Night Fishing Tuscaloosa County’s Black Warrior River Tailraces with Russell Jones
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.