FLORENCE, Ala. — Grass-roots anglers from around the country will take to the waters of Pickwick Lake to compete for one of three berths into the 2021 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic during the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship Nov. 11-13, 2020.
Pickwick Lake bass will be gorging on threadfin and gizzard shad during the Nation Championship, according to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester.
The Tennessee angler believes the best lures to throw will be shad imitators like squarebill crankbaits, bladed jigs, spinnerbaits and swimbaits. Bass will likely be in 2 to 10 feet of water.
Lester suggests the tournament could be won on either end of the lake. “On the upper end of the lake you can fish the Wilson Dam tailrace in the headwaters of Pickwick,” he said. “There is a real good chance that is where it will be won because at this time of the year there are big smallmouth and big largemouth up there. If I was fishing the tournament that’s probably where I would spend a lot of my practice time.” However Lester suggests competitors could win if they find “a good concentration of big largemouth” feeding in some of the creeks on the lower end.
The tailrace could receive a lot of pressure in three days of competition, but Lester believes it still can produce a winner. “That tailrace is a hard deal to dial in, but if somebody really gets it dialed in those fish there will replenish,” he said. “The bass sit on very isolated little places, and if you catch what is there one day there will be some more there the next day. Those places replenish because the fish sit on those little feeding spots and when they are there they are there to feed.”
The local expert warns championship contenders to be careful navigating in the tailrace area because of submerged boulders. “You will tear your boat up if you don’t know what you are doing,” Lester said. “That is the land of the giants.”
Lester predicts the tournament could be won with all largemouth, all smallmouth or a mixed bag. “There is a good population of each in the lake, and that time of year it could go either way,” he said.
The contenders can expect to catch some quality bass during the championship. “It should be late enough in the fall that some of the fish have already started to put some weight on,” Lester said. “There should be a few 20-pound bags mixed in there, but don’t expect it to be a slugfest like if it was in March when you would see 24- and 25-pound bags.”
Takeoff is held at 6 a.m. CT from McFarland Park with weigh-ins held back at the park each day at 2 p.m.
The full field in both the pro and co-angler divisions fish the first two days. The co-angler champion will be crowned Thursday afternoon, but their work won’t be done. That winner will compete with the Top 10 pros on Championship Friday, as will the top two pros from each region who failed to make the Top 10 cut. Friday’s field also will include any co-angler who had enough weight to have finished in the Top 10 in the pro division.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Florence.