Russell Jones from Alabama is an outstanding fisherman. Russell loves largemouth bass and spotted bass fishing the Black Warrior River. We talk to Russell about how he approaches catching bass on the Black Warrior.
How long have you been fishing the waters of Alabama?
Started out as a kid with my dad crappie fishing and running trot lines and fish boxes for catfish. Got into bass fishing in high school then started competing in tournaments in college in 2009.
I love being on the water. It’s my happy place. It’s very peaceful most of the time. Specifically love Alabama bass because there is always something biting whether it be spots or largemouth. If you pick on them long enough, normally I can always find something to reel in.
What are your favorite sections of the Black Warrior River to you fish?
There are different pools separated by lock and dams. I personally like the Lock 8 pool between the Selden Dam and Oliver Spillway. It has several backwater cypress swamps, old river oxbows, and main river trees and grass.
I also love the Riverview Pool between Oliver and Holt Dam. Riverview pool is a very short section of the Black Warrior that has a hydroelectric dam that generates a lot of current which makes it prime habitat for giant spotted bass.
What is the mix like between spotted and largemouth bass in the sections of the river you fish?
Depends on which pool, the lower pools, Demopolis and Lock 8, are generally won with mostly largemouth with some mixed bags winning at certain times of the year. I’ve had some special days catching 24 to 25 pound 5 fish limits on the Lock 8 pool but generally 17 to 20 pounds win most tournaments. The weights generally fall off to the 13 to 16 pound range in the hot summer months.
The smaller pools, Riverview and Holt, have a lot bigger populations of spotted bass due to the hydroelectric dams generating current. Not as many derbies are held on these pools, but I have seen 25 to 26 pound bags of spotted bass weighed in on certain occasions. I have personally caught 5 spotted bass that weighed a little over 24 lbs on the Riverview pool
The Black Warrior used to be a river that didn’t get a whole lot of pressure. My understanding is that has changed some. How pressured are the bass on the Black Warrior River?
Since I’ve been competing on the Black Warrior it’s popularity has grown tremendously. A lot of this is accredited to it being a great fishery but I think the use of social media and overall popularity of bass fishing in the younger generations have put several more anglers on the water in the West Alabama area.
High school and college fishing are growing at rapid rates. This not only puts new anglers on the water, but also gets some of the older generation back into the sport which is a great thing in my book! I always love talking with everyone at the boat ramps and helping young anglers have a good experience on the water.
Is the Black Warrior River a place with a lot of community spots or can you be successful getting away from the crowd?
As far as community holes, I think you can find those on almost every body of water. But there are also several areas that don’t get over pressured and anglers can really spread out and catch a lot of fish. In some cases it’s how willing are you to smash your boat into a small creek, over beaver dams and through ferocious stump fields.
I know you love fishing shallow. What kind of boat are you running to get to those shallow areas?
This is probably my favorite question! I currently own two boats and if they could talk it would be amazing to hear their stories.
My main tournament boat has become kind of a legend in my area. Everyone refers to it as “The War Wagon”. It’s a 2002 Ranger 195 with a 2010 Yamaha SHO 200. It is completely covered in scratches, has one of the most impressive scum lines ever, and generally stays covered in mud or some sort of aquatic vegetation I’ve been driving over or through to get into the hard the access areas.
To say I’ll put the war wagon ANYWHERE is an understatement. I’ve been asked by old men in small flat bottoms “How the hell did you get that boat in this swamp” and I always just smile and reply “I had to gas on it a little.”
I could write a book on how NOT to treat a boat. I’ve gone through 6 props in the past 5 years, everyone being my fault for their failure.
One certain run in with a stump always gets laughed about when friends get to telling stories. I jumped on plain in a shallow swamp with a friend of mine from Pennsylvania, Ryan Tanner. We were fishing in his first derby in Alabama. Just as we got enough speed to plain out we crushed an underwater stump. It completely stopped us in our tracks, killing the engine and severely bending the prop shaft.
Ryan said and I quote “I’ve been in car wrecks that weren’t that bad.” I laughed it off and fire it back up and put it in gear quickly realizing we would be idling our way back due to the significance vibration coming from the lower unit. Best part is we still cashed a check in the 120 boat tournament that day! I could go on and on with wild stories about the war wagon from getting completely stuck and having to strip down to my underwear in December and get in the water and push to having the boat completely full of water all the way up to the decks due to a livewell hose malfunction.
My back up boat is a 17ft Xpress with a 90hp Mercury. It gets a lot of use during the week days fun fishing and when the War Wagon is in the shop. It’s also a great fishing boat and has many funny stories about shallow water escapades.
What do you consider the key vegetation and structure on the river system?
Coontail and hydrilla are the best! Hyacinth mats and Lilly pads are also stuff I key on a lot.
Looking at three of your favorite bass fishing baits, I would like to see how they come into play on the Black Warrior River. First, throwing a topwater frog. When are your throwing a frog on the River?
The frog gets the most miles put on it from May until October. I have a pretty impressive array of different frogs. I choose which one based on the cover I’m fishing typically. In some cases the weather and time of year determine which frog I choose. My overall favorites are Spro hollow bodies. Dean Rojas Bronze Eye and the full size popping frog are the two I throw the most. I generally don’t get into the super specific colors, black, white, and green are all you need here.
I also throw a Ribbit frog a good bit as well. It shines in May as the post spawn fish are hungry and mad! Fry guarders are a sucker for the bubbling feet of a Ribbit frog too!
How about swimming a jig?
This is the bread and butter! I’ve made more money with a swim jig than every other technique combined. November to May is the best with early spring being the most productive.
I use Jakked Baits and Dirty Jigs swim jigs. Both are really good! Sizes ranges from 3/8 down to a 1/4oz. I stick with the basic colors most of the time like Black/Blue, Green Pumpkin, and White.
There is a wide variety of trailers I use including NetBait Paca Craws, Reaction Innovations Little Dippers, Zoom Speed Craws and BigBite Baits Yo Daddy’s. The size jig and trailer combination I choose have many different factors like water temperature, water clarity, depth of the area, and type of vegetation in the area all go into which combo I throw. Most of the winter and spring I have 3 to 5 different swim jig combos tied on and ready to hunt!
Lastly, flipping the mats…what are your favorite baits to flip the mats with?
I keep it really simple flipping mats. 1 1/4oz tungsten and Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver black/blue or green pumpkin 95% of the time. I’ll move down to a 1oz if the mats’ thickness allows it.
This technique can produce great in the dead heat of the summer and in the coldest part of the winter. It’s a numbers game to me, the more times you flip into a mat the better the odds are to catch one. Sometimes you can go really long stretches without a bite at all but it’s all about grinding it out and keeping it in your hand!
What are 5 pieces of advice that you have for anyone bass fishing the Black Warrior River?
- Pay attention to water level, and current. It drives the mood of the fish and determines when they eat.
- Find the bait fish. Shad are one of the main food sources for bass even in shallow water.
- Don’t be afraid to grind it out with one bait or technique all day. But in the same breath don’t forget to switch it up sometimes… if that makes any sense at all.
- Get out on the water as much as possible, I learn something every time I go even fishing the same areas. After a while the big picture will start to make sense.
- Most important of all have fun and be nice. No one likes a ornery person especially on their off day at the river. If you’re not having fun then you missed the whole purpose.
Do you have any pro staff companies?
JaKKed Baits, jigs are second to none!!
Thank you Russell. Will be following on Instagram @russellfishing.