ABT Championship Preview
by Dan O’Sullivan
We’re less than a month away from the first Alabama Bass Trail Championship event on Lewis Smith Lake, outside Jasper and Cullman, Ala. Smith Lake as it is known locally, is a unique fishery to the state of Alabama. Whereas most of the water across the state is stained to dirty and shallow water fishing techniques dominate the tournament leaderboards, Smith Lake is known for its deep, clear water, as well as spotted bass.
In fact, part of the reason the Smith Lake was selected as the location for the grand finale of the 2014 Alabama Bass Trail was that it provided a much more even playing field for entire list of 117 teams. That group of anglers will be competing for the grand prize of a fully rigged Phoenix 619 Pro and Mercury 200 outboard package.
What lies in store for the field should be a bite that will give every angler a chance to be successful. Especially if they do their homework, pay attention to the conditions and are aware of what is happening around them. Bassmaster Elite Series pro and guide on Smith Lake, Kevin Hawk (http://kevinhawkslakeguntersvilleguideservice.com) said that anglers should expect fall conditions to be at full swing by the time the October 10 and 11 event rolls around.
“I would expect that there will be a lot of schooling fish around then, because during my last guide trip, I was seeing signs of it already,” he said. If it were me fishing the tournament, I’d try to cover water with a four-inch swimbait, but have a topwater walking bait and a dropshot ready for a school to blow up or I saw deeper fish on the graph – that’s how I’d fish the ABT Championship.”
Some of the competitors have already begun to head to the area surrounding the lake in Cullman and Jasper. For those with familiarity of the lake, their aim is to begin to locate areas that will present themselves as opportunities, and there are those that are planning on spending a weekend or more trying to familiarize themselves with the lake altogether.
David Caylor, a Southern Division competitor who qualified with his partner Allen Hayes, said that he had never been to Smith Lake, but that he was going to go as many days as he could prior to the off limits period, and that he was going to base his expectation on other experience and research. “I’ve done a bunch of research on the lake before going,” said Caylor. “I’ve tried to keep up with water levels, temperatures and clarity and give me something to go on while I’m preparing tackle and heading up there.”
Caylor said that he feels experience on other bodies of water would help. “I’ve spent a lot of time on lakes throughout the Coosa and Tallapoosa River chains and I’m sure that it will fish similarly,” he said. “I’m going to go on with that in my mind and put something together that I will be able to compete with.”
Northern Division angler Jesse Wiggins said that he and his brother; who live in Cullman, have a lot of knowledge from spending as much time on the lake, but they were planning on trying to find something new. “We pretty much know what we are going to do, so we will spend as much time as we can trying to find something unique that we can go on,” he said. “A lot of teams are gonna find that they’ll have an easy time catching fish in practice, but once the tournament starts, the fish are going to sense the pressure and be harder to catch, so we want to be prepared.”
Whatever the case, one of these teams, or one of the 116 others will figure out how to put together the kind of pattern that will produce the bites necessary to earn right to drive away with the keys to their brand new Phoenix / Mercury prize package; but more importantly, they will be named the inaugural Alabama Bass Trail Championship winners.
Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series’ sponsors include Bill Penney Toyota, the Alabama Tourism Department, Phoenix Bass Boats, Inc., McDonalds of Alabama, and Pradco-FISHING representing BOOYAH and YUM, Dobyns Rods, Randy Jones Agency – Nationwide, T-H Marine Supplies, Inc., Alabama Power Company, Buffalo Rock, Inc., Jet-Pep, Inc., Tennessee Valley Authority, Rigid Industries, Inc., and Frogg Toggs, Inc., Go Pro, Gander Mountain, HydroWaveTM, Garmin, and Yeti Coolers.