Prattville, Ala. – The Alabama River poses interesting challenges for anglers. With plentiful shoreline cover to choose from, and the variable of the current to factor in, a day of competitive fishing there is never a sure thing.
With so many things to consider, and so much on the line, the 225 team field of the Alabama Bass Trail’s Southern Division set out on Saturday June 23 to decide several things. Not only was there the question of who would win and collect paychecks in the final event; but also, the Southern Division Anglers of the Year title and who would automatically qualify for the 2018 ABT Championship in October on Neely Henry Lake in Gadsden.
For the individual event, the team of Gabe Aldridge and Wes Wiggins posted an impressive total of 15.88 pounds of Alabama River largemouth to claim victory and the $10,000 winner’s prize. They narrowly edged out Rob Lee and Steve Winslett, who posted a total weight of 15.83 pounds – anchored by the 6.10-pound Mountain Dew Big Bass of the event – to finish second for the day.
Aldridge and Wiggins said that they targeted the Swift Creek area of the pool, deciding to focus on backwater areas that had a mixture of shallow grass and boat docks. They said that they used swim jigs and a Flippin’ presentation to secure the victory.
They said they had a good day of fishing, catching 20 to 30 fish on black and blue or white swim jigs and watermelon red YUM Christie Critters and Big Texan Reaction Innovations Sweet Beavers. “We culled for the last time at about one o’clock today, but certainly didn’t think we had enough to win,” they said. “It hasn’t sunk in yet, this is the biggest tournament we’ve won, so it’s pretty amazing; we’re really proud of this.”
Lee and Winslet fished main lake tree tops that had fallen into the water. They used one of Lee’s homemade black and blue 3/4-ounce Flippin’ jig tipped with a Flippin’ Blue colored Zoom Super Chunk trailer. They also caught several fish on a 3/16-ounce Davis Baits Shaky Head with a Red Bug colored Big Bite Baits Finesse Worm.
Their finish surprised them. “We thought that we could catch 10 to 12 pounds, so this is quite a surprise,” they said. “But, that’s what happens when you luck into a six pounder; it really helps your bag. It was a tough day overall, but we did enough to be here, so the outcome was amazing.”
Heading into the final event, the team of John Pollard and Dallas Weldon were tied with Gentry Gordy and Chad Smith for the lead in the race. There were several other teams that were within striking distance of the leaders should they stumble. The first of the two teams to come through were Gentry and Smith, and they stumbled, leaving the door open.
However, when Pollard and Weldon dropped 15.11 pounds on the scales, they sewed up the Southern Division Anglers of the Year Title by finishing the day in seventh place; their total for the season was 1,032 points. That meant they earned slightly over 206 points per event, or a 19th place finish for the year. “This has been a great year, we really couldn’t have expected things to go like this,” they said. “This is the toughest field around, so to me standing here as Anglers of the Year is truly an accomplishment that really means something; we’re very proud of this.”
For complete standings, click here.