Blake and I completed the Mobile Basin redeye bass slam a couple weekends back, catching the 4 native redeye bass of Alabama – the Tallapoosa, Coosa, Warrior, and Cahaba.  It was an awesome road trip through the state where we fished and camped on all sides of Birmingham.  The trip was every bit as fun as the cutthroat slam trip we took in Utah last fall.  A bit of backstory for anyone interested:

Earlier this year my buddy Matt published a book about fly fishing for redeye bass.  It was a good read about a fish that a lot of people down south overlook – the redeye bass.   The book brought back memories of the fishing I did when I lived in Northern Alabama for a year after college.  Admittedly though I never caught many redeye bass as I lived in the Tennessee River watershed.  Fishing dominated my life then and has been a passion of mine ever since.  The book profiled the redeye bass and the work that’s being done to define the species into seven further distinctions.  A redeye bass trip was moved higher up the idea list for me after reading the book, but then in March, it was moved to the top as Matt and a few other folks got together and came up with the idea for a redeye slam, and y’all know I just love a slam trip.  So after details of the Redeye Bass Slam 2018 were released I went ahead and began planning to complete the 4 species Mobile Basin redeye slam in Alabama and then finish the full 7 species redeye slam with a trip to Georgia at a later date.

Of course any time I’m planning a fishing trip I ask Blake if he wants in and usually it doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing to get him aboard.  After that it’s just picking a date to go and then we hope for the best.  We settled on early May to at least complete the Alabama portion of the slam as we’d be hammock camping and anyone from the south knows the further you get into summer the more unbearable it is to be outside, let alone try to sleep.

 

One thing that the redeye book lacks is any kind of range map of where you may find the fish, so embedded above is a map I created of the watersheds where redeye bass live in Alabama.  One thing to note is that redeye bass aren’t found below the Fall Line so don’t waste too much time on water below an imaginary line that runs from Tuscaloosa – Montgomery – Columbus.  I included the range of the Chattahoochee bass as well since it slips into the state.  I don’t know that they are found in any streams in Alabama.  We will target Chattahoochee bass in Georgia later this summer.  In order to try and catch the 4 different Mobile Basin redeye species in a 4-day trip we set out before dawn on Thursday and drove 6.5 hours to where we’d fish that afternoon for our first redeye species, the Tallapoosa bass.

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We fished a tributary to the Tallapoosa River that was loaded with shoals and grass with lots of shallow and deep water throughout – great river bass habitat.  We’re small water guys and even though this was a tributary it initially felt like big water.  Neither of us has ever fished shoals like this, so it was a new experience for both of us.  The water really didn’t feel that big once we started fishing and it didn’t take long to get into fish.  In fact the first set of shoals we fished were the most productive.  Blake got on the board first with a decent Alabama bass.

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Soon after I caught my first Tallapoosa bass, who took a buggy olive stonefly imitation I was hanging off the back of a hopper pattern.

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I followed that up with another Tallapoosa bass, this one though was loaded with iridescent blues, it was a beautiful specimen, no doubt the prettiest fish of the day for me.

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Blake soon caught a Tallapoosa bass of his own and the pressure of getting that first fish of the slam was off for both of us.

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After that it didn’t take long for Blake to upgrade his Alabama bass.  His dropper rig was hammered in some slower water toward the bank where a tree provided the perfect cover.  The big Alabama bass would be the largest fish of the trip that was caught and if you’ve been following the blog the past few years that’s just par for the course for “Big Fish Blake”.

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The action slowed down after the big fish, Blake and I did manage to pull out a few more redeye before the day was done, including one by Blake that pushed the 12″ mark.  At least that’s what we estimated it to be, we measured it against the rod, but truth be told I’m not sure we ever went back and measured the rod.  Either way, it was a fine fish.

IMG_5285Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

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After things went flat we got off the water and hit the road toward our first campsite.  We had an hour drive ahead of us to the Talladega National Forest where we’d camp in the shadow of the tallest point in Alabama, Cheaha Mountain.  Ribeye and beers that we bought at Filet & Vine in Montgomery were calling to us from the Orion cooler in the back of my truck.  We were in such a rush to get fishing that afternoon that we neglected to make or pick up lunch, so hunger was almost an afterthought at this point.

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I’m happy to report we were able to successfully set up camp and get a fire going before dark and before long we were tearing into some seriously good steaks.  Big thanks to Josh Rhodes who met us at the campsite with more beers, butter, and for helping collect wood for the fire.  Day 1 was a success and we had another big day planned for Day 2 where we had the Coosa bass in our sights and then a trip up to the Bankhead National Forest to camp.

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I had to work in Monroe last week and I brought a kayak just in case there was down time.  Unfortunately there wasn’t much down time and I was only able to get out for a few hours one day.  I elected to spend that time on Caney Lake, launching from Jimmie Davis SP.  It was chilly post-front conditions that day which resulted in some quality time paddling and no time reeling in fish.

IMG_5045 Although I didn’t catch any fish, I did see a few deer, a beaver, and several nutria.  I had no idea they were on freshwater lakes too, but Caney was ate up with ’em.

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I fished a lot of good looking water, maybe it was a case of right place, wrong time, or maybe I have no idea what I’m doing, it was my first time fishing Caney so I wasn’t too bothered to not catch anything.  This is a lake known for big bass and I could see why, even if I only explored one branch of the lake.

The rest of my time in Monroe was spent working, but I did make it a point to stop by Flying Tiger Brewery one night to see how the local beer scene fared.  I went in with low expectations just based on where I was and maybe a breweries location shouldn’t matter, but I don’t typically expect to get great beer from anywhere in the bible belt.  I came away pleasantly surprised as they had several quality beers.  The saison, IPA, DIPA, and milk stout were all very well done, enjoyable beers.  On top of that the building was fantastic with a great big outdoor seating area too.  I’d recommend a stop in there to anyone heading to Monroe.

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On my way home from Monroe I did manage to fit in another short fishing outing, this time on Lake Rosemound.  I had to make sure I could still catch fish and I’m happy to report back that I can.

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I’ll just need to work on catching bigger fish now.

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Last month I got the opportunity to spend a few days working near Breaux Bridge.  In my down time I explored Lake Martin, though not by kayak on the water, but on foot at the Cypress Island Preserve, which is property around the lake owned by the Nature Conservancy.

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In two mornings I covered the entire trail system and can say with certainty that there is no better place in south Louisiana to take someone to see an alligator than Lake Martin.  The clear waters of the lake hold an abundant population of the big lizards.  The fishing for bass, bream, and sacalait can be pretty good too, from what I hear, I haven’t put in the time there to tell you from experience.  It is a beautiful lake, full of Spanish moss covered cypress and tupelo trees.  It’s a place, I imagine, that is exactly what tourists picture in their minds when they think of our part of the country.  The levee trail at Cypress Island makes for a great place to take a walk.

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IMG_4670Common blue violet (Viola sororia)

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LCHM

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My wife and I traveled to Utah recently to attend a friend’s wedding.  We had a wonderful time at the wedding and all of the events and festivities that went along with it.  It was fantastic to spend an extended amount of time with friends I haven’t seen in years, especially when they are all incredible, inspiring, motivated people.

The hotel we stayed at happened to be within walking distance of the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum.  I didn’t book our hotel because of this, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw it on Google Maps while doing a little research after-the-fact.  With free time available to us the morning of the wedding we walked in a snow storm to go check the place out.

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I have an appreciation for Toyota 4WD vehicles, having owned some form of Toyota truck or SUV my entire driving life (going on 18 years now), including the modern FJ Cruiser, so it was not a stretch for me to get excited about a museum dedicated to Toyota Land Cruisers.

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The museum itself is a totally unassuming brick building on the outside.  The only evidence of it’s existence is a logo sticker on a solid metal door.  Once you step through the door though you’re greeted with the awe inspiring sight above.  Whether you’re a Land Cruiser fan or not it is jaw dropping to see in person.  Even more impressive is that the majority (98%) of the vehicles in the building are one man’s private collection – Mr. Greg Miller.

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Since we braved the snow, Amanda and I were treated to a private tour of the place with Dan Busey, Land Cruiser expert extraordinaire.  His knowledge of all things Cruiser was as impressive as the collection itself – the man knew his stuff.

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It was amazing to me the effort that was put into the collection – the various models of Cruiser over the years and the foreign models that most Americans will never see in their lifetime – to have them all in one place is pretty special.  You can find the first Cruiser ever sold in the U.S. here as well.

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Also on site is the only vehicle to have ever been driven on every continent (Antarctica included) – it was part of the Expeditions 7 global adventure.  A short web series of that accomplishment is available on the Expeditions 7 site, I’d recommend checking it out, I can’t even wrap my head around the logistics of such a trip, I have a tough enough time planning a Cutt slam trip.

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The museum really was about all things Land Cruiser, they also host an extensive amount of toys, models, and pedal cars based on Land Cruisers.  The pedal cars looked like little death traps for children, I’m not quite sure they’d meet consumer manufacturing standards today.

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If you find yourself in Salt Lake City with a bit of time to kill I can honestly recommend going visit the Land Cruiser Heritage Museum for yourself.  Budget minded travelers will like to hear that admission is free, so go check it out and tell Dan or Kyle I said hello.

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