Top national tournaments have focused attention on Jordan as an elite bass lake, and right now it is prime for big spotted bass and largemouths.
By Shaye Baker
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of AON
In recent years, it’s likely that no lake in Alabama has grown in popularity as rapidly as Lake Jordan. Its 6,800 acres have been showered in the national limelight when BASS brought 12 of its top competitors to Jordan for BASS’s All-Star Week multiple years. Jordan, lying along the Coosa River, has also become world-renowned for its river’s namesake, the Coosa River spotted bass.
This is a special strain of supercharged spotted bass that grow big and strong thanks to an abundance of current and a plentiful food supply. Few lakes in the world can produce the number of 20-plus-pound limits of spotted bass that Jordan is known for, and according to local guide Chad Miller, November is when the big spot slaying starts.
The chance of catching a giant bag of spotted bass is probably best in January and February as the spots prepare to spawn, but it’s November when the current starts to pick up, and that’s when Chad says the big ones start biting.
“In November, you can catch them on almost anything as long as a major cold front isn’t blowing through,” said Chad. “Some of the biggest sacks of spots you’re going to catch all year will come between November and February.”
Current is by far the root cause for the existence and distinction of such a special strain of bass. The water on the Coosa moves year-round, and that current forces these spotted bass to swim against it. This current is a daily occurrence from the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers in northwest Georgia where the Coosa gets its start all the way down to just below Jordan where the Coosa merges into the Tallapoosa to form the Alabama River.
With such a rigorous workout schedule and a protein-packed shad diet, it’s easy to see why these spots are big and mean. The current also positions the fish making them easy to catch, and that’s the true reason that November is one of the best times to fish Jordan.
“They run more water in November than they do any other time of year except for when we get a lot of storms in the springtime,” said Chad. “We catch a lot of fish on a football jig when the current’s rolling.”
Chad explained that you want to look for the current breaks to target big spots in the stronger current. With water pouring into the north end of the lake from Mitchell Dam and spilling out on the south end from Jordan and Walter Bouldin dams, the current can be a little tricky to read and irregular from day to day depending on which dams are generating.
If the water is pouring from Mitchell Dam, look for current breaks up the river. Any rocky point, big boulder or other obstruction will create an eddy where the big spots will inevitably get washed into and then wait for their quarry to come to them.
The same can be done on the south end of the lake when water is flowing through Jordan or Bouldin dams, though the best-case scenario is for water to be released from Bouldin Dam. The reason for this is simple enough.
The water is ripped over more contours when being released from Bouldin as it is pulled through the canal and the “New Lake,” the body of water that lies at the other end of the canal and is entrapped by Bouldin Dam.
More contour means more current breaks—more current breaks, more prime hunting grounds for magnum spotted bass. Chad’s bait of choice when the current is rolling is a football jig, though there are obviously other baits that will work.
The Alabama Rig for instance works wonders when the current is moving. Whether you’re a fan or not of the grotesque conglomeration of plastic and metal, the A-rig will definitely catch fish, especially as the water temp starts to and the shad bunch up.
However, there are times in November when the water doesn’t move. Don’t go thinking all is lost if you find there’s no current. You can catch a lot of fish and some really big ones in the calm waters of Lake Jordan as well.
“In calm water, I pretty much throw a jerkbait and hair jig for spots,” said Chad. “We fish a lot of hair jigs in November. If you can find shad out there on ledges or isolated trashpiles, you can take a hair jig and throw it in the middle of the suspended fish, and you can catch them really good doing that. The only thing is you can’t fish the hair jig real good in the wind.”
The hair jig is more of a subtle bite as the water starts to cool. Chad said you can fish a hair jig around the same stuff in July and August, and the spots will knock a foot of slack in you line, but it’s a soft bite in the late fall. This time of year the spots just ease up and suck the bait in. Sometimes you won’t know you have a bite until you go to pop the jig and a spot has the jig in its mouth.
“You can fish it like a jerkbait and rip it when they’re real active, or throw it out there in the middle of them and let it fall when they’re real lethargic,” said Chad when referring to the hair jig. “The main thing is finding the shad.”
Chad’s other go-to bait in the fall is a jerkbait.
“We throw a jerkbait up there a lot this time of year, too—mostly on rocky points and banks way up river. You can catch a lot of good fish on a jerkbait around piers, too.”
Early in November, you’ll also find a great topwater bite if the water doesn’t cool too quickly. As the shad make their way into the pockets and creeks throughout the fall, anglers find plenty of bass susceptible to topwater offerings. Walking-style baits like a Jackall Bowstick or Jackall Bonnie seem to work best.
If the spots won’t quite commit to a topwater, a Zoom Super Fluke will usually seal the deal. Chad fishes it weightless, twitching it along the surface. If the fish still won’t commit, you can dead-stick the bait, or let it fall a few feet below the surface between twitches. This will usually do the trick.
Square-bill crankbaits and spinnerbaits work well when fishing around the hoards of shad in the shallows. Shad-pattern spinnerbaits with double willow blades, like a 3/8-oz. Terminator T-1 spinnerbait in silver shad, work great when fishing along the edge of grasslines or throwing out in the middle of shallow bays. And it’s not just the spots that get in on the action.
The Coosa River is also full of largemouth bass. With so much focus on the Coosa River spots, the largemouth population on Lake Jordan doesn’t get the respect it deserves. That is until tournament time. With the exception of late winter, it usually takes a mixed bag to bring home first place in the local pot tourneys, and a largemouth typically wins big fish.
Quality largemouths in the 4- to 5-lb. range swim the grasslines all over Jordan’s 188 miles of shoreline. There are lots of ways to catch them, but you’d probably be surprised by a couple of them.
In early November, before the water cools drastically, you can still get in on the last few frog bites of the year. Chad will fish a hollow-bodied frog like a Fred’s Perfect Frog in the grass, especially where any traces of scum are left. The frog bite in the scum is better in the summer when it blankets a large portion of the lake’s grassbeds, but there are a few stragglers left over for the taking in early November.
Though the frog bite slows as the water cools, the largemouths can still be caught even in the coldest of water.
“You can catch them on a buzzbait and a swim jig year-round as long as a major cold front didn’t just come through,” said Chad. “Before a cold front comes through, they’ll knock the blade off a buzzbait.”
Burning down the grassline all decked out in winter gear with a swim jig or a buzzbait in hand might seem a bit odd at first, but when your rod nearly gets snatched from your numb hands, you’ll realize that Lake Jordan is a special place.
If a cold front does come through, it will shut the largemouths down. Then you basically have to flip for a largemouth bite.
“We flip grass a lot whether there’s a cold front or not,” said Chad, “but that’s about the only way to catch largemouths after a cold front for sure. You don’t have to flip a big, heavy weight that time of year since most of the grass is dead. You just want to target the thicker parts of the mat that get the most sun on them early. If you can find a mat like that with a hard bottom, you’re in the right spot.”
When a cold front rolls through and Chad wants to catch spotted bass, he reverts to the hair jig. His go to jig is a 1/4-oz hand-tied jig made with white-tailed deer hair that’s then died to a silver, white or chartreuse. The chartreuse hair jigs work best on Jordan for Chad.
If the fish are particularly lethargic after a cold front, Chad said you can go to an 1/8-oz. jig for a slower presentation. Typically, however, he sticks with the 1/4-oz. fished on a spinning rod and 8-lb. test line.
Along with guiding for both spotted and largemouth bass, Chad also guides for crappie. The month of November is his favorite for crappie fishing because that’s when he catches the biggest crappie all year. But when the temperature drops in late November and early February, the bite dies off, and Chad said that it’s hard to find the big ones.
Lake Jordan has a lot to offer an angler of any skill level and also hosts a variety of species that are sure to satisfy most anglers. If you’re fortunate enough to own a boat, hopefully these tips from one of the top fishermen on Lake Jordan will help you catch more fish the next time you go out.
If you don’t own a boat, or perhaps do own one but just want to learn first-hand from a local stick, you can get in touch with Chad Miller by visiting his website, bamaspots.com, or by e-mailing Chad at firstname.lastname@example.org.