Next one up – Neely Henry Lake

Trick or treat? I am getting ready for the Bassmaster Central Open at Neely Henry Lake in Gadsden, Ala. The tournament starts today, and the Top 10 pro anglers after the Day 2 weigh-in will compete for the championship on Saturday.

What will this tournament hold for my future? Fall festivals and Halloween events fill the month of October, so the anglers who end up in the top 40 with a check will be rewarded with a nice treat. Those who go home with a finish below the top 40 will end up with a trick.

I planned for the Neely Henry Central Open to be a celebration of an exceptional tournament for me as I have some experience with spotted bass. At the recent Lake Hartwell tournament I finished in 21st place, and then fishing river currents on the Arkansas River in June, I finished in second place. A Kentucky Lake just recently I finished in third place.

I am somewhat concerned by the effects of Hurricane Delta that moved through Tennessee and northern Alabama. This could result in a lot of runoff water flowing into the Coosa River drainage area and pushing a lot of possibly murky or muddy water through the Coosa River systems.

Alabama Power maintains 14 lakes overall and has eight dams and six recreational lakes on the Coosa River Chain. These lakes, upstream to downstream are Weiss Lake (often called the crappie capital of the world), Neely Henry Lake (has my attention now), Logan Martin Lake, Lay Lake, Lake Mitchell and Lake Jordan.

A key feature on Neely Henry Lake is the willow-grass or Coosa grass that grows in certain areas of the lake. This is an emergent grass and forms a key current break for many of the largemouth and spotted bass and a hiding spot for baitfish. The key bait here will be the schools of threadfin shad, and locating the bait will go a long way to locating the spotted bass as they often follow the shad schools up and down the lake. You can catch keeper schooling bass on almost every cast, and then suddenly they are all gone. The bait and bass have disappeared. 

It goes from bass attacking shad on the surface all around you to suddenly not activity at all. Then a couple of hundred yards away — either upstream or downstream — the frantic schooling activity erupts again with shad frantically trying to escape the marauding bass. This is where decision making is critical because if the bass do not school soon within casting range, the poor bass angler must make a decision. Either move to another area where bass have been recently schooling, or stay and wait, hoping the schooling activity will begin again nearby when the shad come through the area.

Spotted bass grow to more than 5 pounds on these Coosa River impoundments, and they are mean and full of fight. The winning bags will most likely consist of heavyweight spotted bass with an occasional largemouth sneaking into the mix. My goal is a limit each day with hopes for 15 pounds of total weight. I think 30 pounds after Day 2 will provide the opportunity to compete on the final day.

For my practice time on the lake, I will have my Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg Hard Knock topwater with the feathered Owner treble hook on the back rigged on one of my Lews Custom Speed Sticks with Seaguar braided line on my Lews Hypermag reel for the schooling bass, along with a Strike King Caffeine Shad on another similar Lews rod and reel combo. I will also have one or more Lews rod and reel combos rigged with a Strike King Rage Bug for pitching and flipping in the willow grass. Not sure which colors I will start with, but green pumpkin is always a good color to choose. I will also have one or more Strike King KVD 1.5 Squarebill crankbaits in shad colors ready for action along with a shad colored Red Eye Shad lipless crankbait from Strike King. 

My new Skeeter boat and Yamaha outboard are now tournament-tested and ready for action. I also plan to rely heavily on my Humminbird electronics to find the schools of shad and the bass that are following them. Side imaging and the 360 functions will really be beneficial in my practice and getting to know the lake structures and brush piles.

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