Russ Lane on the Alabama River

Elite Series pro Russ Lane calls the Alabama River home.

If you like fishing for shallow bass, the Alabama River is the place to be in July and August, says Bassmaster Elite Series pro Russ Lane. He lives only 3 miles from the Cooter’s Pond boat ramp in the Jones Bluff (R. E. “Bob” Woodruff Reservoir) stretch of the Alabama River.

“The Alabama River usually has a nice stained color to it,” Lane points out. “That’s one reason the bass stay shallow here in the summertime.”

The Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers give birth to the Alabama River about 6 miles north of Montgomery. It meanders 318 miles southwest through Alabama to meet the Tombigbee River. The dams along this navigable river slow its flow and form three run-of-the-river reservoirs: Jones Bluff, Millers Ferry and Claiborne.

Most local anglers, including Lane, simply call Jones Bluff the Alabama River. This upper section grows huge spotted bass that hang in current breaks on the main river. The largemouth grow fat in quiet sloughs and flooded creeks.

Millers Ferry, the next reservoir downstream, is officially the William “Bill” Dannelly Reservoir. This 105-mile reach of the Alabama River boasts excellent largemouth fishing and is also widely known for its abundant crappie.

Downstream from Millers Ferry is 60-mile-long Claiborne Lake, which remains mostly within its original riverbanks. It offers good fishing for largemouth bass and crappie.

The 72.5-mile reach of the lower Alabama River is one of the state’s natural wonders. Here you can cast for largemouth and spotted bass while taking in scenic high bluffs.


When Lane launches his boat at Cooter’s Pond before daybreak, he sets out in search of the Alabama River’s feisty spotted bass. Key places for a morning feeding spree are the mouths of sloughs and pockets, bluff points and windfalls that break the main river’s current.

Later in the morning, Lane often finds spotted bass chasing baitfish on shallow sandbars.

“There are a lot of 3-pound spotted bass here,” Lane says. “They really go for topwater baits on summer mornings.”

A Buckeye Lures buzzbait with a translucent shad color skirt puts Lane in touch with eager spotted bass. He dresses the hook with a slender 3 1/2-inch disco violet Cane Thumper paddletail minnow from Big Bite Baits.