Tournament Series Feature Story
Alabama Bass Trail Pickwick Lake with Donnie Beck
By Jason Duran
The Alabama Bass Trail North Division launches their season at Pickwick Lake with 225 teams looking to claim the $10,000 first place prize. Pickwick’s history of big bags caught in early spring as the largemouth and smallmouth turn on and tournament weights creep up to the 25 pound plus range set this up to be a great event. North Angler, Donnie Beck, says the fish are in a pre-spawn pattern, so he expects a good tournament with a possible 27-28 pound bag taking the win.
“With all the cold weather we had last week, the water temps have dropped 7 degrees from previous weeks, and the fish are still kind of shocked. In recent days, the water temps have come up over two degrees to 45.8,” explained Donnie. It will be interesting to see where the fish are and who is able to find them.
Pickwick Lake can be broken down in to three main areas: the Upper end around the Wilson Dam known as the horseshoe, the mid lake areas around the Natchez Trace bridge, and the lower end from Bear Creek all the way to the Pickwick Dam.
The spaces are limited and teams targeting fish at the upper end are typically fishing for smallmouth in the current. This weekend the current is predicted to be flowing very fast out of the Wilson Dam around 134,000 cubic feet per second. Donnie said that very strong flow “will make it a little tougher for teams to find a current eddy for the fish to stage in because much of it will be current with little or no breaks. This makes for very few areas that are actually fishable, so teams will have to share water making this area crowded.” If the water was 55 degrees and the current about 60,000, “the fish would really be eating in that area. But, the fish are still trying to get over this huge water temp change and just haven’t recovered yet.” Key baits to use when fishing the current this time of year are swimbaits and spinnerbaits. With the water so cold, anglers may “choose to slow down and fish a jig or something slow on the bottom if they can find some still water. In another month it will be a ned rig bite, but I don’t think it’s that time just yet,” he said.
In the mid lake area teams will be “looking to fish the isolated grass patches in 5-10 feet of water and points going into coves.” Donnie believes that the “mid-lake area down to the lower end is where the tournament will be won” saying, “it’s that time of year and the fish are ready. They are just sitting and waiting to do their thing, so we will probably see an 8-9 pounder caught.” He said, “the current will not be as strong in this area so here the current might actually help the bite. Moving baits like Chatterbaits, rattle traps, squarebills, red eye shads and jigs on the edges of drops” will be great for this area.
On the lower end teams will find fish on “that first drop where the water goes from 5 to 10 feet and the fish haven’t quite moved all the way up yet.” Teams can also find fish “in the creeks from the point to midway back.” Donnie said he didn’t “think fish will be all the way in the backs of creeks just yet, but they are headed there.” Baits in this area are the same as the mid lake areas. Donnie feels like there are some guys who “know this area who will do really well in this event.”
This tournament will continue to operate with social distancing guidelines. All anglers should make sure they have checked text messages and emails for the latest information and changes made to keep everyone as safe as possible during this time. There was a virtual meeting posted on the ABT Facebook Page past Monday night. Pre-tournament check in will be held at the Florence Coliseum at 702 Veterans Drive in Florence, AL.
All friends and family are welcome to attend this event; bring lawn chairs and practice social distancing. Everyone can watch the live weigh-in and over 4 hours of on-the-water live coverage on the ABT Facebook page and the ABT website. The launch and weigh in will be held at McFarland Park located at 200 James M. Spain Drive in Florence, AL.
The sponsors of the 2021 Alabama Bass Trail include; Phoenix Boats, Academy Sports, Alabama Power, America’s First Federal Credit Union, Berkley, Big Bite Baits, Bill Penney Automotive, Black Rife Coffee Company, Buck N’ Bass, Anheuser – Bush, Inc., E3 Sports Apparel, Fish Neely Henry Lake.com, Garmin, Jack’s, Lew’s, Buffalo Rock, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, Power-Pole, Strike King, Sweet Home Alabama, T-H Marine Supplies, Wedowee Marine, YETI Coolers.