FLORENCE, Ala. — Alabama and the Bassmaster Tour have a long and interwoven history. The Yellowhammer State is the birthplace of BASS, more Bassmaster tournaments have been held here than any other state, and Alabama is home to numerous anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
So it's no surprise to find anglers such as Aaron Martens and Steve Kennedy in the top five following Day Two of the Alabama Charge on Pickwick Lake. Martens, a native Californian who has lived in Leeds, Ala., for the past several years, is in third place, and Kennedy, who hails from Auburn, Ala., is fifth.
Other notable Alabama pros to make Friday's cut to the top 50 anglers were Boyd Duckett, 21st (Demopolis, Ala.); Derek Remitz, 25th (Grant, Ala.); Russ Lane, 31st (Prattville, Ala.); Greg Vinson, 43rd (Wetumpka, Ala.); and Randy Howell, 49th (Springville, Ala.).
But Pickwick wasn't as kind to some other notable Alabama pros, including Tim Horton, Matt Herren, Gerald Swindle and Kotaro Kiriyama.
Pickwick was an equal-opportunity butt-kicker. Other notable Elite Series pros to miss Friday's cut included reigning Angler of the Year and three-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam (57th), 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones (78th), 1999 Classic winner Davy Hite (79th), and four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn (88th).
Of the 'Bama pros, Horton was closest to the cut line in 53rd.
"It's just been a tough week," said Horton, who lives in Muscle Shoals, just across the Tennessee River (Pickwick is an impoundment of the Tennessee River) from the Alabama Charge weigh-in site at McFarland Park in Florence. "The whole deal is getting a four- or five-pound bite. I caught 100 fish yesterday and 100 fish today. Just not the right ones."
Horton said he felt good about the areas he fished, and why shouldn't he? He fished not far from the area where tournament leader Kevin Short pounded big stringers the first two days.
"I know I'm around them," Horton said. "But I just didn't get the big bites."
Off-the-water matters have made the past week an emotional one for Horton, which might explain his on-the-water troubles. Horton's grandfather suffered a massive heart attack nine days ago, and he remains hospitalized in critical condition.
In professional fishing, any loss of focus can mean a bad day or a bad tournament, and Horton admitted his mind has drifted from angling to his ailing grandfather this week.
"It's a tough deal," he said. "You try to close it out and concentrate on fishing, but it constantly pops into your mind."
Despite the disappointment of not performing well in front of the hometown fishing fans, Horton said being close to home has been a blessing considering his grandfather's condition.
"I can be thankful we were fishing here this week," Horton said. "At least I can go check on him and be close."