Reed Montgomery


By Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service


Impounded 1966

Lake Level: Down 1 foot (Call 1-800-lakes-11 for winter pool)

Winter on Neely Henry Lake

Neely Henry / Lower Lake

When winter arrives Neely Henry Lake goes through some major changes. December shows water temperatures cooling into the low 50's. The lake is also down for winter pool. By January the lake has stabilized and unlike years past, it is only down from 1-2 feet. If lower than 1 foot, this all but eliminates any aquatic weed growth.

By mid winter most bass are relating to piers, boathouses and other wood cover, rock cover and slight bottom irregularities. Cold fronts can cool down the water into the low to mid 40's. Warm spells that can last for a week or more, can really bring up the water temps often close to 60 degrees or more.

There is another thing to consider in winter, especially January and February. Heavy winter rains. These 2-3 days of rain can swell the lakes headwaters and muddy them up real bad for a few days. This goes for major incoming feeder creeks on Neely Henry Lake.

So plan your trip accordingly and be prepared with several back up plans, that include fishing the lakes lower end, especially when practicing for a major bass tournament. Don't rely on just one or two spots, or rely on just a few ways of catching these bass on Neely Henry Lake. Be versatile.

Make plans to fish the mid to lower lake if rain precedes your fishing trip. This lower lake region stays clearer, has bigger feeder creeks (than upper Neely Henry Lake creeks), creeks that clear up fast after rain, and the lower lake is more dependable, than targeting the lakes headwaters during winter.

Besides the rain, you are going to be looking at a river situation (20 miles) if you fish the lakes headwaters above Gadsden City launch. Going south of Gadsden City boat launch displays a more wide open, spread out lake situation. If you fish below the Gadsden City launch you have about 30 miles of water to explore.

Neely Henry Lakes headwaters

Fishing the lakes headwaters calls for tactics that shows lots of main river targets. The narrow, river type waters, fish just like any river would. This means fishing the mouths of small creeks and pockets. Some creeks still have good water depth as you enter the mouths but most creeks in these lake headwaters play out to shallow flats, now mostly dry due to lake drawdown. Besides these creek mouths there are some places many anglers overlook when fishing the upper reaches of Neely Henry Lake.

Broken off banks fall into the water all the time due to bank erosion and constant current in these lake headwaters. These can be spots with standing timber, timber that keeps on standing, as the entire bank just slides off into whatever bank was underwater there before.

What takes place (unknown to many anglers) is a very small, timber filled island, is now very close to the bank, mostly hidden beneath the waters surface. The original bank could have dropped down right into a main river channel, or on top of a ledge, or it could have slid down deep now covering up a previously, plain looking bank.

Not only is there standing timber now in the water, from 5-15 feet deep, but plenty of washed in debris, such as brush piles, trees, logs and original stumps. All of which block the main river current and cover that can hold schools of unmolested bass in the winter. Anglers can fish the upper portion of these washed in banks, along the sides, or fish the lower ends, where most winter bass hold out of the current.

There are other places real similar, but featuring rocks instead of wood cover. Rock bluffs adorn the lakes headwaters. Outside river bend banks that are exposed to the elements, can break off and tumble down into the water. Anglers should look for slight irregularities on these miles of rocky bluff banks. For often there is no evidence of any broken off banks, unless you look real close.

Like the timbered banks that are broken off, there is hidden cover down below on these rock bluffs. Places now covered up from fallen in, washed in boulders, rocks and slab rocks. Perfect places for an entire school of both spotted bass and largemouth bass to hole up in, out of the current. As they await an easy to catch meal as it passes by.

Rock bluffs in Neely Henry Lakes headwaters, also show many other slight irregularities worth investigating. Small cuts and pockets situated within these rock bluffs provide eddy areas and places for the baitfish to escape the swift current. Great ambush spots for bass to prey on these meals too.

There are irregular bluff banks, bluff points, logjams and places where rock bluffs meet other types of banks. Not only is there plenty of visible wood and rock cover for anglers to target along these bluff banks, but places many anglers overlook, due to bank fishing.

First and secondary ledges on rock bluffs can hold schools of bass relating to deeper water or places not hammered as much as the visible bluff banks. These are ledges that can be right against the bluff banks, or the secondary ledges can be real close to the river channel, or they actually could be the main river channel drop-off.

Finding these places only means eyeing your depthfinder, studying a map, or just fishing. You can slowly probe these ledges with bottom lures, such as a very weedless Texas rigged worm. A lure that will help you feel every bit of cover down there. Wherever you intend to fish later in a bass tournament, you should always feel the bottom with lures in practice to actually know whats underwater.

Lure types for these lake headwaters vary tremendously. Warming trends show spotted bass and largemouth bass real active, often chasing down crankbaits, spinnerbaits, rattling lipless lures, a swimming jig, or attack floating and suspending jerkbaits, and even at times rise to a well placed topwater lure.

All of these lure types are lures that emit some kind of sound, flash or vibration for bass in these normally stained headwaters to home in on. Lure colors should be experimented with. Clear water calls for natural colors, white, silver and shad colors. Stained water calls for chartreuse, yellow, red, orange and other bright colors for bass to see better. Then there's those cold fronts.

When heavy winter rains muddy up the lakes headwaters and incoming feeder creeks its hard enough to get these wintertime bass to bite. Add a cold front to that and you are fishing an anglers toughest conditions he can face...any time during the winter.

Cold, muddy water should always be avoided during the winter months. Head down the lake when these conditions take place. Do it fast. There are only so many hours in a fishing day. Don't, "do it or die" in cold, muddy water situations, hoping for that one bite. Not when you can fish clearer water and get a lot more bites in a days time on the lakes lower end.

Be safe and always wear your life jacket and outboard motor kill switch. The life you save could be your own this winter! Dress warm and carry spare clothes. Bring along spare sandwiches, candy bars, bags of potato chips, cakes and cookies (energy food -- for emergencies). Always have plenty of crackers, warm food like soup, warm drinks like coffee and hot chocolate and always have fire starting materials like dry wood or paper.

You could fall in the water on any given day and need to heat up real fast. Hypothermia kills! Be prepared for the unexpected! Its hard to start a fire on a rainy day, without good dry paper, cardboard or wooden sticks and chips for fire starting material. Bring plenty of spare clothes for each boat occupant as well.

Never leave anything to chance, be safe this winter and always let loved ones at home know where you intend to launch and on what lake. Let them know when to expect you home and always give them a cell phone number to reach you and you have theirs as well. Have ways for them to give info to others, your type of boat and color, tag numbers and vehicle type and color, all for identification purposes in emergencies.

Need help fishing Neely Henry Lake this winter? Always call on Reeds Guide Service...first! Alabama's oldest, professional freshwater guide service, guiding on all of Alabama's Lakes year round. Several qualified guides and boats available year round for multiple parties and corporate guided trips.

Good Fishin'

This report provided by

Reed Montgomery / Reeds Guide Service

Producer / Host "Fishing Alabama" With Reed Montgomery Radio Show

"6 Years on the Radio / Jan 2005"

Birmingham, Alabama

Call Reeds Guide Service...First! (205) 787-5133

"Over 40 Years Fishing Alabama for Bass and Stripers"



Fish Species: Bass
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Reed Montgomery

About The Author: Captain Reed Montgomery

Company: Reeds Guide Service

Area Reporting: All Alabama Lakes

Bio: Captain Reed Montgomery a Birmingham, Alabama native Guides on all of Alabama\'s Lakes for all species of Bass. Alabamas Oldest Professional Freshwater Guide Service For Over 40 Years. Website

(205) 663-1504
Click Here For Past Fishing Reports by Captain Reed Montgomery