I’ve always had a soft spot for bass. You can find them in the ugliest ditches and most exotic waters. They provide endless fun during tough, early spring days signaling that warmer weather is near. For me, there is nothing better than packing a cooler of beer and heading out to a pond. A while back, a good friend and bass lover, Brandon, put me onto his local “Alabama brookies.”Alabama brookies are the nickname for the redeye bass species. Also known as Coosa bass for their home in the Coosa River Basin of Georgia and Alabama, their small size and colorful bodies remind many of Appalachian brook trout. They’re hidden all over Alabama’s creeks and rivers systems. A cult-like following exists for these fish and rightfully so. He sent me pictures that remind me of creeks I fish in North Carolina and Virginia. The bass are so blue they look like they eat smurfs for dinner with allergy-ridden eyes. He mentioned that they are angry and aggressive, which makes it a blast to fish top water for them. After a briefexchange, we nailed down a few dates. Roll tide, here we come.
First thing in the morning, we began our drive to the river. Our bellies were full from the night before after eating too many smoked wings smothered in white Alabama BBQ sauce. The narrow dirt road was surrounded by lush forest. We arrived at a section where we could easily pull off to park with a short hike down to the river. We immediately spotted cruising redeyes lurking for dragonflies and other prey. A few casts later, I landed my first redeye. After gawking over each one, we quickly understood why people love these fish. It’s like a mashup of all the best bass, shrunken and stuck in gorgeous waterways. The entire day was full of bent rods and good laughs. We noticed these massive leeches cruising the water and joked about who would have one hidden somewhere. When I was breaking everything down, I noticed my knee covered in blood. Not because of a fall, but a massive leech chowing down on me. Fortunately, due to Covid, we all had hand sanitizer. A quick squirt of sanitizer killed the damn thing! Next time I’ll be throwing large leech patterns.
We were all moving a bit slower the next day, but were eager to get out. We had a longer and more strenuous hike down to the water, but once we stepped foot on the bank every “Why did we do this?” thought was forgotten. Huge gar cruised the crystal clear water, small baitfish worked in groups, large crawfish cruised under rocks, and glowing Coosa bass waited for their next snack. The day started slow, but once the water heated up, the bass were on the prowl. Brandon caught the first. A perfect Coosa display of blood-red eyes and a glowing blue body. I never knew Alabama was home to such amazing fisheries and areas. The hike out was brutal, but knowing about this gem made every grunt worth it.
I decided to stay an extra day to fish the same river we fished the day before. I wanted to explore further downriver to see what else I could find. I started further down from the previous day, the hike down even more gnarly. I rounded the last turn slightly out of breath and finally saw the river. The moment I stepped foot into the water, I noticed a set of clothes sitting on the rocks with bloody towels. This is not the start I wanted, especially being solo. I am in Nowhereland, Alabama with a lack of cell service. I immediately started walking down the bank looking to see if I could find someone. Frantically looking into the water, I found nothing. I started to yell at the same time to see if someone needed help.
Only the sounds of rushing water and the gentle breeze could be heard. I started to wonder, did someone get dumped down here? Did someone get injured? Are they watching me in the woods? Every scenario was racing through my brain. After 30 minutes wondering if I was going to be part of a new horror movie, I calmed myself down and decided to keep going. After all, I stayed an extra day to fish this area again. I continued my path constantly looking over my shoulder to see if someone or something was following me, but it was just my mind playing tricks. This new stretch of the river was equally as fishy. After catching a few solid fish, I rock-hopped over a massive boulder and saw a perfect pool. There were plenty of hiding spots for a giant and glasslike water to see them eat. A large shadow hovered underneath the boulder I had just crested.
I laid a cast within feet of the shadow and watched it slowly move to the popper. In a slow motion reel, a mouth opened and hammered the fly. I hopped from boulder to boulder fighting the fish and then…I ate shit. I looked down, and my legs were wrapped with someone’s old 40lb line with a massive jig. My rod had flown out of my hands and was resting five feet away from me in the water. I untangled myself and quickly scurried to grab my rod.
To my surprise, I found the fish was still on! After a few good pulls, I landed her. The bass filled the net and I escaped any serious injuries. This seemed like an omen to finish the day and head back home. I never found a body, and never heard anyone else in the woods with me, but I still think back and wonder, “What the hell happened down there?”
Roll Tide, baby.