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Winter on Neely Henry Lake
Summer on Neely Henry Lake
Summer, on this Coosa River Impoundment, goes just like spring...in
stages. As Neely Henry's waters begin to warm and bass get in the summer
mode (where they will stay for the next 3-4 months), its for sure many
of both spotted bass and largemouth bass, will be in some very
predictable locations. Its also for sure its going to get hotter and
hotter with each passing week!
Just like last summer - as we all remember - when those hot, summer days
displayed air temperatures exceeding that stifling hot, 100 degree mark.
This usually results in a very short day of fishing, or in the case of
most Alabama anglers, a change, from chasing bass during the hot summer
days to a more comfortable thing called, night fishing.
Another problem all anglers encountered during the past summer season is
drought. Little or no rain for several months, meant the lakes were
slowly lowered (some tremendously) mostly due to the constant water
generation for the high demand for electricity. Very odd. When compared
to Alabama's past summer seasons, when just enough rain kept most lakes
at full pool.
As summer begins many anglers just cannot get over the post spawn blues.
Spring, shallow bass and some very hungry big bass coming off the beds,
showed some great fishing as usual on all Alabama lakes. That is, just
prior to the beginning of summer.
So, do hot summer days dictate shallow water anglers (that enjoyed some
fantastic shallow water bass fishing this past spring) decisions? Should
they quit fishing for bass in shallow water when it gets hot? No, not by
no means. At least not on most Alabama impoundments. There are
exceptions, like the deep, clear waters of Alabama's Smith Lake.
There are many important aspects that provide a distinct advantage for
most of Neely Henry Lakes anglers, when fishing for bass during the hot
summer days. One is the availability of constant current in the lake.
Another is, there is usually a slightly stained look to the water. Both
of these conditions always bring bass shallow to feed.
Current, positions both the Coosa River spotted bass and the largemouth
bass tight to cover. Stained waters always forces bass to move shallow
and feed. Current is usually associated with cooler water, of which all
species of bass love during the summer months, when main lake waters can
be as hot as 90 degrees. Current is more evident on Neely Henry lake in
its upper portion, from Gadsden city boat launch to the lakes
The upper lake waters, is where more narrow, river like conditions
occur. This can funnel down the lakes incoming waters, coming off of
upstream Weiss lake's dam waters. Meaning more water then heading
downstream in a more confined area. Current is also found in most major
feeder creeks, especially after heavy rains or following isolated
evening thundershowers. Then there is shade.
During the summer months there are shady places found up in major feeder
creeks and even on the main lake, all showing some very shady and cooler
waters below. Places that can be as much as 10 degrees cooler, than
waters nearby often found baking in the hot, summer sun by mid morning.
Finding shade - means finding much more active bass and baitfish. Both
of which take up residence within this shade during the daylight hours.
Places like rock bluffs have shade all day. Overhanging bushes and trees
found on the lakes eastern shores, can be sunny in the morning. But
these same places (bass avoided as the morning sun rose high), can be
very shady when the sun begins to dip down in the eastern skies, often
shady as early as mid day. Another excellent set of circumstances where
shade is found, is in the mid-to-far back ends of major feeder creeks or
the backs of deep cuts and shady pockets.
These places, often far from the main lake waters, can hold loads of
shade-seeking bass this summer. They can be found in huge schools
lounging around the shade provided by over hanging trees, bushes, piers,
boat houses, rock walls, bridges, culverts and even along the bends of a
twisting, turning creek channel.
So think of Neely Henry's bass as they go through these stages this
summer season and like them, you should always pay attention to your
Early summer, shows some very rich and green grass growing lake wide and
this oxygen-rich environment holds bass even when its hot at midday.
Wood cover, rock cover and man made cover like bridges, piers, boat
houses and marinas have resident, summertime bass as well. Especially
bass tournament release sites around marinas.
Some marinas hold bass tournaments all week during the summer months.
These marina release sites can have bass that have been recently let go,
from 2 - 3 daytime tournaments and 2-3 nighttime bass tournaments. Each
week this takes place all summer long, meaning hundreds of bass are let
go around these locations, just waiting to be caught again!
By July - mid summer, its hot! Things begin to show a definite change
lake wide. Little or no rain can show the lake begin to fall fast.
Places you caught bass in this past spring could be high and dry with
summer drought taking place again. Night fishing shows less anglers on
the water so a half day trip from around dawn until about 11 a.m. may be
in store. Or you can venture out in the evening, as the sun begins to
set and then fish in peace and solitude until midnight or all night, in
Lures for Neely Henry Lake this Summer
As for lures - you name it. Summer is when bass will hit every lure in
your tackle box (es). From shallow water to deep water there is a set of
lures for every situation, so bring plenty of choices. Topwater lures
are good both during the day and at night. So are spinnerbaits,
jerkbaits, rattletraps and crankbaits. Yes, bass will hit all of these
lures and other lures, both during the day and at night. I have even
caught bass during the day on jigging spoons in deep water and continued
on into the night fooling them in deep water with spoons and tail
Fishing on bottom on Neely Henry Lake, both during the day and at night,
calls for both Finesse Fishing with small lures and light tackle outfits
and Power Fishing with heavy line, stought rods and with strong, wide
spooled, high ratio reels. These can be coupled with various types of
heavy monofilament line, braided line or fluorocarbon line. Try them
all, each type of line, each has its own application.
Small worms, small lizards, mini-size crayfish or small jig combos and
tube baits, may be needed for finicky, spotted bass often encountered
during summer in clear water situations. This may call for the use of a
drop shot rig, Texas rig, Carolina rig, or a small plastic lure rigged
on a small jig head. Day or night, these lures (and a slow
presentation), works all summer long on this lake.
Fishing with bigger lures on Neely Henry Lake can mean targeting bigger
bass, meaning being ready with heavier line, sharp hooks and strong
equipment. Whether you day or night fish. Try oversized 10-12 inch
worms, 8 inch lizards, big gaudy jig combos, multi-legged creature baits
and even oversized soft plastic shad imitations or swim baits. These
types of lures can be deadly temptations for big bass on Neely Henry
lake this summer, both during the day and at night...all summer long.
* Summer is a good time to experiment, for there are many lures that
will fool these bass. But only if you tie them on and give them a try.
These lures will not work when they are collecting dust in your tackle
Lake level (Late Feb) Down 2 feet Lake level / Spring:
Full pool by Mid- April
Water Temperatures (late Feb) mid-50's / March mid-60's / April mid-70's
/ May 80+ degrees
SPRING ON NEELY HENRY LAKE
Neely Henry lake, near the north Alabama city of Gadsden, is one of
Alabama's lakes I've fished since I could drive a truck. My father and
my uncle fished it since it was impounded in 1966. You could say, I know
this lake. I have logged a lot of hours on this lake. After tournament
fishing, guiding and exploring all of Neely Henry's 50 miles of
navigable Coosa River waters - I have learned a lot about fishing the
lake in all seasons.
This includes tackling Neely Henry lake's often finicky largemouth bass
and adjusting to the unpredictable nature of the Coosa River spotted
bass. Still, just like when fishing any Alabama lake, targeting these
finny friends on Neely Henry lake has got to be at its best during the
spring season. Here's some tips for pre spawn bass, spawning bass and
post spawn bass.
MARCH / PRESPAWN BASS
Like most Alabama lakes, Neely Henry lake is below normal, full pool
level. Mostly due to last years drought or traditionally its usually
down a few feet for the winter season. By mid April the lake is usually
back to full pool level. Around the last week of February it was down 2
feet. Neely Henry lake could be down even more or suddenly rise due to
heavy rains in March.
Low water concentrates these bass. This not only places them in some
very predictable locations, but often low water conditions can really
group up these bass. They can be fooled with a variety of lures and
presentations, with several bass often taken off of one lone spot.
The reasons these bass group up during the pre spawn month of March, are
many. After coming out of their wintertime, semi-dormant hibernation
period (they never quit eating, just slow down), these bass are hungry,
so food is the main agenda. Most male and female bass feed heavily right
prior to the spawn.
This is constant, daily feeding that usually takes place - starting in
early March (the more the water warms into the mid-to-upper 50's), on
into early April. As water temperatures then gradually rise into the
upper 60's, it triggers them to move shallow and bed. That is, with
warm, stable weather conditions.
March is a month notorious for cold fronts. A severe cold front is
possible at least every few days. It can ruin a well laid out game plan,
especially if you were previously catching them in shallow water. So
always have plenty of back-up spots for cold front situations. Cold
fronts show that these bass either bury up in thick cover, or they
suspend in preferred areas or they go back to deeper creeks and main
lake areas, until conditions improve.
APRIL / SPAWNING BASS
Although many anglers do not fish for bedding bass, they unknowingly
catch them. April is a month when you will fool a bass often full of
eggs or one that is actually on the bed. But always keep in mind, not
all Neely Henry bass bed at the same time.
Early April the water can still be cold, triggering bass to continue
feeding until conditions get stable. So what is stable? Usually by the
end of April conditions improve dramatically. This can be the weather,
of which gets warmer each passing week. Or the constantly rising water
temperature as it gets close to 72 degrees, the perfect spawning water
Or the week of a full moon, a time when the majority of these bass will
attempt to make a bed or lay their eggs. Or it can be a combination of
all of these factors that together, will trigger these bass to mate and
reproduce another year's off spring. That's stable conditions.
By the end of April most bass will have bed and weather conditions
should be stable. Air temperatures will be near 80 degrees. This is when
all the little male bass guard the beds, running off any intruders and
you will catch a lot of 1-3 pounders.
Still, nearby in these spawning flats, the big female bass will not be
far. When bedding some big female bass will mate, lay their eggs and
then hang around the bed a few days. As the male continues to protect
the bed, eggs or the soon-to-be newborn bass fry, the female bass
recuperates and slowly cruises the area, looking for an easy meal.
They may rest a day or two to and recuperate from the rigors of
spawning. Some of these big bass have not eaten in days and they are
weak and have a lot less energy after bedding, than during May when they
are recuperated and hitting every lure that comes their way.
MAY / POST SPAWN BASS
This is got to be the best month for fooling numbers of bass and some
big bass as well. For the past two months these spotted bass and
largemouth bass have invaded the shallows, feeding, fattening up, and
then losing it all with their bedding rituals. Then they fast, some not
eating for weeks. But it does not take long to recuperate, especially
with so many meals lingering around the shallows in May.
By the first week of May the lake is back to full pool, water
temperatures are in the 70's and new growing aquatic weeds begin to
emerge. By June, some of Neely Henry lakes aquatic weeds are thick,
matted and still growing lake wide.
These weeds begin their growth as the lake warms in mid April. As the
lake level slowly rises, often flooding these new-growing weeds along
the lakes shoreline, the bedding bass move right in. These bass continue
to occupy any wood, weeds, or rock cover, as they lay their eggs and
protect the bed for weeks, right on into May.
Weeds make great resting spots and ambush areas for these bass. Bass
that really do not want to move far or expend much energy. A stump right
in a bed or nearby (or any cover), actually enhances a weedy spot,
especially for bigger bass that dominate this cover what we call, "cover
within cover" during spring and on into late May.
As May gets underway a lot of prey emerge in the shallows for these bass
to dine on. They are found hanging around the wood, rock and weedy cover
these bass made their homes around the last few weeks. Wood cover can be
stumps, laying logs, log jams, brush piles or even piers and boat
houses. Bream, shad and minnows hang around all of this type of wood
Rocks are always good hiding places for crayfish and worms some of the
bass's favorite meals and usually easy-to- catch meals. Weeds hold all
kinds of baitfish, crayfish and a new prey soon emerges as these bass
come off the beds. Frogs. After emerging, their incessant croaking soon
gets on the nerves of shallow water bass. These bass know these meals
are easy to track down and frogs are easy to swallow. By May there are
thousands of frogs for them to choose from.
So tailoring your look-a-like lures far each fishing situation. That is
what gets the strikes and fools these often, lure-conscience bass, that
get pounded with a variety of offerings daily. By May, the end of the
spawning season, they have seen a lot of lures. Still, by May its always
topwater time on Neely Henry lake!
Lake Level: Down two feet
Fall Fishing Neely Henry Lake
Like upriver impoundment Weiss Lake, Neely Henry Lake, the second of six
lakes located on the Coosa River System, suffered from the results of an
extreme drought this past summer. Unseasonably low lake levels of two
feet below normal, full pool existed during the 100 plus degree days of
mid August. Although not as drastically down like Weiss Lake (down 5
feet in August) this still created a hazard for boaters. Normally
lowered during the fall season for winter pool, Neely Henry Lake could
be dropped even lower than two feet for the next six months until next
Low water is not good for the lakes aquatic weeds, that usually thrive
and grow thick and green during the summer months on these Coosa River
Lakes. Also without the weeds, bass and the baitfish they dine on have
to find other places to resident during the summer months. With very
little weeds growing during these low water times, the beginning of the
fall period can show both the bass and the baitfish, crayfish and other
edibles hanging around wood cover, rock cover and irregular bottom
features. They can really get bunched up in preferred locations.
Although Neely Henry Lake is a big lake (at over 50 miles in length),
low water can still congregate both predator and prey overcrowding them
around shallow water cover. This situation can increase the feeding
activity of both the lakes spotted bass and largemouth bass population
as waters drop and begin to cool in late September.
Neely Henry Lake Headwaters
Low water can show the lakes headwaters really concentrate these fall
season bass. The lakes headwaters being considered about 25 miles of
narrow river type waters situated from Gadsden City launch located right
next to Hwy. 431 bridge crossing, to Weiss Lake dam tailrace waters.
There are very few backwaters in the upper reaches of Neely Henry Lake,
places deeper than 5 feet (especially so with the lake down a few feet)
for these fish to escape the often swift current found here.
The relocation of both bass and prey such as minnows, shad, bream and
crayfish, can funnel them all down to these creek mouths. This includes
the mouths of small incoming streams, small cuts, pockets found along
the main river and especially main river banks featuring slack water and
lots of wood cover.
Also there are flats and plenty of rock bluffs for these fall bass to
feed along as these seasonal waters begin to cool and winter approaches.
Points leading into these river type rock bluff pockets are excellent
places to fish this early fall season on into early winter using
topwaters, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worms and jig combos.
During the fall and early winter months the lake can have a sudden
influx of water from heavy rains, which can stain the lakes headwaters
and cause the lake level to suddenly rise. This is when anglers fishing
the lakes headwaters can quickly capitalize on a shallow water bite
before waters clear and drop back down.
Fishing very shallow in major feeder creeks in these lakes headwaters
(as waters suddenly rise from several inches of rain), can show some
really big bass coming out of the muddy river and suddenly invade the
newly flooded shallows, to feed right before waters begin to drop back
down and suddenly cool with the next cold front. Henley Creek and Cove
Creek are the last major feeder creeks showing depths of five feet in
these lake headwaters, even when the lake is down two feet. Flats in
these and other creek backwaters can show lures like spinnerbaits and
noisy topwaters like buzzbaits good lure choices in lightly stained
waters during fall for big bass.
Neely Henry Lake Mid Lake
Leaving Gadsden City launch and heading down the lake you will notice
the lake begins to widen to a more lake like appearance. Although wide
open main lake flats with stumps and scattered wood debris are clearly
evident, the lake is lacking in backwaters and major feeder creeks until
you reach the lower lake where Canoe creek is located.
The only major creek in this mid lake area is Big Wills Creek, located
on your right heading down stream about 2 miles below Gadsden City
launch. It has a lot of man made rip-rap rocks found around bridges that
are good fishing with shad imitations and crayfish lures. Crankbaits,
rattling lipless lures and spinnerbaits are good lures fished at all
depths along the rocks. Also try small finesse worms on jig heads to big
worms rigged Texas style, including lizards, tube baits, crayfish
imitations, creature baits and jig combos, all fished very slowly from
shallow to deep water along these rocks.
Main lake flats loaded with stumps, laying trees and logs are great fall
locations for numbers of spotted bass and largemouth's. There are miles
of these flats from Gadsden City launch located all the way to the mouth
of Canoe creek down the lake.
Fan casting lures like shallow to mid running crankbaits, both floating
and suspending hard bodied jerkbaits and rattling lipless lures like
rattletraps, Cordell ratting spots and Rapala's Rattlin' Raps covers
these flats fast and gets the anxious bass bites. After catching a few
bass on these flats you should rework them with topwaters, bottom lures,
spinnerbaits, floating worms and soft jerkbaits. Baitfish really gather
here during the fall season and bass can often be seen schooling and
busting shad on top. Always have a topwater lure rigged and ready for
this fast schooling action.
Another tactic many anglers pass right by are fishing bridge pilings
during the fall. Not only the three bridges located right next to the
city of Gadsden that borders the lake, but Hwy. 77 bridge that crosses
the lake a few miles above the mouth of Canoe Creek. Jigging spoons or
fishing with small worms, jig heads with spinners or even topwaters are
good lures fished right along the bridge pilings. Backing off and making
long casts with lures such as deep diving crankbaits is one tactic that
works really well, especially when fished along the much shallower
bridge pilings near the main river banks. Keep in mind, washed in wood
cover is found all along these bridge pilings. Also there is man made
rip-rap rocks dumped all around each pilling at its base to prevent
erosion, rocks that bass like too.
Neely Henry Lake Lower Lake
Neely Henry Lake takes on a more lake like appearance as you leave the
Hwy. 77 bridge crossing and head down the lake. The mouth of the lakes
biggest feeder creek Canoe creek, once displayed miles of standing
timber found everywhere on the lower lake. Now those trees have been cut
off far below the water line, but stumps still remain, good places for
some very unmolested bass this fall season.
High spots, main lake points, some small islands and old underwater
lakes and roadbeds also exist here. Plenty of piers and boat houses
featuring resident planted brushplies can be easily found in this lower
lake region. These piers have resident planted brush all around them and
plenty of bass relating to them as well in the fall and early winter
seasons. Some map study and depth finder use will reveal the hidden
Other places bass inhibit during fall (that are more visible) include
brushpiles. They are very visible with low water now exposing limbs and
small sticks protruding out of the water. With low water this fall,
watch out for shallow places, some are marked areas with PVC pipes and
they are very evident.
Covering water fast and finding the more active bass always involves the
use of lures that simulate shad or bream. In shallow water of less than
five feet featuring clear water clarity, try smaller profile lures like
shallow to mid running crankbaits, small rattletraps and small two
hooked jerkbaits. Also you may try smaller topwaters and smaller
spinnerbaits. These lures may be needed for finicky bass on these lower
lakes fishing in and around wood and rock cover. But often smaller lures
do fool the bigger more picky bass as well.
If these main lake flats, the mouths of creeks and even creek backwaters
are stained from heavy rain or current is very evident, you may need to
help the bass locate your lures more easily. Lures like spinnerbaits
emit more flash and create more water displacement with the vibrations
from the lures blades and the action and appeal from adding trailers.
Spinnerbaits are excellent lures in stained to off colored water
conditions during the fall. Brighter colors may be needed.
Half ounce to three quarter of an ounce rattletraps and Cordell rattling
spots put out a lot of noise, flash and vibration. These lures also look
like end of the season shad these bass feed on, baitfish that have grown
bigger by the fall season.
Zara spooks, Zara Super Spooks, baby torpedoes, crazy shads, and Luck
Craft's Sammie topwater lures are all good for attracting those big bass
bites and they look like these baitfish. Topwaters can produce some of
Neely Henry's biggest fall season bass. Heavy line is suggested for fall
action on top. Noisy clacker type buzzbaits are known for big bass on
Neely Henry Lake. Always include a trailer hook for short striking bass
and fish buzzbaits on 17-20 pound test line.
Planning a trip to Neely Henry Lake? Always call on Reeds Guide
Service...first! (205) 787-5133. The lake's oldest professional guide
service, fishing this lake and other Alabama Lakes for over 40 years.
NEELY HENRY LAKE
By Reed Montgomery
Reeds Guide Service (205) 787-5133
Lake Level: Full Pool
Water Temperature: Upper 80's
SUMMER ON NEELY HENRY LAKE
Many anglers have had trouble navigating the lower end of Neely Henry
Lake for years. That is, until the water authorities cleared out the
standing timber years ago and navigation, became a matter of just
following the newly marked channel.
Today, the only hazard to look for when running the lake's lower end for
the first time, are floating logs, and other boaters or jet skies, and
you will see plenty of the "livelier" of this threesome, when out this
summer. Especially from the mid-to-lower lake.
Starting at the lakes lower end, around Neely Henry dam, it is basically
a straight shot right up the lake. Almost. This run, due north, is
bordered by small cuts and pockets and many, major feeder creeks,
situated along deep, river bends. The first feeder creek is on your left
as you navigate up the lake, Bridge Creek. Then a small pocket and next
is Shoal Creek, all on your left, heading North, up the Lake.
On your right, traveling the first few miles up the lake from the dam,
are only a few small pockets and lots of deep water, bordering rocky,
bluff-type banks. The next bend to your right, will lead you due East,
right into the mouth of several pockets lined with piers and boat
houses, all on the Eastern side of the lower lake.
There are also several marinas in the back of these adjoined pockets,
with Hwy. 77. Crossing along a rip-rap lined causeway. *Note: Many bass
are released in this area, all throughout the summer months in both day
and night tournaments, held out of the marinas found here.
As the old river channel swings again and leaves this area, it makes
another sharp bend and borders the mouth of Beaver Creek, loaded with
fish-holding cover of all kinds. Weeds, stumps, brush piles, points, lay
downs, piers, boat houses and rock bluffs, show the versatile angler
many choices this summer in Beaver Creek.
A mile past Beaver Creek, heading up the lake, and the huge pocket on
your right (about one mile) is actually named Greens Creek. Although it
only goes for a short distance from the main lake, there are lots of
piers, a marina, and Hwy. 77 that crosses the back of Greens Creek, with
a rip-rap lined causeway.
As you travel up the lake you will begin to notice how wide it gets in
the next bend, in the mouth of Canoe Creek. Many anglers without a map
or navigation knowledge, get lost here. Looking to your left is Canoe
Creek, the biggest feeder creek on the lake, taking a right, at this
creek and main lake junction, will continue you North to the lake's
Red and green creek channel markers will safely take you up in Canoe
Creek, to a bridge. Then go slow in the creek backwaters. Or you can
follow the River channel markers in this area, but navigate with
caution, when leaving the main channel. This is where all the standing
timber was in year's past, before they cut it 5 feet below the water
line. But still, stumps are all along the flats bordering this area.
The lake straightens out and again begins to head North as you leave
Canoe Creek and its make another sharp bend north. Leaving Canoe Creek
and going straight across the lake due East, will take you up in a
smaller feeder named, Broughton Springs Creek. This small, unnoticed
creek, has plenty of piers, boat houses, weed beds, and laydown trees,
plus stump flats and plenty of brush-filled side pockets, to explore
Traveling up the lake, you will see a few small islands, most of which
are on your right. This is a stumpy flat along the shallow side of the
main lake and good for fishing day or night. Navigation is marked along
the left side of the lake with channel markers for about 5 miles. Just
before you get to Hwy. 77 bridge that crosses the lake, is Buck's Island
Marina with boat repairs and parts. Also other marinas and gas can be
found here in this mid lake region, before continuing to the upper lake.
Leaving Hwy. 77 crossing at midlake, and heading upriver, you will
immediately notice the lake will begin to narrow, to more of a
river-type appearance. There are several weed and wood cover laden
pockets to explore here, and loads of main lake flats, all covered with
washed-in trees, laying logs, brush and other wood debris. Navigating
the middle of the lake, is suggested.
This midlake region, like the lower lake, will also show lots of company
this summer, from the hoards of summertime party goers. About 5-6 miles
above Hwy. 77 bridge crossing, the lake will again make another sharp,
hard bend heading due north. This is know as Minnesota Bend, the deepest
part of this upper lake region, with water depths over 70 feet deep.
Just past this deep, rock bluff Minnesota Bend, heading upriver, on your
right about a mile, is Honey Creek. Its easily identified with a small
island situated right in the mouth. This is a flat, backwater creek.
Continuing on up the lake, will show a few islands, another river bend,
and then a bridge that crosses the lake. This is just after you go past
some electrical towers in the mouth of Big Wills Creek. Of which is an
excellent creek in this upper lake region, for both day or night fishing
Big Wills Creek has lots of rip-rap rocks found around two bridges, near
the creek mouth. But use caution, after going under the first Big Wills
Creek bridge. It is deceiving, looking deep, but with only a few feet of
shallow, stump-fillled flats. Idling the boat is suggested here.
Right past Big Wills Creek mouth, heading upriver, is Hwy. 759 bridge
crossing. Then on your right is famous, Gadsden City Boat Launch, where
many bass tournaments are held weekly, year round. Again, many released
bass, can be re-caught, when working this area near the city launch.
Leaving Gadsden City launch and heading upriver (where the lake is
crossed by two bridges), the Lake narrows to a more river-type
appearance. Neely Henry Lake, then continues North, twisting and turning
among the scenic hillsides, for another 30 plus miles of River.
You will see rock bluffs, logjams, laydown trees, small islands, another
bridge crossing and many small pockets and creek mouths, to explore this
summer in the headwaters of Neely Henry Lake, often far from the summer
"Be safe, and be courteous to other boaters, this Summer on Neely Henry
*To learn more about Neely Henry Lake, including seasonal fishing tips
and lure suggestions, go to: www.fishingalabama.com and click on
"Fishing Tips" on the cover page. Also see "links" and "lake reports"
there, for more on fishing and navigating this lake and other Alabama
Lakes this summer.
Winter on Neely Henry Lake
Lake level: down (winter pool) 2-3 feet
It has been 42 years since Alabama Power Company impounded Neely Henry
Lake, situated near the city of Gadsden in north Alabama. This 11,200
acre lake is the second of six man made impoundments on the Coosa River
System. It stretches 77 nautical miles, from the lakes headwaters that
start below Weiss lake dam, all the way to the lower Neely Henry lake
dam. From dam to dam there are a lot of places for anglers to fish this
winter season. Largemouth bass are found lake wide, included as a bonus
is the Coosa River spotted bass. A ball of fighting fury not found on
all Alabama lakes...a bass that any angler would enjoy doing battle
With 339 miles of shoreline (at full pool), Neely Henry Lake displays a
lot of terrain for these bass to spread out in during the cold, winter
months. But not all bass on this lake go deep during the winter months,
like bass traditionally do on other Alabama reservoirs. Warming trends
often occur in the winter season throughout north Alabama and this can
suddenly show these bass feeding for weeks at a time, often in the
shallows of this lake all day. Or just the opposite can take place.
Severe cold fronts, followed by bright bluebird skies, can slow the
feeding process and make catching these bass hard at times.
Regardless of the often times very severe wintertime conditions, these
bass have got to eat on a daily basis. There are always some catchable
bass to be found lake wide by the angler with a lot of patience, a
little knowledge of the lake and plenty of time to explore Neely Henry
Lake. With low water (winter pool down 2-3 feet), exploring the lake
calls for extreme caution. Navigating out of the main river channel or
in unknown shallow waters can be very dangerous to lives and costly in
the means of both boat and motor repairs. Always use your depthfinder
when navigating, study your map and always talk to the locals or boat
dock owners before heading out on any lake you are not familiar with.
This especially holds true when navigating and fishing above the two
bridges near Gadsden city launch, all the way to the lakes headwaters
over 20 miles north. When heading up the lake from here, after passing a
mid lake island (about 10 miles above Gadsden city launch), then going
under another bridge (about 10 more miles up the lake), extreme caution
is advised. There is a lot of mid river water less than 10 feet deep in
these lake headwaters. All loaded with stumps, logs, boulders and a
sudden shallow bottom. All of which can leave you stranded far up the
lake with breakdowns and boat damage...with no help in sight.
Fishing Neely Henry lakes headwaters calls for either targeting the
mouths of creeks, fishing rock buffs or fishing in and around the many
forms of wood cover such as stumps, laying logs, fallen trees and
logjams, all of which are very evident throughout the winter months,
with the lake drawn down a few feet exposing this wood and rock cover.
The lake has been down a few feet since spring and no weeds now grow in
this upper lake region.
Drought, coupled with hot, 100 plus degree air temperatures this past
summer season and the lack of rain on into the fall season, created
clear water conditions. These adverse conditions have an effect on the
way these bass feed all throughout the winter months. Normally, there is
plenty of current from fall rains in these lake headwaters, the water is
usually stained from these heavy rains and the lake is closer to full
pool, until winter arrives. The use of big, gaudy type lures or lures
that emit noise, flash and vibrations have fooled a lot of big bass in
these lake headwaters.
With clear water conditions, little or no current daily, the lake down
2-3 feet and lots of exposed wood and rock cover, anglers may have to
downsize their offerings to even get bit this winter season while
fishing this river type terrain in Neely Henry lake's upper lake region.
Neely Henry's mid lake region is more safer to navigate, it displays
many main lake flats and the mid to lower lake has plenty of major
feeder creeks. Plus during the winter months you can generally see a lot
more action from feeding fish and schools of baitfish are more evident.
Clear water clarity is common in this lower lake, so most anglers (and
the bass they target) are used to these conditions, conditions that will
last for 3-4 months of cold, winter weather ahead.
The same lures you usually use during winter will fool these bass this
winter. If not getting any bites, simply downsizing your lures will
work. Lures like spinnerbaits, crankbaits, lipless lures and finesse
lures like small jig heads adorned with small 4 inch worms may be
needed. Want to learn more about fishing Neely Henry Lake? Or fishing
any Alabama lake? Always call on Reeds Guide Service...first! "Over 40
years guiding and exploring every lake in Alabama." Several guides and
boats available year round for multiple parties and corporate guided
trips. Tournament anglers welcome!
Neely Henry / Lower Lake
When winter arrives Neely Henry Lake goes through some major
changes. December shows water temperatures cooling into the low 50's.
The lake is also down for winter pool. By January the lake has
stabilized and unlike years past, it is only down from 1-2 feet. If
lower than 1 foot, this all but eliminates any aquatic weed growth.
By mid winter most bass are relating to piers, boathouses and other wood
cover, rock cover and slight bottom irregularities. Cold fronts can cool
down the water into the low to mid 40's. Warm spells that can last for a
week or more, can really bring up the water temps often close to 60
degrees or more.
There is another thing to consider in winter, especially January and
February. Heavy winter rains. These 2-3 days of rain can swell the lakes
headwaters and muddy them up real bad for a few days. This goes for
major incoming feeder creeks on Neely Henry Lake.
So plan your trip accordingly and be prepared with several back up
plans, that include fishing the lakes lower end, especially when
practicing for a major bass tournament. Don't rely on just one or two
spots, or rely on just a few ways of catching these bass on Neely Henry
Lake. Be versatile.
Make plans to fish the mid to lower lake if rain precedes your fishing
trip. This lower lake region stays clearer, has bigger feeder creeks
(than upper Neely Henry Lake creeks), creeks that clear up fast after
rain, and the lower lake is more dependable, than targeting the lakes
headwaters during winter.
Besides the rain, you are going to be looking at a river situation (20
miles) if you fish the lakes headwaters above Gadsden City launch. Going
south of Gadsden City boat launch displays a more wide open, spread out
lake situation. If you fish below the Gadsden City launch you have about
30 miles of water to explore.
Neely Henry Lakes headwaters
Fishing the lakes headwaters calls for tactics that shows lots of main
river targets. The narrow, river type waters, fish just like any river
would. This means fishing the mouths of small creeks and pockets. Some
creeks still have good water depth as you enter the mouths but most
creeks in these lake headwaters play out to shallow flats, now mostly
dry due to lake drawdown. Besides these creek mouths there are some
places many anglers overlook when fishing the upper reaches of Neely
Broken off banks fall into the water all the time due to bank erosion
and constant current in these lake headwaters. These can be spots with
standing timber, timber that keeps on standing, as the entire bank just
slides off into whatever bank was underwater there before.
What takes place (unknown to many anglers) is a very small, timber
filled island, is now very close to the bank, mostly hidden beneath the
waters surface. The original bank could have dropped down right into a
main river channel, or on top of a ledge, or it could have slid down
deep now covering up a previously, plain looking bank.
Not only is there standing timber now in the water, from 5-15 feet deep,
but plenty of washed in debris, such as brush piles, trees, logs and
original stumps. All of which block the main river current and cover
that can hold schools of unmolested bass in the winter. Anglers can fish
the upper portion of these washed in banks, along the sides, or fish the
lower ends, where most winter bass hold out of the current.
There are other places real similar, but featuring rocks instead of wood
cover. Rock bluffs adorn the lakes headwaters. Outside river bend banks
that are exposed to the elements, can break off and tumble down into the
water. Anglers should look for slight irregularities on these miles of
rocky bluff banks. For often there is no evidence of any broken off
banks, unless you look real close.
Like the timbered banks that are broken off, there is hidden cover down
below on these rock bluffs. Places now covered up from fallen in, washed
in boulders, rocks and slab rocks. Perfect places for an entire school
of both spotted bass and largemouth bass to hole up in, out of the
current. As they await an easy to catch meal as it passes by.
Rock bluffs in Neely Henry Lakes headwaters, also show many other slight
irregularities worth investigating. Small cuts and pockets situated
within these rock bluffs provide eddy areas and places for the baitfish
to escape the swift current. Great ambush spots for bass to prey on
these meals too.
There are irregular bluff banks, bluff points, logjams and places where
rock bluffs meet other types of banks. Not only is there plenty of
visible wood and rock cover for anglers to target along these bluff
banks, but places many anglers overlook, due to bank fishing.
First and secondary ledges on rock bluffs can hold schools of bass
relating to deeper water or places not hammered as much as the visible
bluff banks. These are ledges that can be right against the bluff banks,
or the secondary ledges can be real close to the river channel, or they
actually could be the main river channel drop-off.
Finding these places only means eyeing your depthfinder, studying a map,
or just fishing. You can slowly probe these ledges with bottom lures,
such as a very weedless Texas rigged worm. A lure that will help you
feel every bit of cover down there. Wherever you intend to fish later in
a bass tournament, you should always feel the bottom with lures in
practice to actually know whats underwater.
Lure types for these lake headwaters vary tremendously. Warming trends
show spotted bass and largemouth bass real active, often chasing down
crankbaits, spinnerbaits, rattling lipless lures, a swimming jig, or
attack floating and suspending jerkbaits, and even at times rise to a
well placed topwater lure.
All of these lure types are lures that emit some kind of sound, flash or
vibration for bass in these normally stained headwaters to home in on.
Lure colors should be experimented with. Clear water calls for natural
colors, white, silver and shad colors. Stained water calls for
chartreuse, yellow, red, orange and other bright colors for bass to see
better. Then there's those cold fronts.
When heavy winter rains muddy up the lakes headwaters and incoming
feeder creeks its hard enough to get these wintertime bass to bite. Add
a cold front to that and you are fishing an anglers toughest conditions
he can face...any time during the winter.
Cold, muddy water should always be avoided during the winter months.
Head down the lake when these conditions take place. Do it fast. There
are only so many hours in a fishing day. Don't, "do it or die" in cold,
muddy water situations, hoping for that one bite. Not when you can fish
clearer water and get a lot more bites in a days time on the lakes lower
Be safe and always wear your life jacket and outboard motor kill switch.
The life you save could be your own this winter! Dress warm and carry
spare clothes. Bring along spare sandwiches, candy bars, bags of potato
chips, cakes and cookies (energy food -- for emergencies). Always have
plenty of crackers, warm food like soup, warm drinks like coffee and hot
chocolate and always have fire starting materials like dry wood or
You could fall in the water on any given day and need to heat up real
fast. Hypothermia kills! Be prepared for the unexpected! Its hard to
start a fire on a rainy day, without good dry paper, cardboard or wooden
sticks and chips for fire starting material. Bring plenty of spare
clothes for each boat occupant as well.
Never leave anything to chance, be safe this winter and always let loved
ones at home know where you intend to launch and on what lake. Let them
know when to expect you home and always give them a cell phone number to
reach you and you have theirs as well. Have ways for them to give info
to others, your type of boat and color, tag numbers and vehicle type and
color, all for identification purposes in emergencies.
Need help fishing Neely Henry Lake this winter? Always call on Reeds
Guide Service...first! Alabama's oldest, professional freshwater guide
service, guiding on all of Alabama's Lakes year round. Several qualified
guides and boats available year round for multiple parties and corporate
Author with a 7.5 pound Largemouth from Lay Lake
This Report Provided by:
By Reed Montgomery
Reeds Guide Service
Call: Reed Montgomery - (205) 787-5133