High water, high drama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The last time the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers visited here, Gerald Swindle targeted, in his words, the "poop pipe" to find any trace of current in the Alabama River.

That was during a hot August 2011 finals of the All-Star Event, when a water treatment facility outlet provided some periodic flow in the river.

Finding rapidly flowing water isn't going to be a problem this week at the Alabama River Charge presented by Star brite. There is so much water moving through the Alabama River, the take-off site for the four-day event has been moved from downtown Montgomery to Cooters Pond in Prattville.

As far as bass fishing is concerned, that's a good thing.

"It's up in the trees," said Bill Lowen, the Ohio native who loves to fish river systems. "We're going to catch them big-time. I wouldn't be surprised if it took 20-pounds a day to win.

"I could be way off, but there are just too many 3- to 5-pound spotted bass in this river for me to be totally off-base."

Home-field advantage is always questionable in a bass tournament, especially at this level. Often a new set of eyes finds an unexpected gold mine on any body of water. However, even local anglers like Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., haven't seen the Alabama River like this, and it's not just due to the high flow.

"This river is fishing totally different than I've ever fished it," Herren said. "It's been a really strange weather year. The spotted bass and the largemouth haven't spawned yet. Everything is behind."

Herren's remarks aren't meant to indicate bass fishing is going to be as tough as it was last week on West Point Lake. The spotted bass and the largemouth bass are biting, but this is an unfamiliar landscape.

"It's a best-case scenario," said Mike McClelland. "The high water has created lots of cover. I think you could win this tournament just on spotted bass."

McClelland guessed it would take almost 13-pounds a day to make the top 50 cut and 18- or 19-pounds a day to win this event.

Kevin VanDam sees this tournament shaping up the same way. "This is a great fishery and a lot of fish are going to be caught," said VanDam, the seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. "Because of the current, it's going to make it a lot easier.

"After three days of practice, I think it will take 16-pounds a day to be fishing on Sunday (when the field is cut to the Top 12). And you could get there by catching spots or largemouth."

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