WETUMPKA, Ala. – At 9 a.m. Thursday, Mike Iaconelli was feeling good about his first few hours of practice for Bassmaster Elite Series Toyota Trucks All-Star Week competition. The first event, a two-day tournament on Lake Jordan that begins Saturday, will cut the field from 12 to eight.
“There’s no water moving,” Iaconelli said. “It’s terrible. Fish are sitting out there suspended. It’s like the worst conditions you could have.”
But Iaconelli was catching fish. He landed a 3 1/2-pounder from deep water at 8:40 a.m. Shortly afterward, a school of bass pushed a ball of shad to the surface and began feeding on them. Iaconelli trolled to the schooling activity and started catching fish near the surface, including another one that weighed about 3 pounds. He also got his line snapped there.
“I’m trying to get a feel as to what these fish are doing when they’re moving water and when they’re not,” Iaconelli said. “I think I’m on to something, but you’ve always got to pay attention to the conditions. They way I want to approach this is with a clean slate.”
Hydropower generation has a significant effect on the bass population in this 6,800-acre impoundment on the Coosa River. Alabama Power operates seven hydropower dams on the Coosa River, including dams that form Lake Mitchell, Lay Lake and Lakes Logan Martin and Jordan. These are all relatively shallow lakes, where hydropower generation creates a strong current through them.
“This is how you want your practice to start,” Iaconelli said. “I’m pretty excited. If you can get them to bite when there’s no current, that’s a good sign.”
Casey Ashley was working topwater lures and shallow running baits around boat docks at mid-morning Thursday, waiting on power generation to start.
“It’s going to happen between about 1 and 4,” Ashley said. “The offshore bite will get real good. This whole chain of lakes is all about current. All it does is put the fish where you can catch them.”
Ashley had caught one “good” bass on a topwater bait early Thursday, but noted that it wasn’t a method he could rely on to advance to next week’s match-play format on the Alabama River.
“We’re not taking off until 7:30 (Saturday and Sunday),” Ashley said. “So about one of those topwater fish a day is about all you can count on.”
The Donalds, S.C., pro wasn’t complaining. In fact, he had a big smile on his face when talking about some of the other conditions that go along with All-Star Week.
“This is nice,” Ashley said, as he fished a cove without another Elite Series angler in sight. “You don’t have to worry about all those other boats.”
Ashley planned to spread his practice day throughout the length of the lake, but he was taking his time to thoroughly explore each place where he stopped and dropped his trolling motor.
“It’s so small, there ain’t no need to get in a hurry,” Ashley said. “You just fish your way up.”
A little farther up Lake Jordan, Gerald Swindle was drop shotting deep structure.
“You can spend four or five hours here and not get a bite,” Swindle said. “Then they turn the water on and things start happening.
“I’m going to fish deep most of practice. You can always go in and crash around and catch some shallow.”
Swindle thinks 10 pounds a day will be enough to make the top eight and advance to match play on the Alabama River. Once there, the anglers will be seeded according to how they finish on Lake Jordan. For example, the top angler after two days on Lake Jordan will be paired against the man who finishes eighth. But no weights will carry over from Jordan to the Alabama River.
“It’s hard to guess what would be best,” Swindle said. “I’m under the impression you want to be leading (after Jordan) and maybe get paired with somebody that might be struggling all the way through it.”
Swindle was “video game fishing” Thursday, watching a school of bass on his sonar as he put a drop shot worm on top of them. And it was working. He caught two small bass before landing one that weighed about 2 1/4 pounds.
Swindle joked about the success he was having with a spinning reel and light line, saying, “Aaron (Martens) will probably be out here with a 1-inch worm and 4-pound test.”
Martens remains missing in action at Lake Jordan. After winning the U.S. Open on Nevada’s Lake Mead Wednesday, he must complete a 1,660-mile drive before he can make a cast at Jordan. Martens, who lives in Leeds, Ala., is happy with the tradeoff – a win on Lake Mead vs. no practice time here.
When the conflict became apparent earlier this week, Martens told All-Star Week tournament director Trip Weldon, “I don’t need any practice time on Lake Jordan.”
Maybe he won’t. But the other 11 All-Stars seemed to be putting their practice time to good use Thursday.