Home > BASS, Fishing on TV > Coontail Grass Made Beeswax Creek Special

Coontail Grass Made Beeswax Creek Special

Jeff Kriet says coontail grass was key to success of Beeswax Creek. (Photo courtesy of BASS)

Prior to the Classic I went on record with my prediction that the tournament would be won by targeting Lay Lake’s famous Coosa Spots with jigs.  As I watched the Classic coverage on TV, no one was more surprised than me as one largemouth after another was lifted over gunnels with lipless crankbaits hooked in their mouths.

Don’t get me wrong—the Rat-L-Trap type lures are no secret to fishermen on the the Coosa River chain.  Everyone knows you can catch a limit of quality fish with one before you go look for your kicker fish.    But after you get your limit you are supposed to put the trap down and go for the quality bite.  That is just the way it is done.  Nineteen plus pound sacks are not traditionally caught on lipless crankbaits alone on these Coosa River lakes.  That type of success is supposed to be reserved for legendary grass lakes like Guntersville and Sam Rayburn.

Lay Lake is full of lure snagging vegetation we call “bank grass”.  Fishing a trap on the outside edge of bank grass can be effective, but it is not in the same league as fishing over milfoil and hydrilla.  Without milfoil and hydrilla present, I was somewhat surprised when KVD busted a 19-08 sack on Day 1 with his famous Red Eye Shad.

Everyone knows that to catch big largemouth you have to tick the traps over the top of the milfoil and hydrilla.  We don’t have grass like that on Lay Lake…or so I thought.

As I was watched the Classic coverage on TV I saw Todd Faircloth, Russ Lane, and Jeff Kreit pull long strands of vegetation with needley leaves off of their lures–prior to hooking up with quality largemouth on their next casts.  What is up with that?

Jeff Kriet likes fishing coontail (pictured above) more than milfoil. (Photo courtesy of Graves Lovell, Alabama DNR)

It turns out that there is a native type of aquatic vegetation called “Coontail”, that closely resembles Eurasian Milfoil and other types of milfoil. To the untrained eye it is difficult to distingush coontail from milfoil.

The important thing for fishermen to note here is that native coontail fishes similiar to invasive milfoil.  In fact, some fishermen think it fishes even better.

Jeff Kriet caught 46-06 over three days in route to a respectable, but painful, second place finish in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic.  Jeff says that the reason so many competitors were piled in to Beeswax Creek is that it had the best grass.  Jeff explains, “I looked at a lot of the creeks in the area and felt like Beeswax had the best grass”.

I spoke with Jason Carlee, a Team Leader in the Vector and Aquatic Plant Management Department of Alabama Power.  Jason explained that coontail really took off during the drought of 2007.  He says, “Aquatic Plants love the drought”.

Coontail is traditionally found in backwater shallow areas.  During the drought, less water current allowed the coontail to expand into areas that traditionally had heavier current.  The clearer water lead to more light penetration, which allowed the coontail to grow in deeper water.  Jason said, “When conditions are right it is going to grow well…Coontail also handles the cold water better than other native vegetation”.

It should be noted that Alabama Power has known about the growth of coontail in Beeswax for years, and generally encourages the growth of native species such as coontail over invasive species such as Eurasian milfoil and hydrilla.

Many fishermen have the perception that Alabama Power is interested in killing any aquatic plant that interferes with pleasure boaters.  The Classic competitors success at Beeswax should lay these fishermen’s concerns at ease.  “We have no interest in eradicating native species”, explains Mr. Carlee.

To the untrained eye, milfoil (pictured above) and coontail can be hard to tell apart. (Photo courtesy of Graves Lovell, Alabama DNR)

There have been many reports of Eurasian milfoil sightings on Lay Lake in resent years.  Coontail and milfoil look so similar one has to wonder if coontail isn’t being misidentified as milfoil by recreational anglers.  After fishing Lay Lake for several days Jeff Kriet said, “I never caught a single strand of milfoil at all.  I never saw any at all”.  This is a good thing from a fishermen’s perspective because, according to Jeff, the coontail fishes better than milfoil alone.

Jeff says that a trap can be pulled from healthy coontail cleanly without having to snap the rod.  “You need to fish the trap like a jig.  Pull the trap out of the grass and let it fall back down”.  If you try to pull the trap out of milfoil it will not come clean—you must snap the rod with milfoil.  However, with healthy coontail, a pull will cause the lure with come clean from without unwanted strands of grass hitchhiking on your treble hooks.

If you have a question about aquatic plants, Mr. Carlee encourages you to call his department at 1-800-Lakes11 .  Readers can also view the Field Guide to Aquatic Plants of Alabama at the Alabama DNR website.

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  1. February 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    you may have missed the mark on the jig deal…but you did say to put the sissy sticks away and that it would be won with a power technique. now i know the context was in the difference between a kentucky (spotted) bass and an alabama (spotted) bass and this tourney was won mostlt targetting the largemouth but there were some nice bama spots boated on the lipless as well (unless i’m misidentifying). May be Ike should’ve read your article…he was the only angler I recall seeing using a sissy stick.

  2. February 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    and also I must pat my self on the back as I went with the overwhelming minority as to if the weights would be less, about the same, or more than 2007. I predicted “about the same”…technically KVD’s weight was a pound + over the poll’s cutoff weight but comparing the top 5 or so I can make the argument that they were about the same as last time

  3. tiger6761
    February 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Are both picks of Coontail? Would like to see the two side by side.

  4. February 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    The top is coontail and the bottom is milfoil. I changed the caption to clarify.

  5. tiger6761
    February 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Not sure I could ever tell the difference. I guess if you are hanging up on it, milfoil.

  1. February 24, 2010 at 12:59 am

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