Caleb McNeal and Taylor Luna finished just a few places outside the cut for the BASS Team Championship in 11th place AOY in the South Division. Foster Bradley and Nick Harris, the 3rd place finishers in the South Division, qualified to fish the BASS Team Championship on Lake Hartwell at Green Pond Landing, but are unable to attend this year. Their absence opened up an opportunity for Caleb and Taylor to fish, so this team is the focus of this week’s Alabama Bass Trail Bassmaster Team Championship Profile.
Caleb and Taylor both grew up fishing. Caleb grew up fishing with his dad and a fishing mentor who helped him. He said, “I fished with an older man who got me in the loop and taught me how to tournament fish. I spent several years fishing with him until he sold his boat and got out of tournament fishing. That’s when I bought a boat and started fishing solo and with a few buddies who didn’t really tournament fish. Then I met Taylor, and we started working together.”
Taylor is originally from Muscle Shoals and has spent a lot of time fishing Pickwick Lake; he even guided there for several years. A few years ago he decided he wanted a change from guiding, so he moved to Prattville and took a job at the paper mill. The Prattville paper mill is where Taylor met Caleb.
Once deciding to fish together as a team, they began winning local tournaments on Lake Jordan. Lake Jordan is Caleb’s home lake, and since moving to Prattville, Taylor also calls it his home lake. They had success fishing locally and were starting to see the success of their hard work, so they decided to look for more options to fish.
When the 2019 ABT schedule was released, Caleb and Taylor noticed Lake Jordan was on the schedule, so they decided to give it a shot. They began the season with a few goals- the first being win the Lake Jordan tournament and the second was high hope of making the BASS Team Championship. Little did they know they would achieve both of those goals in their first year!
They fished Lake Jordan near the dam “only worrying about how they were catching fish not what everyone else around them was doing.” Their experience fishing the current and being “able to find key boulders that are good one fish spots to catch a fish and move on to another spot” were factors that helped them bring home the win. They put those skills to work and were able to catch the winning bag of 22.06 lbs which surprised them as they expected it to take 24lbs or more to win.
With a 49th finish at Lake Eufaula they saw their goal of making the BASS Team Championship begin to fade away. Obviously, they weren’t happy with that finish, so they decided to cut their losses and move on. When Kay called to tell them a spot had opened up that would allow them to fish in the championship, they were excited but also a little worried. With the poor finish at Eufaula and thinking they weren’t going to make the championship, they decided to use the vacation days they had saved in case they made it. So, when Kay called to invite them to the fish, they didn’t know if they could take the time off work to even go. Thankfully everything worked out, and they will be able to fish.
Taylor has some experience on Lake Hartwell from fishing the Ray Scott Championship there a few years ago. Fishing electronics and deep brush piles are two of their strengths, and Hartwell has plenty of both. Both feel like they will have to fish some docks each day to get the largemouth bite that will be needed to help have a good bag. They “hate beating the bank and prefer to fish off shore” and for the water to be a little dirty. They plan to practice next weekend before the cut-off to hopefully get some ideas and begin to formulate a plan.
Caleb and Taylor agree with other teams that making the Bassmaster Classic would be a dream come true. They know the competition is tough but feel like they have already worked through some of the toughest competition by fishing in the ABT tournament series. The plan is to “stay calm and just go fishing.”
South Division AOY 11th Place
Lake Martin Place 117th Place
Lake Jordan Place 1st Place
Alabama River 26th Place
Lay Lake 37th Place
Lake Eufaula 49th Place