Harris and Phillips Take The Win on Lay Lake

Nick Harris and Keith Phillips Win 2017 Alabama Bass Trail Lay Lake
Coby Carden and Chris Rutland Claim South Division AOY Title
by Dan O’Sullivan

 June 3, 2017 – Columbiana, Ala. – It seems as though every time there is a bass tournament these days, nature is going to throw the anglers for a loop.  Whether it was and unseasonably warm and mild winter or heavier than normal spring and early summer rains, the conditions have been “different” this year.

That scenario was once again the case as the final event of the 2017 Alabama Bass Trail Southern Division schedule kicked off at Lay Lake the morning of June 3.  The whole Coosa River chain had seen high dirty water thanks to torrential rains the past two weeks, and while Alabama Power worked to make room for more, the water at Lay Lake had been fluctuating.

While Lay Lake had stabilized, it was a little lower than normal for the year, and anglers were adjusting, but the overall bite was a little tough, and random compared to what it normally is.  The one thing many of the teams were excited about was the tail end of a shad spawn that was making the morning bite critical.

Then the fog rolled in.  As takeoff approached, the field found the Beeswax Creek launch area socked in with a thick fog that resulted in a half hour fog delay for safety, and the whole complexion of the event changed in an instant.

In the end, the team that made the right adjustments were Nick Harris and Keith Phillips.  The local anglers from Alabaster and Calera, started the morning looking for shallow largemouth that were feeding on bream, but adjusted to offshore brushpiles to catch just enough to seal the victory.  The pair came to the scales with a five fish limit that weighed 17.63 pounds and earned the $10,000 first prize.

The pair was not sure that they would end up in the catbird seat when they returning to weigh-in. “We knew the delay was going to make it a tighter tournament, they said.  “But we really thought we were one fish short of having enough to win; we’re pleased and surprised to be standing here right now.”

They reported fishing “anything and everything shallow” early, but when that didn’t work, they went to a series of brushpiles to catch the bulk of their weight. “We caught four of our fish deep on a DT10 crankbait and a Texas Rigged Zoom Magnum Trick Worm, but were one fish short of our limit at 1:30,” they said.  “We went back to the shallows and caught the final fish Flipping grass with a big weight and a Sweet Beaver at 1:45; that was the end of our day.”

They reported adding a hint of orange to a Sexy Shad color on the crankbait to mimic the bluegill, the Magnum Trick Worm was Red Bug color and the Sweet Beaver was Juicy. They also reported catching fewer than 10 keeper bass for the day.

At the beginning of the season, teams in the Alabama Bass Trail are allowed to name an alternate angler to be used in case of an emergency, and in the case of Terry Stevens and Mike McCartney, they selected well.  With McCartney unable to make the final event of the season due to a family event, they called on their alternate, Mark McCaig – a previous ABT North Division winner – to fill in.  Stevens and McCaig collaborated to finish second in the final event of the season with 17.44 pounds.

They reported throwing All Terrain swim jigs and Flipping Big Bite Baits Dean Rojas Fighting Frogs combinations of water willow and Coontail grass in the middle section of the lake.  “Things went well today, we only lost one fish in that grass, and put everything else in the boat,” they said.  “We’re pleased with how it turned out.”  They earned $5,000 for their efforts on the day.

Barry Isbell and Bobby Freeman produced a 15.81-pound limit to finish the event in third place, earning $4,000 in the process. They were followed by Stanley Fairchild and Derrick Percival with 15.57 pounds in fourth, which earned them $3,000 and Mike McCullers and Jason Shockley rounded out the top five with 15.30, worth a $2,000 payday.

The team of Jeff and Howard Richey caught a 5.61-pound largemouth, which was enough to earn the Big Bass prize of $500.  The fish anchored their 13.12-pound limit, which was good enough for 19th place; theyr earned a total of $1,000 for their day.

The top 10 standings are below, for complete standings go to


Place Anglers Weight Big Fish Winnings
1 Nick Harris / Keith Phillips 17.63 4.60 $10,000
2 Terry Stevens / Mark McCaig 17.44 $5,000
3 Barry Isbell / Bobby Freeman 15.81 4.00 $4,000
4 Stanley Fairchild / Derrick Percival 15.57 5.56 $3,000
5 Mike McCullers / Jason Shockley 15.30 $2,000
6 Rob Lee / Steve Winslett 15.12 $1,500
7 Jeff Tapley / Paul Tarpley 15.07 $1,100
8 Keith Mayfield / Daryl Adams 14.73 $1,100
9 Mark Mott / Matt Salter 14.71 4.58 $1,100
10 Samuel Fish / Michael Smith 14.55 5.48 $1,100

Wrapping up the regular season, Coby Carden and Chris Rutland – who have won two previous ABT event on Lay Lake – produced 13.07 pounds, which helped them finish the event in 21st place.  That finish was enough to earn them the title of South Division Anglers of the Year.  Despite their record of excellence ABT competition, this is their first AOY win.

Rutland said the pair was thrilled with the result. “Coby and I have fished the ABT all four years and one of our major goals was to win the AOY award.   We have finished in the top three or four in points the previous three seasons.  So, to win this year is a huge deal to us and really means a lot,” he said.  “It is especially gratifying to do so with a full field of 225 teams.  We really enjoyed the schedule this year and greatly appreciate all of the hard work put in by Kay, Clay and their staff to make the ABT the best team tournament trail in our state.”

For complete season’s standings, visit this link;

The sponsors of the 2017 Alabama Bass Trail include; Bill Penney Toyota, Phoenix Bass Boats,  Garmin, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Wind Creek Hospitality – Wetumpka, Wind Creek Hospitality – Montgomery, Alabama Tourism Department, SCA Performance,  T-H Marine Supplies, Wedowee Marine, AFTCO,  Fish Neely Henry, Lew’s Fishing, Crossed Industries, YETI, E3 Apparel, TVA and Alabama Power.

For information about Alabama Bass Trail and for complete tournament standings visit