Seconds later, Collum brought her in the boat and promptly deposited the 5-pounder in the livewell. On his next cast to the same spot, he nailed another lunker, this time a nice 4-pounder.
Collum caught the bass on a ½-ounce black/blue jig, and went on to win that tournament on Columbus Lake.
Columbus Lake is located on the Tombigbee River with the dam site access just west of Columbus. The area is chock full of lakes and tributaries that have grass,
hyacinths and plenty of wood cover to hold bass. And to make it even better, the lake has been a prolific producer of 3- to 5-pound bass.
Collum is a longtime tournament angler who has won more than his share of cash on the team tournament trails and has done quite well on Columbus Lake.
Our day began with cloudy skies at dawn, mild weather and water surface temperatures in the 80-degree range with thundershowers forecast for the afternoon. In short, we had ideal conditions at blast off.
5:30 a.m. - I meet Collum, and we launch his Ranger Bass boat at the landing after getting our gear situated. Collum heads out the channel, turns north into the main river, runs a short ways and turns up into Tibbee Creek.
"We're going to run way back up the Tibbee and check the water color and current while looking for grass patches along the steeper banks and deep-water edges," he says.
Collum puts the hammer to the metal and a few minutes later we are way up Tibbee Creek in search of our first bass of the day.
"I'm looking for floating grass and hyacinths mixed in with wood cover or brushtops along the deep water sides of the river," Collum says. "We'll start out working
fast-moving baits like a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper to cover a lot of water before the sun gets up and hopefully catch a good shallow-water bass early.
"Then we'll do a little flipping and pitching with a Lake Fork Hyperworm and probe the grass and really work
6:08 a.m. - Collum picks up a Skinny Dipper, and starts working the overhanging limbs and grass patches on the steeper side of the river. We haven't gone far when he pitches up next to the bank right under an overhanging limb.
Collum's first bass of the day sucks in the tempting
offering and swims toward deeper water.
"I pitched that Skinny Dipper under that limb and when I pulled it out, she just nailed it!" Collum says. "If you pitch that Skinny Dipper around shallow grass or wood cover and a bass is there, they're gonna eat it because they just can't stand it."
Collum prefers pitching the shad-colored Skinny Dipper when the water is relatively clear, but will switch to green/pumpkin when the water is murky or off-colored.
As we continue working the steep banks, shad flitter in schools all up and down the river with an occasional lone bass smashing them.
"Those are little teeny shad; they probably just hatched out a short time ago," Collum says.
6:30 a.m. - Eyeing a nice-looking stump with grass growing around it near a logjam, I pick up my SPRO Bronzeye Poppin' Frog, pitch it just past the stump and let it sit until the wakes dissipate. As I retrieve the frog by the stump and over the edge of the grass, a nice bass crushes it. I drop my rod toward the fish, reel up the slack, rear back and drive the hook home, deep into the jaw of the hungry bass. In short order, I turn the fish and work him back to the boat, landing him quickly.
We continue working the edges looking for bites. I stick with the frog, and Collum continues using the Skinny Dipper. While we don't anticipate a topwater bite with the weather still hot and humid, I have a hunch that I might be able to entice a bite or two from a nice bass.
6:45 a.m. - Nearing a tangle of logs and brushtops that have grass growing over, around and through them, Collum pitches the Skinny Dipper to the right side, and I follow up on the left. Just as I pull the frog over the brushtop, a bass smashes it, sending a spray of water and rattling the brush top so hard several fish explode through the water, and another one smashes Collum's Skinny Dipper! Collum makes quick work of the fish.
"I've heard of shocking bass into reaction bites and that's just what happened there," Collum says.
7:00 a.m. - As we continue working the grass patches farther up Tibbee Creek, we notice the shad ganging up along the edge of a line of standing timber and stumps.
"That's probably hybrids schooling on those small shad right at the edge of the ledge," Collum says. "If you want to have a little fun, we'll give them a try."
We move out near the ledge, and a school comes up busting shad left and right. I cast a Strike King No. 3 Sexy Shad out amongst them and begin my retrieve when a nice one smashes the lure. A few minutes later, I have my first hybrid in the boat. My next cast yields a nice largemouth. Stripes and largemouths feeding on the same school of shad is just icing on the cake. You never know when you'll run into a school of hybrids, but when you do, the action can be fast and furious.
Collum and I continue working the school, and most likely could catch as many as we want, but our goal is catching as many quality largemouths as we can before the sun gets up too high and shuts things down.
7:30 a.m. - Changing gears, Collum fires up the motor and we head farther up Tibbee Creek, targeting grass patches on the edge of deeper water. With the sun up now, we switch to the shady deeper side and start hitting the sweet spots. Collum pitches his lure up next to a stump in the grass, and a solid 3-pounder nails it.
"We're going to concentrate on the grass patches and hit them two or three times and keep on going if we don't get a bite," Collum says. "We're not going to stay in any one spot very long; we're going to fish around and hit them with moving baits, just whatever you like to fish."
Collum goes on to say that if an area is promising and you pick up a couple bass, you'll probably want to pitch, flip and probe it pretty good before moving on. Collum likes to
create reaction bites from fish that didn't hit on their own.
"I'll use a Lake Fork flipping bait in a Sweet Beaver style, and punch through the mats and really work it over into the cover, and bump it a few times like a bream trying to escape," Collum says. "We've won a lot of money flipping and pitching creature type baits also."
Continuing on up the shady shoreline, Collum pitches another Skinny Dipper up to the bank and catches another keeper bass. Collum has found a solid pattern, and is starting to work them over with the Skinny Dipper.
"We're sitting in 10 feet of water pitching to 1 or 2 feet," he says. "The best grass is where the water has some depth beside it on a high bank or is just a little deeper than the surrounding water. And if you can find a piece of wood mixed in with it, it's even better."
If the water is off-colored just a little or stained, Collum prefers a green-pumpkin Skinny Dipper.
8:00 a.m. - With the sun now high in the sky, we turn the boat around and head back down Tibbee toward the main river channel.
"We're going to try a couple more spots with Skinny Dippers and then go to a big jig," Collum says.
As we move to the edge of a creek in 7 feet of water, Collum starts hitting the laydowns and working them over. We haven't gone far when Collum pitches his trademark jig beside a log and a 3½-pounder slams it as soon as it hits the water. With a pattern established, Collum has now switched gears and come up with a game plan.
"We're going to hit a few shallow lakes and target the isolated stumps and cover and then head to the river for some ledge fishing if that doesn't pan out," he says.
Leaving the main creek channel, the accomplished angler stops in the front portion of a lake and works a shallow bank in 3 to 4 feet of water with no takers. From there we go all the way to the back of the lake before stopping again. This time we stop in water about 1½ to 2 feet deep and start hitting isolated stumps and brush.
Suddenly Collum rears back, sets the hook and jacks a bass out of the water, spraying water on me as the bass hit beside the boat before being hauled in, admired and released again. For the next couple of hours, Collum really puts on a pitching and catching clinic as he dissects every piece of visible cover while catching bass after bass.
10:00 a.m. - We move to another section of shallow water in the lake, and nary another angler or boat is seen. We do, however, spy a few cranes and a couple of deer feeding out in the gator grass. This move is just more of the same, shallow water with 90-degree surface water, and the bass just keep eating.
Collum pitches a jig out just past a stump and swims it back by, but another bass smashes it and takes off a second or two before Collum nails him and promptly puts another bass in the boat.
"If I hit 60 tops and catch 20 on reaction bites, I'm gonna beat a man that's fishing slow in one area," said Collum. "I want to hit the aggressive ones."
Collum pitches his jig to a stump on the right. I pitch a Strike King tube to the one on the left, and a bass eats it. I set the hook and quickly land yet another shallow water hot weather bass.
"I don't understand why the bass stay in here in hot weather, but they do," Collum says. "One year during a tournament we couldn't catch a big fish for anything, and then we came here with
90-degree surface temps and wore them out. We caught several 3- to 5-pounders and wound up winning the tournament with a quality sack."
11:00 a.m. - The water temperature has fallen to 84 degrees with cloud cover overhead, and the bite just keeps on going. Collum takes a minute to dig out his Costa Del Mar amber-colored sunglasses and starts hitting submerged objects that I can't see. A few minutes later, Collum is still sight fishing isolated cover when another lunker bites.
"I saw a black spot in the water and pitched that jig up by it, and he grabbed it and held on," he says.
A few minutes later, Collum pitches the jig by a stump, and the water boiled on it. He sets the hook on another quality bass. Sight fishing shallow water are the norm during pre-spawn and spawning periods, but not late summer or early fall. But that's just what we are doing; sight fishing shallow water with isolated cover and catching plenty of stocky bass.
11:30 a.m. - Collum makes a decision to leave the lakes and hit a few river ledges and cuts before we call it a day.
After running back upriver a few miles, we stop and hit a cut just below the Highway 51 bridge with no luck. Collum picks up again and runs to another cut and old river run on the right side of the river. This time hybrids come boiling up, striking everything in sight.
After enticing a couple fish on shallow-running Bandit crankbaits we switch gears, and go big. Collum promptly casts a Norman crankbait past the schoolies and cranks down below them, catching another chunky bass that is feeding on the leftovers provided by the hybrids. After getting tired of chasing the hybrid stripers, we move upriver and hit a couple more cuts and entice a few more strikes.
12:30 p.m. - Pulling up to the upper end of a river cut, Collum pulls out the large crankbait and starts digging down deep.
"I like to throw this big crankbait on these ledges, and I'll usually get a big bite or two," he says.
Suddenly another school comes up chasing shad right about the shallow ledge. We both start casting small crankbaits and shaky head worms, and the bite keeps on. I catch a couple on back-to-back casts, and Collum catches a few as well.
1:15 p.m. - After catching and releasing a boatload of bass, we've had enough and call it a day. We have caught and released a lot of quality bass up to 3½ pounds on a tough fishing day. And the best part about it is that the fishing will only get better on up through late September and October in these same locations and backwater areas, as the shad and bass move farther back and become more active.