SLAPOUT, Ala. — Wednesday morning started out with the highest of hopes and encouraging knowledge that sometime during the day Alabama Power would be pulling water through four of its turbines at Bouldin Dam.
Four turbines and a plan to drop 4-6 feet from 6,800-acre Lake Jordan combined with spotted bass up to 7 pounds and scads of shad ... the possibilities seemed quite good for a stellar day.
Just three days after the 12 Bassmaster Elite Series pros departed Lake Jordan after the Berkley Powerbait Trophy Chase, there only was one bass boat visible on the water. It was midweek, with a hard chance of heavy thunderstorms that arrived mid-morning, and a giant pond all to ourselves with expectations of magnum spotted bass and a few largeheads thrown in for good measure.
"I'm interested to see how them pounding it and all the boat traffic both affected the lake," said Elite Series pro Greg Vinson, who lives in nearby Wetumpka and fishes Jordan regularly. "I haven't fished out here in a week and it almost drove me nuts watching them out here."
I had contacted Vinson about hitting the lake to try to catch some big spots. I also wanted to find out what if anything happens to the bite after four days of hard fishing, boat traffic and changing conditions following a big tournament.
Granted, 12 anglers isn't like a 100-man Elite Series field or 200-man FLW Tour field. But with all the running of the pros from spot to spot, and their fans following, sometimes 15-25 boats in a pack, surely had some effect. Lake Jordan isn't big. Spotted bass can be persnickety, too, when they're around deeper structure keying on shad. Outboards, waves and summer patterns sometimes don't mix too well.
We put in at Bonner's Point across the lake from where the Elite Pros launched last week and hit a little pocket with some shallow water, where a largemouth sucked down Vinson's popping frog and another one slashed at mine.
"I had to check it, even though it goes totally against the book," Vinson said. "Barely any water in here, the water's falling out and these fish are shallow. They're not supposed to be doing this but I think there always seems to be some that are in areas like this no matter what."
That was it for the frog bite, and pretty much summarized the day: minimal activity in shallow areas, with an occasional bite here and there.
A small largemouth and nice spot savaged my NetBait Baby Paca Craw around a dock and fallen tree. Vinson had three or four hard blowups on a Spook, but they didn't take it and were One-Shot Willies, refusing to come back for a second chance. A spinnerbait enticed a couple of short strikes. A swimming jig in the edge of shoreline weeds never got a sniff, nor did Texas-rigged craws or creature baits.
Alabama Power began running a turbine at mid-morning and then was scheduled to kick on three more at 11 a.m. They're dropping the water for routine maintenance of the dam and, on Jordan and its upriver reservoirs, the winter level. Current typically helps position fish on structure or cover and with the shad moving into pockets offered encouragement for a decent bite.
"I think the water may be turning over a little with all the clouds and weather we've had," Vinson explained as we probed some deeper brushpiles about 12-15 feet deep on points. "If they're not shallow, they should be in transition and holding out deeper."
Vinson slowly dragged a NetBait Salt Lick stickbait rigged on a Davis Shakey Head over the brush. Spotted bass are suckers for the bait, which inexplicably looks nothing like the 2- to 4-inch shad they're gorging on right now. My offering of a craw was ignored like the fat kid in the lineup for the playground basketball game.
"I don't know exactly why but a spot can't stand a straight-tail worm," Vinson said. "I guess they watch it fall and when it hits the bottom, the tail wiggles a little bit and they can't stand it."
We ran a few more pockets, docks and deep spots with little success. Despite the current, which was obvious on the main lake points when we could barely feel the bottom, there was no flurry of activity. A big flat in one pocket he said was good for schooling later in autumn was quiet. No takers on the shakey head, no takers on the topwater.
Last stop: the canal leading to the New Lake above Bouldin Dam where the water was being discharged. Late during Day 1 of the Trophy Chase, the mouth was rife with schooling spots but none were helpful to the anglers. Fun fish for a casual day, but not fun in a tournament.
The current was ripping at the mouth of the canal, creating an obvious and swift seam around the main point on the south side. Eddies on the front and back of the seam were visible but again, no schooling activity was evident.
A 2-pound largemouth slammed my topwater and dove into the current, grinding against it and my pressure. A similar-sized spot savaged Vinson's buzzbait near a feeder positioned on a seawall just up from the point.
"There's always a fish around a feeder," he said, laughing. A fat-bellied spot jumped on his trusty chartreuse-blue crankbait for the last fish of the day.
And that was it. No massive schools busting on top, no bank runners cruising the weeds or seawalls for shad. We probably could have dragged shakey head worms or thrown something like a fluke with a Scrounger head and gutted out a few more, but that would have been like chewing tinfoil.
We were being greedy, of course, wanting that cast-and-thump bite. But three days after 12 of the best pro anglers pounded the lake and Mother Nature's cloudy demeanor held forth again, it was clear things were in a state of flux.
"The thing about autumn is the fish want to move shallow to feed, but they're losing the roof over their heads with the water falling out," Vinson said. "They don't know what to do right now. It'll probably take a few more days for things to get back to normal."