MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Anyone who was on the Alabama River near downtown Montgomery in the past week knows that this water hasn’t been its usual self.
It’s been high – 10 feet higher than usual in most spots. And the current? Well, the current has been so fast that water is racing downstream at 10 miles an hour and sometimes higher. Heck, if you take a look at the Bassmaster.com photos from the past few days, you’ll see pictures of anglers fishing near dams with what looks like Niagra Falls as the backdrop.
It’s been flooded, it’s been fast. And yes, it’s been strange.
And then, on Saturday, during the third day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite, things changed drastically.
In a nutshell, they started to get back to normal.
The water fell, by as much as four of five feet in some areas and it continued to fall throughout the day. Bushes and trees that were flooded on Thursday and Friday became visible. There was a flooded campsite on the Alabama that Shaw Grigsby fished on Friday that was open water – literally.
Saturday, there were benches and tables visible in the same area with nothing but water marks remaining to remind him of what had been.
You get the picture.
So with the rapidly falling water came a wildly varying bite – a much different look than the 50 remaining Elite Series pros saw during the first two days of this event. Some of the anglers whacked them, some didn’t. But all, however, had to adjust -- at least a little bit.
Take Grigsby for instance.
“It was drastic,” the long-time Florida pro said. “In my best area (the aforementioned campground) there was no water there. There were park benches. You couldn’t see any of that. That’s how much it dropped. That completely repositioned the fish, so you just had to hunt around and find what you could.”
Grigsby changed spots and caught a limit, but not enough to get him into the Final 12 cut.
Then there was Hank Cherry, who had issues with a local park, as well. Thirty minutes before the first day of action ended, he found a spot with a lot of water movement not ¼-mile from the Cooter’s Pond Launch in nearby Prattville. He was successful there, and hit the area again for a nice limit on Friday.
Saturday? Completely different ballgame, Cherry said.
“I didn’t realize why I was doing so good,” the tour rookie said. “I went back today, and the place where I was catching them so good was on top of a picnic table. I could see a barbecue grill that I think was a good fishing spot yesterday. Of course, I didn’t know that until the water started to fall.”
Tommy Biffle tore up his lower unit trying to reach water way up the Tallapoosa River on Thursday, but still managed to make his way into the cut to 12. The extremely high water gave him the notion he could reach those usually inaccessible spots, but he had to dial down his fervor a bit on Friday and Saturday.
“It let me get into a place where you can’t normally get into with a regular boat,” Biffle said. “The water looks like it drops about four feet everyday….You just have to fish a new area every day. I like having to hunt them.”
But his best spot remained off limits – at least after you blow a lower unit.
“The place where I was going to fish, I fished in practice in the really high water and I could have caught 18 to 20 pounds in 30 minutes there,” he said. “I’ve not hardly caught a fish in that area since. Now, the water’s too low and it’s not running hard.”
Randy Howell had little problem boating early keepers in the Bouldin Dam Canal, which is about a 30-minute run from the launch point. He did so again on Saturday, but the quality of his bite went downhill after getting a limit before 8 a.m. He bagged 12 pounds, 3 ounces, which let him squeak into 12th place and allowed him to fish on Sunday.
Still, he said the lower water levels had a lot to do with him having to sweat out his place in the Top 12.
“It went down a good 3 ½ or 4 feet overnight at my best spot,” Howell said. “The fish had been positioning off a point in that canal in about 13 foot of water. Then all of a sudden, it was about 8 foot deep there and what they had been using for a feeding spot just turned off. They moved someplace else.
“You really can’t make it better, you just have to fish someplace else and try to figure out what depth they’re in. It takes time. And when the water drops like that, the fish take time to adjust.”