John Kellett and Zeke Gossett win ABT Smith Lake with 17.88
By Jason Duran
The 10th Season of the Alabama Bass Trail began on Lewis Smith Lake in Walker County. Anticipation was high for this first event of five in the ABT North Division. A full field of 225 teams, including over 70 new teams, joined this year. They were all primed and ready for this event, and even the nasty weather couldn’t stop the best team anglers in the southeast from catching solid limits of Smith Lake bass.
During practice for this event, teams reported catching fish in ditches and suspended off shore. The key baits in practice were swimbaits, shaky heads and crankbaits. Throughout the week, the weather was on a warming trend, but on tournament morning, the weather conditions changed and brought cooler temperatures and lots of wind rain in the afternoon making the conditions horrible.
The first-place team of John Kellett and Zeke Gossett caught 17.88 pounds. They spent time in practice “trying to figure them out. With the sunny days in practice, we caught fish a lot shallower than we did today. With the cloud cover and rain, we had to make adjustments. We didn’t catch our first fish till 10:30. We discussed leaving the plan to go and catch a limit and come back but sometimes being hardheaded pays off. We stuck with the plan, and after making the decision to stay, we caught one over 4-pounds and knew we were doing the right thing. We were boat 154 with a 4:30 check-in time. We felt the fish would pull up later in the day, and the late check-in time would help with that. We made the adjustment from the shallower water and felt the fish move out a little deeper. In practice, the fish were in the 1-foot range, but today we found them form 1-12 feet range. The productive areas for us today were the deeper banks. We would put the boat in 20 feet of water and fish the bank swings. We covered a lot of water, running and gunning looking for those channel swings along the bank. We caught only five keepers today, but they were the five needed. We caught them on a Strike King Rage Swimmer Swimbait Electric shad used a belly weighed hook.” For the win they collected a $10,000 payday plus a $2000 AmFirst Bonus.
The second-place team of Terry Tucker and Jeremy Green caught one or two small fish during Friday’s practice with a game plan today to just go fishing. “We targeted fish in staging areas. We didn’t really find anyone else doing that. The depth range was anywhere 8-12 feet in the back of pockets. We attacked those areas. We could see them on the graph and kept fishing those areas all day. Today it worked for us. The water clarity was stained, and the water temps were 52-53 degrees. We bounced around and hit about 3 or 4 areas continuing to rotate though them. We caught fish most of the day with a midday lull. The morning bite was good, and we had a limit by 9:00. This is our second year to fish the ABT, and we feel this is the best competition in the south.” They fished the whole day using crankbaits targeting fish on different brands of mid-range crankbaits in a shad patterns. They shared that they are from the Gadsden area and are “really looking forward to the Neely Henry Lake tournament later this year.” For their second-place finish, they weighed in 17.55 and earned $5,000.
Craig Daniel and Jackie Flack are no strangers to the Smith Lake Leader board. They have had much success on this lake throughout their many years of fishing it. They weighed in 17.27 pounds- enough for third-place in this event and a $4000 check plus the $2,500 Phoenix Boats Pay Day and the $500 Garmin highest finisher for a total of $7000 including bonuses. “Depth and color mean a lot here and finding the right conditions are key at Smith Lake. The temps changed a lot, but the water temp didn’t fluctuate much so we felt the fish would be doing some of the same things today. We started out in a ditch in about 25 feet of water and caught three out of it. We moved to another ditch and caught three more, moved once again and caught about 10. We pulled the trolling motor about 100 times today fishing lots of water. We figured out we needed to focus on smaller ditches instead of big ditches. The jig bite was better today and that surprised us. The fish were tight to the bottom. You can catch one and see on the Garmin Live Scope about 10 come off the bottom with it. We caught them on a homemade jig in green pumpkin. The key to the jig was a heavy weed guard that kept it from getting hung up in the wooded areas where we were fishing.”
The top five standings are below for a complete list of standings please visit:
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The sponsors of the 2023 Alabama Bass Trail include: Phoenix Boats, Academy Sports, Alabama Power, America’s First Federal Credit Union, American Trailer Rental Group, BAJIO, Big Bite Baits, Bill Penney Automotive, Black Rifle Coffee Company, Anheuser – Bush, Inc., E3 Sports Apparel, Fish Neely Henry Lake.com, Garmin, Jack’s, Lew’s, Mtn Dew, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Power-Pole, Strike King, Sweet Home Alabama, T-H Marine, Yamaha, YETI Coolers.