Wheeler Lake

Recap Story

Phillip Harrell and Clint Gilbertson Win ABT 24.28

By Jason Duran

The Alabama Bass Trail North Division hosted its third stop at Wheeler Lake, where 225 teams competed for the top prize of $15,000. Wheeler Lake was in excellent condition for the event, with many teams reporting successful catches of both pre and post-spawn fish. However, the wind was a significant factor that affected the competition. A southeast wind blew many anglers off the flats and forced them to explore new waters. Teams that could adapt to the wind's direction managed to catch substantial bags and climb up the leaderboard. At the end of the day, the team of Phillip Harrell and Clint Gilbertson emerged victorious, with a total weight of 24.28 pounds of Wheeler Lake Bass.

Phillip Harrell and Clint Gilbertson were pleasantly surprised by their finish in the fishing tournament. After a practice session, they felt they had located some good fish but went fishing without any specific plan. The team made a short run upriver to fish current seams, a ditch, and rock piles. They quickly caught their first fish using a Norman Sexy Shad Square bill in the ditch. They moved a little to fish the rock piles and current seams, where they shared the area with Ryan Adcock and Jonathan Marsh. The two teams cooperated well, and that gave Phillip and Clint confidence that there were fish in the area. They figured out that the fish were feeding but had to determine what they wanted to catch them. They swapped spinner baits a couple of times and ended up using a Terminator 3/8 oz Spinnerbait with willow and Colorado blades. The color was chartreuse and white, but they pulled most of the chartreuse out of it. Later in the morning, they left the spot to try another area downriver, but they quickly realized they needed to get back to the main spot. They believed the bigger fish were there. This time they set up a little differently and fished back a bit, using a Big G Custom Swimbaits Made by Joe Thompson and a Green Pumpkin chatterbait. The team also shared the area with the third-place team also fishing close by in a similar pattern. We often say that in tournament fishing a lake can fish small. With the conditions today, it proves that can often be the case with three teams catching a big weight off one area. With this win, they collected $15,000 plus a Garmin Bonus of $300.

Adam Bain and Kirs Colley caught 20.53 pounds of fish, earning them second place in the tournament. During practice, they located two fish on a bed and planned to return to catch them. On the day of the tournament, they started in a new spot and caught a four-pounder right away, which surprised them since no one else was there. They described the spot as a shell bar, located directly across from the landing. After catching the first fish, they moved to the pocket where they had located fish during practice and quickly caught them. They noticed that the area seemed to have improved and there were more fish on the bed.  Earlier in the week, they had checked the bed fishing area and found very few fish due to the mess created by the carp. Even on Thursday, the water was still muddy and there was little activity. They believe that the water stabilized and came up a little, which helped the area and cleared up the water, allowing them to catch more fish. They used crawfish-style baits and kept them in front of the fish on the bed. It was an all-day struggle, but they caught their last fish at about 3:45, just in time for the weigh-in at 4:00. They said “We were lucky to have caught what we did and are excited about the outcome,” which earned them a $7,500 check for a day's fishing. 

The third-place team of Delano Green and Delano Green Jr. finished third. When asked how they felt about this finish they said “We would have liked to have been in first place but against this group, it feels awesome. This is the best when it comes to team fishing.” When asked how practice went, they said, “A few weeks ago we had an awesome day fishing a swim jig. This was really before we had it figured out, and we had 27 pounds between the two of us.” The team knew there were some good fish in the area and Delano Sr. came back a couple of days later and caught 19 pounds, but on that day he started to figure it out when he saw the fish start to spit up shad. He also saw shad running the bank and realized that this bite might be a shad spawn early morning bite. They continued to work on that pattern and ran the entire lake dam to dam looking for it and found the two areas close together where they would focus on during the tournament. They were a grass bed with a shad spawn and a few rock piles with current seams. The morning of the event they headed to the main spot they located in practice. When they arrived at their spot they found a couple of other boats fishing in the area. They didn’t know it at the time but the first-place team was close to the area and another team was fishing between them. The other team was set up differently than the way the Greens would have fished it “so we decided to fish around in the area with a swim jig for about 30 minutes to give the other team time to fish the area.  When we doubled back to fish the spot the other team had moved to another current seam so we were able to move in a little closer. We lost a big small mouth and it was close to the other team. We asked the guys if they wanted to slide back off the spot so we could fish it together and they did. We both then finished out our limit fishing here.” When asked if they felt sharing the water caused them to have less weight, the team disagreed and said they fished clean. If the wind wasn’t blowing, they knew of some areas where they could have caught a few four-pounders off the bed but they decided to stay since the wind was blowing so bad.  They didn't want to leave fish to find fish. The key baits were a Keitch Swimbait in Tennessee Shad and Dirty Jigs No Jack Swim jig. They weighed in a total of 19.99 pounds and collected $6,000 plus a Phoenix Boats Pay Day Bonus for $2,500.

With the season reaching the hallway point anglers are now paying attention more to the AOY Standings here is the Current top 12 after 3 events:


1 Fisher Anaya/Ryan Anaya 651

2 Justin Bussey/Ben Webb 640

3 Damien Willis/Tyler Kiker 633

4 Craig Grubbs/Matt Ferguson 628

5 Bryan Dowdy/Kyle Lewellen 602

6 Bret Harrell/Tyler Smart 587

7 Mark Condron/Ted Paisley 576

8 Ty Cox/Cameron Gautney 570

9 Dillon Tucker/Greg Tucker 569

10 John Kellet/Zeke Gossett 560

11 Stephen McAvoy /Josh Butts 557

12 Chris Brittain/Eric Springer 554

The top ten standings are below for a complete list of standings please visit: https://www.alabamabasstrail.org/wheeler-lake/results/

Download and listen to the ABT Podcast on your favorite Podcast app by searching for "Alabama Bass Trail Podcast."  The Podcast is released each week on Tuesday.

For Live coverage of this event and others visit https://www.youtube.com/@alabamabasstrailtv