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.

Tuscaloosa, AL – Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports (TTS) has partnered with the Bama-Q Grilling Series to host Grilling in T-Town on Saturday, July 9th at Druid City Social as an official Steak Cookoff Association (SCA) competition.  With the goal of creating more opportunities for family-friendly events that unite the community through food sport, TTS is working with local private chef and traveling food judge Alison Hudnall and experienced food sport promoters, Alabama Coasting and Bama-Q productions, to bring this SCA sanctioned event to Downtown Tuscaloosa.  

Admission is free to the public and guests will enjoy food trucks, a sampling tent, local vendors, cold drinks, live music, and a family-friendly atmosphere.

This SCA-sanctioned event and World Food Championship qualifier invites top-tier traveling competitors as a way to promote food sport tourism to the City of Tuscaloosa.  Local businesses, organizations, and amateur backyard cooks are invited and encouraged to register to compete as well. The top-performing locals will be recognized and eligible to win special prize packs. The competition will also feature a World Food Championships qualifying event with the best dessert taking home a golden ticket to the World Food Championships Finals in Dallas.

To ensure a level playing field, all steaks for the competition are provided by local sponsor Northriver Cattle Co. and are included in the competitor registration fee. Judging will be completely blind.

Food sport has become a new American pastime.  As food sport has grown, various sanctioning bodies have emerged across a large range of cooking styles, methodologies, and categories of food. KCBS, FBA, MBN, IBCA, SCA, PNWBA, WFC are just a few sanctioning bodies that offer both seasoned chefs and everyday cooks a chance to take home a win. With cash prizes up for grabs, many have turned to food sport as a way to monetize a hobby. Each sanctioned competition offers up another opportunity for any competitor to land themselves a spot on a national stage.​

Learn more about the SCA format and rules by visiting https://www.grillinttown.com or by contacting David Calametti. Click here for the SCA registration link.

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. 

John E. Phillips: Besides the backwaters on Oliver Lake, where else are you fishing for bass? 

Toby Wilson: In the spring, the current generally will be very strong when the area receives a large amount of rain. We’ll often pull out to the main riverbank and fish downed trees. We look for current breaks and eddy pools caused by downed trees that have fallen into the river. To fish on the main river channel, you must keep the nose of your boat pointing upcurrent with your trolling motor. Sometimes you may have to fish with the current, if the current’s strong coming down the river. 

One of the techniques we use is getting behind a treetop downstream from a blowndown tree, cast up to the eddy pool that’s created behind the blowdown and run our chatterbaits with the current, back to the boat. Most of the bass we catch will be caught out of these types of eddy holes. If we’re fishing at the end of a blowdown, we’ll fish with a spinner bait or a shallow-running crankbait, like a 1.5. Sometimes we can fish the chatterbait on the ends of those treetops. Most of the bass we catch at the ends of the blown-down trees are spotted bass, and in the eddy holes, we primarily catch largemouth bass. Many times, the spotted bass will school-up on the ends or the front sides of the blowdowns, and you can catch as many as you want to catch. However, you may go back to the same tree a week later and not get a bite. 

Recently I took my youngest son, Chase, to practice for a tournament that was to be held on Oliver Lake. Although he prefers to play golf, he still will go and fish with me. I gave him a chartreuse crankbait to fish with, and we found two logs laying in the water. In-between the distance of the two logs, he caught three spotted bass for a total of 8 pounds. I went back to those two logs on tournament day, but the spotted bass had left. One thing you must remember about river fishing is that it’s always changing. The current will eat the dirt out of the riverbank and cause trees to fall-in and create current breaks. Also, trees that are in the water already, where you may have caught bass before, may get washed down the river. So, anytime you’re fishing a river, you’re usually looking for another place to fish than where you did the week before. At Oliver, we always fish various spots on the river until we reach Akron. Then we fish blowdowns located on both sides of the river there. 

Image of the 5 Pro Model 5XD Crankbait - Fishing on the Black Warrior River
Image of the 5 Pro Model 5XD Crankbait

Phillips: What are your favorite Lake Oliver lures? 

Wilson: My favorite river lures include a white spinner bait with white blades or a white spinner bait with gold willow-leaf blades. I use a white split-tail trailer on the back of the spinner bait. Sometimes I’ll have a big willow-leaf blade on the back of the shaft and a small willow-leaf blade on the front of the shaft of the spinner bait. I’ll also fish a combination of a gold Colorado blade with a gold willow-leaf blade on the same spinner bait. On bright days, the gold blades produce the best bass, and on overcast rainy days, the white-painted blades seem to be the best. 

When we’re fishing spinner baits on the river, we know we’ll get hung-up often and even lose those lures. If you’re fishing near trees, bring numbers of spinner baits with you. We’ll fish the ends of the trees and the backsides of the trees. We’ll run the spinner bait through the trees and in the eddy pools behind the trees. If the spotted bass are around the trees, you can catch and release probably as many as you want. 

We’ll also fish a medium-diving crankbait that dives 5-10 feet in chartreuse or in white colors and also a blue-back crankbait. Bomber, Bill Norman, Booyah and Lucky Craft crankbaits produce plenty of bass. I like the splatter back Bomber crankbaits. The river’s not very deep at Oliver Lake, although there may be some places deeper than 20 feet – but not many. Most of the bass we’re catching will be suspended and near logs. 

Toby Wilson Son Fishing the Black Warrior River

Phillips: Are you retrieving your crankbaits against the current, across the current or with the current? 

Wilson: We always try and fish our crankbaits with the current, which means we must burn them hard as soon as they hit the water to get the crankbaits down to the depths where the bass are holding. We often will fish with a chatterbait as much as possible like we fish the crankbait. Oliver Lake’s water often is stained or muddy. So, having a lure like a chatterbait that makes a lot of noise may give you an advantage for catching bass there. Most of the time we’ll be using white chatterbaits, but on a cloudy, overcast day, we may fish a black-and-blue chatterbait. 

Phillips: On a day of fishing the river around the logs and the blowdowns, how many bass do you think you’ll catch? 

Wilson: If we’re fishing in a tournament, we know if we can get five bass that weigh 8-10 pounds, we’ll be in contention to win at Oliver. As far as the number of bass we can catch in a day, we may catch 20-30, if we can find the right tree top where the bass are holding. Most of the fish in treetops will weigh 1-1/2 to 2 pounds each. The best spotted bass my family ever has caught at Oliver weighed 4 pounds, and on most lakes, a 4-pound spotted bass is considered a good catch. 

Phillips: If you fish on Oliver Lake down to Akron, where will you catch the most spotted bass and the most largemouths? 

Wilson: We usually catch the most spotted bass upriver in Oliver, and most of our largemouth bass weighing 1-2 pounds each we catch in the backwaters close to Akron. In the backwaters, we have caught a limit of five bass weighing 12 pounds in a tournament. Many locals really do well fishing for largemouth bass in the backwaters. Often, the locals will catch five fish, weighing 15-20 pounds, in a day of bassing the backwaters.

Toby Wilson catches fish - fishing the Black Warrior River

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!

Whether you’re looking to explore the outdoors or simply need an activity that allows for safe social distancing, Tuscaloosa is a hidden gem, especially as we work our way through the summer and come upon a beautiful fall season.  If you’re planning a trip to Tuscaloosa, we encourage you to check out the many local trails within our community.  To help, we’ve identified a few uniquely local top picks below!

We’d love for you to tag @VisitTuscaloosa in any photos you take when you’re here!

Lake Lurleen is a favorite of locals looking for relaxation and recreation alike! The park’s trails are open to hikers and mountain bikers, and the park offers 91 campsites for those looking for an extended stay. If that isn’t enough to draw you in, the park also boasts fishing, swimming, boating, and a beach. Whether it’s walking your dog along the shoreline or renting a kayak, Lake Lurleen truly has something for everyone!

About 20 minutes from Tuscaloosa lies another paradise for those looking to enjoy the outdoors: Lake Nicol. This local favorite offers a chance to get off the beaten path and explore the wonder of mother nature. The many species of birds that call the area home make for excellent birdwatching. Visitors also enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, and picnicking on the shore.

Hurricane Creek has been an important part of the Tuscaloosa community for decades. In fact, the park’s popular Eagle Scout Trail was planned and blazed by local scouts. Explore this local favorite by canoeing down the creek, traversing the park’s biking and hiking trails, or simply taking in the native plants and wildlife. 

Located just 10 minutes east of The University of Alabama campus, the Arboretum has grown to become a perfect spot for an outdoor getaway.  Dozens of native and non-native trees provide a nice shade to enjoy the nearly 60 acres of land, situated in the heart of Tuscaloosa.  It’s also located adjacent to the former University golf course and VA Center.

Munny Sokol Park trails offer over 11 miles of trails where the locals enjoy running, walking, or mountain biking. Located a short drive from downtown Tuscaloosa, Sokol Park offers scenic views and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options, where dogs are also allowed but must be kept on a leash. This park also contains a brand new all-inclusive playground so kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy Sokol. 

The Riverwalk is perfect for those who don’t want a strenuous hike. This is an excellent paved trail located along the southern bank of the Black Warrior River near Downtown Tuscaloosa.  The pathway has plenty of benches, gazebos and hammock-friendly trees for quick breaks and picnics. and offers a playground near River and Another Broken Egg, and a splash pad near the old Bama Belle dock. The trail is well lit.

We get it – summer in the South is hot and humid!  But, you’re in luck if you live in the area or are visiting!  If you’re looking to take a dip outside of your normal community pool, we invite you to “beat the heat” with these seven swimming holes in the Tuscaloosa area!  One of the greatest assets of our area is that it’s home to many secret and not-so-secret swimming spots that have you feeling like you’ve entered an oasis in your own backyard.

Be sure to tag @VisitTuscaloosa in any photos you take when you’re having fun at these local gems.

 

  1. Hurricane Creek

Hurricane Creek Park, located on Highway 216, is a local favorite for cooling down in Tuscaloosa’s scorching sun. Hurricane Creek Park is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This spot is a wonderful place to explore native plants and aquatic wildlife, or spend time enjoying nature and soaking up the sun with friends and family! Visitors are encouraged to wear rubber-soled shoes so that they will not slip on the shale which exists along part of the stream. The water is usually deep enough to do some serious swimming if you’re up for it! If not, there is a shallow, flat end to sit, relax, and unwind!

 

  1. The Cliffs at Lake Nicol

Beyond the Lake Nicol Spillway near North River lies The Cliffs at Lake Nicol. This lake is relatively small, but packs a big punch when it comes to fun in the sun and aquatic activities! While its swimming holes are a crowd-pleaser, Lake Nicol is also known as a great beginner’s spot for those who want to canoe or paddleboard and is exceptional for bird watchers. Beware, this location is called “The Cliffs” for a reason, but do not get too caught up in the lure of thrilling excitement. There is a $500 fine for those who take their chances and jump off of Lake Nicol’s cliffs. Plus, this is extremely unsafe, so you’re better off wading in the beautiful waters!

 

  1. Lake Lurleen State Park

Lake Lurleen is a Tuscaloosa icon for its camp grounds, hiking trails, and fishing spots, but it is also home to a perfect sandy lakefront beach! Beat the heat when you head over to its waterfront to have a relaxing day on the “beach”! Lake Lurleen’s swimming spots are open from 7 am to 9 pm every day and offer small boat rentals for a minimal cost.  Admission to the state park is $3 per adult or $1 for children and seniors (children under age 6 admitted free).

 

  1. Lake Harris

Lake Harris has been a famous swimming spot for University of Alabama students for decades, and for a great reason! Hosting high cliffs, two dams, hiking trails, a beach, and lots of water to swim, you’ll never get bored of this Tuscaloosa hotspot! Lake Harris is a tranquil place to relax, swim with friends, and enjoy a sunset picnic. The swimming area is open one hour prior to sunrise and an hour after sunset. This is a spot that has something for everyone!

 

  1. Lake Tuscaloosa

By now, we all know that Lake Tuscaloosa is a hotbed for fun outdoor activities! Surrounded by hills and southern pines, Lake Tuscaloosa is a scenic spot to lay out and sunbathe, relax on a boat with friends and family, or to paddleboard the afternoon away. While this lake is popular with boats and watercraft, that doesn’t mean you still can’t enjoy the water on your own! Or if you are feeling adventurous, and have your boating license, you can rent a pontoon boat to take on the open waters! Pier 43 on Lake Tuscaloosa has various boats to choose from to make sure you have the best fit for your sun-filled day!

 

  1. The Harrison Taylor Splash Pad

While the Harrison Taylor Splash Pad is not a nature-filled natural swimming hole, it is still an outdoor aquatic adventure for your little ones! The splash pad offers many water devices to keep your kids cool and entertained while the heat is high! Staying out of the sun is also a convenience thanks to the many shaded pavilions surrounding the Harrison Taylor Splash Pad. The park is open from Noon – 5 p.m. six days a week and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Grab a cooler and head on over!  Daily user fee is $5 per person and under 2 is free.

 

  1. UA Arboretum

We can’t forget our furry friends when the heat starts to rise! Puppies deserve to cool off too and the University of Alabama Arboretum is the perfect spot for you and your pup! Before Tuscaloosa’s official dog park opened, UA’s Arboretum served residents dogs looking to burn off some extra energy. The pond, located a short walk from the entrance, still serves as an unofficial dog park of sorts.  You can often find several dogs and their owners staying cool in the water and playing fetch by the pond’s side!  As always, we ask that you pick up after your pups to help keep the area clean!

The City of Tuscaloosa and the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority will host a Fourth of July Celebration on the River on Sunday, July 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. This free, family-friendly event is open to the public and will include live music, kids’ activities, fireworks, and more.

The PARA kids’ zone, which will be located inside the Amphitheater, will open at 6 p.m. with games and activities for all ages. The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra will perform around 7:45 p.m. Fireworks will begin at 9 p.m. after brief remarks from Mayor Walt Maddox.

“We are thrilled to bring back our City’s celebration of the birth of our nation this Fourth of July, after having a scaled-down event last year,” Mayor Maddox says. “Now that we can safely gather outdoors, the City of Tuscaloosa can celebrate this important day in a way that would make the founding fathers proud.”

Limited parking will be available in the grass lot by the Amphitheater. Attendees may also park in the free Downtown Intermodal Facility and take a shuttle or walk to the Amphitheater. Because of construction in the area, Tuscaloosa Police will be on-site directing traffic.

The Amphitheater’s clear bag policy will be in effect for this event. To receive text alerts for weather and event information the day of the event, guests can text “TUSC4TH” to 888-777. To learn more, please visit Tuscaloosa.com/COTR.

      1. Tuscaloosa’s Museums

Mildred Westervelt Warner Transportation Museum is one of the great museum options that we have in T-town. Located at Tuscaloosa’s historic Queen City Park along the Black Warrior River, this museum is filled with knowledge and appreciation of our local and regional history and natural resources through exhibits, museum educational programs, and educational outreach efforts. For those interested in extinct models, the Alabama Museum of Natural History is a perfect place to visit with its ancient fossils and many other exciting things to discover!

      2.  Art Galleries

We have some incredible and diverse art galleries in town that are definitely worth a visit. The Kentuck Art Center in Northport is an all-in-one museum, gallery, and event location that is now featuring Good Trouble: Civil Rights Past and Present. In the heart of downtown Tuscaloosa lies another local gem: Paul R. Jones Gallery. Currently, the exhibition Mario Andres Robinson- A Brush with Time is on display. The Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center is another great place to explore on a rainy day. Their gallery hours are 1-3 pm Monday – Friday and this week, they show the Tuscaloosa County Schools Art Exhibit!

      3. Coffee Shops

What cozier place could there be to hide from a rainy day than a traditional coffee shop? The smell of coffee and pastries in the air, people reading the newspaper, studying or chatting steadily alongside a laid-back playlist…. sounds perfect to us! Tuscaloosa offers many such magical places. For example, the local chain Turbo Coffee,  Monarch Espresso Bar downtown, or the new kid on the block  Just Love Coffee. Choose any of these and you won’t be disappointed!

      4. Brewery

Local breweries in Tuscaloosa are the perfect place to spend a gray afternoon among friends and one of America’s favorite drinks: Beer. Druid City Brewing Company, Black Warrior Brewing Company, and Loosa offer great brews and relaxed space to lean back and enjoy an ice-cold one on this dreary day. These local treasures have the coolest merchandise to brighten up your wardrobe today!

      5. Shindig

Shindig Family Entertainment Center is another excellent option for rainy days like today. This is your one-stop entertainment center with bowling, laser tag, arcade games, mini-golf, and a restaurant with a lounge! Forget about your worries and completely immerse yourself in all of the family fun that this awesome place has to offer!