Fishing tips from professional angler Jeff Holland

Justin Averette

Jeff Holland splits his days as both an aquatic biologist and tournament angler who fishes the Bassmaster Southern Opens. He spent a spring day fishing on Lay Lake after a spawn and a late season cold snap and offers the following advice to those hitting the water.

QUESTION: How do you develop a strategy for fishing a new lake?

ANSWER: The first thing you want to do is look at the seasonal pattern and the water temperature. If you’ve never fished a lake before, you must get an idea of what the fish are doing.
Get a good map of the lake, find the shallow areas that drop to the deep and start there. As the water warms, you are going to go back into the shallow pockets. As the water cools, you are going to pull out a little deeper. Your search baits are going to be topwater, spinner, maybe some jerkbait and vibrating jigs.

On the Coosa River, knowing the flow, generation schedule and how much current is moving is important. There’s a cool app out there, Alabama Power Company’s Smart Lakes. It shows you the generation schedule, how much the water is flowing even before you get on the water. Also, there’s a nice map of where the boat ramps are so you can get out there and catch some fish. There is also a feature that shows where fish habitat has been installed.

QUESTION: How does fishing pressure affect a lake and your strategy?

ANSWER: A lot of time you are only going to get a few bites when there is a lot of fishing pressure, when fish have seen a lot of lures. If you are finding you are not getting a lot of bites, the thing to do is maybe drop it down to a subtle bait. A lot of times that will get you those extra bites.

Also, watch what other anglers are doing and do the opposite. There may be less fish in other areas, but they haven’t seen all the lures. I find I can catch a lot of fish by just going down a different bank or some places all the other anglers are missing. You must slow down, change the way you think, use smaller baits and just finesse it.

QUESTION: How do you use water current to your advantage?

ANSWER: When you are fishing currents coming into aquatic plants, you can swim your bait through them, drop it through a hole in the vegetation. A lot of times you will be successful.

For more information about fishing and aquatic plant management, visit apcshorelines.com or download Alabama Power’s Smart Lakes app on your smartphone. Alabama Power manages 11 reservoirs, 14 hydroelectric dams, 3,500 miles of shoreline and nearly 120,000 acres of land on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.

QUESTION: How do I fish in vegetation?

ANSWER: When you fish in vegetation look for movement. Watch the movement of the plants.

QUESTION: What type of vegetation should I look for?

ANSWER: As anglers, it’s important to understand the difference between a native and an invasive plant. If you figure out where the native plants are, and if the invasive plants are controlled, you know where the fish are going to move to. We consider the native plant the good plant. It grows slowly, is easy to manage and most of the time grows where we want it to. Invasive plants, they just out compete.

QUESTION: Why is aquatic plant management important?

ANSWER: Aquatic plant management programs are important on all lakes — even if it’s a simple survey, cataloging where all the plants are growing and how thick they are growing. It’s good to know what you have.

It’s much better to plan than react after something is a major problem. There’s a misconception that native and invasive plants will just balance themselves. Twenty years ago, when you didn’t have all the exotics, a lot of natives would have been kept in balance with just a little management.
Nowadays, we know these invasive plants grow faster and deeper and denser than our natives. We must manage them. These invasive plants will totally outgrow our native plants and mess up our entire ecosystem.

Anglers will often get upset with plant management because it moves the fish. Learn your native plants so when the invasive plants are managed, it doesn’t affect your fishing. The fish will go over to the natives and you can still catch your fish.

QUESTION: Why else would plants be managed?

ANSWER: Even the most beneficial plant sometimes grows in the wrong area, places we don’t want it to grow, and it must be managed. Some reasons include if it’s a human health hazard or if it’s a threat to the hydrogeneration power. Others are if it blocks recreational access for boaters and if it is an ecological threat to the system. Those are the four additional reasons plants are managed in this area.

For more information about fishing and aquatic plant management, visit apcshorelines.com or download Alabama Power’s Smart Lakes app on your smartphone. Alabama Power manages 11 reservoirs, 14 hydroelectric dams, 3,500 miles of shoreline and nearly 120,000 acres of land on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.

For more information about fishing and aquatic plant management, visit apcshorelines.com or download Alabama Power’s Smart Lakes app on your smartphone. Alabama Power manages 11 reservoirs, 14 hydroelectric dams, 3,500 miles of shoreline and nearly 120,000 acres of land on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.

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