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Summer on Wheeler Lake
As summer progresses there are many ways to fool the largemouth bass and
smallmouth bass that make up this huge, man made impoundment on the
Tennessee River System. Many anglers resort to night fishing on Wheeler
Lake during the summer period.
To beat the heat (that can reach 100 degrees by midday), anglers may
launch the boat late in the evening and fish all night, until it begins
to warm at mid morning the next day. Others just fish until the midnight
hours and head for home early to get a few hours sleep. Either way,
night fishing can be very relaxing and often very rewarding, in terms of
Some anglers are forced to fish during the daylight hours and they must
adjust to the heat just like the bass they are after. Like marathon
night fishing, some anglers will stay out all day and brave the midday
heat in search of their ever elusive bass quarry, despite the grueling
conditions. Old timers or seasoned anglers usually time their trips
accordingly and fish only during the early morning hours or during late
Despite your choice (of fishing during the daylight hours or under the
stars at night), the summer months of June, July and August have got to
include plans for both types of fishing. So heres some tips for anglers
that do a little of both day and night fishing on Alabama's second
largest impoundment, Wheeler Lake.
Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass do feed during the daylight hours
throughout Wheeler Lake. They also feed at night. From the lakes
headwaters (situated just below Guntersville Lake dam), to over 50 miles
south at midlake where the Interstate 65 crosses the lake are good
places to fish all summer. The lakes lower end fed by the incoming Elk
River and major incoming feeder creeks, displays all types of shallow to
deep water habitats these bass occupy all summer long.
Wheeler Lakes Headwaters - The upper end of Wheeler Lake is more of a
river type situation and the incoming feeder creeks and the lakes
headwaters (below Guntersville Lake dam) supply fresh, cool incoming
water, which creates current and oxygen. Constant barge traffic in these
lake headwaters also keeps the water moving and the dam opening and
closing all day creates lots of current. Creek mouths, and the mouths of
small cuts and pockets, are excellent places to fish this summer with
crankbaits, spinnerbaits and lures fished on bottom.
Wheeler Lakes mid-Lake - Two bridges cross the lake at its mid section
and just below here is the millfoil and hydrilla infested, Decatur
Flats. Incoming feeder creeks and loads of piers, boat houses and a few
marinas that show shade seeking bass plenty of places to occupy this
Wheeler Lakes Lower End - The incoming Elk River winds for miles
throughout the scenic hillsides. It includes many bridges, loads of rock
bluffs and a twisting, winding river channel, that creates log jams on
every flat and bend.
Piers, boat houses and a few incoming creeks show the Elk River an all
day excursion when exploring this major source of incoming water. There
is always plenty of evident prey and loads of nutrients in the Elk
River. Use caution when navigating during both day and night. There are
always a few logs floating down the Elk River in the summer.
There is also Spring Creek across from the Elk River and First Creek and
Second Creek near the dam on the Lakes lower end. Bridges lined with man
made rip-rap rocks and major creek and river channel flats, bluffs and
drop-offs hold schools of bass all summer long in this lower lake
There is also plenty for these bass to dine on all summer long
throughout Wheeler Lake and many of these prey are found in these lake
headwaters, mid lake and the lakes lower end. With many choices for the
bass to consider.
Incoming meals like threadfin shad and gizzard shad baitfish, all sizes
of minnows, a variety of bream, sunfish, small rock bass and other small
baitfish are consumed daily. Lures that mimic baitfish like crankbaits,
rattletraps and both floating and suspending jerkbaits are good choices
This lengthy list of summertime favorites these bass consume includes
both small and large crayfish, all types of insects like bees, wasps or
dragon flies and even frogs, small mice, small snakes, worms, eels and
lizards. All of which are found in and around these places lake wide
There are spots that Wheeler Lake bass inhibit all summer. Places like
around wood cover such as stumps, brush piles, laying trees and man made
wood cover. This includes rocks and boulders and in and around all types
of aquatic weeds. These are all dependable places to return to as
conditions stabilize each week and more and more schools of both
predator and prey move in.
Everything these bass need for survival (when the temperature soars and
they are seeking these comforts each day or night) while feeding on what
ever comes their way, gets down to what lures you can use to fool them
into striking your offerings this summer.
Some anglers fish shallow, some fish deep. Versatile anglers do both
during the summer months. Shallow bass are feeding bass and during the
daylight hours or late evenings on Wheeler Lake this tactic always calls
for including a few topwaters in your list of tempting offerings.
This can mean the use of weedless lures fishing right up in the many
types of aquatic weeds Wheeler Lake has to offer. Around millfoil,
hydrilla and Lilly pads try buzzbaits, frogs and rats, weedless spoons,
spinnerbaits and both floating worms and soft jerkbaits. These lures are
among many anglers favorites.
These many types of weedless lures are necessary (for less frustration),
when targeting thick weeds and fishing with weedless lures helps avoid
hanging or losing costly lures. The use of weedless lures always
increases your chance for more catching and fooling these bass into
striking your lures as well.
At early morning light topwaters fished along flats, rip-rap rocks and
around other wood, weed and rock cover, can include a lengthy list of
the not so weedless type topwaters, usually featuring one or more treble
hooks. Walking type topwaters like zara spooks, Sammie's and other cigar
shaped topwaters, are deadly on both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass
at dawn, late evenings or during cloudy, rainy periods. Also day or
night try pop-r's, prop baits and an old favorite, the jitterbug.
Fishing at night on Wheeler Lake can include using the same lures you
use during the day. But most nighttime anglers stick with topwaters,
spinnerbaits and lures fished on bottom like plastics rigged on a jig
head, Texas rigged or Carolina rigged plastic lures, tube baits,
creature baits and jig combos.
Whether you fish during the day or night, Wheeler Lake has both types of
fishing to offer this summer.
Be safe and always include your life jacket and outboard motor kill
switch when boating this summer. Fishing Licenses, boat registration
papers, up to date boat stickers and items such as a throw cushion, a
fully charged fire extinguisher and life jackets for each boat occupant
will be checked by the water patrol.
Spring on Wheeler Lake
Unseasonably warm weather showed Wheeler Lakes prespawn bass preparing
beds in mid march. Mid 70 degrees air temperatures triggered bass to
move shallow, much earlier than most spring seasons when these bass are
usually just coming out of a winter state of mind.
Anglers should focus their fishing efforts on flats found lake wide for
spawning largemouth bass. This can be along main lake flats or far back
in Wheeler's many major feeders creeks and in the incoming waters of the
Elk River. This is generally fishing in waters displaying depths of less
than 5 feet deep best.
Smallmouth bass and spotted bass can also be found on these sandy and
small pebbled bottomed flats as they prepare beds for spawning in March
and early April. Wheeler lake is still down in March and early April, so
use extreme caution when navigating this lake. It will be down until
about mid April when the lake is returned to full pool.
As waters warm into the low 70's bass of all species will bed around the
full moon. April is also when the lake is warming up and new growing
aquatic weeds will begin to turn green once again. When Wheeler Lake
returns to full pool in mid April the lake can rise from 3-4 feet.
Rising waters show many new places in the shallows for bass to bed in
and as they once again return to the shallows to bed around wood cover,
weed cover and rocky cover, they become very susceptible to variety of
Topwater Lures now become a "first" on the list of avid bass anglers
that know some very big bass can act very foolish for a few weeks in the
spring throughout Wheeler Lake. Around new growing weeds (like along
Decatur Flats, fast growing millfoil and hydrilla weeds), try fishing
lures that do not hang up as bad as topwaters featuring 2-3 dangling
treble hooks. This avoids frustration, retrieving hung lures or having
to break off precious and expensive lures the angler's boat cannot
Use more weedless lures like buzzbaits, floating worms and lizards,
swimming a jig, frogs and rats, or just try fishing spinnerbaits and
Texas rigged plastics in and around aquatic weeds and wooden cover.
By mid April most bass are bedding (or some have already bed) lake wide.
But there are some bass in some every different modes of bedding and
some bass with a very distinct eating attitude, that is until they all
bed. If you are not catching any bass, perhaps you are in the wrong part
of the lake. Keep in mind most bass on the lower end of any impoundment
bed last during spring. If you have to, run the boat down the lake 10-20
miles or try launching your boat on the lakes lower end to explore new
As anglers fish for Wheeler Lakes various species of bass this spring,
catching more and more bass becomes very evident. This is the time of
year when more bass are shallow, more that any other time of the year.
It is also the time (like the rest of the year), for anglers to practice
catch and release and let these bass go. Male bass must guard the beds
from egg eating intruders. Female bass are weak and very susceptible to
your lures. Neither male or female bass cannot live and reproduce
another years offspring next season...without your help.
Winter on Wheeler Lake
Winter on Wheeler Lake
Well, we didn't have to worry about stained to muddy water from run-off
of Fall's heavy rains...there literally wasn't any! I center on this
subject during the fall to late winter period in almost every fishing
report I write. Mainly because its a big part of each and every angler's
game plan in his/her attempt to fool both largemouth bass and smallmouth
bass when fishing Wheeler Lake during these cold weather seasons.
Including my game plan.
If I'm planning a fishing trip to Wheeler Lake, not only do I check the
lakes level (prior to and), when I arrive, but also I check the water
temperature as soon as I launch the boat. But water clarity (to most
anglers) is usually not much of a concern...that is unless the lake is
downright muddy! By the time I have left Wheeler Lake, which can include
exploring some of its many feeder creeks, the Elk River and the main
lake itself, all in a days time, I always know of each and every water
clarity I encounter.
Water clarity - how far you can see down in the water - dictates your
lure selection. It also helps an astute angler select the right depth to
be fishing, the right lure colors, lure actions and even utilizing the
correct lure retrieve. So, like said, "its not been much of an issue,"
because very little rain, creates very little changes in water clarity.
But still, where you fish on Wheeler lake this winter can be.
Changes in the water clarity of Wheeler lake's 68,300 surface acres of
water are only visible in the far back ends of major feeder creeks, the
headwaters of the incoming Elk River on the lakes lower end. Flats seen
throughout both the main lake and its feeders, where sudden daily rain
can make a difference, are other choices. Evening thunderstorms have
occasionally popped up in North Alabama this fall and during the early
winter season, aiding in creating a more stained look to Wheeler Lakes
water clarity in some areas.
Water (current) being drawn through Wheeler Lake can stain up the lakes
flats as well, especially those flats with muddy bottoms, or places
featuring flats right in the current, the downside of main lake points,
or even back water banks with dead or decaying aquatic weeds and visible
scummy backwaters, such as Decatur flats, a mid lake area just below
Interstate 65 crossing at mid lake. Decatur flats is a well known main
lake flat loaded with hydrilla and milfoil aquatic weeds (at full pool),
which has been a problem lately for anglers as well.
Lake levels have been down since summer on Wheeler and lake levels
continue to be down for winter pool at 3-5 feet low. The lake will
probably be down until mid April, when hopefully we will have some
traditional spring rains to help swell the lake back to normal, full
pool levels. This low water lake level does have an effect on the
aquatic weeds of Wheeler lake, for if there is no water in the shallows
these weeds do not grow!
Some weeds survive however, with rejuvenation of these shallow water
weeds as they get sunlight and begin a new growth along the lakes new,
low water shoreline. This includes winter time growing moss. Moss
thrives well in cold weather and it can hold bass in warm water even
when its cold to us. The water can be very warm to these bass, inducing
them to feed in shallow water for days at a time. Like early December.
Early December followed a state wide warming trend with daytime highs in
the upper 70's and nighttime lows unseasonably warm in the upper 50's to
low 60's. I saw Wheeler lake's late November water temps of low 50's,
rise 25 degrees in 2 weeks, into the mid 70's by mid December! So keep
in mind these little things, that always dictate your days fishing when
visiting Wheeler lake this winter season.
* Lake Levels - Wheeler lake is down from 3-5 feet. The lake is very
dangerous for boat navigation.
* Aquatic Weeds - Low water on Wheeler Lake for the last 6 months of the
2007 means some weeds are high and dry. Normally bank growing weeds and
weeds such as Lilly pads are now non existent during the winter season.
Millfoill, hydrilla and moss weeds still hold bass relating to these
oxygen rich environments during winter.
* Water Temperature - Keep in mind water displaying lots of current does
not warm. Flats out of the swift, main lake current, those bathed in an
all day sunshine, can heat up 3-5 degrees or more in one days time.
Inducing more active bass to feed. Look for the warmest water available
from mid mornings to late evenings.
* Water Clarity - Clear water means selecting more natural lure colors
on topwater lures, soft plastics and baitfish imitating lures like
crankbaits, jerkbaits and lipless lures. Stained water means choosing
lures colors that can be seen better by the bass in off colored water
conditions. Colors of chartreuse, lime, yellow or red and orange may be
needed. Lures like spinnerbaits featuring oversized blades and
displaying gaudy colors, are often better in off colored water to
stained water conditions. Lures with rattles and added scents are often
better in stained water conditions.
Visiting Wheeler lake this winter season? Always call on Reeds Guide
Service...first! "Over 30 years exploring massive, Wheeler lake in every
season" Several professional guides and boats available, year round, to
any lake in Alabama. Keep in mind, a guided fishing trip with Reeds
Guide Service makes a great gift for those loved ones that love to fish!
This Report Provided by:
By Reed Montgomery
Reeds Guide Service
Call: Reed Montgomery - (205) 787-5133
Please Read Reed's Article on Winter Fishing these
and Largemnouth on the Tennessee River Impoundments