Shortly after dawn, Justin Atkins methodically picked apart the shoreline structure as he probed every grass bed and piece of wood cover in the old river run.

After pitching a large tube into a thick mat of grass, he instinctively set the hook on a feisty bass, and our morning had begun with a bang. Atkins continued picking apart the structure and catching fish.

As thunderstorms and rain moved into the area, we quickly donned raingear, and Atkins switched tactics. Picking up a rod rigged with a War Eagle spinnerbait, he started working the same cover, but with different results.

"Any time you have a rain this time of year, the big bass may move up and start feeding," he said.

A couple of casts later, Atkins bowed up on his biggest bass of the day, a chunky 3-pounder.

As he persisted in working the grass and wood cover near the mouth of the river, Atkins continued to draw quality strikes. The larger bass had obviously turned on, and were in a feeding mode. While we had only caught smaller bass on the plastics, the larger bass were now ambushing Atkins' spinnerbait. His words of advice quickly turned into words of wisdom as the bass proved that this young angler is on top of his game.

Atkins, a student at East Mississippi Community College, has fished the Columbus Pool of the Tombigbee River since he was a child. He has grown up on the lake, and knows the subtle nuances that mean the difference between zeroing and catching quality bass. Atkins won the Junior Bass State Championship last year, and currently enjoys success on the team trails and on the WBFL co-angler division. His highest finish in that trail was a second place on Lake Ferguson last year. In that tournament, he lost out on the victor's trophy by a mere 3 ounces.

With the recent rains, the river was colored and almost muddy in places, but the shad were schooled up on the cuts, and the bass were really feasting. As we pulled up to one cut, Atkins cast, and promptly bowed up on another bass.

"That's the money spot right there," he said.

Atkins and his team partner had recently found a spot on a ledge that was stacked with bass, and it really paid off. Following his lead, I pitched a Carolina rig to the same spot, and promptly caught a bass as well.

As we continued hitting different locations, we stopped at a river ledge, and bass began boiling up and smashing shad. In short order, we were both catching and releasing bass. Atkins picked up his spinnerbait rod, and bumped the bait off a stump. A lunker bass engulfed the lure, and Atkins had a 5-pounder in the boat, a kicker fish for sure on Columbus.

Columbus Lake produces some of the best summertime bass fishing in our state every year. Anglers regularly weigh in limits of bass averaging 2 to 3 pounds.

If you're looking for hot bass action where the bite matches the temperature, then head to Columbus Lake, and try it for yourself. Try a few of Atkins' favorite fishing spots, and then find similar locations of your own. You just might be pleasantly surprised at the quality of this fishery.

 

• Starting spot: East Bank Landing (N33 31.526 x W88 28.198)

 

No. 1: N33 41.127 x W88 29.916 - Leave the landing, and head west until you hit the main river channel. Turn right, and head north approximately 12 miles until you get to the second powerline crossing the river. Once you see the second powerline, take the cut on the left just before you get to the line, and go into the old river run.

If you get there at the crack of dawn, you can work the grass beds and wood along the banks.

"If it's sunny, I concentrate on wood, but if it's cloudy or overcast, I'll key on the grass patches," said Atkins.

He caught several bass on this spot including quality fish. After working the laydowns and grass patches thoroughly, Atkins advises anglers to hit the drop-off area at the entrance to the old river run. Bass also gang up along the ledge, and it is possible to load the boat right there.

 

No. 2: N33 07.668 x W88 17.749 - Leaving No. 1, head back downriver, and stop at the second cut, which is the mouth of the Buttahatchie River. An added feature of fishing this spot is that it is frequented by spotted bass.

"I'll fish a Carolina rig with a Zoom Trick Worm or a shaky head out here on the main river," Atkins said.

He likes to start shallow and work deeper.

"Most of the active fish will be shallow or up on top," he said. "Last year, I caught a 6-pounder on this spot on a shaky head worm."

This is a typical summertime ledge that consistently holds schools of bass, and it is possible to catch a limit of keepers on this one spot when the conditions are right.

 

No. 3: N33 37.541 x W88 29.948 - Continue back downriver until you get to the first cabins and camps on the right. Here you will be on the north end of Town Creek. The ledge is 3 to 8 feet on top, and falls off into about 12 feet on the very end. Fish right out from the point, and work the submerged ledge well out into the river.

"I'll stay on the river side, throw across the point and drag the bait back off the ledge," Atkins said.

Carolina rigs and shaky heads are also great choices on this spot.

While we fished this ledge, we also caught a few spotted bass as well. The bass were stacked on one spot, and only stopped biting as we left to try new territory. This ledge also has gravel on top and brush on the end of the point.

"Sometimes the bass are on top of the gravel ledge, and sometimes they are out on the very end near the submerged brush," said Atkins.

After catching a few bass with some quality fish as well, Atkins picked up his money bait and promptly nailed a lunker largemouth feeding on the shallow shad. The bass struck the War Eagle spinnerbait like a torpedo, but was no match for this talented young angler.

 

No. 4: N33 36.848 x W88 29.469 - Continue downriver until you get to the lower end of the Town Creek cut, which is the next cut on the right downriver. From this location, you can see the Town Creek Campground. This is another typical river point and ledge, and is home to bass during the summertime. The shad were present and the bass were feeding on our stop, and we caught several bass in just a short time.

"I like to pitch the shaky head out and work it real slow on spots like this," Atkins said.

Once again, he was proven true to his word as the bass struck his offerings quickly and often. Taking my guide's lead, I also picked up a few bass on a shaky head rig.

 

No. 5: N33 36.506 x W88 29.026 - Leave No. 4, and head to the next cut or point on the left. This is another ledge that is shallow on top and goes deeper the farther out you work it.

"I'll usually work from the shallow end and work to the deeper end of the ledge to find out where they're located," said Atkins.

Once again, the talented angler showed me how it's done by pinpointing and catching fish on one particular portion of the ledge. This time, he put the shaky head to use with a junebug trick worm. I followed up and caught a few on a Carolina rig as well.

After catching several bass on this ledge, we left them biting and moved downriver to find another spot.

 

No. 6: N33 32.645 x W88 31.259 - Leaving the East Bank Landing, head west until you get to the main river. Once at the river, go across and between the rock islands on the west side of the river into Tibbee Creek. Follow the channel markers, and stay in the channel until you get to the last channel marker. At this point the creek banks are actually defined and running in a northwesterly direction. As soon as you see the last channel marker, however, head due west toward the standing timber into the back of the large pocket. Idle across the open water until you get to the middle of the standing timber. Fish the opening that runs through the timber.

"There's a shallow ridge that is defined by the timber on either side, and that's where we usually catch fish in here," Atkins said. "I'll cast a 10-inch worm or a shaky head anytime of the day in this area, and usually catch a fish or two."

 

No. 7: N33 32.669 x W88 31.635 - Leave No. 6, go back to the Tibbee Creek channel and head northwesterly following the channel. Continue on until you get to the powerline that crosses the river.

As soon as you pass under the powerline, stop and fish the next cut on the right. There's a slough mouth right there that is 4 feet deep on top and drops into about 10 feet of water.

"Bass will be schooled up along the ledge, and you might catch a bunch of fish here," said Atkins.

Once again, Atkins advised to fish large worms or shaky heads in this area.

 

No. 8: N33 32.093 x W88 28.063 - Leave the boat ramp and idle north across the lake until you get to a small island. Fish this area during the early morning or during rainy days.

"I'll fish a frog in the grass or flip the tulles," Atkins said. "Big worms, frogs and weedless topwater baits are also good early in the day."

Basically, fish anything you are confident in that will produce in the grass. Fish the area thoroughly before leaving. The gravel-pit area is almost always clear during the summertime, and will provide opportunities to catch bass in grass, along ledges and in deep water. An added attraction to the gravel-pit area around the landing is that most of the tournaments release their bass in this part of the lake; thus it is continually stocked with quality bass.

 

No. 9: N33 32.465 x W88 28.335 - Leave No. 8 traveling west, follow the bank around and past the point and turn into the cove on the east bank. Then run to the back of the cove into the east pocket. If you go all the way until you get to the back of the pocket, you'll find grass and vegetation, but more importantly, you'll find a culvert.

When water flows through the culvert into the lake, bass will gang up and feed on baitfish.

"Sometimes you'll catch as many as five or 10 bass when you catch the conditions right and the water is flowing through," said Atkins. "You may catch a lunker there as well."

Atkins will pitch a 1/8- or 3/16-ounce tube and a shaky head in and around the grass and culvert.

 

No. 10: N33 32.683 x W88 28.883 - Leaving No. 9, head north across the gravel pit cove and straight for the island across from the first camphouse on the bank to the right.

"Start out by casting toward the bank, and work your lures back toward the boat," Atkins said. "You can work the grass first for an aggressive bite, and then you need to work the drop-off area that's approximately 5 to 6 feet deep."

Atkins advised to keep your boat positioned in about 20 feet of water. If the fish are up tight to the gator grass, you'll be in business.

"If the fish aren't up shallow, they'll usually pull off to that first drop," said Atkins.

 

If you're looking for hot bass action during the dog days of summer, you won't find a better river system to fish than the Columbus Pool on the Tombigbee. While you may not catch a monster, the opportunity to catch large numbers of 2- to 3-pound bass will be there.

As an added bonus for kids, there's a world of ¾- to 1-pound bass on the river this time of year.