Restoring habitat with Fish Attractors and Brush Piles


With our reservoirs aging and the depletion of cover, whether is from yearly water level changes, decay or erosion as anglers we can help.  Before you say it, I’ve heard all the excuses not to build brush piles or fish attractors and not one of them hold water.  The best excuses include: Billy Bob with the four Humminbird 1199 super HD/SI units will find my brushpile…this from the guy who had the same tricked out boat plus an underwater camera! Next best excuse was:  That’s the job of the fisheries guys…with limited workers they can only do so much and lakes get by-passed.   Several Bass Clubs and small groups of anglers have already joined with federal, state and local officials to restore and improve our lakes with great success.    I submit to you that we all help in order to ensure future generations of anglers can enjoy our lakes as we have.

Bass, Crappie, Sunfish and many more will use brush piles throughout the year and will not only increase your chances of a good stringer of fish, but will improve the overall health of your fishery.   First, I recommend you get help…placing brush piles is a lot of work.   Talk to three or four friends or better yet make it a yearly club event on your home lake.   Second, do your research and/or coordinate efforts will local wildlife resource agencies, dock owners and property owners.  A great example is the tree cutting and habitat project which Big Shanty Bassmasters partnered with the Corp of Engineers and GADNR on Altoona Lake located in North Georgia completes each year, which not only provides good habitat but helps stop bank erosion as well.

Ensure attractors under docks are secured in place and do not cause hazards Use multiple types of materials (Christams trees and Hardwood) when building attractors

What makes a good brush pile? Foremost is location, brush piles do not manufacture fish, the best locations have an existing population of fish in the area.  Docks, just outside spawning areas, creek channel bends and channel ledges are some good starting places. Depth of water is another consideration; I suggest placing brush pile at several depths in the same area ranging from couple of feet down to 25 or 30 foot of water. Second is material, it’s a good practice to use several different materials in the same “Brushpile”.  A good example would be two Christmas trees with hardwood between them or a PVC attractor such as the porcupine fish attractors.   If using Christmas Trees, prune several of the limbs out of them leaving room for a fish to get between the branches, providing an ambush position.  Furthermore, most people believe Christmas tree should be vertical in position, however I personally like to mix it up and will place a few lying flat sided.

Before sinking/placing a tree think about getting hung up in it. Trim all the twigs and smaller limbs. The more forks it has the better. Point the treetop towards where you’ll be fishing from.  Use plenty of anchor weight, tie several concrete block to the underside of the trunk/tree to keep it up off the bottom.  When securing the tree/brush please use a heavy gauge wire and tie it tight.

Lastly, Stack beds such as those found on Kentucky Lake, Percy Priest, Tims Ford Lake and many other have been a great success.  They provide cover and spawning areas for all types of game fish as well as food sources such as shad and crawfish. Stack beds are mainly made of 2×2 material driven in to the bottom of the lake.  These are spaced 6 to 8 inches apart and average 2 to 4 foot in height once driven in.  If the lake bottom prevents driving the stacks build them with cross members at the bottom and use a concrete block to hold it in place.

Here is some general guidelines which almost every fisheries biologist I talked to provided:

  1. Contact your local fisheries biologist for advice and assistance
  2. Use different types of material in the same brushpile.
  3. Never use treated or painted lumber
  4. Ensure your brushpile is secure and will not float or move around
  5. When placing brush around docks, take other water activities in to consideration. Place the brush well under the dock or well outside swim areas
  6. When using Christmas Trees, prune a few limbs from the center
  7. Place brush piles at several depths, this will help keep fish in the area
  8. Never place brush piles by yourself…have a buddy with you accidents happen

The next time you or your local bass/crappie club are looking for a community project, may I submit that you get with your local fisheries agencies and put a plan together for some lake restoration projects.

Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed professional fishing guide on Lake Guntersville and Tim’s Ford Lake; to reserve your “Day on the Lake” visit or call/email 615-613-2382,

Cold Weather – Cold Water Bass’in

As November brought us cooler weather and sent many to the woods in pursuit of Joe Buck or hit the duck blinds with their trusted retriever Ol’Yellor.   Avid anglers know this also signals the start of some the best fishing of the year on area lakes.   Here are some helpful hints for a great day on the lake.

Guntersville 27 Feb 2014 015 Capt Jake Davis with a D-Bomb Fish

Despite the difficult weather conditions, anglers can still manage to spend quality time on the water through the winter days of the year, catching fish on a variety of lures. First and foremost, dress for the conditions and “Always” wear your PFD!  Second, is to emphasize a slow approach for just about every presentation would be an understatement; when you think you are fishing slow, slowdown!

Let’s set the stage, in November water temperatures began to drop and should continue to drop through Mid-February with some area lakes dropping to the mid to upper thirties over the winter.   Bass become more lethargic to conserve energy.   Bright sunny days can raise water temperatures by as much as 5 degrees in just a couple of hours; triggering feeding binges.

While I’m a firm believer that anytime on the water is a good time!  If your time is limited than plan your trips around weather changes. The best days are normally any unseasonably warm day during the winter, but fishing before a cold front or any other weather change can also be productive.
Considering, you’ll find me fishing with water temps as low as 38 degrees; I’ll start a typical day searching for fish to react to a jerkbait bite.  This pattern is fairly steady, winter time presentation that can produce quality fish and adequate numbers. Later in the day, say after about 11am, we will go a rattle trap. The trap works really well over the winter months and can get them working now in late afternoon, assuming the water has warmed up some.
Proper presentation is everything!  As it gets colder, I’ll start a typical day with a four or five count — that’s one thousand one, one thousand two, and so forth —before you jerk it again.  Sometimes it may not even be a jerk, just turning the handle of the reel and pausing it again.  It’s something you have to play with. The colder the water temperature, the longer the pause needs to be. If it’s really cold, you have to make a cast and crank the bait down, put down the rod and drink a cup of coffee before you move it.”

I recommend using a variety of jerkbaits to reach different depths. Ideally, the lure reaches a depth at the top of the grass left over from the summer. I’ll keep about four rods rigged up with different baits designed to reach a different depth, 1 to 3 (feet), 4 to 6, 6 to 8, and maybe one deeper.

I highly recommend utilizing a sensitive rod such as Duckett Terex rods for most of his applications, normally spooling a LEW’s 6.4-1 with 10- or 12-lb. Vicious Ultimate Copolymer, occasionally dropping to 8-lb. line when the fish are finicky. I favor a 6’9” or 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with a fast tip for jerkbaits.  With this setup, I am slowing that jerkbait down and stopping it!  With this particular rod, I can actually feel the line tighten up (when a fish hits). The rod is really special with 12 eyes on it I can get a little extra casting distance with it, probably as much as 25 feet compared to the rods I’ve used.

I’ll use jerkbaits in colors ranging from sexy shad in clear water to clown in dirty water and in between, I’ll throw a variety of natural colors. You need a slow, patient approach right now, but the fish will hit.

If the water warms up or if the fish prove they will chase a lure, I would actually rather see his clients throw traps. They are simply easier for the average fishermen to use.  I find the trap bite in many of the same places we’d might fish a jerkbait earlier in the day. The difference is these fish are more active, willing to pursue a moving bait.

The trap has got to tick that grass. Count it down until it’s ticking that grass and then rip it loose.  In late winter, you can catch fish burning it across a point or across the top of the grass. As the water warms up, the fish totally commit to the prespawn area and feed up, put the feed bag on. They are chasing everything. That’s when the water temperature has risen into the upper 40s, 48 on up. I’m not saying it has to be that high for the trap to produce, but that temperature has been most productive for me.

For trap tackle, I use a Duckett rod with a soft enough tip that he doesn’t take the trap away from the fish.  A rod that is too stiff will also result in lost fish after the hook set.

Winter Lures 002

I’m using anything from 12-lb. Ultimate to 65-lb. test braid both made by Vicious Fishing, depending on what we are throwing it in and around. They will still hit it even when using braid. A key point is a rod with a fast tip that is still limber enough but with enough backbone to get the hook set.”

I’ll normally start trap fishing with an X-Caliber Xr50 or Xr75. If the fish don’t respond to the bigger baits, he has experienced success downsizing to a quarter ounce.  What I use depends on the bait in the area. It’s a match-the-hatch scenario. The smaller bait creates a slower presentation, and a slower fall will trigger a bite at times when nothing else will.

While red traps are used extensively on Tennessee River impoundments such as Guntersville, I also like royal purple, sexy shad and I’ve experienced great success with gold with a black back.

If the fish don’t respond to hard baits at all, then time to revert to plastics or a jig. I’ll Texas rig or Carolina rig a lizard or Tomahawk 8.75 worm from Missile Baits. The other thing I do is pick up a 1/2-oz. Tightline football head jig in Guntersville special, which is green pumpkin with some black and blue mixed in or a Green Pumpkin Orange with a Turbo Tail Grub trailer from Missile Baits. The jig is particularly effective around deeper docks. I’ll fish the perimeter posts first and flips underneath on sunny days.

Slow that fall down, fish your Texas rigs with a 1/4-oz. tungsten weight. That’s where a lot of guys miss it here is they forget to slow down their presentation. Fish it slow, and then slow down some more.

Be prepared to throw any of the previously mentioned lures as the bite changes frequently in the winter months. As far as location is concerned, I’ll spend a good bit of my time fishing the many large tributaries that feed the area lakes.

One final suggestion about fishing area lakes this time of year is don’t ignore shallow water, especially if the priority is simply getting bit. The bigger fish might hold in slightly deeper water, but there are fish in skinny water year-round on the lake.

Generally, we’re targeting shallower grass in 4 to 10 feet of water. It’s a classic pattern with one caveat. You can catch bass 365 days of the year on most area lakes in a foot of water. There are always shallow fish if you try hard enough.

Now if you are after big trophy fish, then put the boat in 12 feet of water and cast to 4 foot of water.

Again, please use extreme caution when fishing in the winter months.  I suggest dressing for the worst and always wear a lifejacket at all times.

Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Guntersville, Tim’s Ford, Normandy Lake and Nickajack Lake.  Visit or call/email 615-613-2382,