PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Anglers fishing all three 2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Opens presented by Allstate are being challenged with devilishly diverse fisheries. The first event, won by Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler, took place at Florida’s shallow, weedy, placid Lake Tohopekaliga.
The third stop of the series is slated for late October at Lake Seminole, a storied lowland reservoir in southern Georgia that shares a border with Florida.
The second Southern Open at the Alabama River, an aptly named run-of-river impoundment, will be held April 16-18. These fisheries are about as similar as Venus, Mars and Neptune.
The Alabama River originates just north of Montgomery, Ala., where the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers join hands and take their nuptials. Much of the water flows within the Alabama River’s original banks.
The water level and the current strength fluctuate constantly, which will force the Southern Open competitors to change locations and tactics throughout each tournament day.
Another major variable here is the fat, notoriously hard-fighting Coosa River spotted bass. The tournament may be won with mixed bags of spotted and largemouth bass. However, it can be done with spotted bass alone, as Edwin Evers demonstrated in May 2013.
That’s when Evers won an Elite Series tournament on the Alabama River with a four-day total of 75 pounds, 13 ounces. Every one of those ounces was spotted bass, including the 22-pound, 6-ounce limit Evers weighed on Day 3.
“The fishing on the Alabama River is always better in May than in April,” he said.
During Evers’ Elite tournament here, some of his competitors did well by braving rapids and boulders to fish the tailwater below the Jordan Dam on the Coosa River. Several boats were damaged on the rocks and some even got stuck.
That won’t happen at the Southern Open this month. Bassmaster tournament directors have made the Jordan Dam tailwater and other dangerous areas off-limits to avert a potential tragedy.
However, there is another long shot, which is running downriver and locking through to Millers Ferry. This stretch of the Alabama River is known for good largemouth fishing.
“The upper Alabama River fishes pretty small,” Evers said. “It could be won by locking downriver and getting away from the crowds.
The run-and-gun strategy that paid off for Evers should serve anglers well during the Southern Open. He ventured more than 125 miles each day to fish sweet spots in the current on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers and in the canal between the Alabama River and the Walter Bouldin Dam.
Casting a Texas rigged Zoom Z Hog Jr. and a spinnerbait did most of the damage for Evers. He also scored with a variety of crankbaits.
Because the Southern Open happens earlier in the spring than the Elite event that Evers won, there should be some late-spawning activity happening, and that might provide additional opportunities for kicker bass.
The spots spawn on the main river. The largemouth form beds in the backwaters, such as Tallawassee and Pintlala creeks and Crescent Lake. There should also be postspawn and prespawn largemouth in the backwaters.
However, the water will not be clear enough for sight fishing, points out Elite Series pro Russ Lane. Lane, who will be fishing this event, lives only three miles from the Alabama River and knows these waters intimately.
Lane finished 48th in the Elite tournament that Evers won and is a major threat to win this time around. He is equally adept at picking off largemouth in the backwaters and spotted bass on the main river.
“If there’s a lot of current, spots will be more prevalent,” Lane said. “If the current is slow, largemouth are more reliable.”
You can be sure that Lane will check the backwaters and the main river on the practice days preceding the tournament.
Anglers will take off each day at 6 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins will be held at 2 p.m. CT at Cooters Pond the first two days, with the final weigh-in on Day 3 held at the Bass Pro Shops in Prattville, Ala., at 3 p.m.
The local host of the event is the City of Prattville.