Pickwick Lake

Feature Story

Joe and Michael Wooley Preview ABT North Pickwick Lake

By Jason Duran

This week the 2024 Alabama Bass Trail North Division gets started with the first stop at Pickwick Lake.  225 ABT North teams will all be fishing for an increased payday of $15,000 for first place. Will lots of money on the line there should be plenty of water to fish this year. Currently, the lake is about 1 foot above the summer pool. This is due to all the recent rains we have had. The TVA website has shown the Pickwick Dam and Wilson Dam will be spilling until further notice. This could play into the favor of the teams that really know how to fish Pickwick in the current. The father-son team of Joe and Michael Wooley have the experience needed and are ready to get the 2024 season started.

In 2021 the ABT North Division was at Pickwick about this same week in February. On that day there were 19 Teams that weighed in over 20 pounds. The first-place team weighed in at 29.04. It took almost 17 pounds just to get a check. With the high current and the high water levels, there are many anglers that will be successful this week and we could see some really good weights again. The only curve ball this week will once again be the weather. Yes, there’s another cold front headed to Alabama on an ABT weekend. Temps Saturday morning will be in the mid 20’s with highs just above 40 degrees. Teams that can fish the cold front will be successful.

Michael and Joe finished 5th last year with 19.60 pounds when the ABT was at Pickwick in May. They also finished 2nd in the AOY in 2023. “We have been catching some fish, and it has been changing every day. Last Friday they dropped the bottom out of the lake and they have been filling it up ever since, a foot a day every day since then. That really makes the fish move around. Fish are currently in the pre-spawn mode. On the Florence end, teams will be fishing the current and tail race. They will be catching them on Crankbaits and Rattle Traps. I like to throw moving baits in the winter. There is still a good bit of grass on that end. However, that might be taken out of play with the strong current being so strong. The dam always produces big smallmouth and it would have set up to be great but the flooding conditions have thrown it for a loop for sure. We had another tournament here a few years ago where they did the same thing. They bottomed the lake out, and five days later it was full pool again. In that event, 21 pounds won it still, but the weights fell off quickly.”

The lake can be roughly divided into three areas. “From the dam and the tail race being the first section. The mid-section with shallow bars and ledges runs from Kroger Island down to Bear Creek.  From Bear Creek to the Pickwick Dam is what I call my section of the lake. This time of year, the whole lake has been fishing really well. The winter trailer is taking 25 to 28 pounds every week to win. Those guys fish on my end of the lake more. However, the events up near Florence have seen the same weights recently.”

The team shared, “The biggest struggle this week is going to be fishing the rising water and the fish having time to adjust.  If this happened at the end of March, the fish would adjust quickly and run to the bank with the rising water. However, the fish need time to adjust and they need four or five days at this constant level for them to adjust. Also, the water is going from clear to chocolate milk this week.”  With the water high teams should be using a “chatterbait, spinnerbait, or crankbait. These baits are going to show up well in dirty water.  The water temps have been in the 53-55 degree range.  Teams will find fish trying to get out of the current. However, the smallmouth love the current, and there will be lot of teams fishing the current. We think there will still be lots of fish caught. It will be a lot tougher than normal but we expect to see the 23-24-pound bag to win this event.”

The Pre Tournament meeting will be held February 2016, 2024 at Florence High School, 1201 Bradshaw Drive, Florence, AL 35630. Check in 4:30 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. Pre-Tournament Meeting: Everyone seated by 6:30 P.M.

Blast Off & Weigh In: February 17, 2024 at McFarland Park, 200 James M. Spain Drive, Florence, AL 35630 at 7:00 A.M. or safe daylight. First flight due in at 3:00 P.M. 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 2024 Alabama Bass Trail Sponsors Include: Phoenix Boats, AMFirst, Landers - McLarty Chevrolet, McGraw - Webb Chevrolet, Rapala, VMC, Crush City, Buffalo Rock, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Jack's, Garmin, Alabama State Parks, Halo Fishing, Snag proof, NetBait, Bait Fuel, TH Marine Supplies, Power-Pole, Pro Guide Batteries, American Trailer Rental, Yamaha, Anheuser-Busch, Big Bite Baits and FishAlabama.org