Written by Becky Beall-

Most Southerners would recognize Tuscaloosa as home to The University of Alabama, the calling card of West Alabama. In fact, there are likely many folks outside of the South that would know that little tidbit thanks to an SEC football dynasty associated with UA. What may be lesser known is that Tuscaloosa was a former capital city with historical significance surrounding Civil Rights. I just wrote a book on Tuscaloosa, so hang with me while I spill the (sweet) tea on some of the area’s best gems.

Tuscaloosa is for Families

Most visitors don’t think of Tuscaloosa in terms of a family-friendly destination. But one trip and you’ll be smitten. From restaurants to attractions and even museums, T-Town pours out all the Southern hospitality to families in search of an affordable weekend getaway.

If you are looking for laid back days spent on the water, check out Lake Lurleen State Park in nearby Coker. There’s fishing, hiking, biking, areas to picnic, campgrounds, and places to rent paddleboards or boats. Need more? Take the fam jam to Tuscaloosa Barnyard for a lesson in milking cows, a chance to hold a baby chick, or maybe a run through the splashpad (depending on the season).

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, head indoors at the Art Garage (call ahead for studio times, open sessions, and so forth) and allow your child to unleash their artistic side. Children’s Hands-On Museum is also a must for rainy days! Enjoy a fun-filled visit that inspires children through the power of PLAY. There are lots of exhibits and S.T.E.A.M. experiences for children ages newborn to 13 years old. Wrap it up with an evening at Bowlero Tuscaloosa for food and fun with arcade games and bowling.

Tuscaloosa is for History Lovers

I did not begin this journey of uncovering the layers of Tuscaloosa thinking there would be so much for history buffs, but boy was I wrong! Explore the Heritage Site at Moundville Archaeological Park, take a self-guided tour of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail, eat at the Historic Waysider Restaurant, and visit a string of other museums and such that will tell the story of the Tuscaloosa of yesteryear.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Alabama Museum of Natural History on The University of Alabama’s campus in Smith Hall in this listing of historical must-sees. Founded in 1831, it is the state’s oldest museum and is home to an impressive collection of exhibits, collections, fossils, and the like. The building itself is Classical Revival style with an Atrium Gallery that features a sweeping staircase leading to the Grand Gallery Exhibition Hall. A visit here is both educational and stunning.

Tuscaloosa is for Foodies

Again, who knew? It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for the South’s best BBQ, a classic meat-and-three, game day wings and things, or an extra special upscale restaurant, you’ll find it in Tuscaloosa.

Meet your friends at Brown’s Corner for a charming experience at an unexpected speakeasy of sorts. Enjoy classic cocktails and a wonderful dinner filled with choices such as lobster rolls, steak, chicken, or pasta and don’t forget the 3 Cheese Mac. The name gives a nod to Brown’s corner store from days gone by, but the present day experience is stellar.

Dreamland BBQ is as iconic in Tuscaloosa as National Championships. A meal at this barbecue joint is a MUST for the best hickory-fired ribs you’ll ever put in your mouth, and don’t skip on the banana pudding. If you want a souvenir from Dreamland, a good choice is a bottle of their sauce.

Tuscaloosa is for Festivals

Tuscaloosa offers plenty to attract the crowds in the way of festivals and one of the largest is Kentuck Festival of the Arts which supports opportunities for emerging artists. There’s also Oktoberfest in September, and Fiddle Fest each year in February. Additionally, Mercedes-Benz Amphitheater offers many concerts throughout the year as well as playing host to Celebration on the River—a Fourth of July celebration that includes the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra.

Tuscaloosa is for Game Day Getaways

This book—100 Things to Do in Tuscaloosa Before You Die—offers tons of help for planning for your game day getaway! It’s got you covered with where to shop for game day apparel, a pre-game itinerary of places to visit (like the Paul W. Bryant Museum, Denny Chimes, etc.) and events to keep you hyped up (Walk of Champions and Elephant Stomp are two big ones). Plus, you’ll easily find the best bars only a walk from the stadium (Houndstooth Sports Bar and Gallettes—home of the Yellow Hammer drink), as well as perfect eateries for post-game celebrations. Tried and true, you’ll want this information.

About the Book

Tuscaloosa is just such a special place. A college town with a whole new group of folks moving in and out each year. Countless visitors continually pass through for sporting events. What I hope to do with the writing of this book is introduce traditions and opportunities for visitors to find value past their original travel purpose (likely an athletic event or a visit with their son or daughter studying at UA). Most people do not think of art galleries and museums when they hear “Tuscaloosa.” And, that’s okay, but there’s so much more to see and do when you have a plan. That plan is this guidebook.

Follow along with the fun and frolic as I continue to peel back the layers of Tuscaloosa and find out more about this Alabama jewel of a city.  I invite you to be a part of this journey tagging along at facebook.com/100ThingsTuscaloosa. And, when participating in Tuscaloosa events and fun, use the hashtag #100ThingsTuscaloosa. I can’t wait for you to see all 100 things within the pages of this book, and I am also excited to see the things you’re doing in Tuscaloosa.

Photo Credit: Becky Beall

Written By: Elisa Johnson

It’s tee time in Tuscaloosa. The greens are at peak emerald, the trees have leafed out into the perfect pools of shade along the fairways, and it’s warm enough to appreciate a crisp sip of a cold beverage while someone else takes a swing. 

Grab your three best friends for three or four days of laid back fun in Tee-Town. The variety of courses (for golf and meals) and the easy flow of summer, set the right atmosphere for your golf getaway. Book your stay in one of our many hotels that lets you make the most of your evenings too.

Arrival Day

4:00 P.M. 

After you’ve checked into your lodgings in the afternoon, there’s still time to make it to The Dells Golf Club ($$) for a twilight round. This semi-private course is a great one to break in your stride and kick off the fun you and your friends are ready for. 

7:30 P.M. 

On your way back into town, stop at Jalapeño’s Mexican Grill for a local treat and let the loser buy a pitcher of margaritas for the party. Not too many though – you need to tuck in early for tomorrow morning’s tee time. 

Day 2

6:30 A.M.

Up and at ‘em! You’ll want to grab an old-fashioned breakfast at The Historic Waysider Restaurant before your 7:30 a.m. tee time at Tall Pines Golf Club ($). Tucked away in Tuscaloosa’s older Woodland Forrest neighborhood, the semi-private club offers recently resurfaced greens that are perfect for the morning.

Noon

While you’re in this area of town, swing by the OG Dreamland Bar-B-Que location for lunch. Built in 1958 by founder John “Big Daddy” Bishop himself, the original location has the experience as it was meant to be. 

Now that you’re fueled up on sweet tea and banana pudding, let’s go!

2:00 P.M.

Indian Hills Country Club ($$$) is a member-only course in the heart of Tuscaloosa. Recently redesigned with the thinking golfer in mind, it may be worth your while to tour this one for membership. 

If that’s not your speed, let’s proceed on to Ol’ Colony Golf Complex ($$) operated by Tuscaloosa County Park & Recreation Authority. This champion of a course is rated in Alabama’s top ten by GolfWeek and includes a driving range to work on that swing. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. 

7:00 P.M.

You’ve spent all day on the turf; it’s time to enjoy some surf. Head to River or Chuck’s Fish for an enticing fish entrée and delightful selection of drinks. Or if you’re hankering for something else, downtown’s assortment of restaurants offers something for everyone. 

Day 3

8:00-10:00 A.M.

After playing all day yesterday, you deserve a morning of leisure. Enjoy your comfortable hotel room before joining the gang for breakfast. Babes Donut Co. and Just Love Coffee are delicious options within an easy stroll downtown. It’s a great morning to visit a museum, walk around The University of Alabama campus, or enjoy the Riverwalk

10:30 A.M.

The Links at Tuscaloosa ($) lies in the southeast corner of the city. Belonging to the Lindsey Golf Network, this serene course offers rolling greens along Mimosa Lake, a driving range, and a pro shop. 

2:00 P.M.

Time for a late lunch or grab a snack and drop off your equipment. You might even want to take this time for a little nap, because for our last night, we’re really going to have fun…

6:00-11:00 P.M.

It’s a good time for all! You and the gang better be ready for some friendly wagers and a night of laughs as you take on Tuscaloosa’s newest golf venture, PopStroke ($-$$). With two miniature golf courses, a full-service menu, and green delivery, this is all you need for a last hurrah before leaving town tomorrow. 

Day 4

8:00 A.M.

After a late night out and a drive home ahead of you today, start the day at Big Bad Breakfast for a bounty of Southern favorites and coffee. 

9:30 A.M.

If you’re a Troon Privé member and have one more game of golf left in you, then we saved the best for last. Check out early and head to the private NorthRiver Yacht Club ($$$). This premiere location is the only course on Lake Tuscaloosa, offering manicured greens, professional services and an elite experience.

Thank you to our partners at the Bryant Conference Center for sponsoring this content!

Tuscaloosa is rolling into a season of change as new Alabama Football Coach Kalen DeBoer prepares to make his Crimson Tide coaching debut in the annual spring A-Day game on April 13, 2024. DeBoer has big shoes to fill after legendary Alabama coach Nick Saban announced his retirement following a dominant 16 season career at the Capstone. Tide fans from across the country are expected to flock to the Druid City for the most highly anticipated A-Day game since Saban’s first in 2007.

So, if you’re one of those people coming into town, we have a lot more “new” for you to experience while you’re here! Here are five new things to do in Title Town since last year’s spring game:

Cocktail Collection: If you roll into town Friday evening before the game on Saturday, chances are you might need a drink after your travel day… and do we have a treat for you! Cocktail Collection is a new speakeasy that opened along University Boulevard in late 2023. The upbeat lounge hides behind a vintage Pepsi door! This is where guests put in a code provided via social media to gain entrance into the speakeasy. Cocktail Collection offers a casual outdoor atmosphere as well as swanky, leather couch indoor seating. Appetizers are also offered alongside the craft cocktails! Find them on Instagram at @cocktail_collection_tcl .

Ben’s Bread: There’s no doubt you’ll need a hearty breakfast to get you ready for the big game! We’re sending you to Ben’s Bread! While his delectable breads and treats are not new to our area, Ben Rosairo recently opened a brick-and-mortar location at 3510 Loop Rd in Tuscaloosa. He and his family moved to Tuscaloosa in 2016 from England. West Alabamians have been picking up their favorite baked goods from Rosairo at the weekly Tuscaloosa Farmers Market for years, but now he’s excited to have a storefront where customers can come to enjoy his creations! Ben’s naturally leavened sourdough breads, bagels, croissants and donuts have never tasted better than they do from the patio of his new location. Follow him at @bensbreadtuscaloosa .

Zaria: If you’re looking for just the right A-Day ensemble, check out Tuscaloosa’s newest boutique, Zaria. Tucked away just across from Government Plaza in the heart of Downtown Tuscaloosa, Zaria offers clothing, accessories, and footwear. They just opened in March of 2024! Owner Mira Milburn says she created her boutique with inspiration from Zaria, the Slavic goddess of beauty usually represented as a triad of goddesses: dawn, mid-day and dusk. The Zaria team will help you create transitional looks, so you feel confident from morning to night. Follow them on Instagram at @shopxzaria .

Popstroke: We hope you’re not “sportsed” out after the A-Day game, because our next new stop is definitely above par. The Tiger Woods-backed concept merges miniature golf, technology and casual dining into a fun-filled experience for the entire family. You’ll find an expansive variety of craft beer, wine, ice cream, and food to enjoy on or off the courses. PopStroke infuses technology within the golf experience to create an interactive and competitive atmosphere for all participants. Unique to PopStroke is the PopStroke App and jumbotron leaderboard. Each guest keeps a PopStroke TaylorMade commemorative ball with their round of golf. Follow them on Instagram at @popstroke .
           

Big Bad Breakfast:  To fuel up for your trip home, you’re gonna’ need to start your day off strong with a good breakfast! Here’s where one of our newest restaurants enters the chat. Big Bad Breakfast lives up to its name. Located at 520 19TH Ave in downtown Tuscaloosa, their meals are BIG and bad—in the best way. BBB, which opened its doors in February of this year, serves up breakfast and lunch classics with their own southern flare! Follow them on Instagram at @tuscaloosa_bigbadbreakfast .

                  While on your way out of town, we hope you’ll reflect on a weekend of good food, new shopping, fun experiences, and football that meets the Alabama standard! Remember, this is just a short list of the many new and wonderful things happening around our community! To keep up with the latest buzz in Tuscaloosa County, follow Visit Tuscaloosa on social media!  Facebook: Visit Tuscaloosa Instagram: @visittuscaloosa TikTok: @visittuscaloosa

Celebrating Black History Month can look different for everyone, but one of our favorite ways to recognize and honor this special time is to prioritize supporting Black business owners. We’ve created a weekend itinerary highlighting just some of the amazing Black-owned businesses right here in Tuscaloosa County.

Let’s just say you come into town on a Friday and get settled in to where you’re staying between mid and late afternoon. If you want to check out a few downtown spots before dinner, we know just where to send you.

Walking around Tuscaloosa’s Downtown area is a wonderful experience on any day, but if you can make your stroll while drinking a fresh-made smoothie from The Veganish Market, that’s a real treat. The Veganish menu caters not only to the vegan community but also to vegetarians, pescatarians, flexitarians, and those transitioning into a plant-based lifestyle.

On your walk downtown, it’s worth your while to pop in the Paul R. Jones Museum. Paul Raymond Jones (1928-2010) was considered by many to be one of the top 100 art collectors in the country. Jones donated thousands of pieces to the College of Arts and Sciences at The University of Alabama to preserve the legacy of African American artists. The Paul R. Jones Museum is also a classroom for the arts, where students from kindergarten to college experience learning in a new and exciting environment. 

From there, you’re only blocks away from one of Tuscaloosa’s newest Black-owned businesses. Only Ones is retail store backed by Chicago White Sox star and Tuscaloosa native Tim Anderson. The shop is a great place to find unique and stylish casual wear.

Now it’s dinner time, and boy do we have a treat for you. One of Tuscaloosa’s most popular restaurants is Urban Bar and Kitchen. USA Today named UBK one of the 47 best restaurants in the entire country for 2024! Their motto is, “This must be the place,” and it is! This is one of those places where everything is good: seafood, pasta, salads, handhelds…all of it! We recommend you start with the Bacon Bombs for an appetizer, the UBK Pasta and / or the salmon for entrees, and end your meal on a sweet note with their White Chocolate Bread Pudding.

If you’re not ready for bed just yet, Cutter’s Cigars in Northport offers an upscale lounge experience. Enjoy a delicious cocktail along a fine cigar from the extensive Cutter’s collection.

If you’re an early riser, we suggest hitting the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market first thing Saturday morning. Visit locally Black-owned businesses such as Poppin’ Sisters, Araya Sunshine Candle Company, Blessed Bites, and more. You can even grab some breakfast while you’re there!

Now it’s time to explore! The state of Alabama has a rich Civil Rights history, with some of those chapters coming from here in the Druid City. The downtown portion of the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights History Trail is walkable. It focuses on events surrounding “Bloody Tuesday” and much more. On Tuesday, June 9, 1964, one year after Gov. George C. Wallace, Jr.’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” at the University of Alabama failed to block the arrival of two Black students, a group of peaceful citizens gathered at the First African Baptist Church to march to the new courthouse in protest of its segregated features. Ignoring warnings not to march by local law enforcement, hundreds followed the leader of the movement in Tuscaloosa and pastor of First African, Rev. T. Y Rogers, Jr., and hit the streets. They didn’t get very far. Police and members of the Ku Klux Klan attacked the marchers as they spilled out of the church, swinging night clubs and cattle prods and firing tear gas into the church itself. Many of the wounded were treated at the nearby Howard-Linton Barbershop. Thirty-three were sent to Druid City Hospital; ninety-four were arrested and jailed. All charges were subsequently dismissed, but no formal apologies were ever issued. You can find out more information about the trail by visiting their website here.

After taking in the history Downtown Tuscaloosa has, you’ve probably worked up an appetite.

Here’s where you have the hard choice between Archibald’s and Catfish Heaven.

The staff at Archibald’s serves their primary fare with bread and a choice of two sides—fried green tomatoes offer a tangy counterpoint to fried catfish, and slaw adds a creamy balance to the spicy flavors of half-chickens and hot wings.

Located in Tuscaloosa’s historic West End only a few minutes from the University of Alabama, sits Catfish Heaven. You can’t miss their bright yellow building! Staying true to its name, the restaurant is famous for its catfish, but also their wings!

A pro-tip from us would be to choose one of these staples for lunch and the other for dinner! Keep in mind, Catfish Heaven closes at 7:00 pm central.

Ladies, if you’re looking to a little more shopping, step inside Thrifty Charm Boutique. With a love for unique fashion, this boutique offers a range of beautiful and quality pieces at affordable prices. Whether you’re looking for a stylish outfit for a night, out or a comfortable yet chic look for everyday wear, Thrifty Charm Boutique has you covered!

Tuscaloosa is home to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College. You can schedule tours on their campuses through their linked websites.

After all this walking and touring, you are likely ready to sink into some relaxation.  A Gray”ceful Touch Massage & Yoga offers a variety of therapeutic massages and yoga classes that will have you thanking yourself for booking them!

On your way out of town, we highly recommend taking a little piece of Tuscaloosa with you. Whether it’s savory or sweet, you’ll find just that at Bobbie’s Bakery. They’re are a family-owned bakery and catering service. The motto there is, “Nothing fancy, just good Southern cooking!” 

Supporting Black-owned businesses like these all year promotes diversity, uplifts representation, increases visibility, and stimulates economic development.

More Black-Owned Businesses in our area can be found here.

Thank you to our partners at the Bryant Conference Center for sponsoring this content!

A Nick Saban-Inspired Itinerary Filled with Things to do in Tuscaloosa

You know what they say… “All good things must come to an end.” And while we’re excited about this new era of welcoming Coach Kalen DeBoer to Tuscaloosa and to the Crimson Tide family, we can’t help but be a little in our feels about Coach Nick Sabans retirement. So, what better way to pay a Tuscaloosa tribute to the GOAT than a Saban-themed trip to the town he and Ms. Terry have called home for 17 years?

Whether you’re local or coming in from out of town, this lineup is built for champions!

Since we’re celebrating the Saban’s, it’s only right we remind you of the option to stay at the hotel they have ownership in. Built in 2022, The Alamite is filled with elevated Crimson Tide touches.

Once you check in and settle into one of the 112 boutique guest rooms, you don’t even have to leave the property for dinner. The Alamite boasts two incredible restaurants guaranteed to please any palette.

If you’re feeling more of a casual, laid-back atmosphere we recommend hopping on the elevator to the rooftop bar Roll Call. You’ll find a thoughtfully curated menu of seasonal shareables and entrees. They often have live music you can enjoy while looking out over the Downtown Tuscaloosa skyline or towards the lights of Bryant Denny Stadium.

If you’re leaning toward a formal dining experience, you’ll love the Alamite’s house restaurant Forte Cuts and Cocktails. Forte seamlessly marries the charm of classic old-world European cuisine with the sophistication of a modern setting. Step into a world where timeless flavors meet contemporary elegance.

For music lovers, the newly renamed Mercedes – Benz Amphitheater doesn’t have a bad seat in the house. Shows are still being announced for the 2024 season. The music venue seats 7,470 along the Black Warrior River right next to the future location of The Saban Center, a first of its kind STEAM hub for education training, arts participation and academic support for teachers and families, opening in 2026.

If you’re an early riser like coach and want to start your process in the morning, we’ve got a breakfast spot that has never lost.

Opened in 1951, The Waysider is one of the oldest continuously operating restaurants in all of west Alabama. You’ll need to bring your appetite and your patience to this local favorite. Crowds are known to gather early for the generous portions of hearty breakfast classics. If these walls could talk, they’d have quite some tales of Tuscaloosa. Another legendary Alabama football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, was known to dine on his favorite menu item, country ham, regularly at a particular table tucked away by the door.

Once your bellies are full, you might want to walk off some of that delicious breakfast with a stroll along the Walk of Champions outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. There are several social media worthy photo opportunities here. You’ll definitely want your picture made with the 2,000-pound bronze statue of Nick Saban along the Coaches Walk. This is the site where students and fans brought tokens of their appreciation in the days following his retirement announcement.

The University of Alabama hosts student-guided stadium tours most days at 11:00 a.m. For $25.00 per person, you can get a first-hand look at the game day experience from the perspectives of coaches and players.

To truly understand Alabama Football, you’ll need to go back in time to long before Nick Saban stepped on campus. Paul “Bear” Bryant coached at The Capstone from 1958-1982. He is considered by many, including Coach Saban, to be one of the greatest football coaches of all time. To celebrate his legacy, The University of Alabama houses the Paul W. Bryant Museum, complete with six exhibits that highlight the university’s sports successes. Bryant won a record 323 career games and six national championships. 

By this point, you’ll probably have worked your appetite back up. Don’t worry, we’re not sending you far. Located in the shadows of Bryant- Denny Stadium, sits one of the most iconic restaurants in Title Town. If a Crimson Tide football museum and a classic diner had a baby, it would be Rama Jama’s. Alabama sports memorabilia hangs, sits and stands on every wall, ceiling and surface in sight. You’ll walk away from this place with not only a fantastic meal, but also more knowledge of one of the most storied sports programs in the country. You might have to play a little defense depending on the crowd, but the food and experience is well worth the wait. We recommend having the National Championship BLT. It has 18 strips of bacon on it, one for each Crimson Tide national title.

While you’re close by, you might as well hit up another UA staple if you’re up for a boozy beverage. Just down a stretch of campus known as “The Strip,” sits a bar famous on its own. Gallettes is home of The Yellowhammer—and we’re not talking about the state bird. This drink is a blend of rum, vodka, amaretto, orange juice and pineapple juice. While it is delicious, we don’t recommend having too many. They’ll sneak up on you… and we’ve got a lot more Saban celebrating to do!

For afternoon activities, we have a few different plays in our playbook.

Coach Saban has been known to spend time with his players off the field and on the water. That’s right…. the GOAT on a boat! Several videos have gone viral of coach captaining his pontoon while relaxing with several of his players on board. Lake Tuscaloosa is the perfect place to tube, waterski, wake board and sight see. No boat? No problem. You can rent vessels from Pier 43 or one of Tuscaloosa’s newest attractions Captain’s Club.

If the water isn’t for you, and perhaps you have little ones with you on your trip, the Sabans thought of that too. During their time in Tuscaloosa, they’ve donated funds through their nonprofit Nick’s Kids Foundation to create two new playgrounds for children of various ages. One is located on the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk, and you can find Mason’s Place, an all-inclusive playground for children of all abilities, at Sokol Park.

If you’re looking to volunteer while you’re in Title Town, here’s a unique way to say you helped the Saban’s build their dynasty, literally. Coach and Ms. Terry have sponsored 20 Habitat for Humanity homes in this community since an EF-4 tornado destroyed much of Tuscaloosa in 2011. Hours after Coach Saban’s retirement announcement, Habitat confirmed the Sabans would sponsor one last home to commemorate the Tide’s latest SEC championship win against the Georgia Bulldogs. This home is known as the LANK House (Let All Naysayers Know). If you’d like to volunteer your time to help with this historic build, you can visit habitattuscaloosa.org/volunteer.

Regardless of how you spend your afternoon in Tuscaloosa, we think you’ll love ending your day on a sweet note. River is a restaurant favorite here locally. Living true to its name, this urban dining experience is located on the beautiful banks of the Black Warrior River. If you really want to tip your hat to Coach Saban, order his all-time favorite treat, the Oatmeal Crème Pie. This delicious dessert is a made from scratch buttercream filling sandwiched between two warm oatmeal cookies. Is your mouth watering yet?

As you can tell, the Saban’s have done a whole lot more for our city than just win a lot of football games. They’ve helped weave the fabric of this community by giving, serving and building a legendary legacy here. Although Coach Saban is stepping off the field, he and his family are continuing to leave their mark on Tuscaloosa.

Thank you to our partners at Townsend Nissan and Townsend Honda for sponsoring this content!

Editor’s Note: Russell Jones of Coker, Alabama, is a USCG Certified Guide on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, as part of the Alabama Guide Service. Tailrace fishing below Bankhead and Holt dams can be outstanding during certain times of the year because you can catch a wide variety of fish at night, as well as during the day. The success of tailrace fishing is dependent on how much current is being generated by the hydroelectric plants, the spillways and/or both. The amount of current and the color of the water in the tailraces will dictate how you should fish, and what lures you should use. You can contact Russell Jones at 205-454-7313; www.alabamaguideservices.com; and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaGuideService/.

During the summer months, some of the best tailrace fishing will be at night on the Black Warrior River. Fish often hold in the underwater structure in the tailraces, especially bass. Due to this, one of my favorite lures is a Bandit 200 crankbait that I’ll paint solid-black. I’ll reel it very slowly, try to get it down to the bottom and bounce it off the rocks because that time is usually when the bass will attack. The Bandit 200 is a small-profile bait, but it can really be effective at the dams at night, when the current’s not running. I’ll also use the Valiant jig – in brown or watermelon colors – and the shakyhead rig at night around the rock piles that I find with my depth finder.

I must admit that my favorite tailrace to fish is the one at the bottom of Bankhead Dam – also known as Lock 17 – at the head of Holt Lake. However, there are numbers of rock piles in this tailrace that will eat-up the lower unit of your motor. So, never run very fast when you start getting close to the dam. Normally, when I’m fishing the tailrace, I have my big motor kicked-up, so that if my boat hits a rock pile, it will ride over it. I’m also being very cautious with my trolling motor when I’m moving around in this tailrace, to keep from damaging my propeller or the shaft of my motor. I keep my depth finder on to continuously look for different rock piles and bottom structure that I may not have seen before.

If you’re fishing a tailrace at night, LiveScope sonar can be very effective at showing you the rock piles that you may run into in front of the boat or that are present in the slack water in the daytime. However, when the current’s running, and the water’s very turbulent, your LiveScope won’t be nearly as effective as in the slack water or when night fishing with no current. If you’re in the tailrace in the daytime and there’s hardly any current at all but plenty of slack water, a LiveScope can help you locate those underwater rock piles that the bass hold in and behind when the current’s running and mark them as waypoints so you can fish them in the daytime when the current’s running.

Fishing Black Warrior River Tailraces in Tuscaloosa County when the Spillways are Running

Editor’s Note: Russell Jones of Coker, Alabama, is a USCG Certified Guide on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, as part of the Alabama Guide Service. Tailrace fishing below Bankhead and Holt dams can be outstanding during certain times of the year because you can catch a wide variety of fish at night, as well as during the day. The success of tailrace fishing is dependent on how much current is being generated by the hydroelectric plants, the spillways and/or both. The amount of current and the color of the water in the tailraces will dictate how you should fish, and what lures you should use. You can contact Russell Jones at 205-454-7313; www.alabamaguideservices.com; and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaGuideService/.

When the Warrior River starts to flood upstream of Bankhead Dam, often the spillways will be opened to allow some of that excess water to move downstream. Depending on how many of the spillways are open, this time can be dangerous to fish in the tailrace. However, if you can see slack water and stay there, you’ll catch a good number of fish.

Usually when the spillways are open, the water will be muddy. So, I’ll fish with bright-colored lures. I’ll be using a Rat-L-Trap, a spinner bait, brown – or green-colored Valiant jigs and an Alabama Rig with big white swimbaits on it. Then, I’ll try to cast it out and get it in the current. We’ll still be looking for the same type of fish that hold in the tailrace – spotted and largemouth bass, saltwater striped bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, white bass, drum, skipjack (hickory shad) and any other fish that have come upriver to feed on the abundance of shad holding and feeding in that swift water.

Another tactic that I may use when there’s a lot of current coming from the spillways and/or the hydroelectric plant is I’ll cast topwater lures in the slack water just off the current. I’ll be using a walking bait like the Zara Spook, a popping bait and a buzzbait. Many times, some of the better-sized fish may be holding on that current seam between the slack water and the current from the dam. When those fish see activity on the surface, they’ll often attack.

Editor’s Note: Russell Jones of Coker, Alabama, is a USCG Certified Guide on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, as part of the Alabama Guide Service. Tailrace fishing below Bankhead and Holt dams can be outstanding during certain times of the year because you can catch a wide variety of fish at night, as well as during the day. The success of tailrace fishing is dependent on how-much current is being generated by the hydroelectric plants, the spillways and/or both. The amount of current and the color of the water in the tailraces will dictate how you should fish, and what lures you should use. You can contact Russell Jones at 205-454-7313; www.alabamaguideservices.com; and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaGuideService/.

I like a big spinner bait when I fish in the tailrace to see what’s biting, and where the fish are holding. The current will decide what size spinner bait I use – either a 3/4- or a 1/8-ounce spinner bait. When I’m fishing a spinner bait in the tailrace, I don’t use a trailer. Some days I may use a trailer hook, but more than likely, I won’t. I like either a solid-white or a shad-colored spinner bait – like gray and white with sparkles in it. If the water’s muddy, I prefer a chartreuse-colored spinner bait and skirt. The blades on my spinner baits will be silver, double willow-leaf blades – one large and one small. The willow leaf seems to get the spinner bait down faster than the Colorado blade on a spinner bait does. I also like a 7’3” rod and usually will fish the spinner baits on fluorocarbon line – generally 17-20 pound test.

Editor’s Note: Russell Jones of Coker, Alabama, is a USCG Certified Guide on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, as part of the Alabama Guide Service. When fishing on the Black Warrior River, Tailrace fishing below Bankhead and Holt dams can be outstanding during certain times of the year because you can catch a wide variety of fish at night, as well as during the day. The success of tailrace fishing is dependent on how much current is being generated by the hydroelectric plants, the spillways and/or both. The amount of current and the color of the water in the tailraces will dictate how you should fish, and what lures you should use. You can contact Russell Jones at 205-454-7313; www.alabamaguideservices.com; and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlabamaGuideService/.

The Alabama Rig holds five jig heads with a soft, plastic swimbait attached to each jig head. In Alabama, you can use all five jig heads on your Alabama Rig. However, in other states, you only may be able to use two or three jig heads. I’ll place 1/4-ounce shaky head jigs on each one of the five wires of the Alabama Rig. Some anglers prefer a lighter jig head, but I like the 1/4-ounce to get the rig down quicker to where I think the fish are holding, as well as keeping it off the bottom, by reeling fairly fast. I use either 3.5 NetBait Little Spanky swimbaits on the jig heads or True Bass Hollow Body swimbaits. The True Bass swimbaits are tougher than the Little Spanky ones and somewhat more expensive. When I’m fishing with the Little Spanky ones, I like the bright, pearl-colored bodies. When the river’s water is clear, I like the True Bass colors that resemble a shad better than the Little Spanky ones.

I fish the Alabama Rig on a flipping stick big frog rod that’s either 7’6” or a 7’11” long. I use 50-pound-test braided line. Some people prefer to use a monofilament line, but I’m more comfortable using braided line, like Berkley’s Power Pro braid. The secret to catching fish on the Alabama Rig in the tailrace is to reel it fast enough to keep it from getting hung in the bottom, yet slowly enough to get it down close to the bottom. The first time I start throwing it, I may get hung-up a couple of times, but I usually can pop my line and get the rig off of whatever it’s hung. 

For instance, if I’m fishing a 20-foot bottom, I want the Alabama Rig to be between 15 – 20 feet deep, possibly 18 feet. If I’m fishing in 8-10 feet of water, I try to keep the Alabama Rig in 6-7 feet of water. The Alabama Rig also has blades on it that give the bait a lot of flash. Using this bait, I catch a wide variety of fish. I’ve caught 20-pound catfish, 15–20 pound stripers, hybrid striped bass – often two or three at a time – largemouth bass, spotted bass, drum and skipjacks (hickory shad). However, I’m really targeting spotted bass and have caught three spotted bass on one Alabama Rig before at the same time. The biggest was a 3-pounder, and the other two were 12-14 inches long. I’ve also caught two, 4-pound spotted bass on the same Alabama Rig at the same time.

Fish the Alabama Rig with Swimbaits in the Warrior River Tailraces with Russell Jones

Editor’s Note: Adam Hollingsworth is the president of the University of Alabama Fishing Team and explains, “I went back to college because I spent the first years of my life after high school in the military and as a police officer. I eventually want to be a U.S. Marshal. I currently have a degree in criminology and plan to start my master’s degree at the University of Alabama in the fall of 2022.” 

In the future, the City of Northport, Alabama, while working together with others, is hoping to build a facility where 200 boats can launch and have a bait shop, as well as offer many parking spaces.

Right now, several boat ramps are close together on the lower end of Holt Lake. Rock Quarry Boat Ramp (https://www.recreation.gov/activitypass/4baaca95-f6a4-11ea-ab86-ea94e31cc891) and Rocky Branch Launch (https://www.recreation.gov/activitypass/cb0dde80-f6a4-11ea-bc4c-a2c064eb4d04), that’s larger than Rock Quarry, are only one mile apart. Deerlick Creek Campground (https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/232571) is located in-between these marinas and isn’t as big. When you come out of Rock Quarry Boat Launch you’ll see Eagle Cove Marina (https://marinas.com/view/marina/7ecqx9v_Eagle_Cove_Marina_and_RV_Park_Cottondale_AL_United_States), which is where anglers generally will meet to start a tournament. When you combine the capabilities of all the marinas right now, 100 boats can be launched for a tournament.

One of the best bass-fishing locations as you come out of Rock Quarry Marina and go north toward the Lock 17 Dam, is Red Eye, found on the right-hand bank as you go upriver and only a 10-minute ride. You’ll go past a coal chute where coal is loaded on barges. Generally, barges are parked on the other side of Red Eye. Several sandbars come off of this spot, and one of them is very shallow. On the weekends, many pleasure-boat riders will park there and have a party. I’ve found that the outside edge is a good place to catch fish, and that the sandbar usually produces best when there’s a current coming through the lake. 

Hollingsworth reeling in bass at Holt Reservoir.

Editor’s Note: Adam Hollingsworth is the president of the University of Alabama Fishing Team and explains, “I went back to college because I spent the first years of my life after high school in the military and as a police officer. I eventually want to be a U.S. Marshal. I currently have a degree in criminology and plan to start my master’s degree at the University of Alabama in the fall of 2022. I love to fish for bass.” 

At night when the power plant at the Lock 17 isn’t running, I can catch bass there with either a buzzbait or a spinner bait. Some of the best tournaments in the hot months are held at night when the spillways aren’t running current. Also, you can dodge the heat of the day then, making bass fishing more fun. Most of the night tournaments begin just before dark and continue until after midnight.

My two favorite lures for fishing below Lock 17 at night are the Crusher Pro Buz buzzbait just before dark, and the Crusher Lures Moon Crusher spinner bait after dark. I prefer this spinner bait because the Moon Crusher increases my hook setting ratio. I also like its big thumper blade that triggers more bites when calling bass from long distances with the vibrations it gives off.

The two colors I like are black/hot pink and crushed tequila. I fish the Crusher Lures Moon Crusher on the edges of grass and over logs and other debris. I’ll fish this lure on a 7’ or a 7’3” iROD Lone Star Special in a medium-heavy action with a Lews Tournament Pro 7.5:1 gear ratio reel and PowerPro 20-pound-test braided line. 

Hollingsworth with caught bass.

Editor’s Note: 27-year-old Jalen Conner is a native of Tuscaloosa and has been fishing Tuscaloosa County’s Holt Reservoir for eight years. A criminal justice student at Tuscaloosa’s Stillman College, Conner fishes two bass tournament trails – the S.A.B.A and the Jim Austin.

I’m often asked, “Why aren’t more bass tournaments held on Holt and Oliver reservoirs?” I think many Alabamians don’t even know where Holt or Oliver are located and probably never have read about where we fish, and what lures we use for bassing there. We’re not like Guntersville Lake in North Alabama or Lake Eufaula in Southeast Alabama that have been publicized on TV and in magazines and social media. Holt and Oliver are like hidden gems on the Black Warrior River and are more community lakes that no one, except the community, knows about or fishes. Local anglers know about the great fishing available on the Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County at Holt and Oliver reservoirs. But, they don’t tell anyone else, although some club tournaments are conducted here.

Another reason I believe other tournaments don’t come to this section of the Black Warrior River is because most of our boat ramps are single or double. I realize that big tournaments generally are held in regions with at least five ramps and parking for 200 or more vehicles and trailers. I’d really like to see a fishing facility built here like the ones at Lake Guntersville and Lake Eufaula that bass fishermen could launch more than one or two boats from at a time and offer parking for spectators and participants. 

Conner with caught bass
Conner with caught bass

If I could create a fishing facility for Tuscaloosa County, I’d like a pavilion for contestants to bring their fish in their livewells on their boats to the weigh-in and then be able to drive their boats and vehicles to a parking lot with 200-300 parking spaces for boats and trailers. Also, I’d like to have access to restrooms near the boat launch and/or pavilion. In addition, there needs to be easy access to return the bass back into the water after each bag of fish is weighed. 

I believe that realistically, this dream of mine and other Tuscaloosa County fishermen could come true in the next three or four years. The City of Northport is working to try and find enough available land to build a fishing facility like I’ve described and to work with the appropriate individuals or organizations that help secure the funds to build this type of facility. The facility will be for Tuscaloosa County residents and also attract larger bass-tournament trails to come here, fish in our waters, stay in our hotels and motels, eat some of the finest Southern food anywhere and meet some of the friendliest people in the world. Regardless of whether the actual site is, a fishing facility like this will help all of Tuscaloosa County.

Conner with caught bass
Conner with caught bass