Brian Stiffler and Wesley Gore catch 20.19 pounds in 24 minutes to claim victory
By Jason Duran
Prattville, Ala April 9 – The South Division reached the midway point at the Alabama River- Cooter’s Pond. The river system has seen an abundance in water and current from recent rains. The banks were overflowing with water and pushed many fish into the back water areas and to areas normally not reachable by boat. Anglers made long runs and found non-typical areas to find the fish needed to win this event.
Brian Stiffler and Wesley Gore reeled in 20.19 pounds, a record weight in the ABT South Division for Alabama River, to claim first place and 10,000 plus bonuses and contingency money. The goal for them today was just to survive and collect some points. “Before this event we were doing well in the points, and we just wanted to keep adding to that. We had a good practice on Friday and found a spot that was holding some fish, so we hoped it would be there come tournament day.”
Each day of practice they paid close attention to the water levels. Recent rains caused the water to rise to flood levels. They noticed how the water was rising on the docks at the ramp and used that as an indicator for where levels were. They knew the water level needed to be high to reach the spot they had found. Wesley said he did some “really extensive google map study to locate these back water areas. “If you looked at the trails on our electronics for this event you would think we were fishing in the woods.” He noted this was an unmapped area, but it held water and was only accessible when the water is high. It was a risk, but it was something they were willing to give it a shot.
On tournament morning they noticed for the first time in the week the water had fallen over night. This did cause them some concern as to whether they were going to be able to get to their fishing spot. They decided to make the run and give it their best shot. Ryan describes this spot as “a ditch about the size of the front of his truck just stacked with fish. When the water fell overnight, it concentrated even more fish in the area.” They made it to the magical spot and quickly went to work using four key baits. A Zman 5/8 CrossEyez black and blue flipping jig, Megabass Magdraft 6 inch swimbait, Crusher lures swimbait head with a 3.8 rage swimmer and a Dirty Jig Canterbury crush jig. Time was not on their side. When they arrived at the spot the key to them was making the right cast. It was difficult to fish because of how specific the cast needed to be.
When they started making the right cast, the fish quickly came, and for 24 minutes they caught fish cast after cast and probably caught 20 fish. They culled up to what they felt like was a solid 19 pounds of fish then decided time was not on their side. They needed to leave because the water was falling fast, and they risked not being able to get out of the back water area if they didn’t leave quickly. Thankfully they made it back to the river and decided to head back to the ramp early. They made this decision because they didn’t want to risk tearing up their equipment and not making it back to the ramp to weigh in. When they arrived back around 9 am, they decided to order pizza and spend the remainder of the tournament resting in the shade. It was a long wait for the scales to open so they could weigh their limit. They not only held on to their points, but they moved up to second place in the standings just 14 points behind the leaders.
The second and third place teams made the long run to fish the Jordan Dam. This area is normally extremely shallow year-round and prevents boats from traveling as far as they did. This is a rocky area and can be seen from the bridges just how dangerously rocky is it at a lower river level. However, when the water rises it sends lots of spotted bass that love the current to feed. The rocks and high water make for some very strong current and causes fish to group up just out of the current and wait for the bait to flow by.
Adam Bain and Kris Colley weighed 19.27 pounds to claim second place and $5,000. This morning our main concern was “how low the water is going to be when we go upriver, we don’t know a lot about this place. We have only been here a few times, but everyone says they really bite up there when the flood gates turn on. We got just a couple bites in practice, and we felt it was our best shot to go upriver.” Throughout the day the team had to make changes and adjust to the flowing current conditions. “When we made changes, we caught fish. We really didn’t have fish particularly located so we had to move a lot. We worked an area of about a mile long and within sight of Jordan Dam.” When they found a good-looking spot,
they “made casts that were really close to the boat in the current seams.” The key for them were baits that could be fished in the current to create flash for the bass to see. “We use 1oz spinner bait with willow leaf blades, and we also used a 1 oz jig to flip to the current seam and let current pull the bait back to the boat just past the fish.” They said it was difficult to navigate the river up there. “We didn’t know much about the terrain up there other than what we have seen from the bridge when the water is down.” They caught two large spotted bass- one over 5 pounds at 5.10 and one just blow 5 pounds. Those two fish were the key to their second-place weight. “We really needed to cull one more fish to win today, but we are happy with our day.” They are currently sitting in seventh place in AOY Points for the year after this event.
James White Eugene Davis claimed third place with 18.61 pounds and $4000. The team shared they know this lake well. “Our experience on this river dates back 30 years.” Their practice was productive very early in the week and then it seemed to fade. “The bite has been tough in recent weeks. We spent a lot of time in practice last week and located a group of fish. However, the last couple days of practice the fish just seemed to go away.” Like the second-place team they made the long run up to the Jordan Dam to fish the areas they had located in practice. “Thankfully today the fish returned.” The team spent their day using a ¾ oz jig all day fishing current breaks and rock eddies. They shared, “this area is a really tough area to navigate, and it is easy to tear up your equipment in the rocks and rough current.” They looked for a couple key indicators when navigating, “real high waves are great indicators for where the rocks are. It’s important to steer away from the rocks and go between them.” We caught all our fish in a 50-yard stretch behind the rocks and current breaks. The water was so high it pushed water back into the woods, so we couldn’t reach where the water touched the bank.” They stuck with the plan of fishing the rocks and it paid off.
The Top 10 places are below for a complete list of standings visit: https://www.alabamabasstrail.org/alabama-river-cooters-pond/results/
Download and listen to the ABT Podcast on your favorite Podcast app by searching for “Alabama Bass Trail Podcast.” The podcast is released each week on Tuesday.
The sponsors of the 2022 Alabama Bass Trail include: Phoenix Boats, Academy Sports, Alabama Power, America’s First Federal Credit Union, American Trailer Rental Group, BAJIO, Berkley, Big Bite Baits, Bill Penney Automotive, Black Rifle Coffee Company, Buck N’ Bass, Anheuser – Bush, Inc., E3 Sports Apparel, Fish Neely Henry Lake.com, Garmin, Jack’s, Lew’s, Mountain Dew, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Power-Pole, Strike King, Sweet Home Alabama, T-H Marine, Wedowee Marine, Yamaha, Navionics and YETI Coolers.