FLORENCE, Ala. As the sun crested the trees overlooking McFarland Park and the launch of Day One of the Alabama Charge on Pickwick Lake, unanswered questions were answered as anglers took off toward their first fishing locations.
One topic on many minds was catching largemouth versus smallmouth bass. The smallmouth might weigh more on average, but they tend to be harder to find consistently. Largemouth are everywhere, but finding a bigger fish seems almost a matter of chance.
Fred Roumbanis is one who thinks smallmouth will be a factor this week, but he won't be targeting them.
"A guy can catch a big smallmouth and it will outweigh the largemouth," Roumbanis said. "Smallies spawn a little bit earlier, so they will be more current oriented. There were just so many guys fishing those areas. A guy who really understands that (fishing the tailraces) will be hard to beat."
Fishing on Pickwick, however, doesn't really have to be a choice between two species. Terry Scroggins thinks catching a quick limit of largemouth and then upgrading with smallmouth will be a good strategy.
"There's a lot of good smallmouth in here, so the chance to catch a 4- to 5-pounder is better," Scroggins said. "But there are more largemouth, so you can go out and catch a quick limit of 12- to 13-inchers and then go after smallmouth."
Another choice facing the 93 anglers this week will be to stay on Pickwick or lock through to Wilson. Scroggins won't be locking, instead turning his boat away from Florence in search of five solid keepers in the mass of fish available.
"I practice for half a day in Wilson, but when you have nine hours to fish, you are losing valuable time, so I'm electing to stay in Pickwick," Scroggins said. "I suspect I'll catch 100 fish today and I just have to hope I can catch five of the ones I need."
Unlike Scroggins, John Murray will be one of twenty or so boats heading to Wilson.
"The fishing is not nearly as good in Wilson as Pickwick, but the quality has been better," Murray said. "It's hard to go because fishing is so good here, but I would rather take my chance at catching a bigger one."
Murray will also get a shot at fishing Pickwick when the locks cycle back through in the afternoon. He's one angler who knows how to catch smallmouth and might have a shot at a big one when he gets through the lock.
"When I get back I should have a little over an hour to fish Pickwick," Murray said. "There are some real nice smallmouth here. They can be hit and miss — one guy can be on them one day and not the next, and I caught a 4-pound smallmouth in the back of a creek on a laydown."
Find out which decisions paid off when the weigh-in begins this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET at McFarland Park in Florence, Ala. Meanwhile, follow along with Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year leaders Skeet Reese and Greg Hackney on BASSCast on what promises to be a day full of fish catches.