Jimmy and Jeremy Miller finished 4th in the South Division which qualified them to fish the BASS Team Championship on Lake Hartwell at Green Pond Landing out of Anderson, SC on December 11-14. However, they are unable to attend this year, so an opportunity opened up for Mike McCullers and Steven Welcher. Mike and Steven finished in 10th place AOY in the South Division Team and are the focus of this week’s Alabama Bass Trail Bassmaster Team Championship Profile.
When asked what it was like be chosen to fish the championship Steven laughed, “it’s actually kind of a funny story.” He shared that a couple weeks ago his phone started ringing from a number he didn’t recognize, and like most people these days, he tends to ignore these type of calls from unknown numbers. For some reason this time Steven decided to answer the phone and “give this telemarketer a piece of his mind.” He answered immediately saying “I guess you’re calling because you want to sell me some insurance.” Ironically the person on the other end responded, “No, but I would like to invite you to fish the BASS Team Championship.” The moral of the story is… if you fish the ABT, you need to save Ms. Kay’s number in your phone.
Mike and Steven both grew up fishing. Mike spent a lot of time learning to fish wading the river as a kid. Steven grew up pond fishing and river catfishing with his granddad. They both entered tournament fishing for the thrill of the competition. Steven grew up playing sports and tournament fishing is another way to feed his need for competition. “It is a great thrill to go out and compete against your buddies. It’s just something that’s in you to want to do,” said Mike.
Mike and Steven have known each other for a few years. Mike said, “we just called each other up one day and asked wanna fish and started fishing together.” A couple of years ago, they entered a few jackpot tournaments together and realized they might be able to make this team work. Prior to this year, Mike fished the ABT with another partner, but when this season rolled around, Mike’s previous partner wasn’t able to fish the ABT due to work. It was an easy decision for the newly formed team to continue their success fishing other trails and give it a shot fishing the ABT South Division. The team feels like the ABT is a good Trail, and they enjoy the friendships they have formed while fishing the ABT and plan to continue fishing it.
Their first year fishing as a team on the ABT was a learning experience for them. Mike wasn’t able to practice a lot because he worked out of town, but Steven was able to spend some time practicing. A little practice added to previous knowledge of how some of the lakes fished helped them put together a game plan for what they would do on tournament day. They enjoy fishing all the lakes on the trail and believe they are great producing lakes. Like a few other teams we’ve talked to, they agree that the Alabama River gives them a little trouble and Lake Eufaula is a tough lake for them. Lake Martin is considered their home lake, but Mike likes Lay Lake more.
One tournament that stood out for them this year was their 6th place finish at Lake Eufaula. Around 11:00 they only had approximately 11 lbs in the boat. They “kinda ran out of options” and decided to make a move to a spot Steven found while practicing on Friday before the tournament. When fishing the spot, he got a really good bite so he didn’t make another cast on that spot deciding to save it for Saturday. In a last ditch effort they cranked the boat and made the move, and it wasn’t long before they caught over 24 lbs on that spot. This catch not only secured them a 6th place finish but also earned them enough points to end the year in 10th place with a hope that just maybe they would get that phone call from Ms. Kay.
Both are honored to be chosen to fill the vacancy left by the team that could not attend. They humbly admit, “it would have meant more to have qualified in the top nine, however, we are excited to have the chance to fish and represent the ABT at the BASS team championship adding that “the only reason we are going is to represent the ABT well.” The team is looking forward to Lake Hartwell and has already begun to research the lake. Mike fished a Weekend Series Championship there a few years ago, so he has a working knowledge of the lake. They also fished a BASS Team Championship before and look to build on the experience fishing at that level. A fish head spin and a spoon are just two of the key baits they feel will be in play on Lake Hartwell that time of year. They plan to do a lot of work to prepare for the Championship and are ready to see how well they can do this year.
AOY 10th Place South Division
Lake Martin 42nd Place
Lake Jordan 52nd Place
Alabama River 76TH Place
Lay Lake 53rd Place
Lake Eufaula 6th Place