With Outdoor Writer, John E. Phillips, and Jalen Conner

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 tournament trails – the S.A.B.A and the Jim Austin.

Jalen Conner and I went fishing upriver from Rock Quarry Boat Ramp (more info here) on Holt Reservoir in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, in early June. From 7:00 am to noon, we caught 10 bass and probably missed twice as many, with the biggest bass weighing about 4 pounds. While that bass was in the live well, it spit-out a crawfish it just recently had been eating. This clued Jalen into the fact that a soft-plastic Zoom Z-Craw was exactly the right bait for the bass we wanted to catch. 

“The crawfish color I fish, as well as what most anglers fish on Holt Reservoir, is the Alabama Craw,” Conner explains. “Its main body is orange, and its pincers are red. During the summer months, the Zoom Z-Craw in the Alabama Craw color is the exact color of the crawfish here at Holt at that time. The crawfish will be in the grass, so when the currents aren’t running, or the current’s light, the bass will move into the grass to feed on the crawfish. However, they’ll eat crawfish almost every day during the summer.” 

Another color of the Z-Craw that Conner fishes in the summertime is a watermelon red. He dyes the pincers with chartreuse dye. Conner fishes two types of the Zoom Z-Craw – the Junior and the larger Zoom Craw.

“I don’t tell the bass what size of crawfish they want to eat,” Conner explains. “I’ll flip both sizes and colors down the bank and in the grass. Whichever-size Craw gets the most bites is the one I’ll continue to fish. I think the bigger Z-Craw causes a reaction strike from the nearby bass, and that’s why it receives more bites than other baits do.”

Conner went on to explain: “When I’m fishing the Z-Craw, I’ll rig it Texas-style with a Gamakatsu 3/0 hook with a 3/8-ounce tungsten bullet weight in front of it. I then peg the weight to the eye of the hook. Although the Junior and the larger Z-Craws in the Alabama Craw and the watermelon red are my favorite colors, I’ll also fish a purple Craw that looks like a small bluegill. Bluegills and crawfish are what the bass are primarily feeding on in the grass and on the bank structure in the summer at Holt.” 

Jalen Conner fishes on the Black Warrior River
Jalen Conner catches a fish on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County

D.J. McEachern: Fishing in Tuscaloosa County at Holt Reservoir

Editor’s Note: D.J. McEachern and his wife, Emily are working toward their PhDs in chemistry at the University of Alabama. D.J. has been bass fishing for 20 years and just recently has joined the University of Alabama’s Fishing Team. He’s been fishing in Tuscaloosa County’s Holt Reservoir on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa for the last three years and catches bass from below Lock 17 all the way down to Holt Lock and Dam. He primarily likes to fish grass in the summertime for bass because grass will give bass good ambush points, shade and oxygen.

D.J. Fishes in Tuscaloosa County
D.J. McEachern fishes in Tuscaloosa County.

“During the summer, Holt Reservoir has a good bluegill spawn, and I don’t believe many people who fish Holt Reservoir flip grass as much as I do. My favorite lures to fish during the hot summer months, all the way through August, include a bluegill popper, like a Berkley Bullet Pop. I also like a flipping bait like the Reaction Innovations Kinky Beaver in the green-pumpkin color that’s 3-1/2 inches long and features flappy tails. I’ll be fishing with 25-pound-test braided line made by Sunline and I don’t use any leader, just a straight braid. I’ll also fish with a Doybns DX795 Champion Extreme, 7’9” flipping rod with a Shimano Curado spinning reel.”

KINKY BEAVER 7400 lure - fishing in Tuscaloosa County
Reaction Innovations Kinky Beaver Lure

In speaking with McEachern, he catches most of his bass during the summer months near the Lock 15 boat ramp since there’s plenty of grass there on underwater humps, islands and ledges that he can flip.

“I’m known as a bank beater. I like shallow-water fishing for bass better than offshore in the summer months because the bass don’t have to come up through any other atmosphere other than the water depth where they are living. Not having to bring the bass up from deep water isn’t as stressful for them, and they easily can be released and will survive – even on the hottest days.” 

Since he knows bass like to feed on bluegills, and almost always there are bluegills in shallow water in the summer at Holt, the shallow-water bass usually bite better than deep-water fish. Of course, a bass in shallow water has to be big enough to get a bluegill in its mouth and eat it, and often will be bigger than deep-water bass in the summertime.

Largemouth Bass Vs. Spotted Bass in the Summer:

“I’d rather catch largemouth than spotted bass. Largemouths are usually the species of bass holding in the grass and shallow water in the summer months. However, my best day of fishing at Holt was in March, 2022. My best five bass there were spotted bass that weighed a total of 20 pounds. I’ve had a lot of days when I’ve caught 15-18 pounds of bass at Holt for a five-fish limit. On an average day, I’ll catch 15-20 small bass. However, I’ve even heard of people catching 10-pound bass out of Holt. For me, a big river bass weighs 4-5 pounds. I try to bass fish two days a week – regardless of the weather or water conditions. But a caution to anyone fishing in Tuscaloosa County and the Holt reservoir is to watch out for logs and other floating trash, especially after a rain.”

D.J. fishes in Tuscaloosa County on the Black Warrior River

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

Jalen Conner fishing in Tuscaloosa County.
Jalen Conner fishing in Tuscaloosa County

Fish the Bankhead Tailrace to Catch a Wide Variety of Fish:

When fishing in Tuscaloosa County, according to Conner, “When only the generators are running at Bankhead Lock and Dam, you can catch a wide variety of fish in the tailrace, including saltwater stripers, hybrid striped bass, white bass, catfish and crappie. I’ve seen a 65-pound blue catfish that was caught in that tailrace, and the tailrace homes plenty of eating-size cats too. I’ve also had some friends who have limited out quickly on catching crappie in the tailrace because they know where the eddy holes are, and the places where the crappie hold when the current’s running.

Lock 17 Dam is the Bankhead tailrace border between Tuscaloosa County to the south and Walker County to the north. Numbers of spotted bass are in this tailrace when the current’s running, especially when the floodgates are open and the power-generating plant is producing current at the same time. Depending on how much current is moving through the lake, the lake may be 3-4 feet high above normal pool. Once there’s little or no current being released by Bankhead Dam, Holt Lake may be 3-4 feet below normal pool. When the current’s running strong, and I want to catch largemouths, I’ll go further downstream and fish mainly grass and bank cover.” 

Fish Holt Lake with Jalen Conner and Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips:

The weatherman had promised a 50% chance of rain when Jalen Conner and I had set a date to fish Holt Reservoir. Because we both realized that the weatherman could be 50% wrong, we decided to go ahead and fish and carried our rain suits with us. We were fishing on the first Thursday in June, 2022. Although we ran almost the entire 20-mile stretch of the reservoir from Bankhead Dam to Holt Dam, we only saw three or four boats all day, with only one boat having a fisherman in it. We put in at Rock Quarry Landing with its boat ramps, restroom facilities and parking (more info here) and went upriver first. 

During the summer months, Conner believes that the best fishing is upriver.

“Another advantage we have when we fish this section of the river during the week is that we rarely, if ever, see jet skis or people water skiing. This section of the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County is unknown to most Alabama anglers. If you enjoy fishing for bass in a river with plenty of grass, points, sandbars, quality backwater and pocket areas and underwater humps as well as islands and ledges in the middle of the river, then Holt Reservoir on the Black Warrior River near Tuscaloosa, is a hidden gem for you to bass fish.”

This section of the Black Warrior River runs through some of the most-rural areas in Tuscaloosa County and receives little or no publicity. So, the fishing pressure is almost nonexistent during the week there.

As we continue to raise awareness around the opportunities to fish in Tuscaloosa County, especially along the Black Warrior River, Toby Wilson continues to share his advice and expertise.

Editor’s Note: Toby Wilson is a management consultant and has been fishing the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County for the last seven years. He’s also heavily involved with high-school bass fishing in Tuscaloosa County with his three sons through Holy Spirit High School. His eldest, Garrett, is 18-years old, his son, Matthew is 16 years old, and his youngest son, Chase, is 15-years old. 

Toby Wilson Sons - Fish in Tuscaloosa County
Toby Wilson’s sons show off a few of their catches for the day.

Toby Wilson: I have two sons who bass fish on the high-school circuit. I’ve been the coach for the Holy Spirit High School fishing team for almost six years. This year we have two people on the team, but we have had three before. I’m working on teaching the team how to fish well enough to move into the college circuits. But like most youngsters, they’d rather me take them places where I know bass are there to catch, rather than finding the bass themselves. My son Garrett already has reached-out to the fishing coach for the University of Alabama Fishing Team and will start there in the fall. I’m planning to help both of my sons to bass fish when they go to college too. I have two bass boats – one that was my dad’s boat, and the other is mine.  

John E. Phillips: Toby, if someone wants to fish in Tuscaloosa County on the Black Warrior River that runs the length of the county, where can they go to get the best information on tournament results, available fishing tournaments and high school and college programs? 

Wilson: Check out Bob Hale’s L&L Marine website. Bob keeps up with most of the tournaments in this area. Dustin Wright, the fishing coach for Tuscaloosa County Northside High School and the District Director for the Alabama Bass Nation, has information on tournaments located in Tuscaloosa too.

Phillips: To fish the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County to catch bass, where and how will you fish, what lures will you use, and what strategies will you employ to produce the five-fish limit needed to be competitive in a tournament? 

Wilson: In the spring of the year, the backwater areas that we have available to fish for bass can be very productive. These same regions may not be accessible in the winter, but in the spring and early summer, this section of the Warrior River has a lot of high water that gives anglers access to the backwaters that perhaps we can’t fish during other times of the year.

When I want to fish in Tuscaloosa County, some of my favorite backwaters are in Oliver Lake, all the way down to Lock 6. There seems to be better backwater fishing near the town of Akron and Lock 8 than there is up toward the northern portion of Oliver. Many of these backwaters don’t even have names. Because of the high water, you can find stained water in these backwater regions. The lures that work the best there for bass are lures that make a noise, like the chatterbait and the square bill crankbait. The most-productive color generally is white in both the chatterbait and the crankbait. 

Bass Fish in Tuscaloosa County
Bass Fish in Tuscaloosa County

If you’re interested in learning more about fishing on the Black Warrior River and particular baits that local fishermen have found to be beneficial, you’ve come to the right spot!

Editor’s Note: Toby Wilson is a management consultant and has been fishing on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County for the last seven years. He’s also heavily involved with high-school bass fishing in Tuscaloosa County with his three sons through Holy Spirit High School. His eldest, Garrett, is 18-years old, his son, Matthew is 16-years old, and his youngest son, Chase, is 15-years old.

John E. Phillips: What size of lures are you using to catch bass on the lower end of Oliver Lake? 

Toby Wilson: I prefer to fish either a 3/8-ounce or a 1/2-ounce chatterbait with a white skirt and a soft-plastic Rage Tail trailer. Occasionally, I’ll use a Z-Craw trailer as well. 

Chatterbait - Fishing on the Black Warrior River
Chatterbait lure

Phillips: How are you fishing the chatterbait? 

Wilson: Often we’ll just cast and retrieve this lure. But there’s a lot of wood in Oliver’s backwater regions. We’ve found that banging the chatterbait up against logs in the water, fallen trees and any other type of wood may cause a bass to strike. Other times, we’ll fish the chatterbait slowly on the bottom. If the grass hasn’t grown-up to the surface, we’ll fish the chatterbait through the lily-pad stems, the grass stems and the underwater stumps. We want the chatterbait to hit the wood and trigger a reaction strike. 

Phillips: The other lure you mentioned was a square-bill crankbait. Which is your favorite square-bill crankbait lure, and how are you fishing it? 

Wilson: I use quite a few different manufacturers. I like Booyah, Bomber, Bill Norman and Lucky Craft. My boys and I fish a variety of assorted colors, such as white, sexy shad and blue back with chartreuse sides. We primarily fish bright colors that the bass can see in Oliver’s stained water. 

Phillips: How are you working the square bills? 

Wilson: We’re trying to crank the square bills and bounce them off the wood cover. 

Phillips: Most people don’t like to run crankbaits through heavy wood cover because they’re afraid they’ll lose the crankbaits. How do you solve this problem? 

Wilson: Some days you don’t lose any lures, and on some days you lose a lot. The best thing to do is bring numbers of crankbaits with you when you’re planning to fish the backwaters on Oliver Lake. We’ve learned that if we’re not banging the square bills into the wood, we don’t get as many strikes as we do when we crash the crankbaits into the wood cover off the main river channel. 

Deep-diving Crankbait - fishing on the Black Warrior River
Deep-diving Crankbait

Phillips: Two effective ways to fish a crankbait through wood cover is to pause the crankbait as soon as it hits the cover or burn the crankbait through the cover. Which tactic do you think is the most-productive at Oliver?  

Wilson: We let the bass tell us which retrieve they’ll bite the best. 

Phillips: What size bass are you catching in the backwater areas, and how many are you catching? 

Wilson: Most of the average bass we catch will weigh 1-1/2-pounds to 4 pounds. But, every so often, we will catch a 5 pounder. 

Toby Wilson - fishing on the Black Warrior River
Toby Wilson enjoys fishing on the Black Warrior River with one of his three sons.

Interested in fishing in Tuscaloosa County? Longtime fisherman and native to the area, Dalton Bobo, shares insights and tips to springtime bass fishing in Tuscaloosa County.

Editor’s Note: Dalton Bobo, longtime resident of Northport, Alabama, rose to nationwide bass-fishing fame at the 1997 Bassmaster Classic held on Logan Martin Lake near Birmingham, Ala. On the final day, Bobo went to the scales with the winning bag of bass. But before Bobo’s limit of bass was weighed, the officials determined that one of his bass had died and imposed a 4-ounce penalty that was deducted from his total fish weight. He lost the Classic by 1 ounce and its $100,000 prize. However, that loss catapulted Bobo to a 14-year professional bass-fishing career, after which he guided for several years on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County.

Fishing in Tuscaloosa County: Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish in the Black Warrior River
Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish in the Black Warrior River

Tuscaloosa’s Warrior River – The Best Place Bobo says to Train Tournament Bass Fishermen:

I enjoy fishing the Warrior River from below Lock 17 – the Holt Reservoir – all the way downriver. This section of the Warrior River can prepare a tournament fisherman for almost any type of water a bass angler may compete on, and I’ve fished here all my life.

What most people don’t realize is that the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County is a very-diverse fishery. Bankhead Lake (the reservoir above Lock 17) and Holt Lake (below Lock 17) on the River both can be considered highland-reservoir types of lakes or mountain lakes. Numerous creeks run into Bankhead and Holt, and many hollows dump fresh water into the Black Warrior River system after a rain. These two lakes are in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. They’re fed by the Mulberry Fork and the Locust Fork that come together to create the Black Warrior River. The lower end of Holt Reservoir is almost in the city limits of Tuscaloosa. When you leave Holt Lake and go downriver, you’re moving into Oliver Lake, which is more of a coastal plains kind of lake. The Black Warrior from Tuscaloosa south is a lowland type of river. 

Fishing in Tuscaloosa County: Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish in the Holt Lake section of the Black Warrior River
Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish in the Holt Lake section of the Black Warrior River

If a tournament angler learns to fish the upper lakes (Bankhead and Holt) of the Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County, he’ll become schooled on how to fish highland reservoir types of lakes. If next he goes to just below the city of Tuscaloosa to the Oliver pool, he’ll learn how to fish lowland lakes. The water at Oliver is more dingy, often contains a lot of stain and color and has natural creeks and oxbow lakes and sloughs coming off its main river channel.

Here in Tuscaloosa and Northport, Ala., we have one of the most-diverse fisheries anywhere in the nation. Also, in the upper portion of Bankhead Reservoir is Smith Lake Dam that backs up to Smith Lake – a big, clear, deep highland reservoir that feeds into the Black Warrior River. Because the water is pulled from the bottom of Smith Lake, even if the Tuscaloosa area has giant rains, the water can be gin clear above Bankhead Lock and Dam and the headwaters of Holt Reservoir. In fishing Tuscaloosa County, there’s enough diversity to help train any tournament fisherman to fish a wide variety of water.

Bankhead and Holt Reservoirs Grow Big Bass:

To catch big bass, both Bankhead and Holt reservoirs in Tuscaloosa’s Black Warrior River are where you can get your string stretched and make the drag on your reel squeal. These two impoundments have blueback herring in them that they’ve never had before. The blueback herring – a large forage fish – has helped to grow bass bigger and quicker than they’ve grown in the past, while feeding primarily on threadfish shad and bluegills. 

Three years ago, most bass tournaments held on these two lakes would be won by a five-bass limit of 16-17 pounds. Now, three years later, a five-fish limit of 23-24 pounds of bass is needed to win a tournament at either lake. The big bass caught in any tournament there could weigh 9-10 pounds. For tournament fishermen who keep up with the stats on lakes and the tournament online, they know to even have a chance at winning, they’ll have to have upwards of a five-fish limit of 25 pounds. And, if you expect to catch the big fish of the tournament, that big bass will have to weigh 8+ pounds. I really believe that the blueback herring that have been introduced to the lake is the main reason for the growth of the bass in those two reservoirs in the northern part of Tuscaloosa County. 

A good number of saltwater stripers and hybrid striped bass live in Bankhead and Holt reservoirs too that definitely will bow your rod, stretch your string and make your reel sound like a siren going off when those big fish pull the drag so fast off your reel.

Lake Tuscaloosa:

Lake Tuscaloosa is a water-source lake for the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport. Spotted bass, largemouth bass and some good-sized crappie fish live there. But the bass population and the size of those bass is declining. 

Oliver Reservoir:

Below Holt in Tuscaloosa County is Oliver Reservoir that’s more of a riverine kind of lake with little backwater and feeder creeks. Some 6-8 pound spotted bass have been weighed in at Oliver Lake during tournaments. When you leave Tuscaloosa and go downriver, for about 40 miles is typical river habitat with laid-down trees, stumps and grass, making Oliver one of my favorite places to fish for bass. Sandbars on Oliver are where the bass often tend to congregate. You can have a really fun day of bass fishing on this downriver stretch of the Black Warrior River below the city of Tuscaloosa. I catch about as many largemouths on this section of the river, as I do spotted bass. 

Fishing in Tuscaloosa County: Dalton Bobo catches bass fish in the Oliver Reservoir.
Dalton Bobo catches bass fish in the Oliver Reservoir

Below that 40-mile mark, you’ll start finding creeks, backwater sloughs and numbers of cypress sloughs that hold good numbers of bass. On that lower end of the Black Warrior River from Akron to Demopolis, you’ll find more sloughs and backwaters than are in that first 40 miles below Tuscaloosa.

Pluses for Bass Fishing at Bankhead, Holt and Oliver Lakes:

One of the plusses for bass fishing here in Tuscaloosa County is that you don’t have to drive very far in a boat or a car from the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport to experience some really-good bass fishing. All three reservoirs have some water generation (current) flowing through them, especially in the spring and summer. Current tends to make bass bite better. If you lock-up from the Oliver pool that’s in the City of Tuscaloosa, you have about a 17-mile-long body of water in Holt Reservoir with plenty of creeks and hollows and natural runoffs where bass tend to hold, besides on the main river system. 

Then you’ll go into Bankhead. If you have a good day, and the bass are really biting, you may catch 40 or 50 fish – not on every day, but on many days. An average day will be catching 17 to 25 bass. 

To catch some of the biggest bass in the Warrior River, fish in April. As the weather begins to warm up and the big momma bass are migrating to the banks, spinnerbaits and chatterbaits may produce a 7-9-pound bass for you. The last time I fished at Bankhead, I caught an 8-pound, 9-ounce bass. 

Fishing in Tuscaloosa County: Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish at Bankhead
Dalton Bobo catches a bass fish at Bankhead

 

From hiking and fishing to biking, boating and more, Tuscaloosa County is the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re looking for things to do in Tuscaloosa – or around the community – you’ve come to the right place for outdoor options!

Whether you’re chasing adrenaline-fueled adventure or a leisurely stroll in the sun, Tuscaloosa’s proximity to countless lakes, rivers and trails gives visitors easy access to the great outdoors. Discover how to experience the best of Mother Nature. 

RIVER RANGERS 

The heart of Tuscaloosa is the Black Warrior River, and the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk is a testament to the city’s adoration of this waterway. With 4.2 miles of woodsy, pet-friendly paths along the river’s southern bank — plus a playground and splash pad for the littles — there’s fun to be had around every bend.

Tuscaloosa Riverwalk
Credit: Trail Therapy Life

The new Randall Family Park and Trailhead along the northern bank of the Riverwalk adds to the excitement, offering additional places to play, explore and revel in the river’s beauty. Tuscaloosa’s neighboring city, Northport, also offers a paved path connecting guests to its historic downtown.

PLAYTIME PROS 

Thanks to the city’s array of parks and playgrounds, playtime is never far away. At the sprawling Sokol Park, discover bike trails, playfields and Mason’s Place, the city’s first public all-inclusive playground, designed to allow children of all ages and abilities to play together. 

Hurricane Creek Park is home to a creek with multiple swimming holes, rope swings and waterfalls, plus about 7 miles of hiking trails. To check out more parks and playgrounds, visit tcpara.org

If a round of golf is more your speed, head to Ol’ Colony Golf Course. Fun fact: The 18-hole, public course is also home to the UA golf teams.

LAKE LOVERS AND CAMPING CONNOISSEURS 

Lake Lurleen State Park is only 9 miles from Tuscaloosa, but this scenic retreat feels worlds away from the hustle of Tuscaloosa on game day. The park features 91 campsites with water and electric hookups, but the real star of the show is the lake itself and its 23 miles of shore-hugging trails that beckon hikers and bikers alike. 

Other local favorites include Lake Nicol, which is popular with bird watchers and paddleboarders, and Harris Lake, where you’ll often find locals going for a swim or relaxing in a hammock. Venture a bit further afield to discover Deerlick Creek Campground, where 46 campgrounds are nestled in a forest along the shores of Holt Lake. Need a Paddleboard rental? Check out Tuscaloosa Paddleboard for a convenient option! Need a pontoon boat rental? Check out Pier 43 on Lake Tuscaloosa.

Lake Nicol
Lake Nicol Photo Cred: @andrela.barao

FISHING FANATICS 

Anglers in Tuscaloosa don’t have to travel far to find a place to cast their lines. The Black Warrior River runs right through town and contains thousands of spotted bass per river mile, making it a dream destination for fishing. Just 5 miles north of town is Lake Tuscaloosa, a man-made reservoir with nearly 180 miles of shoreline perfect for fishing. When you’re ready to put a boat in the water, check out this blog for some boat landings in the area.

Fishing in Tuscaloosa County

Still looking for things to do in Tuscaloosa? Continue to explore our website or contact our office today for personalized suggestions!

Not many communities have six different bodies of water within 25 minutes (or less) from their downtown, but Tuscaloosa and Northport do!  The natural resources hidden within our community are abundant – but many have no idea how lucky we are. If you’re looking for things to do in Tuscaloosa, you’ve come to the right spot! In hopes to help educate residents and guests, we’re dedicating an entire blog series to Tuscaloosa’s Outdoor Adventures.  Recently, we shared about the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk and are excited to highlight Lake Lurleen State Park today.

Lake Lurleen State Park is located nine miles northwest of Tuscaloosa and Northport.  It’s 1,625-acres offers plenty of recreation and relaxation to enjoy your surroundings and to feel the tranquility of the nature that surrounds you!  Well, besides their annual Camp Fear Trick or Treat event – that might not offer much relaxation, but it sure is a {spooky} highlight each year!

Things to do in Tuscaloosa - Lake Lurleen State Park
Photo Credit: Alabama State Parks

Facilities, Activities, and Amenities

The facilities at Lake Lurleen State Park include a modern campground, activity building, picnic areas, play areas, pavilions, a beach and bathhouse, fishing piers, RV storage, boat rentals, and boat-launch areas. The state park also offers over 23 miles of multi-use trails ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty. Several miles hug the shoreline of the lake and are open to both hikers and mountain bikers. 

The beach is definitely one of the most popular parts of the park.  With sand in your toes and refreshing water to cool off, Lake Lurleen can be a chill day of relaxation… or of high-level mountain biking and exploring experience, too. You truly can have the best of both worlds.  

It’s not uncommon to see the beach filled with families playing, dogs swimming, fishermen casting their pole, and much more on a nice summer day.  In fact, the State Park offers rentals such as fishing and paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.  The main attraction, though, is the beautiful 250-acre lake. It measures nearly one and a half miles in length, one-half mile wide, and at its deepest is 48 feet. 

Things to do in Tuscaloosa - Lake Lurleen State Park - Boat rentals
Photo Credit: Alabama State Parks

Now, for all you fishermen, the lake has largemouth bass, bream, catfish, and crappie. Needless to say, anglers are sure to reel in a nice catch with some patience. Boat-launch areas and pier and bank fishing are available.  Gasoline motors of any size may be operated on the lake but there is no water or jet skiing allowed. All State and Federal boating laws are enforced and children age 8 and under are required to wear approved personal flotation devices at all times while in a boat.

Entrance Fees, Park Hours, and Camping at Lake Lurleen

The park is conveniently located near local attractions and resources including: the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama campus, Northport Wal-Mart, gas stations, restaurants, and much more.  You truly have no idea that you’re just a few miles from town when in the park!

Daily Park hours are 7 am to sunset.

Lake Lurleen State Park offers reasonable fun with affordable entrance fees (excluding camping):

There are a variety of camping options, including 91 modern campsites with water and electric hook-up; 35 sites with sewage drain connections. Modern bathhouses are conveniently located throughout the park as well.  Camping reservations can be made by telephone (205-339-1558) with Lake Lurleen State Park.  Reservation office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 am – 4 pm.  You can also make a reservation online or through the Central Reservation Center (1-800-ALA-PARK).  Those office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm.

Things to do in Tuscaloosa - Lake Lurleen State Park - Camping
Photo Credit: Alabama State Parks

Want to view a map?  Click here to view a Lake Lurleen State Park Map.

At the end of the day, the communities of Tuscaloosa and Northport, along with others in West Alabama, offer outdoor adventures such as Lake Lurleen State Park, legendary sports experiences, history that’s shaped us, artists that enhance us, and some of the South’s most soulful food.  Yes, we most certainly are Alabama’s “college town” … and so much more!

Request a visitor guide today to begin planning your next trip to #VisitTCL and we hope you’ll considering exploring Lake Lurleen State Park!

Adam Hollingsworth shared what he considers to be the best bass fishing spots in Tuscaloosa County during the months of April and May in Tuscaloosa County. Continue to read to learn more!

Editor’s Note: The president of the UA Fishing Team with 57 members, 34-year-old Adam Hollingsworth, became a member in 2020. He was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and has fished the Black Warrior River since he was a child and camped at Fosters. Hollingsworth is a senior and will receive a degree in criminal justice in May, and will begin working on his master’s degree. Hollingsworth served in the Army National Guard for 10 years, starting at age 17 in 2008, and was a certified law enforcement officer in the State of Alabama. He had two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He became inactive military to attend college in 2019 to prepare to work with the U.S Marshal’s Service after college and use his military and policing background. He rejoined the Alabama Army National Guard in October 2021. He’ll continue to pursue that career path, unless he can become a full-time professional bass fisherman, which is his dream. To fish Tuscaloosa County’s Black Warrior River, Hollingsworth likes Garmin’s Active Captain and mentions that Navionics and Humminbird’s LakeMaster are good choices.

Adam Hollingsworth - Tuscaloosa County fisherman
Pictured: Adam Hollingsworth

How I Fish and What I Catch at Bankhead Lake for Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, Saltwater Stripers and Hybrid Striped Bass

The Bankhead area of the Black Warrior River below Lock 17 is probably the best place to bass fish in Tuscaloosa County. However, cell-phone service can be spotty to non-existent there. If I could get phone service, I’d love to go up there more to fish for bass. It is important to note this because you never know what could happen to your boat and motor while in a tournament or recreational bass fishing and the challenge it may be to get in touch with someone. 

BANKHEAD AROUND LOCK 17

I’ve seen photos of several bass caught at Bankhead below Lock 17 in the northernmost part of Tuscaloosa County that would weigh 12-pounds-plus each. If you fish below the Lock 17 dam, bed fishing should be hot in April. This is also an area where you can catch some nice spotted bass too, fishing the current coming out of the dam. 

In April, I target largemouth bass around lily pads with a rubber frog. I’ll also fish Yellow Creek above Lock 17 that homes nice-sized spotted bass. I’ll use an Alabama rig or a small swimbait to catch both largemouths and spots there. But if you’re fishing a bass tournament, you can’t use an Alabama rig with its five swimbaits in most tournaments. Some tournaments do allow bass anglers to fish three swimbaits on your Alabama rig instead of five. When the water’s stained, I like a pearl-colored swimbait to catch April and May bass. I also like to fish the tailrace below the Bankhead to catch saltwater stripers and hybrid stripers that will crash the Alabama Rig and a small swimbait. If you put in at a Rock Quarry on Holt Reservoir or at the landing right below Lock 17 dam and go north, you’ll be at the tailrace. If the dam’s not releasing much water, you can fish closer to the dam. As always, be sure to wear your life jacket to be safe. 

Yellow Creek Largemouths - Bass fishing in Tuscaloosa County

A point comes out near Lock 17 where the barges come out of the lock on the left side of the lock, as you look upriver. I’ll fish the bank from that point all the way up to the lock and the spillway. Be very careful when fishing this area because the underwater rocks there can damage your motor. I’ve caught primarily spotted bass in this region – even some 4-1/2 to 5 pounders with 2-1/2-pound spots fairly common. I rarely catch any largemouths in that swift current. So much bait is in this area that it also attracts plenty of hybrid bass and saltwater striped bass. The biggest saltwater striper I’ve caught there weighed 40 pounds, and I’ve caught some large hybrids up there also.

Adam Hollingsworth, fisherman

If the water is running at Lock 17, you’ll lose numbers of Alabama rigs due to the many rocks in that region. When I’m fishing there, I fish with braided line instead of fluorocarbon or monofilament. In that section of the river, I’ll fish a Keitech swimbait in a 3-point size on a 1/2-ounce jig head. I’ll fish this swimbait on spinning tackle, cast it out and reel it back to the boat very slowly. If little current is running, your bait will sink faster to reach the target zone where the bass will be holding. If a lot of current is running, you’ll have to cast the swimbait across the current and let the swimbait sink longer to reach the depths where the bass are concentrating.

You’ll also find some holes in the tailrace, in the bottom at Lock 17 about 10-feet deep, and other holes even deeper. The bass sit in those holes and attack shad as they come over the lip of the break. I’ll use a fluorocarbon leader to start with, but if I’m losing too-many swimbaits, I’ll fish with a 15-pound-test Seaguar braid or the new Seaguar TactX Camo Braid line. What I like about this new TactX is that it’s a braided line with an 8-pound-test fluorocarbon leader that comes packaged with it. I wouldn’t fish a leader less than 8-pound test there because the bass in that current fight hard and can break smaller leaders. 

BANKHEAD

At Bankhead, I prefer to fish with a 7’ rod with 7 feet of A 15-pound-test fluorocarbon line tied to 15-pound-test braided line. I’ll reel down 7’ of that 15-pound-test fluorocarbon into my reel and then turn the handle of the reel until I have a 15-foot-long fluorocarbon leader. I like to cast a swimbait out and use my Garmin LiveScope to watch the swimbait fall to know when to start a slow retrieve. 

Another lure I fish in the current up by the dam is a small Megabass Vision ONETEN+1 jerkbait. I’ll fish it on a 6’6” or a 6’10” jerkbait rod made by iRod. In stained water, I like that lure in OB Stain Reaction or a pearl with chartreuse. In cleaner water, I prefer the Algney Bone, Natural Shad or GP Pro Blue II colors. 

Where I Catch Bass at Holt Reservoir

When I fish closer to the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport at Holt Reservoir, I like to fish Rocky Branch Creek on Holt Reservoir. The further you go back in this creek in April and May, the better the bass fishing will be. Rocky Branch Creek has a landing and a recreational area where people swim. When the bass are moving into Rocky Branch Creek from deep water for the spawn, I’ll fish down the bank all the way to the back of the creek where the bass will be spawning. When they finish spawning, I’ll fish along the banks of Rocky Branch and catch the bass when they’re swimming back to their deep-water homes. 

If you go all the way to the back of Rocky Branch, the creek splits. On the right-hand side of that creek is a deep channel, and I’ve caught a lot of good bass on jerkbaits there. I’ve also caught really-nice bass on the left side of the split. I like to fish these two splits all the way to the back of the creek where the water’s running into the creek. 

Rocky Branch - Bass fishing in Tuscaloosa County

Another productive place to fish for bass at Rocky Branch is the point where those two creeks come together. I’ll catch bass with a swim jig fishing that point. Also, I’ve caught some very-nice crappie there when fishing for bass. I caught 10 giant crappie in February 2022 while I was bass fishing. When I spotted them on my Garmin LiveScope, I thought they were bass because they were so big. The majority of those fish weighed 2-1/2 pounds, which was big for Warrior River crappie.

What About the Bass-Fishing Potential at the Warrior River Now and in the Future

I don’t get to fish the Warrior River as much as I want to because of all the college tournaments I fish. I’ve got three out-of-town tournaments to fish in April. In an average month, I’ll fish three to four tournaments on the weekends. Besides the collegiate tournaments, I’ll be fishing BFL tournaments in the fall and some open tournaments as well. 

The Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County is pretty much overlooked by most of the state’s anglers, because they never see or hear anything about the quality bass fishing we have here. Most of the UA Fishing Team fishes collegiate tournaments, so they are gone on the weekend when tournaments are being held in Tuscaloosa. I think many anglers are fishing Lake Tuscaloosa, which doesn’t have near as productive fishing as the river has. But they fish Lake Tuscaloosa mainly because they have cell-phone service there. If you fish out around Riverview on Oliver Reservoir, you’ll have good cell service. There is cellphone service at Oliver, and I know Fosters has put in more cellphone towers.  

I believe the Black Warrior River fishing from Lock 17 down to Moundville, Alabama, is a hidden gem in the bass-fishing world. If anglers had a bigger landing near Tuscaloosa and Northport where five to seven boats could put in, there would be more tournament fishing on the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa County than there is today.

Adam Hollingsworth

Father’s Day is fast approaching and if you’re having trouble thinking of the perfect way to celebrate your dad this year, we’ve come up with a few suggestions we hope will help.

1. Golf at Ol’ Colony Golf Course

What dad doesn’t love to golf? This Father’s Day hit the course with your dad and relieve a little stress. Spend the day bonding over 18 holes, and learn some pointers from the old pro. If 18 holes sounds like a bit too much, you and your dad can choose to enjoy 9 holes, or just a basket at the driving range instead. Either way, golf is a great excuse to spend time with your dad and pick up a few tips to improve your game.

2. Take a shot at Tuscaloosa Shooting Sports

Tuscaloosa Shooting Sports just opened in 2015 and has been a hit with Tuscaloosa’s residents ever since. The facility features driving ranges from 50 to 300 yards and 20 covered shooting positions. If this isn’t enough, there is also four handgun bunkers with two metal targets. Whether your dad is an expert with a firearm or just beginning, the range has everything he needs to sharpen his aim. This is the perfect way to enjoy a little friendly competition with your dad this holiday.

3. Grub at The Avenue Pub

Let your old man take a break from the grill this Father’s Day and head over to The Avenue Pub for a meal cooked up by the experts. The Avenue Pub’s Bacon Burger has made headlines all across the state of Alabama and it will definitely entertain your dad’s taste buds this weekend.

With the relaxed atmosphere, delicious food and endless beer list, your dad will savor the opportunity to let someone else work the grill and pour the beer,

4. Fish for dinner at Lake Tuscaloosa

Lake Tuscaloosa is home to hundreds of aquatic wildlife and the perfect place to cast a line this Father’s Day. You and your dad can look for a secluded spot along the banks of the river or rent a canoe, kayak or even a pontoon boat to float in while you hunt for some dinner.  Take your dad and take a break from the city crowds this holiday, and enjoy a peaceful afternoon catching fish and floating along.

 5. Take a flight at Loosa Brews

Let your dad be the beer enthusiast that he is and take him for an enjoyable evening at Loosa Brews. He can choose from over 60 craft beers, most of which are brewed in Alabama. If he’s in the mood to try several he can order a flight, and if he really wants to heighten the experience, he can indulge in some competition with arcade games such as pinball, ring toss, and ping pong. At the end of the night, after he beats you in all the arcade games, you can reward him with a growler of his favorite beer.

And because we couldn’t just stop at five and leave out one of the best events of the entire weekend, we’ve added one more to the list.

6. Super Dad Day at Children’s Hands-on Museum

If you’ve got small kids and need a way to make Father’s Day special for both Dad and kids, this event is perfect. Take them to Super Dad Day where the kids can dress up in their favorite costumes, make gifts for Dad and meet Batman. This is the perfect event for Dad’s who just want to spend the holiday with their little ones.