By Richard Hines
A Coosa will not be the biggest bass you ever catch, but inch for inch he has the fight of a smallmouth three times his size. The best part of fishing for the Coosa Bass is wading some beautiful streams in the Southern U.S., some well into early winter but September and October are my favorite months.
The Coosa bass was originally found in only a few river drainages in Alabama and Georgia. These included the upper sections of the Savannah, Chattahoochee, and Coosa Rivers. These rivers form above the “Fall Line” which describes an area where large rocks in the Piedmont join with sand and gravel of the Coastal Plain. During the 1950s, Coosa bass were also stocked on upper stretches of the Cumberland River in Kentucky and in numerous streams in East Tennessee.
For many years, this little bass was just another spotted bass but around 1940, biologists separated it into Redeye bass, and it was not until 1975 that the Coosa was officially separated into its own species Micropterus coosae.
Coosa bass are one of eight subspecies of black bass in North America. The most widespread, northern largemouth, is also the most sought after with the smallmouth bass not far behind. The largest of the black bass is the Florida largemouth. Where there are fishable populations, the maximum size you will catch is in the 15-17-inch range. The current state record in Kentucky is 0.53-pounds while Tennessee has their top Coosa listed at 1-lb-15 oz. In their home range of Alabama, the record is just over 3-pounds.
There are also several exceptions where Coosa bass have done well in reservoirs but if you fish streams, you will only find Coosa bass in the upper reaches of rivers. As you move downstream into wider, slower water, numbers of Coosa drop rapidly.
Because Coosa bass are in the upper reaches of small streams, you will be in smaller water so plan to step down you lures, line, and tackle. I prefer 4-pound line.
I generally carry a small box of lures with a good selection of lures. However, my essential lures will include inline spinners such as a Joe’s Flies Super Striker, various curly tail jigs, Roadrunner 1/16 oz. Go-Go Runner and the Rebel Tiny Wee Crawfish. Chartreuse and black were the best combinations depending on light conditions and have a combination of both silver and brass blades on spinners. Also keep a Rebel Pop-R Popper if fish are seen feeding on the surface.
Key in on instream features such as boulders or any “larger” rocks along the water column. One area is where a sand bar meets a large boulder or rock. Many of the streams in this area will have alternating pools and riffles so take time to work the calm water just below a riffle, particularly if a good pool has developed. This is also the location to switch some baits if one lure is not catching fish. Do not forget to cast under overhanging limbs and other cover that keep fish hidden.
When you are wade fishing, always move upstream casting as far ahead as possible. Bass will generally suspend on the downstream side of structure facing upstream. Fish quiet and avoid any unnecessary noise. You have after all entered the Coosa’s sphere where any unknown sound and disturbance will send them into hiding.
Coosa bass thrive in streams with the lowest flowage such as streams that are not cool enough for trout yet too small for other bass species including smallmouth bass. It was one of the reasons Coosa bass were moved into small “low productive” streams in Eastern Kentucky and East Tennessee.
One of my favorite locations to fish for Coosa bass is the William Bankhead National Forest. Anglers will find plenty of campsites and motels only a short drive from the Sipsey Fork in Northern Alabama.
During early spring, anglers should plan on fishing from kayaks but in late summer and into the fall, wading streams is the best fishing method. In years past, I have fished the Sipsey late enough in the fall that waders were needed.
If you get a chance, put on your wading shoes, step down your equipment and go after the little giant of the bass world. It will make a fun afternoon and you will enjoy seeing where this highly adaptable fish spends his time.