By Dan O’Sullivan
Jasper, Ala. – October 11, 2014 – A little more than a year ago, when the Alabama Bass Trail Tournament Series was announced, anglers from Alabama and the surrounding states leapt at the chance to sign up. To do so, they had to commit to all five tournaments in their division. But, with the stated prizes of a Phoenix Boats 619 and Mercury ProXS prize package, many anglers stepped up and did exactly that. In fact, the northern division filled up very quickly.
Amongst those were the team of Craig Daniel and Jackie Flack, tournament veterans who had proved their mettle over the years all over; but especially on Lewis Smith Lake, the venue for the inaugural Alabama Bass Trail Championship. Saturday, the pair of anglers proved once again that experience and willingness to continue learning could once again lead to victory.
After taking the day one lead with a stellar 17.74-pound limit on the first day of competition, Daniel and Flack arrived to the scales as the last of 117 teams to weigh-in. Needing 14.09 pounds to tie, the tension filled the air as the pair’s limit was placed in the ABT water weight scales. When the scales read 14.74 pounds, the tension was released and the celebration could begin.
“I didn’t think we had enough all days,” said Flack. “I really thought that we had slipped up and left the door open too much and we wouldn’t win. When I saw that we had enough, I was relieved. We signed up for the Alabama Bass Trail because we liked the potential of the payout and competition, and to have a chance to win this event right here; it is an amazing feeling.”
Daniel said that they relied on their knowledge of Lewis Smith Lake, and being able to learn to read the water, and the blueback herring; a non native baitfish in the lake. “These fish have really adapted to the (presence of the) blueback herring, and you have to be able to take advantage of the activity when they school,” said Daniel. “We ran a route that took us to Bailey’s Bridge and Back twice both days, and we caught them on a Heddon Super Spook and a Zoom Super Fluke.”
The pair reported using a one-two combination with Daniel working the front of the boat with the Super Spook topwater bait, and Flack using the Super Fluke soft jerkbait to appeal to spotted bass that were not willing to go all the way to the surface lure. The anglers reported being able to produce fairly evenly on both baits, saying that there were periods throughout the day when each of them would produce quality strikes.
The pair were rewarded with the first place prize package of a boat, motor, trailer was provided by Phoenix Boats, with electronics provided by Garmin. The total prize package is valued at $43,000.
The runners up were the team of Josh Aaron and Derrick Roberts who began the final morning in 10th place after a first day limit that weighed 14.76 pounds. They improved their catch to 17.05 pounds to bring their total weight to 31.81 pounds for the tournament.
The third place team of Jesse and Jordan Wiggins, also locals to Lewis Smith Lake, boated 17.11 pounds on day one to start the tournament in second place, but their day two weight of 14.50 pounds brought their total to 31.61 pounds, and they slipped to third.
Anglers overall reported a tougher bite on the second day of competition, largely in part because of the unstable weather conditions that buffeted the area the afternoon of the first day and overnight into day two. Despite the difficult conditions, most of the field reported enjoying the lake and the community of Jasper.
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., and Frogg Toggs, Inc., Go Pro, Gander Mountain, HydroWaveTM, Garmin, and Yeti Coolers.