Lay Lake’s heavyweights

Lay Lake is producing the heaviest catches of all the Coosa River reservoirs, claims Alabama bass ace Mark McCaig.

“Over the last two or three years, it has taken over 20 pounds to win every [one-day] tournament at Lay Lake,” McCaig said. “Largemouth usually win, but there are big spotted bass there, too.”

That’s quite a testament to a heavily fished, 12,000-acre reservoir that was impounded 100 years ago. Part of the reason for Lay Lake’s staying power is the 1.5 million Florida-strain bass fry that have been released into Lay Lake by Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries since 1983. Sampling studies show that 40 to 50 percent of Lay Lake’s largemouth have Florida genes in them.

“There have been three largemouth over 10 pounds weighed in at Lay Lake in the past three years,” McCaig said. “I haven’t seen bass like that in any Coosa River lake in 10 or 15 years.”

Mid-February is a great time to latch onto Lay Lake’s prespawn fatties with an Alabama Rig. McCaig recommends that you cast umbrella rigs around bridges and to creek channel banks on the main lake. This pattern will have you battling hefty largemouth and spotted bass.

BIGMOUTHS IN THE GRASS

Fishing water willows is another strategy that’s sure to put you in touch with heavyweight largemouth at Lay Lake. Water willow is a leafy aquatic vegetation that grows in water 2 to 3 feet deep along shorelines. It stands knee high above the surface and has a thick, tough stem and a purplish flower.

The most prominent patches of water willows typically grow within the first 500 yards of major creeks. The most productive stretches of this grass have deep water nearby. Ideally, your boat should be floating in at least 4 feet of water when you are fishing this vegetation.

“The best largemouth fishing is from Beeswax Creek south to the Lay Lake Dam,” McCaig said. “Beeswax, Cedar, Paint and Spring creeks all have good grass.”

Other Coosa River reservoirs are pulled down during the winter, which hinders the growth of water willows. Lay Lake supports an abundance of this vegetation because it stays at full pool all year, points out McCaig.

Two jigging tactics dupe largemouth for McCaig when he fishes Lay Lake’s water willows. One is to swim a 5/16-ounce All-Terrain Tackle Swim Jig dressed with a NetBait Paca Chunk through the grass.

If the largemouth aren’t aggressive enough to attack his swimming jig, McCaig digs them out by flippin’ a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a 1-ounce weight into the water willows.

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