by Dan O’Sullivan
When B.A.S.S. announced the Bassmaster Team Championship format prior to the 2014 season, Kay Donaldson, director of the Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series, was one of the first to sanction her trail with the organization. Her reasoning, much like her method behind the operation of her tournament series, was to provide opportunities to the anglers for whom she cares so deeply.
Now that the inaugural ABT season is behind us, and Daniel and Flack have won the championship at Smith Lake, the business for the top finishers of the trail turns to DeGray Lake in Bismarck, Ark. The teams that finished in the top eight in each division will represent Alabama Bass Trail at the Bassmaster Team Championship, and if everything goes well, one member of those teams will compete in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell in Greenville, S.C., in February.
One of those teams is the Northern Division team of Hadley Coan and Scott Keeling. Coan and Keeling wound up the 2014 season in second place, 14 points behind Anglers of the Year William Davis and Tim Cummings. The pair’s strong season included a 14th finish at Guntersville, a 19th at Neely Henry and a season-high fifth place at the final event on Logan Martin.
They attribute their year to being Guntersville junkies who have spent a lot of time on Coosa River impoundments, which is one of the reasons they signed up to fish the Alabama Bass Trail. “For the past several years, Scott and I have fished only on Guntersville, but we wanted to get back to fishing multiple lakes,” said Coan, a resident of Huntsville. “We had kind of gotten bored fishing one lake, and we saw the schedule and the opportunity to fish more lakes and win great purses, so we signed up.”
The chance to compete at a national event that qualifies a team angler for the Bassmaster Classic also is one of those benefits about which they are excited. “Once we got into a position to qualify for the (Bassmaster) Team Championship, we got pretty excited about it,” said Coan. “We are going there with the hope of winning the event, but at the same time, we hope it gets the attention of more team tournament circuits so that the participation increases, and a winning team can both go to the Classic.”
Even with the fact that only one angler will receive a slot in the Bassmaster Classic, both anglers know that they can take pride if one or the other angler wins. “We’re very close friends, and if we get to the head-to-head portion, we will be happy for the other guy if he makes it,” he said. “It will be easy to root for him if he is doing better than me and moves on.”
As far as the business of fishing DeGray Lake, Coan said he has done some research on the Internet, but said he has not found a plethora of information available on the fishing. “I haven’t found much, but from what I have seen, it is a deeper, clear water lake a lot like (Lewis) Smith Lake, and we’ve got some experience there to draw from,” he said. “I can tell you that I wish there were three days of practice instead of two, but we’ll get there and do the best we can.
“We had a fun year fishing the ABT, and we hope that we can get there and do a great job of representing our state as well as the Trail,” said Coan. “We’re excited about the opportunity and feel a sense of pride about going, and hope we can have a larger sense of pride by being one of the highest finishing teams to have a chance to go to the Classic in February.”
The Bassmaster Team Championship will be held from December 9 – December 13, 2014, on DeGray Lake outside Bismarck, Ark. Follow the Alabama Bass Trail anglers who have qualified to compete at www.bassmaster.com, and sign up to fish the Alabama Bass Trail next year for your chance to win cash and great prizes, qualify for the ABT Championship and have a chance to fish the Bassmaster Classic Championship.
The sponsors of the 2014 Alabama Bass Trail 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.; Frogg Toggs, Inc.; Go Pro; Gander Mountain; HydroWave™; Garmin; and Yeti Coolers.