The Road to Tuscaloosa: Part 2

First things first

First things to prepare for my visit to Tuscaloosa was to try and contact a local that could show me around and also the best guide I could find to spend a day with. From these two prospectives I felt I would be able to gain much needed basic info about getting around the lake and learning a little about the habits of the fish that live there. I was to arrive on Friday, November 8th, fish Sat, Sun and Mon and go home on Tuesday the 12th.

The local I made contact with answered me after I posted on an Alabama Fishing forum asking for information about the lake. Danny was his name and he had fished the lake since it was first flooded in the 70's. He owns and runs a tackle shop and does propeller repair work also. He wanted to meet me and take me fishing after going back and forth with e-mails and phone calls with my questions about the lake. I also made contact with the best local guide I could find threw one of the local tackle stores and had the last day scheduled to fish with the guide.

I arrive in Birmingham Friday, drive about an hour to Tuscaloosa which is south west of Birmingham. Once I arrive to the hotel I unpack, and immediately start to rig up for a few hours with confidence rigs. I had a weightless senko, ripbait, spinnerbait, spook and a tube rigged Texas style. With these rigs I feel I can catch them anywhere.

I felt like I had a good basic understanding of the lake before I ever saw it, not only from my conversations with Danny and the guide, but also from studying a good map of the lake, something I always do to get an good idea about water I am not familiar with.

I met Danny at a ramp in the north end of the lake early Saturday morning. He starts out by showing me photos he had taken just before the lake was completed and on them were rock piles, wooded areas, points and creeks, good stuff!

The lake itself is beautiful, it has wooded banks, grass flats, creek channels, protected coves, docks, lilly pads, you name it, it has it. Danny and I started out by fishing the flats first thing, he threw a blade and I threw a senko and spook. We managed several keepers, nothing big (2lb class), but decent fish, the kinds you need to be competitive on this lake. We fished many different patterns and areas and seeing as much water as possible was my main focus with him. We had a great day and Danny was absolutely wonderful to fish with. He answered as many questions as he could and had many stories about fish he had caught in each area that we had checked out. Great day, and a lot learned.

Danny gave me his boat for the following day so I could fish the lake by myself, which was a very good thing. I managed to find a pattern in the first hour fishing alone that will suit me very well for next year. It is a spawn to post spawn technique I use heavily on our own California Delta that has accounted for many large fish being caught for me at that time of the year. It is something I don't think will get a lot of attention as the fish I was catching were very aggresive in their strikes of the bait fished the way I was fishing it.

I concentrated on areas adjacent to deep water as the day before with Danny was spent mostly shallow. Best fish and first fish of the day two was a beautiful 22" spot, around 4lbs and several largemouth in the 2 - 2 1/2lb range. Not bad. I left the lake Sunday feeling like I had something that could very well save me if the bite gets tough in the tournament, something I kind of expect to happen. I was looking forward to the next day fishing with the guide I had hired.

Sunday night was an experience I will never forget. Sunday evening was spent watching the local weather station and rigging up for Monday. Reports of a big storm on the way were in the immediate forcast. I figured Monday would be a wet day so no biggy, I was prepared for that. I get to sleep around 9:30PM. At 11PM I was awakened by the phone and the sound of sirens blasting and was told to immediately go to the hotel lobby as there was a tornado on it's way and would be there in a few minutes. From a dead sleep to this type of wake up cannot be good on ones heart and mine was tested big time! I made it down just as the thunderhead passed, huge hail coming down with constant lightning and thunder, unreal! I had never seen weather like that and it was an experience to say the least. I had to stay in the lobby until 2am until the warnings were lifted. This was a horrendous tornado storm and many people died from it. I had always wanted to see a tornado but after that experience I never want to be in that situation again!

Monday morning I woke up groggy and tired as I could not go back to sleep fully after the storm. Outside was as if nothing had happened, the skies had opened up partially and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day! I wasn't sure how that kind of storm would effect the fish or if I would be fishing at all to find out. The guide I had hired was in a nasty section that had a few twisters that touched down near his house. I went to where he said we would meet and he was there, bright eyed and ready to go. He explained on the way to the lake that this was a somewhat normal situation with the exception that this was a very powerful storm and one he had not seen the likes of in a long time.

We started on the opposite end of the lake than what I had seen the two previous days fishing the north. Fishing was much better than I had expected. Spots were busting bait everywhere and spooks, spoons and ripbaits were the ticket. I brought some of the lucky craft ripbaits that the guide said were too much to spend on for his blood, but after smoking them behind him he desided the price was well worth it, I couldn't agree more!

We worked main lake points, flats, backs of coves and small pockets adjacent to deep water. We tried many different styles as well and when we were done for the day I had an even better feeling about what to expect for the tournement.

This first time on the lake was awesome and the people I met along the way made it that much better. I look forward to going back and picking up where I left off.

Next visit to the lake will be for the official practice period which will start in April on the 5th and go threw the 13th. I will be able to fish 4 of the first days of practice as I will have to rush back and fish the Delta Won Bass Pro/Am on the 12th and 13th. It should be a busy week.

Cris Van Clef