fish can swallow a dozen in a day. But when reaching sizes of up to one pound, it takes a big bass to even consider eating one.

    So, the huge stripers and big catfish get the remains, when these baitfish get to big for the bass to swallow. But that's OK too. Because on a huge river system like this many predators, such as the largemouth bass, have discovered there is plenty more on the menu, both small and large meals, that can't escape their huge, gapping jaws, when it comes to eating.

    So this winter think big, real big in lure selection, when targeting only the true, trophy sized bass. Or, fish for whatever's biting, while tailoring your lures a little on the small size and getting more bites.

    Often, small is good, when both spotted bass and largemouth's slow down and feed less during winter. Thus requiring less food, and showing less energy when it comes to chasing down an easy meal. So you make the choice. But keep in mind, although its winter, these bass gorge themselves on a variety of meals, just like in the summer.

    Minnows are found along every shallow water nook and cranny. They are high on the list of year round favorites. So lures such as jerkbaits, with their long, slim profile, are excellent choices, anytime you see an abundance of minnows along the shoreline. Or when seeing minnows fleeing and jumping all along the water's surface, try these minnow-type lures.

    Crayfish are high in nutrition and much easier to catch than baitfish and the bass seem to know it in winter, when these crustaceans slow down even more. Any rocky areas, red clay banks or even along main lake flats and weedlines, can harbor crayfish, a favorite on the wintertime menu. Plastic crayfish or jig combos fool some of Bankhead Lake's biggest bass each winter, some largemouth bass, weighing over 10 pounds.

    Worms, snakes and eels are found all along the lakes varied cover and lures that simulate these slithering meals can mean big bass bites, even during the dead of winter. Worms in the 10-12 inch size get very few bites during winter, but when you do connect, its always a sizable bass.

    With heavy rains and cold water, anglers often face tough conditions during winter. Cold, muddy water are the worse conditions an angler can face any time. This is when most bass slow down tremendously and are very hard to locate or find bunched up. But persistent anglers fishing with lures that emit sound, flash and vibration, can get bites while others struggle.

    Spinnerbaits with oversized blades and big, gaudy trailers, wide wobbling crankbaits with rattles, rattling lipless lures, even loud topwaters, can all catch these bass during winter warming trends and even in very cold, muddy water.

    On the main river, when waters are clear, jigging spoons and tailspinners are great fish locators, and fishing with deep diving crankbaits can entice slow, sluggish bass into biting. Bass bunched up along ledges, drop-offs, creek mouths, around islands and along small cuts and pockets, can be caught in numbers when a huge school is located.

    So many lure choices are at hand and many rods should be rigged for a variety of fishing situation's, all that will inevitably arise this winter, when anglers attempt to fool with the old Warrior River, known as Bankhead Lake.

    Want to learn more about catching bass year round on the Warrior River from north to south Alabama? Or need help any lake in Alabama? Always call Reeds Guide Service (205) 787-5133...first! "Over 40 Years Fishing Alabama's Lakes and Rivers for Bass and Stripers" And it all began on the Warrior River near Birmingham, Alabama.

    Dress warm and be safe this Winter on Alabama's Lakes!