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Opens Destinations: Wheeler Lake

Pitching jigs and tubes won the Southern Open for Denny Brauer on Wheeler Lake in late September 2003. In fact, four of the top five finishers in the tournament relied primarily on jigs in this 68,300-acre impoundment on the Tennessee River in northern Alabama. Only Alabama angler Timmy Horton strayed, catching most of his fish on a buzzbait and a Texas rigged lizard.

Woody cover in water muddied by 5 inches of rain seemed to hold the most fish, but grass also yielded bass.

Both should produce again in this lake that boasts big smallmouth bass as well as plenty of largemouth. Rock bluffs, ridges and channels also could hold fish, not only in the main river but also in the tributary creeks, as bass follow shad and transition from summer patterns to fall. Elk River, Spring Creek and Second Creek are some of the more popular tributaries. The former contains an abundance of stump-filled flats, flooded timber and boathouses.

If the weather hasn't turned too cold, anglers might encounter some spectacular fishing for smallies on top.Fishing grubs and other small plastics along the edge of river current is an effective technique for bronzebacks when flow has them feeding.

For more information on the area, visit the Decatur Area CVB Web site: www.decaturcvb.org.