COLUMBIANA, Ala. — Extended warmth has made the fall transition challenging this year, but Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Canterbury believes the milder conditions could deliver solid potential for the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on Lay Lake.
Competition days will be Dec. 3-5 with daily takeoffs from Beeswax Park at 6:15 a.m. CT and weigh-ins each day at the park at 2:15 p.m.
Making his home in Odenville, Ala., Canterbury calls Lay his home lake. Anticipating a good fall bite, he’s registered to compete on this 12,000-acre Coosa River reservoir that has played host to four Bassmaster Classics.
“Everything is really good, the water clarity is good, the water level is good,” Canterbury said. “We haven’t had any rain lately, but a little rain might help as far as current and a little color. The Coosa normally fishes a little better when it has a little stain to it.”
During his preThanksgiving practice trips, Canterbury found stable conditions. The water level is a few inches below full pool and that’s likely to remain fairly steady through the tournament.
Two weeks before the event, Canterbury was measuring Lay Lake water temperatures in the low 60s. He said he expects a minor cooling could reach into the upper 50s by early December. But, barring any major cold fronts, that should keep the fish active.
“I signed up hoping it would be a lot colder and maybe with a little more rain,” Canterbury said. “It’s probably not going to be those conditions, but everything will be good.”
Canterbury said he expects most competitive bags to include a mix of species. The common scenario will find anglers securing a limit of spotted bass and then hunting a kicker largemouth. Canterbury said the fact that the lake has recently produced impressive examples of both should bode well for tournament anglers.
“If you can just catch 3 1/2-pound spots, you’re doing well, but 4-pound spots are big ones on this lake,” he said. “There have been 6-pounders weighed in this year in tournaments that I’ve fished and in a recent tournament, a guy weighed in a largemouth over 8.
“I’ve fished a couple of tournaments (on Lay) this year where I had over 20 pounds and had 6-pound largemouths in the mix. There are a lot of 4- to 6-pound largemouth and a whole lot of 2 3/4- to 4-pound spots.”
Noting that Lay’s entire 48-mile length will be in play, Canterbury said specific site selection will come down to an angler’s target species. Largemouth will mostly relate to shallow grass and wood, while spots are typically found around standing timber, creek channels, current breaks and occasionally near shallow cover — provided bait schools are present.
“Spotted bass could be anywhere from the Logan Martin Dam (downstream) to the Lay Dam,” Canterbury said. “The largemouth are most prevalent from about midlake on down because that’s where you start getting into bigger feeder creeks and there’s more grass on this lower end.”
Canterbury said that the relatively mild water temperatures will likely make swimming a jig around the shallow cover one of the top largemouth presentations. Casting spinnerbaits and flipping jigs or Texas-rigged plastics into grass or cover will also produce. Those targeting spots will do so with jigs, swimbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and shaky heads.
“I’ve heard some people say it’s going to take 19 pounds a day to win, but it won’t,” Canterbury said. “Nineteen might be leading the first day, but if someone can catch 16 a day, they’re going to be right there.
“I think the winning weight will be (approximately) 49. That’s just a touch over 16 a day. If you catch 50 pounds, you’re going to be hard to catch.”
Canterbury said he wouldn’t be surprised to see someone weigh a 20-pound bag. However, he believes that doing so more than once is highly unlikely.
“Like everywhere in the country, it’s been a little tougher this fall than it normally is,” he said. “But Lay Lake is one of the best on the Coosa Chain, so it’s gonna be good.”
Since this is the final Eastern Open of the season, the Top 4 anglers in the Eastern Division standings after the event will be in line for invitations to fish the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series. The division’s current Top 4 includes Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., with 581 points, Joshua Stracner of Vandiver, Ala., (580), Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wis., (550) and Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fla., (541). Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., leads the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year Standings with 1,179 points.
The tournament is being hosted by Discover Shelby, AL.