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Sweet home, Alabama. Guide knows that Roll Tide country holds big bass

Sweet home, Alabama. Guide knows that Roll Tide country holds big bass
By Brent Frazee • Issue #29 • View online
Imagine pulling up to one of your favorite fishing spots and finding big smallmouth bass hitting on almost every cast for a short window.
Now imagine that this frenzied fishing took place in a tournament that paid big money to the winner.
Welcome to Brent Crow’s dream.
The guide at Pickwick Lake knew from experience that fall fishing below Wilson Dam could be explosive if conditions were just right. And they were… for one hour in the three-day Major League Fishing Toyota Series Championship.
Crow caught 23 pounds, 1 ounce of bass before 9 a.m. on the final day Oct. 30, lifting his three-day total to 15 bass weighing 52 pounds, 1 ounce. That was enough for the championship and $247,500 in winnings, including contingency bonuses.
We talked to Crow this week about his dream fishing trip, how to fish different stages of current in a tailrace, some tips on live-bait fishing and how vegetation plays such an important role in Alabama’s top bass fisheries.
So, come along. The bass are still hitting and the fall color is beautiful. It’s time to get out.
Tight lines,
Brent Frazee
P.S. If you’re on Instagram, give Your Bass Guy a follow!

Looking for a deal? We have a few suggestions for you, regardless of your skill level. (Photo by Brent Frazee)
Looking for a deal? We have a few suggestions for you, regardless of your skill level. (Photo by Brent Frazee)
Searching for a deal
With the holidays approaching, it’s time to start shopping. We found a few deals this week that might make it easier to spend.
As usual, we are not tied to one outlet. Because this newsletter is not sponsored, we are unbiased. We review the popular online fishing-tackle sites and we pass along what catches our eye.
  • For beginners: Just getting started in bass fishing? You might want to consider this deal. Karl’s Bait and Tackle is offering a Googan Squad Bass Starter Set that includes crankbaits, plastics and more. Regularly priced at $59.42, it is on sale for $34.99 for Karl’s Club members and $49.99 for non-members.
  • Going Ned: The Ned Rig is the rage these days for both experienced fishermen and beginners. Discount Tackle is offering a Z-Man 32-piece Ned Rig kit for $13.67, a savings of more than $6 from regular price.
  • A reliable spinning rod: Sportsman’s Warehouse has a sale on the Fenwick HMG spinning rod. Regularly priced at $99.95, it is on sale for $69.97.
Brent Crow showed off one of the smallmouth bass that helped him win the championship in the Major League Fishing Toyota Series Championship at Pickwick Lake in Alabama. (Photo by Rob Matsuura/Major League Fishing)
Brent Crow showed off one of the smallmouth bass that helped him win the championship in the Major League Fishing Toyota Series Championship at Pickwick Lake in Alabama. (Photo by Rob Matsuura/Major League Fishing)
Playing the current
Brent Crow kept waiting for the perfect scenario to materialize at the Toyota Series Championship on Pickwick Lake. But he was starting to wonder if it would ever come.
A 10-year guide on the reservoir that lies mostly in Alabama, he knew the secret to catching a giant limit of smallmouth bass–the current below Wilson Dam.
“Fall is the best time to catch these giant smallmouths here at Pickwick, but the current has to be just right,” said Crow, who lives in Hartselle, Ala. “If they’re releasing too much water, you can’t put your bait where you want it to be.
"But if they’ve been releasing water and then they drop it down to 35,000 CFS (cubic feet per second), it’s perfect. The water level drops to two or three feet deep in places and the bass are feeding.
"They’ll move up on cover, and you can control where you put your bait.”
Casting a Bomber Long A wake bait, Crow made the most of the limited time he had. He cast to shallow cover and enjoyed a frenetic hour of fishing.
“It was utter chaos,” he told Your Bass Guy. “For a while, I either had a fish or had one on almost every cast.
"I’ve fished that pattern for a long time, but that’s the best I have seen it.”
Crow caught his limit of five smallmouth bass weighing 23 pounds, 1 ounce during that time. Just an hour after he started fishing, the siren sounded at the dam, signaling that the TVA was making another water release, creating more current. And the hot fishing came to an abrupt halt. But by then, Crow had jumped into the lead with a big bag of fish.
That came as no surprise to the 51-year-old fisherman who has been guiding fulltime for the last 10 years. He looks forward to fall when the smallmouth-bass fishing puts Pickwick on the map.
“Pickwick has one of the best smallmouth-bass fisheries in the country,” he said. “In the summer, you just can’t catch them. They’re scattered and they don’t bite.
"But once that water starts to cool, the shad migrate toward the dam and the bass follow them. That’s when it gets good.”
Crow used to drift for the smallmouths in the tailrace, using the current to move him through key areas. But for the last three years, he has utilized the spot lock on his trolling motor to hold him within casting distance of current breaks, rock piles and eddies where the bass will hold.
“November is a great month at Pickwick,” Crow said. “That’s when we catch our biggest fish.”
Brent Crow used lures to catch big smallmouth bass in the Toyota Series Championship, but he often chooses live bait when he is guiding.  (Photo by (Photo by Kyle Moore/Major League Fishing)
Brent Crow used lures to catch big smallmouth bass in the Toyota Series Championship, but he often chooses live bait when he is guiding. (Photo by (Photo by Kyle Moore/Major League Fishing)
Serving them the real thing
When Crow fishes tournaments, he casts artificials. No live bait allowed.
But when he guides, his strategy changes drastically. He often nets gizzard or threadfin shad, then he has his bait for the day.
“A lot of bass fishermen say, ‘No way will I use live bait,’ ” Crow said. “But once they try it, they’ll want to do it again.
"The difference between live bait and artificials is unbelievable.”
Crow has witnessed that difference many times. He will go through an area with a lure and catch one or two fish. Then he will drop live bait to the same spot and enjoy nonstop action.
“We might catch 25 bass in that same area,” Crow said.
He looks for shad in the 4-inch range. He fishes those baitfish on a split-shot rig with a No. 6 bait holder hook, 8-pound test monofilament line and a spinning rod. He works current seams, eddies, rock piles and slight contour changes.
The smallmouths will reposition with changes in the current. But the use of live bait often compensates for that.
“It’s fairly easy here on Pickwick to catch shad in the fall,” he said. “That’s what the smallmouths are feeding on, so they’re going to hit them.”
Lake Wheeler is one of the bodies of water that makes Alabama a popular destination for bass fishermen. (Photo by Major League Fishing)
Lake Wheeler is one of the bodies of water that makes Alabama a popular destination for bass fishermen. (Photo by Major League Fishing)
‘Bama bassin’
So, you want to catch a big bass? Take Brent Crow’s word for it, Alabama is tough to beat.
He remembers one three-day stretch where the fishermen he guided caught a 5-pound spotted bass one day, a 6.26-pound smallmouth the next and an 8-pound largemouth the third day.
“That’s just tough to beat,” Crow said.
Of course, that’s a rare occasion. But the trophy bass are out there.
Reservoirs such as Wheeler, Guntersville, Smith, Pickwick, Lay, and Logan Martin have long been known for their excellent bass fishing.
“My guide business has transitioned,” Crow said. “When I first went fulltime 10 years ago, I did most of my trips on Guntersville. It was one of the best largemouth bass lakes in the country.
But it’s gone downhill. These lakes cycle.”
The key factor? Vegetation.
“Find an Alabama reservoir with healthy weed growth, and you’ll find a healthy bass population, Crow said.
He uses Pickwick as an example. It went through a cycle in the early 2000s when its vegetation was in poor shape and the fishing suffered. But now that the vegetation has returned, the bass are thriving.
"Pickwick has big largemouths, smallmouths and spots,” Crow said.
Likewise, Wheeler is mounting an impressive comeback, thanks to the return of the aquatic vegetation.
Crow ranks Smith Lake, on which he lives, as one of Alabama’s best bodies of water for spotted bass.
“Smith’s fishing can be challenging, though,” he said. “Smith has a big population of blueback herring, and that’s what the spotted bass feed on.
"If the herring aren’t up, the bass can be scattered. But when the baitfish are up and you can see the bass chasing them, the fishing can be incredible. You can catch five-fish limits of spots weighing 19, 20 pounds. ”
The Berkley Stunna is a new suspending jerkbait that is making waves.
The Berkley Stunna is a new suspending jerkbait that is making waves.
Lure of the Week
It’s time to put the Berkley Hank Cherry Stunna to the test.
Water temperatures have dropped into the low 50s in my part of the world, western Missouri. And to me, that means it’s time to fish suspending jerkbaits.
I catch some of my biggest bass of the year at this time of the year on the private lake I live on. Those fish normally come on the high-dollar Megabass Vision jerkbaits.
But I am anxious to see how the Stunna performs. The much-publicized jerkbait, developed by Bassmaster pro Hank Cherry, is supposed to be a game-changer.
With its action, weight and slow-sinking characteristics, it is advertised as a revolutionary lure. But I’ve heard that before.
The best way to judge is on the water. Maybe by alternating sessions with the Megabass baits I usually use.
I’ll get back to you on how I do.
Aaron Martens, one of the top bass-fishing pros, died Thursday after a long fight with brain cancer. (Photo by Major League Fishing)
Aaron Martens, one of the top bass-fishing pros, died Thursday after a long fight with brain cancer. (Photo by Major League Fishing)
Martens passes away
Bass fishermen across the country are mourning the loss of one of its legends.
Aaron Martens, 49, died Thursday following a year and a half fight with brain cancer.
In a 23-year career, Martens won three Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year titles, notched 11 wins on the B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing circuits, had more than 80 top 10 finishes, and had $3.6 million in career earnings.
One of his greatest regrets, he once told me, was never winning the Bassmaster Classic. He finished runner-up in four of the championship events.
R.I.P., Aaron. We’ll miss you.
That’s it for now. Keep casting. The water’s not hard yet.
Brent
How’d I Do This Week?
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Brent Frazee

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