For me this journey started about a year ago after a TR that mrl0004 (Matt Lewis) posted up with some Redeye Bass. My local spotted bass had been giving me the finger, so I looked to Matt for insight on a special fish that lives in some pretty cool places – the redeye bass. In our first discussion, Matt informed me that he was in the process of writing a book about these cool little fish. I pretty much abandoned fishing my local spotted bass and switched over to trying to chase the redeye bass of Alabama.
I purchased the book and poured through it right away. Early this spring, I started tying poppers and a few other flies and started dreaming of getting on some rocky streams to chase something in an environment much different from my local creeks. As summer neared, I began focusing more on understanding the redeye bass and their habitat. These fish live mostly in small tributary creeks from the main rivers and to be honest I didn’t know where to start focusing on where exactly to fish. As I subdivided the four species in the Mobile Basin, and then looking at specific rivers, I then began picking out likely areas to start.
I had done some research, but was still far from ready to actually hit the road to target each species of the redeye bass. Luckily for me, a mutual friend of Matt and I made a four day trip to from Louisiana to Alabama to complete the Mobile Basin “slam” of each of the four redeye species in Alabama. With some local intel of his own, he was able to (with a friend) catch all four species on his trip. I also picked his brain about hammock camping as that was something I had never done. I was trying to stay as simple and as cheap as possible so I was definitely looking to camp in National Forests and/or state parks as opposed to staying the night in some fancy place. He sold me on the idea of camping in a hammock and so I purchased one and started packing for my upcoming trip. As I was packing, something told me to include my 3 man tent just in case, but I decided that I was being paranoid and as I typically am over prepared for every situation. More on that later….
A local guide started an event last year to fish one of the local rivers to benefit the Atlanta chapter of Project Healing Waters and grow the awareness of the redeye bass so I decided that was the perfect opportunity to get me to start fishing for the redeye bass.
A couple of weeks before the event Ruddy Duck paddled a local bayou with his son and caught some nice fish. The next weekend he invited me to tag along with him and his son to see if we could repeat the trip. I felt like it would be a great opportunity to get back to casting my 4wt and casting and mending with the slight current in the creek.
We had a good day and I caught a mix of longear, bluegill, and redbreast sunfish as well as a small bass.
It felt good to get my toes wet in a small cool body of water and it had me even more excited about my upcoming trip to chase the redeyes.
The day before the event, I left my office at 12:00 to leave me just enough time to fish a little before heading the state park that I would stay the next two nights. I pulled into a little parking area next to the bridge at the access point, strung up my rod and started fishing. I am used to sight fishing in the marsh and I have pretty much no experience fishing streams on my own other than my local sandy creeks with nothing more than sandbars and blowdowns. This first area I fished is quite wide and I had trouble wrapping my mind of exactly where I should fish.
Despite my lack of skill of reading current, I was able to catch a small bluegill and my first Redeye bass.
After it started getting dark, I waded back to my truck filled with confidence for the next day for the event.
A week before my trip I called the park to see if there were any primitive camping spots available or if I needed to reserve a spot and to make sure the general camping area had enough trees to hang my hammock. The nice lady on the phone said that there would be plenty of spots available for walk ups and if I didn’t like the site assigned to me at check in, there would be no problem with switching out to more desirable site.
Well when I checked in, the goofy guy that checked me in informed me that camping in hammocks was not allowed. This state park isn’t exactly next to a metropolis city and I didn’t see any sporting goods stores anywhere close driving in, and as it was getting too late to make a long drive, I asked the park ranger what my options were. This state park has a “general store” with overpriced items for goofballs who aren’t prepared and bring the necessary supplies. After working half the day, driving 5 hours and fishing a little bit, I was not going to argue so I bought the damn overpriced tent.
Anyway, I lit some charcoal and got started setting up the tent. Tonight’s menu was chicken tacos with grilled poblano pepper, bell pepper, and onions.
I woke up the next morning and hit the same spot where I had previously fished the evening before. Another guy fishing the event came behind me fishing several hundred yards away. After not getting a single bite my mind started wandering and I debated on what to do next. The guy started walking toward me and I realized he was coming to talk. He hadn’t had any luck either and he let me know he was about to try another spot. I agreed and fished one more little run after he left and then I headed back to my truck to figure my next move.
My friend from Louisiana that previously fished here mentioned a spot that looked fishy from the satellite view but he didn’t have a chance to fish it. I decided to fish that spot, if nothing else to scout it out to give him some feedback and hit a couple other spots that I had picked out on my way to the closing event which started at 5:00. As I got further and further from civilization, the roads became worse and worse and the rain from the previous days didn’t help. Finally I got to the bridge crossing on the county road and saw this.
Yes, this could work. This creek should hold a few redeye bass I thought. It started to lightly rain as I got out of my truck, grabbed my sling pack, and strung up my rod. It rained much harder where I had just left so I guess I got lucky. This creek seemed like a perfect little stream to me and my confidence built as I entered the creek and started fishing.
After about the third pool upstream from where I started fishing, a redeye rose up and swallowed my hopper. It was amazing how this little fish and this creek changed my whole outlook for the day.
I finished fishing the pool and went downstream of my access point to fish that area before leaving to give me time to hit a couple of possible creeks.
I tried a couple of more spots that didn’t really do well and eventually headed to meet Matt and the other participants. It was a good time putting faces with names and internet personas and swapping stories of the day. I spoke with the locals about my plans for the next day’s fishing to search for the Black Warrior Redeye bass. I was given two options, but with the previous days’ rain, the creeks’ conditions were uncertain.
The next morning I packed up and headed northwest to my first spot. This creek flows through a park and a lot of locals use it as a swimming hole so I knew I needed to beat them to it. I parked my truck, laced up my boots, and fished the first pool at the main falls and then hiked upstream hitting all the likely spots.
I fished for about an hour and a half without seeing or catching a fish and the second spot kept on tempting me even though it was about an hour in the wrong direction for me to head home. After I turned around and headed downstream, it became apparent how true the warnings were about getting to this creek early to beat the locals.
When I reached my final destination I made the short hike down the trail, but not before trying some of the local produce.
As I walked down to the creek I spooked about 30 grasshoppers off the trail so I kept my foam hopper rigged up until I got to the creek.
Hmmm. This creek didn’t have time to settle down and was still blown out. I drifted the hopper for a few casts and then I rigged up a black wooly bugger hoping the dark silhouette would entice a strike.
I figured I still had to try as I was here anyway. Although the creek was blown out, I could see the rocky structure and it certainly looked good to me. With a 6 hour drive back home, I didn’t get too adventurous trying to explore too far from where I initially stepped into the creek. I still felt it was worth the trip just to check it out.
I didn’t get a Black Warrior Redeye Bass, and I only caught two Tallapoosa Redeye Bass, but the trip was still a success to me as I had visited a new place with new to me fish and I met some new people and came back with more knowledge than I left home with. I’ll be back and chances are I’ll be dragging another Louisianian with me on the next trip.
Oh yeah, here is picture of the overpriced tent if you’re still interested. I don't have any use for it anymore.
Bait fishermen and flatlanders that can't catch redfish spend more time fishing for specks - Redchaser