UPCOMING EVENT: Rayovac FLW Series - 2015 - Lake Champlain

Warrior River giants: Nick’s secret no more

Second-place pro Blake Nick said he found his better fish around Lake Wheeler's dams.

With all the facets of media these days, we are constantly blasted with sales pitches for one "top-notch fishery." Others claim, "You can catch a hundred fish a day here." Or, "Trophy smallmouths roam these waters." And my personal favorite is, "If you want to catch the fish of a lifetime, this is your place." Unfortunately, few fisheries live up to the hype. It's fair to say that with the exception of a few, typically all the hoopla turns out to be false advertising. Reason being, the true lunker lakes, the hidden gems, the fisheries that do hold fish of a lifetime, are by and large well-kept secrets. Anglers don the persona of pirates when it comes to these fisheries. They smirk at others who are ignorant to what lies just down the road as they hoard all the treasure for themselves. This level of secrecy makes it almost taboo for a writer to as much as utter the name of certain lost lakes. Blake Nick battles a bass to the boat.But every now and then one of these lakes leak out. The limelight has skirted one such fishery recently. It's a certain stretch of water where fish of a lifetime really do live. And in the last couple of years, the veil has lifted to the point that I no longer have to worry about retaliation for spilling the beans. The Black Warrior River is a little-known fishery in northwest Alabama from which local anglers have plucked giant bass for years. A waterway where spots in the 4- to 6-pound range abound and are frequented with the intermittent 7-plus. With the popular pools of Oliver, Bankhead and Holt near Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, the Warrior is gaining publicity for it's giant spots. But what many outsiders still don't realize is the number of massive largemouths that live in the river. But local Blake Nick is not outsider. "One day we'll catch a 20-pound bag of spots and then the next day we'll catch 23 pounds of largemouths and only one or two spots," said Nick, of Adger, Ala. Though Nick now spends a lot of his time traveling the country with the Walmart FLW Tour, a large portion of his years spent fishing have been on Bankhead and Holt. Blake Nick holds up two giant spotted bass caught on the Warrior River."The cool thing about the Warrior River is each lake fishes different," said Nick. "Each one has big spots and heads on it but the cover is different and the current is different. Holt has a lot stronger current and is primarily rock so it sets up better for spots but Bankhead has a lot more creeks with shallow cover and grass so it sets up better for largemouths." Figuring out when and where to target each species is easier said than done. Jigs, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and spoons are all good tools this time of year but the diversity of the lakes can throw a kink in any initial game plan. "It's not as easy as it sounds," added Nick. "It's taken me years to figure this place out. It's a great place to fish but there are little deals that make all the difference when it comes to catching the big ones. You need to be on the main river and a jig is always a great bait to throw on Bankhead or Holt." Nick suggests that you target current breaks when the water is on and when it's not. The fish on the Warrior base their entire lives around the current that races through almost every day. "Fish any kind of current breaks you see," Nick advised. "Even down river where you have to use Blake Nick caught a 16-pound, 11-ounce stringer Friday and fell from first to fourth.your imagination. Even though you can't see the current, its still rolling over those points and rocks. I like to use an 1/8-ounce Bitsy Bug jig with a little Zoom trailer to catch those big spots." Depending on the strength of the current you'll likely have to upsize, but the jig is definitely a favorite of Nick's. And why wouldn't it be considering it helped him capture his personal best spot at 7.2 pounds. This giant, though a freak of nature, is no freak to the Black Warrior River. Nick has caught "a bunch" right at 7 pounds. In addition to its isolation, there are a couple other factors that make the Warrior such a perfect breeding ground for giants - namely an abundance of current and shad. And as anyone knows nowadays, when there's an abundance of shad and current, there's a good chance you can get bit on an umbrella rig. Therefore, the Black Warrior has become the testing grounds for The Yellow Hammer Rig. Blake Nick and one of the two Yellow Hammer co-founders, Kyle Mabrey, spent a large portion of last year's off-season tinkering and toying with the rig in order to keep it on a constant evolutionary track. The duo has spent hundreds of hours doing field research with different wire combinations, paint schemes, weights, blades and other bells and whistles to figure out what would trigger the most and Fortunately, Nickbiggest bites. Their efforts to keep the bass constantly guessing have revealed an entirely new level of potential that the Warrior offers. "We've had several 23- to 25-pound days on the Yellow Hammer Rig and we even had one 30-pound day down there this winter," said Nick. A 30-pound bag is something that few people will ever be fortunate enough to catch. A bag that only a "top-notch fishery" could yield. A waterway filled with "fish of a lifetime." There are few widely known fisheries that live up to the hype that they are shrouded by. Fisheries like Okeechobee, Falcon, Guntersville, St. Clair and a handful of others. Dare I say as time goes on, the Black Warrior River should make the short list. Side note: Perhaps one of the most unique boat wraps that you'll see on the FLW Tour is Nick's. In bright red print atop a blue and black camo background the wrap simply reads, 147 Million Orphans. Where most anglers brand their title sponsor, Nick's boat instead bares the insignia of a foundation intending to "impact the lives of children through the provision of food, water, and medicine." Nick and his wife Jennifer met the founders of 147 Million Orphans and felt an instant connection through their shared passion for children. "I know it sounds weird for a country boy from Alabama that fishes for a living to care so much about something like that but I just love kids," said Nick. "I wouldn't want my kids to not have parents or a family and I don't think other kids should be without them either." "Jennifer and I had talked about it and we decided that if I couldn't get a title sponsor then we would just wrap the boat in 147 million orphans. "We were looking through some stuff one night about boat wraps and we saw a statistic saying that about 147 million people see a wrap in something like one or two years. That was just kind of like our sign that we needed to go with 147 million orphans." The rest is, as they say, history. Nick spent what some might call his breakout year campaigning all over the country for the cause. With two third-places finishes during the 2012 season, Nick gained a lot of publicity for a worthy cause in a sport filled with compassionate, family-oriented people. To say the least, 2012 has been good to both Nick and 147 Million Orphans. "If I ever am fortunate enough to have a title sponsor, there will always be a place on my boat and jersey for 147 Million Orphans," said Nick. If you would like to learn more about 147 Million Orphans or make a donation, please visit www.147millionorphans.org.

Tags: destinations 

/tips/2013-09-16-destination-cal-delta

Destination: Cal Delta

Anchored by the convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, along with countless tributaries and rural streams, Delta waters comprise a labyrinthine of navigable arteries, all subject to tidal influence through their common connection to San Francisco Bay. There's plenty of area to spread out and select your own little piece of paradise, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself overwhelmed with a dilemma borne of abundance – in other words, it all looks fishy. READ MORE »

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Destination: Lake Amistad

Its Spanish name means "friendship" and bass anglers who value that rare mix of quality and quantity will enjoy getting to know Lake Amistad. A largemouth powerhouse that attracts a steady stream of tournament and casual angling interest to its namesake National Recreation Area – the Rio Grande reservoir just 12 miles northwest of Del Rio, Texas – also abounds in subtle scenic beauty, historical treasures and some cross-cultural accents you won't want to miss. READ MORE »

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Destination: 1000 Islands

As far as fishing destinations go, the 1000 Islands region is easily one of the most highly recommended areas to visit in the lower 48 states. READ MORE »

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Lake Okeechobee rebound

Lake Okeechobee has experienced both ends of the see-saw. But with a renewed sense of balance born of prudent water management and the silver lining of dark ecological clouds, Florida’s largest inland water body is on track to return to its finest form since the heydays of the 1980s. READ MORE »

/tips/2010-09-07-destination-lake-st-clair-windsor-ontario

Destination: Lake St. Clair/Windsor, Ontario

Like a Hobbit among giants, St. Clair’s 460-square miles appear minute in the Great Lakes region. Nevertheless, this dynamic fishery consistently cranks out the big catches – both in terms of numbers and individual fish. There’s no denying the greater overall potential found in nearby Lakes Erie and Huron, but the spunky St. Clair more than holds its own. READ MORE »

/tips/2010-08-16-destination-washington-d-c-

Destination: Washington D.C.

Rare is the case when Washington D.C. finds Democrats and Republicans seeing eye-to-eye. However, both parties can agree that the historic waters of the Potomac River offer tremendous angling opportunity within close proximity to the U.S. capital. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-12-29-destination-lake-champlain-

Destination: Lake Champlain

Four centuries ago, a French explorer surveyed a long, narrow lake tucked between the Adirondack and Green mountains and said, “Wow!” – or at least the 17th century equivalent expression. Today, not much has changed as Lake Champlain still conveys a sense of wonderment and breathtaking beauty for both newcomers and veteran anglers alike. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-11-12-destination-pigeon-river

Destination: Pigeon River

People travel from all over the country just to witness the beauty of the Smoky Mountains in the fall. Fall colors really set off an already gorgeous view. But these days, so many people visit the area that the quaint atmosphere of the resort towns, such as Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has been changed. These towns have become extremely busy tourist destinations in recent years, complete with sprawling malls, theme parks, go-kart rentals and wedding chapels. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-03-09-california-divergence

California divergence

They’re connected only by their rankings as the top western bass waters in the nation, but despite completely different profiles, Clear Lake and the California Delta team up to offer a one-two punch of Golden State bass potential in relatively close proximity. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-02-26-dry-tortugas-

Dry Tortugas

February isn't what some saltwater anglers would call the “hot” month for fishing. But in an area in the Straits of Florida, October to April is prime time to boat a bountiful cornucopia of saltwater species. Named the Dry Tortugas by Ponce De Leon, these islands near Key West, Fla., offer some of the most beautiful, historic and heart-pounding angling action of any saltwater venue during winter and early spring. READ MORE »

/tips/2009-02-10-upper-red-lake-paradise-on-ice

Upper Red Lake: Paradise on ice

Fifteen years ago it was considered a dead sea. Although hard to believe at over 250,000 acres, Red Lake was totally depleted by commercial netting. In 1995 an amazing class of crappies established themselves in the lake. That crappie class is dwindling, but Red Lake has recently undergone another transformation – this time becoming the No. 1 walleye-fishing destination in the Midwest. READ MORE »

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Odyssey of the Otter

RIO JATAPU, Brazil — I recently took such a trip and experienced what felt like a lifetime of thrills and adventure in what was actually a week-long voyage in northwestern Brazil. Rich in animal life and abounding with botanical brilliance, this region defies summation – but “amazing” comes pretty close. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-09-10-mission-to-mars-yellowfin-tuna

Mission to Mars: Yellowfin tuna

For decades, the entertainment industry has told us a trip to Mars will turn up little green men. Well, in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a trip to Mars yields a close encounter with the big yellow guys. Yellow as in yellowfin tuna. As in back-breaking, arm-stretching brutes. As in succulent fillets worth every ounce of pain and suffering. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-08-20-what-mexican-lakes-are-hot-

What Mexican lakes are hot?

Several lakes south of the border possibly offer anglers their best chance at a double-digit bass. Right now, there are three lakes worth visiting. El Salto has been the king of largemouth lakes for several years now, and its reign as one of the world’s best destinations continues. Most serious bass anglers have read about El Salto, or actually fished the lake, many times in recent years. READ MORE »

/tips/2008-01-30-10-great-saltwater-fishing-spots-for-2008

10 great saltwater fishing spots for 2008

FLW Outdoors Magazine takes a look at inshore and offshore hot spots. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-10-08-shallow-water-sharking

Shallow-water sharking

It doesn’t make sense. Anglers tend to ignore or overlook one of the more dynamic challenges in saltwater and the chance to fight an oversized competitor on relatively light tackle. Those who fish primarily in fresh water will never get a better chance to take on the biggest fish they ever battled when they visit the salt. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-03-10-journey-to-ultralight-paradise

Journey to ultralight paradise

I don’t know of many anglers lacking a sweet spot for battling a bruiser smallmouth in a swift stream. Drifting through shallow, cold, clear water, casting to an eddy behind a big boulder and just knowing a muscled smallmouth is about to rush out of a shadow and clobber your lure is as good as it gets. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-01-10-famous-fishing-towns

Famous fishing towns

There’s a select group of angling oases where local communities so clearly emanate piscatorial tradition that the towns seem to be steeped in a briny broth of reel-screaming history. READ MORE »

/tips/2007-01-10-eye-can-live-in-a-small-town

’Eye can live in a small town

All across this great land, walleyes and walleye fishing go hand-in-hand with small-town hospitality. Think about it. Other than the Great Lakes, most walleye waters are somewhat off the beaten path, often along a lonely back road on the way to other, more distant waters. READ MORE »

/tips/2004-08-03-great-escapes-birmingham-alabama

Great Escapes: Birmingham, Alabama

On Aug. 11, the most lucrative event in professional bass fishing, the Forrest Wood Cup, will kick off on Logan Martin Lake near Birmingham, Ala. The tournament is certain to produce impressive catches of the infamous Coosa River spotted bass – one of the most tenacious sport-fish species. READ MORE »