Easing through fog so thick you could almost cut it with a knife, FLW angler Ken Murphy quickly formulated a plan to utilize the sudden change of weather conditions to his benefit. The seasoned pro quickly broke out his trusty watermelon-colored Fluke, and began pitching to cover along the shoreline of Lake Tom Bailey.

Pitching the lure several feet under an overhanging limb, Murphy hesitated for a just a second before laying the hammer down on a nice bass. His first fish of the day exploded out of the water beneath the overhanging limb, and danced across the surface.

Located to the east of Meridian near Toomsuba, Lake Tom Bailey is another Mississippi State Lake that has undergone a transformation after a drawdown and re-stocking program that changed both the lake and the quality of bass and crappie that are found there. After an extended drawdown, the lake's bottom was changed drastically by a new growth of willows that serves as excellent fish habitat where none was previously found.

As a result of the new growth and the fish-stocking program, the lake should provide excellent bass and crappie fishing for many years to come. It is virtually impossible to penetrate much of the lake's shallows due to the thick willow trees. During the first year or so after the lake's re-opening, bass in the 5- to 7-pound range were not uncommon. On our trip to the lake, bass in the 2- to 3-pound range were more common.

As Murphy continued working the shoreline, he carved up the structure much like a skilled surgeon. The accomplished angler didn't miss a beat as he continued to probe the shallow structure. Occasionally, he would hesitate for a second and then set the hook again.

Like clockwork, another bass would appear from the murky shoreline cover, and fight for its life. His second bass of the day came a few minutes after the first, and fell victim to the Fluke as well.

"I like to fish a watermelon-colored Fluke when they're in the shallows," said Murphy. "If you fish them right, they can be deadly on any body of water."

Murphy likes to pitch the Fluke teamed with a 4/0 hook around grass, cover or shad, and just let it glide down.

"As the Fluke glides down, it imitates a dying or injured shad, and the bass just can't stand it," Murphy said.

During the month of June, Murphy concentrates on shoreline areas for the first hour and a half of daylight looking for a lunker bass on a topwater bite.

"If grass or vegetation is present, I'll fish a buzz bait or frog," he said. "I'll stay on them as long as the action is good. Once it slows, I'll switch tactics again."

If no vegetation is present and there is shad or bream in the area, Murphy will switch to a larger topwater lure.

"I like to fish prop-type baits this time of year," he said. "The prop baits seem to draw strikes from larger bass, and that's important if you're looking to upgrade your catch with lunker bass.

Once the topwater bite slows, Murphy changes tactics. With plenty of wood structure and some vegetation as well, Murphy has plenty of wood cover to focus on.

"After the topwater bite is over I like to get out my flipping stick and catch a hawg or two," he said. "I'll flip the wood structure and grass vegetation with a Baby Brush Hog, and continue fishing it as long as I'm getting bit."

As we continued working down a shoreline, Murphy spotted a telltale swirl in a patch of grass, and quickly flipped the Brush Hog to the spot. Almost as soon as the lure disappeared into the vegetation, Murphy reared back and hammered yet another bass. Everything Murphy tried was working.

If the flipping bite stays constant, Murphy has been known to catch unbelievable strings of bass. When the bite slows, however, Murphy is quick to change tactics once again.

Tom Bailey has a good population of shad, and that is usually the key to catching numbers of bass this time of year.

"Find the shad, and you'll find the bass," he said. "It works anywhere you have a lake that has shad in it this time of year."

As we stopped at yet another spot, we encountered bass busting the surface at random along a shallow-water ledge. The wind was so strong it was pushing shad across the shallow flat. The water just off the ledge was 8 feet deep, and the edge of the ledge was about 4 feet. Farther back, it shallowed up to 2 to 3 feet.

Murphy pulled out his small crankbait rod teamed with 12-pound line and an RC 1 crankbait. When a bass blew up on a school of shad, the angler pitched it just past the kill zone, cranked it a few turns and bowed up on a feisty 2½-pounder.

"When they're chasing shad and won't hit a topwater this time of year, they'll usually hit this bait," he said. "I'll pitch the lure across the ledge or flat, and just work it back across the bottom bumping everything that gets in its way. If it bangs into a stump or rock or piece of structure, then hold on because you just might get bit."

For the next hour and a half, Murphy worked a shallow flat adjacent to the ledge, and caught and released many bass in the 2- to 3-pound range. Occasionally, a 5- or 6-pound bass would explode on shad along the surface and cause quite a commotion. However, the big boys just weren't taking our offerings on this day.

After Murphy located the concentration of shad and bass along the ledge, the action lasted for a couple hours before we had to move on to another spot.

As we covered most of Lake Tom Bailey in one morning, Murphy hit the "high spots" and continually caught quality bass. And it only took a few minutes for him to catch and release his daily limit. After covering quite a bit of water, Murphy had located a large school of shad and bass that provided better-than-average action on a day when the weather was unseasonably cool.

If you're looking for a change of pace and want to try a new lake, head to Lake Tom Bailey and try a few of the following spots for yourself.

 

No. 1: N32 25.434 x W88 30.875 - Leaving the landing on the west side of the lake, travel along and parallel to the dam until you get to the southeastern portion of the lake. Once at this coordinate, start working the visible brush, and fish any wood structure or surface vegetation.

Just before reaching the shoreline on the eastern side of the lake, anglers will travel over a shallow shelf that also has visible cover on top. Watch the depth-finder for bottom changes, and key on those breaks as well. Murphy started on this side of the lake, and promptly caught his first bass chasing baitfish.

"I'll try a topwater right off the bat, and switch lures pretty quick if I don't get bit early," he said.

 

No. 2: N32 24.463 x W88 31.030 - Leaving No. 1, motor back west to this area, which has a submerged point with stickups that outline the point right off of the point of land. There is about a 4-foot drop on the farthest outside edge of the dead willow run, where the water drops from 4 to 8 feet deep.

Murphy spotted a fish chasing shad, and promptly picked up another bass on a Texas-rigged Brush Hog. Upon further inspection, the angler detected bass working shad on the shallow flat along the ledge. After a couple casts, he nailed a nice bass on a crankbait, and advised me to cast my Carolina rig onto the ledge. Murphy called the shot, and a nice bass promptly inhaled my watermelon-colored Brush Hog also.

"I'll work the ledge and flat over with crankbaits and follow up with a Carolina rig once the action slows," he said.

 

No. 3: N32 25.541 x W88 31.072 - Continue around the main point, and work the cove to the north thoroughly fishing the visible structure in this area. On our early morning trip, Murphy caught and released quite a few bass in the cove. Evidence of bream beds permeated the air with the pungent smell of bedding bluegills along with the many visible beds left just below the surface.

Though we didn't catch a lunker around the beds on this day, the opportunity was there as bass dearly love plump bull bream.

Anglers would do well to fish an assortment of Texas-rigged plastics along and through the shallow brush.

"Don't forget to work the overhanging brush," said Murphy as he promptly pulled another bass from its shady lair.

 

No. 4: N32 25.532 x W88 31.197 - Head in a westerly direction, stop in the next cove to the west and go to the back. The cove is located just to the east of a peninsula on the northeast side of the lake that allows angling access from land. Anglers will find shallow-water vegetation and plenty of wood cover in this cove.

After only a few casts, Murphy caught a couple of nice bass by working a Fluke along the shallow vegetation. This cove is perfect for a shallow-water morning bite before the sun comes up. Once the sun gets up and the temperature warms, move out toward the open lake, and hit No. 5 as a shallow ditch runs out of the cove in that area.

 

No. 5: N32 25.480 x W88 31.173 - Leaving the cove, troll south until you get to the gap in the standing brush row. There is a distinct ditch that runs out of the cove and along the brush into the open lake. Concentrate on fishing the visible structure along either side of the submerged ditch with an assortment of plastic worms and crankbaits. Lightweight Carolina-rigged worms will also allow anglers to feel the bottom and stay in contact with the ditch and structure. A good depth-finder and set of marker buoys will be valuable when marking the ditch as well.

 

No. 6: N32 25.568 x W88 31.351 - Leaving No. 5, motor west around the peninsula, and run just to the north of the fishing pier that runs off of the bank.

"Anglers should work the outer edge of the willows as well as the fishing pier," Murphy said.

Many bass will key along the edge of the willows and along the pier as well. With an abundance of bream and crappie in this area, lunker bass prowl the underside of the pier in search of an easy meal, and oftentimes they have been known to take a bream or crappie rig away from unsuspecting pier fisherman.

 

No. 7: N32 25.632 x W88 31.424 - After working this cove, head farther north right along the bank to get by a thick growth of willows. Once past the narrow portion that runs along the shoreline, the cove opens up enough for a large bass boat to enter. If anglers aren't afraid to put their boat in the brush, they might just get their strings stretched in this cove. With a lot of dead willows, wood structure and shoreline vegetation, the cove has lunker written all over it.

"I like to flip the vegetation and thick cover," said Murphy. "Even though it's shallow in here, the bass have plenty of cover and will stay in the area. It's just a matter of hitting them on the head and getting them out of the cover."

No sooner had he gotten that statement out of his mouth than he bowed up on yet another Tom Bailey Bass.

 

No. 8: N32 25.282 x W88 31.005 - From the landing, run across the lake to the intake structure on the east side near the middle of the dam. While under construction, engineers dug a deep channel right along and in front of the intake structure. The bottom depth drops from 9 feet on the sides to 16 feet at the deepest point.

"I like to take a Shaky Head worm or Carolina rig, and work the ledge over real good," Murphy said. "Follow the submerged cut out into the main lake until it runs out, and you might pick up a few bass along the deep drops."

The ditch runs in a perpendicular line to the dam in a northerly direction for quite a ways. Once the sun gets up and the bass go down, they will relate closely to the depth change. If you work the ditch thoroughly, you should find a concentration of bass somewhere in the area.

 

No. 9: N32 25.338 x W88 31.037 - Just north of the intake structure is a marker buoy. This is the farthest white buoy to the northeast. Here you will also find a slight depth change in the range of 8 to 11 feet. Since there's not a lot of a contour change in the main-lake portion of Tom Bailey, just a slight change in depth will hold bass. If the bait is there and they're feeding, you might catch a lunker or two.

"If you want to catch bigger bass, you need to break out the depth finder and marker buoys, and start working the bottom over real good," said Murphy.

Deep-diving crankbaits such as Norman Deep Little N's and Carolina rigs are excellent choices when fishing this area.

 

No. 10: N32 25.390 x W88 30.985 - This area can be accessed after leaving No. 2.
Follow the visible willow line until it gets to the farthest point south. Work the point as far out as you can with crankbaits, worms and Carolina rigs. The drop will be 6 feet on top and fall into 8 or 9 feet of water. Key on the depth changes, and work the area thoroughly before leaving.

"Many times, the bass will be bunched up tight on one spot along the ledge and you have to hit right on top of them," said Murphy. "Once you find your spot, put out a marker buoy, and you'll be able to stay on the
fish."