The 2019 Bassmaster Team Championship will take place on Lake Hartwell at Green Pond Landing out of Anderson, SC on December 11-14. Lake Hartwell has been host to the Bassmaster Classic in 2015 and 2018 and is currently a favorite spot for many other B.A.S.S. events. Lake Hartwell is often compared to Alabama’s Smith Lake due to its clear water and blueback herring, as well as an abundance of spotted bass. The lake will set up well for the 18 teams from the Alabama Bass Trail who have qualified for the B.A.S.S. Team Championship, especially the 9 teams from the North who have fished Smith Lake often on the ABT schedule. Over the next 18 weeks leading up to the Team Championship, we will spotlight each of the 18 teams who have qualified to fish the Championship.
This week’s spotlight is the team of Mitch Mitchell and Candler McCollum. They met while on the fishing team at Auburn University. Mitch didn’t start fishing with the Auburn team until his senior year, and since Candler already had a partner on the team, they didn’t fish together much at the time. It wasn’t until after graduation that they teamed up and started fishing together often and learned to work together as a team.
Their first year on the ABT was 2016, and like many teams in their first year, they had to learn and make some adjustments to this new level of fishing. However, in 2017 they returned as a team feeling like the North schedule was going to be a good year for them. There is a learning curve to fishing lakes at different times of year and in 2017 they felt like the schedule lined up well for them. This proved to be true for them with a win at the first event at Wheeler and a follow up win at Neely Henry Lake that put them at the top of the AOY in 2017 when the year came to an end, which qualified them for Bassmaster Team Championship in 2017 for the very first time.
Their first time at the Team Championship in 2017 didn’t go well for them. They said they never could pull practice together and kind of blew it on the first day after losing a few fish that could have helped them advance on the second day. Candler said even though the championship in 2017 was in Arkansas, where he calls home, it still was new water for him because he fishes mostly in Alabama now. They said they just didn’t execute well and the conditions were not the best.
In 2018 they continued to fish as a team but fell short of qualifying for the Team Championship with an 11th place AOY in the North. They didn’t give up on the hopes of getting back to the championship though. As soon as the schedule came out in 2019, they were both really excited about Pickwick, Mitch’s home lake. The team felt like that time of year was going to really set up well for them, and the goal was to win that tournament. Mitch said that win at home was the proudest moment for him this year. “The win at home is the hardest thing to do because so much is in your head you kinda beat yourself down.” After a 97th place finish at Wheeler, they didn’t think they were going to make the team, but a 24th place finish at Neely Henry helped them just squeak in.
They are looking forward to Lake Hartwell saying they plan to fish it like it’s Smith Lake. Candler fished Hartwell a few times a long time ago, and he feel it will “be a run and gun tournament where electronics will be of huge importance.” Mitch said, “you have to capitalize on catching fish when the herring are there; if you don’t see herring on your graph, you’re probably fishing dead water.” Once they find the bait, they plan to settle down and fire out some casts to try and catch them. They both like the run and gun approach to fishing when on Smith Lake as well and feel it is rewarding when they finally find fish and all the running around pays off. The fish do tend to roam around a lot, but Candler believes their roaming is not random, so you have to look for the pattern and use the maps to find out what structure and contours the fish are keying in on.
When asked what the plan is when they make the final day and have to face each other in a fish-off Candler quickly responded laughingly with, “dog eat dog.” However, they both agree they will figure that out when they get there and aren’t concerned with that part right now.
Both Mitch and Candler think it would be awesome to fish the Bassmaster Classic and have a shot to win the $300,000. It would be a great testament to what they have achieved as weekend anglers. They agree that the guys on tour are some of the best of the best, but the anglers fishing weekend team trails are also some of the best. Making the Classic by the way of the ABT team would be a huge accomplishment.
Finished 9th AOY in North with 929 Points
24th Neely Henry
Other notable stats:
2017 Win Wheeler
2017 Win Neely Henry Lake
2017 Overall AOY
They have fished the ABT North Division 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
The sponsors of the 2019 Alabama Bass Trail include; Phoenix Bass Boats, Bill Penney Toyota, Garmin, Academy Sports & Outdoors, America’s First Federal Credit Union, Alabama Tourism Department, T-H Marine Supplies, Jack’s, Wedowee Marine, Buffalo Rock, Fish Neely Henry Lake.com, Alabama Power Company, Lew’s Fishing, AFTCO, YETI, Big Bit Baits, and E3 Apparel.