LAKE GUNTERSVILLE — Jerry Wright and Brandon Staggs overcame a trolling motor breakdown to win the inaugural Alabama Bass Trail tournament Saturday.
The five largemouth bass weighing 32.02 pounds Wright and Staggs caught earned them $10,000.
Jamie Smith and Michael Rains finished second with 29.92 pounds, Michael Stevens Jr.and Paul Arnold were third with 27.13 pounds. Keith Vann and Lee Pitts with 26.59 pounds and Rahn Hogland and Allen Guyse with 25.65 pounds rounded out the Top 5.
When their trolling motor quit working around 8 a.m., Wright and Staggs thought any chance of winning was gone.
“My heart broke,” said Wright, of Waterloo, AL. “I had a high speed come-apart when that happened. We had a limit, including two big fish when it broke, but knew we would need some bigger fish to have any hope to win.”
Wright began checking all the electrical connections and worked on the motor for about 2 hours before a swift kick to the trolling motor switch caused it to begin working again.
“It was a huge relief when when it started working again,” said Staggs of Summertown, TN.
He and Wright caught their fish, using a variety of baits. They declined to reveal where they were fishing, other than to say it was downriver from Lake Guntersville State Park.
“They bit rattle baits, swim baits and spinner baits, but they would not bite a jig, which is normally our bread-and-butter,” Staggs said,
Smith and Rains caught most of their fish on rattle baits is 6 to 8 feet of water. They were surprised to catch almost 30 pounds of bass from the 40-degree water.
“We had a terrible practice,” Rains said. “We knew there were some good fish in the areas where we were fishing, but were expecting only around 23 or 24 pounds,”
Stevens and Arnold worked 1/2-ounce Rat-L-Traps very slowly to catch their fish.
“We were moving it about like you would work a jig,” Stevens said. “That’s the only way we could get them to bite.”
Arnold said most of their bites came late in the day after the sun came out and warmed the water temperature 3 degrees,
Vann and Pitts caught most of their bass with Gene Larew jigs and craws. Pitts said a key to their bite was working the jig over milfoil and hyrdrilla beds where some live grass remained.
“If we were pulling up a little green grass, we could catch them. If we were pulling up only dead grass, they wouldn’t bite there,” Pitts said.
Hogeland said most the bass he and Guyse weighed-in, were caught 2-to-4-feet deep on a Rat-L-Trap.
The Wiggins caught the big bass on a Rat-L-Trap.
“It barely bit, I was working it along a grass line when the line started moving sideways a little,” Jesse Wiggins said.
Rounding out the top-10 were Jimmy Mason and Lance Walker, Scot Giddens and Paul Watson, Steven Wisdom and John Bryant, Mike Raney and Michael Pharr, Marty Lykos and Michael Carter.
The next tournament for the Alabama Bass Trail tournament series is March 1 when its South Division visits the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
The next tournament for the North Division is March 22 on Pickwick Lake in Florence.