ABT Wheeler Lake Championship Preview

ABT Wheeler Lake Championship Preview
with Luke Dunkin
by Dan O’Sullivan

The 2015 Alabama Bass Trail Championship is just around the corner. By this time next week, the teams that qualified for the championship event will be practicing on Wheeler Lake looking for the type of fish that will earn them the keys to the Phoenix prize package complete with Phoenix 819 Pro complete with a 200 Mercury, Garmin electronics, 2-Garmin VIRB Elite cameras, HydroWave H-2, T-H Marine Atlas Hydraulic Jack Plate and Minn Kota trolling motor.

The site of this year’s event is none other than Wheeler Lake out of Decatur’s Ingalls Harbor on October 9 – 10, 2015. Wheeler Lake, a Tennessee River impoundment, has proven to be one of the more challenging fisheries for anglers of all levels in recent years. While years past would have seen a large percentage of the field take up position on the grass laden Decatur Flats, that won’t be the case this year. With the lake largely devoid of grass, we thought we’d talk to someone who could give us an idea of what to expect.

Luke Dunkin, an executive at Alabama Bass Trail partner T-H Marine, competed on the ABT Northern Division in 2015, won an FLW Tour event in 2015 as a Co-Angler and grew up fishing Wheeler Lake. With so much history on the lake, who better to speak to the outlook of the event.

“I think it’s going to be a lot tougher than most people think,” said Dunkin. “I would expect that it will take 32 to possibly 36 pounds to win for two days; unless somebody gets on something stellar, I’d expect the winning weight to be between 32 to 33 pounds.”

His reasoning revolves around the state of Wheeler Lake and the time of the year. “The time of the year really has a lot to do with it,” said Dunkin. “This time of the year on the Tennessee River, bass start to leave their offshore haunts and they really scatter and feed on the young of the year shad all over the lake. When you add that to the fact that there is no real grass to concentrate the fish; fishing is going to be hit or miss.”

He said that anglers could rotate through many areas before finding cooperation. “It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that teams hit 10 to 15 spots each day and only found fish biting in two of them,” he said. “These fish are on the move and they are not grouped up in big bunches.”

As for what kinds of techniques he thinks might play a part. He said there were a few thoughts that came to his mind. “I could see crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs playing a role, as could topwater baits and swimbaits,” he said. “Any one of those could wind up being the lure that wins the event.”

He does have two wildcard options that could blow his theories out of the water. “The only thing that could really make me eat my words is finding out that somebody was able to get on a new bite of fish at the tailrace of the Guntersville Dam, or that someone found an isolated group of fish down lake,” he said. “Outside of those two, I really feel like most of the teams will be fighting for areas and timing on the upper ends of the lake.”

The 2015 Championship of Alabama Bass Trail begins Thursday October 8 with mandatory event check-in and year-end banquet at Ingalls Harbor 701 Market St. NW in Decatur, AL. Both days of the tournament takeoff and weigh-ins will also take place Saturday at Ingalls Harbor.

The sponsors of the 2015 Alabama Bass Trail include: Bill Penney Toyota, the Alabama Tourism Department, Phoenix Bass Boats, Inc., Garmin, Academy Sports & Outdoors, T-H Marine Supplies, Inc., Alabama Power Company, Buffalo Rock, Inc., Jet-Pep, Inc., Tennessee Valley Authority, and Frogg Toggs, Inc., HydroWaveTM, Alabama Foundation Specialist, Boat U.S., LEER, Vicious Fishing, E3 Sports, Inc., Costa Del Mar, Frogg Toggs, Inc., Power-Pole,  Window World and Yeti Coolers.

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