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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
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.
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.