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,

Why hire a Professional Guide service and what to look for in a guide/charter…

As I was talking to one of my neighbors the other day of course about “Fishing”, he made a comment.  “I can’t believe you are so busy, why are so many people hiring a guide?”  There are several good reasons my clients like to hire a guide service or charter.  Fish tend to move around a lot and they feed differently every day.  However, when you fish every day (and I do) you stay on top of them.  For some anglers who fish only a few times a year, it is cheaper to hire a guide than to make boat and insurance payments plus the tackle needed.  My clients get to try out new and different tackle, the latest new and improved gadgets, such as new rods and reels, GPS and depth finders.  It is great for businessmen to take their customers or employee out for a good day of fishing. A guide trip serves as a good way to build customer relations or seal a business deal and reward employee performance.  Catching some good fish and taking a few pictures during a trip have led to some great achievements.   It is also tax deductible.  Family trips can be a lot of fun, kids can be tough and trips can turn into a real job if you are not that familiar on the water or with fishing.  With the right Professional Guide who guides families everyone walks away with memories of a lifetime.  To learn “sweet” spots and proven presentations on new lakes or rivers is one of the prime reasons.  It can take several trips to learn a lake and which cost money and time. With a good guide you can learn most lakes in a couple of days and that can save you many aggravating trips and possible repair cost on your boat.  Lastly, most guides stay current on latest tactics, anglers can learn a specific tactic like jig fishing, the Float‘n Fly, or the drop shot rig.   With the current economic conditions, we are seeing an influx of people getting into the guide/charter business without bothering to go through all the legal channels or investing in the proper gear. Furthermore, every Fall and Spring lakes such as Kentucky Lake and Guntersville we see an increase in illegal, unlicensed and uninsured guides who are willing to risk being caught and paying a fine of $5,000 to $30,000, jail time, and/or loss of equipment.  They are also putting the clients at risk; normal boat insurance does not cover guiding.  In short, protect yourself use a USCG Licensed service and in Tennessee guides must be licensed by the TWRA. (Note:  USCG license is not required on some inland lakes that are “Land Locked” such as Percy Priest or Center Hill. Lake’s that a guide MUST be USCG Licensed are Kentucky Lake, Guntersville, and Old Hickory, any of the Great Lakes, and Mississippi River.

Capt Jake Davis with all the gear
Capt Jake Davis with all the gear

If you are planning a guided fishing trip; here are a few questions to ask the Captains/Guides so you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

  1. Does the Captain have a valid US Coast Guard issued US Merchant Marine Officer license?
    2. Does the Captain have a valid TSA issued TWIC card (Transportation Worker Identification Credential)? This is the background/security check required for all licensed Captains.
    4. Is the Captain certified in First Aid and CPR?
    5. Does the vessel contain all safety equipment as mandated by the US Coast Guard?
    6. Does the Vessel/Guide have valid guide insurance coverage?  Normal insurance DOES NOT cover using a vessel for guiding.
    7. Does the business maintain up-to-date website(s)? Are reports current-not more than 2 weeks old?
    8. What are the business’ charter rates and what do they cover? Is there a fuel surcharge or any hidden charges such as lost lures, drinks, etc?
    10. What is the business’ cancellation policy?
    11. Is charter fishing the Captain’s full-time job? Or, does he do it only part-time apart from some other job, as a hobby activity or are you paying for them to pre-fish/practice for an upcoming tournament?
    12. Can the Captain provide testimonials from satisfied customers?
    13. What is the condition of the tackle, rods and reels? This is an area many businesses skimp on. Is the equipment, if not new, in well-maintained condition?

The most important question to ask…Does the Captain LOVE what he does and VALUE his customer relationships?


Capt Jake Davis, Mid South Bass Guide, a Professional Service on Lakes Guntersville, Tim’s Ford and Normandy Lake.