Pickwick Lake Preview with Lance and Cole Walker
By Jason Duran
The Alabama Bass Trail North Division heads to Pickwick Lake for stop number 4 of 5. Teams are preparing hard to finish high in this event to move up in the AOY points race with hopes of making the BASS Team Championship as well as the ABT Championship. This week we caught up with the father-son team of Lance and Cole Walker. They both have vast knowledge of the lake and have been successful through the years fishing on Pickwick Lake.
The team feels like this tournament is setting up to be a non-typical Pickwick tournament. “In a normal year, this would be an offshore type of tournament with teams scattered out all along the ledges. In the morning, teams would focus on a shad spawn. However, the lake has thrown us a complete curveball of a year. We have had zero hot weather until two days ago, and it is not really that hot by normal May standards for the area. We have had little to no current this year.” To add to that, “the fish just aren’t out there on the ledges like they should be. In this event, there will be teams that catch them one way in practice, but on tournament day, they are going to catch them a completely different way. There will be some guys that catch them offshore, while others will catch them up shallow. They can’t catch then in practice because the fish are moving so much right now. It’s hard to get them pinned down in any one place. You know, you might scan a spot today that’s got them on it, but tomorrow, there’d be nothing left.”
“This lake is completely different with no current. The water temperature is still low- around 70, so the vast majority of the fish that we are seeing along with most of the bait fish are five feet deep or less. In the morning time, you can literally go anywhere and find huge schools of shad just down the bank. When that happens, it spreads things out. With no current and 90% of your baitfish population being five feet or more shallow, there is one thing everyone can figure out… If all your food is up shallow, that’s where the fish are going to be.”
When asked what sections of the lake can be productive under current conditions they shared, “because this is different than any other year, we have seen different styles of fishing recently. It’s been mainly about fishing around the Florence area, focusing on fishing, tail races and current. As teams move down the lake, they focus on the seven-mile island and the Trace bridge. In that area, teams focus on fishing bars and grass. This area is going to be a factor this year because we have a good grass crop which will be great for the lake as long as it keeps growing. With a great grass bite, you can stop anywhere on the main river, look across those big flats, and see shad moving. As you move down the lake, there’s even a little bit of grass between Trace bridge and Bear Creek this year. Those areas can be productive as well. Traditionally, the more you come towards Mississippi and Tennessee, those areas fish deeper and have more of a ledge style bite. This year might fish different though because it seems to be fishing more shallow.”
Productive baits for this time of year could be “a top water bait because that’s going to play into the Bluegill spawn. If somebody finds a shad spawn or some schooling on the flat with a shad spawn, the chatter baits are going to be awesome. There are still a few lingering bass that could be a garden fry and spawning. For those areas wacky rigs and even drop shots or shaky heads can be productive. In a normal year, we would tell you something like a big crank bait or a Carolina rig on the ledges, but that just isn’t there this year. The fish have seen a lot of baits recently with just over 600 tournament boats on the lake last weekend.”
“It’s a perfect storm for some guys who aren’t from around here to come in here and catch a good bag of fish by finding the bait and getting comfortable in the area. These teams can spend the day fishing grass and fishing to their strengths. We think it will take around 22-24 pounds to win this event, but the weights will probably fall quickly from there. It may take as little as 15-pounds to make the top 10. The big factor this weekend will be how much current they pull. If they pull more current on Friday, weights will go up for sure.”
Pre-Tournament Briefing was held via Facebook Live and YouTube on Monday, May 8, 2023, at 6:30 P.M. The Launch & Weigh-In will be held May 13, 2023 at McFarland Park 200 James M. Spain Drive Florence, AL 35630. Launch will be at safe daylight. All friends and family are welcome to attend this event, bring lawn chairs, and see some of the best bass teams in the country cross the stage. Everyone can watch the live weigh-in and over 4 hours of on-the-water live coverage on the ABT Facebook page, YouTube and the ABT website.
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, Mountain Dew, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Power-Pole, Strike King, Sweet Home Alabama, T-H Marine, Yamaha, YETI Coolers.