Many anglers in the northern half of Alabama are overlooking a gamefish that can provide a unique fishing experience. Abounding in the small, cool, upland streams of the Warrior, Cahaba, Coosa, Tallapoosa and Chattahoochee River drainages is the redeye bass, Micropterus coosae. The redeye bass is one of the smaller members of the black bass family, but what it lacks in size is more than compensated for by its readiness to smash a fly or spinner and its fighting ability once hooked. A redeye bass of 8 to 12 ounces is considered a good catch and any weighing more than a pound in size are few and far between. When challenged on ultra-light tackle the redeye bass provides fast and sporty action for the stream angler. The current state record for the redeye bass is a 2 lbs., 11 oz. specimen caught in the Tallapoosa River in 1989 by Winston Baker. This was an exceptional redeye and if you catch one a pound or larger consider yourself to have landed a trophy. The redeye bass has been dubbed "the brook trout of the warmwater game fish" since it is comparable in size and gameness to the brook trout and inhabits similar type mountainous streams which are too warm for trout, but too cool for many other warmwater species. Here the redeye bass finds its niche and is able to compete successfully with the sunfishes, shiners, chubs and darters that are common to such habitat. The redeye bass is a most colorful fish with a deep bronze back mottled with olive green bands. The fins are reddish with the eyes being brick red to brown. Often the underside of the fish takes on a deep bluish hue and down the sides of the upper jaws are streaks of blue-green. A field identification mark that readily separates the redeye from the other black basses are the white margins along the upper and lower lobes of the tail fin. To successfully pursue this quarry the stream angler should be equipped with an ultra-light spinning outfit consisting of a 4 ½ – 5 ft. rod and either an open or closed face spinning reel filled with four or six pound test line. The short rod is necessary since many of the stream banks are lined with shrubs and small trees, and pinpoint casts are often required to deliver the lure to a likely looking pool. The most productive lures are small spinners in the 1/16 to 1/8 oz. range such as Mepps, Panther Martins, Rooster Tails, Beetle Spins and small shallow running plugs such as the Wee Crawdad, Baby O and Honey Bee. The better colors are generally yellow, chartreuse, white and combinations of these. Chrome and crawdad colors in the plugs are very effective. Fly fishing is possible on the larger redeye streams where there is enough casting room. The redeye bass will eagerly hit dry flies, popping bugs and streamers. A rod of not over 7 feet is essential with number 5 or 6 double taper or weight forward floating fly line. A cautious approach to the pool is necessary to avoid spooking the fish. Once a redeye bass has observed you, it is highly unlikely that it will strike. If possible it is usually better to fish upstream and bring your lure back through the pool with the current. Often the redeye will race clear across a large pool to intercept a flashing spinner or wobbling plug. The better pools are the shorter ones interspersed between riffles and runs. A long slow flowing pool is usually not as productive as a shorter pool in which there is more current. The redeye bass is noted for being excellent table fare and you might want to occasionally keep a few for a very tasty meal. However, catch and release is the best policy in most streams since the redeye bass grows slowly, is easily caught, and would be susceptible to heavy fishing pressure. The Bankhead National Forest in Winston and Lawrence Counties and the Talladega National Forest in Clay, Talladega, Cleburne and Calhoun Counties are loaded with fine redeye bass streams. Maps are available of these forests from the U.S. Forest Service Office in Montgomery. Topographic maps are also helpful in locating suitable redeye bass streams. Don’t limit your search to the National Forests as there are numerous streams outside the forests that harbor the redeye. If you’re weary of bumping elbows with boaters, skiers, and personal watercraft on our reservoirs or if you’re looking for a new type of fishing experience, why don’t you try stream fishing for redeye bass. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the fast action, the beautiful scenery and the solitude. Good Fishing!
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