In March, as bass in the lakes of the Tennessee River begin to spawn, anglers in Alabama gear up to fish, eat, sleep, and repeat for the next month. When it comes to part two of that equation, the region’s famed barbecue joints provide sustenance to get you through a lunker marathon. Here are the top spots to cast and eat.
1. Take Your Pick(wick)
Put yourself up, and your boat in, at Mississippi’s J.P. Coleman State Park, which sits at the lower half of the South’s premier smallmouth fishery: Pickwick Lake. Low water at this time of year will concentrate smallmouths, as well as the lake’s trophy largemouths and spotted bass. Throw a suspended crankbait along flats or points near deeper water, or work a Texas-rigged trick worm around the river’s many islands. If you’re not finding the bass on your own, hire a pro. Roger Stegall (fishpickwick.com) is one of the lake’s best guides.
2. Slaw Down
Parking may be tight in downtown Florence, but your effort will pay off with one of north Alabama’s best-kept barbecue secrets—the hot slaw at Bunyan’s BBQ. This spicy, vinegary mess is the requisite dressing for the pit’s outstanding pulled pork sandwiches or, as locals will attest, the hot dogs.
3. Dam Good Fishing
Near Bunyan’s is the McFarland Park boat launch below Wilson Dam. Carefully navigate your boat into the tailrace and free-line a threadfin shad through the seams created by the dam’s discharge units. Fishing these roiling waters can be challenging—but you might boat the biggest smallie of your life.
4. The White Stuff
No trip through Alabama barbecue country is complete without a stop at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (bigbobgibson.com) for a taste of the 90-year-old joint’s original white sauce. Don’t forget to finish with a slice of coconut pie.
5. Eat With the Locals
There’s a lot of great barbecue in and around Huntsville, but locals will tell you it’s worth the short drive northeast to New Market BBQ (newmarketbbq.com). If you want a taste of Texas barbecue in Alabama, Chuck Wagon BBQ across town in Madison has the best brisket east of Texarkana.
6. The Spawn Dawn
A warming trend this month may get area bass moving into shallow water. The northern edges of Lake Guntersville’s many bays will catch the sun and send the water here above 50 degrees. Cast shallow-diving crankbaits like a Cotton Cordell Super Spot or spinnerbaits in white or green into the shallows, targeting any cover you find. On cooler days, pull off a bit to search for dropoffs where bass should be staging.