The focus of this week’s Alabama Bass Trail Bassmaster Team Championship profile is the 2nd place AOY North Division team of Grant Hopson and Wes Ward. For the second year in a row Grant and Wes finished 2nd in the AOY for the North Division. This finish qualifies them for the Bassmaster Team Championship on Lake Hartwell at Green Pond Landing out of Anderson, SC on December 11-14.
Grant and Wes started fishing together before Wes could even drive. Thankfully, Grant is a few years older, so he could drive. They first met at a deer camp owned by Wes’ uncle where they spent a lot of time hunting and became good friends. Fast forward a few years: Wes is a college graduate, and Grant has a business in Birmingham. When Wes moved to Birmingham, he decided to reach out to Grant saying, “thankfully he still had the same phone number.” After reconnecting, they decided to start fishing together again. In the beginning, “we just goofed off and fished Sundays after church not fishing tournaments- just fishing for fun.” Getting more serious, they decided to fish some of the smaller team trails. When they ABT started in 2014, they decided to give it a shot. Admittedly, that first year was hard for them. Both had moved to Huntsville and were working a lot, so they didn’t have much time to practice. They made the tough decision to sit out a couple of years and focus on work knowing if they were going be successful on the ABT they had to devote more time to practicing for the events. Two years ago they decided to give it another shot and signed up for the 2018 season. This time they put in the hard work for the events and had some good, consistent success that landed them 2nd in the AOY for 2018.
With such a successful year back, they decided to sign up for the 2019 season. They set the lofty goal of wanting to win the AOY, but more than anything Wes said the goal was “to win a stinking tournament” which can be hard knowing that “everything has to go just right for you win one of these things. It has to be the day of your life.” They had another successful year, but ended up in 2nd place in the AOY again.
Their experience fishing the ABT has been “first class with the best anglers. Anybody in Alabama is fishing the ABT.” The competition is really what drives them; “a lot of these guys are our friends, so we want to beat them just as bad as they want to beat us. Throw in the opportunity to fish the BASS Team Championship, and that is a whole other event in itself.” We really “enjoyed our opportunity to go last year where we ended up the top ABT team and are thankful we had that opportunity.” The ABT also “gives you the experience to go to lakes you have never been which is a lot of fun.”
Grant and Wes are looking forward to Lake Hartwell, a lake where neither of them have experience. At the time this article was written, the cut off for pre-practice was the upcoming weekend. Wes said it was possible he could get over there this weekend, but he “hasn’t ok’d this with mama yet, so there is a slim chance they will go.” Much time has been spent researching and talking about the lake. With the tournament still a few weeks away, the weather can change a lot between now and then which could change the pattern, so they want to go in with an open mind. The couple days of practice should be the time they really lock down what the fish are doing.
With last year being a first time experience, they “showed up to fish and did well, but this time they plan to fish totally different than last year.” They are “fishing for a win” and feel it is a great opportunity to have a chance to fish the Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville (which would be an opportunity of a life time.)
With only one event left this year, they are looking back to their pre-season goal to “win a stinking tournament” and hope this is the one they win! They aren’t fishing for second- they are fishing for the win!
North Division AOY 2nd Place
Smith Lake 31st Place
Wheeler Lake 22nd Place
Weiss Lake 41st Place
Pickwick Lake 17th Place
Neely Henry Lake 15th Place
North Division AOY 2nd Place
Fished ABT 2014, 2018, 2019