Elite Series heads to Alabama

With five Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments remaining, BASS heads back to the state in which it was founded. The Elite Series makes its fourth stop of the season at Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., for the April 29-May 2 Alabama Charge.

BASS has visited Pickwick Lake, a 47,000-acre Tennessee River fishery, for six events, including a 2002 Southern Open won by Boyd Duckett of Demopolis, Ala., with 33 pounds, 8 ounces, through three days. Finishing second to Duckett, the 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion on Alabama's Lay Lake, was fellow Alabaman Randy Howell of Springville.

Howell, in 45th place in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings after last week's Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake in Huddleston, Va., said he thinks the Elite pros will hit Pickwick Lake during a transition period. Because northern Alabama has basically gone straight from winter to summer this year, he said, much of the bass spawn will be finished, contrary to the typical calendar.

"The lake is all of a sudden starting to get grass," Howell said. "The milfoil is growing like Guntersville, and over the past year there have been big weights in local tournaments on the lower end. Anytime they're in the grass, fish multiply."

Howell thinks some spawning will continue, but the majority of the fish at Pickwick already will be moving into postspawn mode. Pros likely will rely on dragging a lot of plastics — Senkos, lizards and big worms — with some topwater fishing in the mix. He said fishing a little bit slower will be key.

"I don't think they'll be moved out all the way to the summer pattern," he said. "They'll be just transitioning into postspawn. We'll see some fish caught offshore but not real deep, maybe 6 to 10 feet deep; but most of the weights will come from the shallows — shallow grass, stumps and backwaters.

Howell predicted the four-day weight to win the Alabama Charge might be around 70 pounds of largemouth, roughly 18 pounds a day. He said the tournament will see some mixed bags and a lot of smallmouth but said the largemouth dominates at Pickwick at this time of year.

"I think the lake has the potential to have real big stringers," he said. "But postspawn will cost the bigger weights, unless we get a lot of rain in the next two weeks and the current is on and the water flows. If you have current, the fishing's always better."

Elite Series pro Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., lives about 65 miles south of Pickwick and has been checking lake levels at Pickwick. He said the fishery is up to summer pool, and his outlook for the Alabama Charge is all about the spawn — he believes bass will be setting up for a standard spring pattern.

"We're hitting it dead on in a full moon," said Herren, who is currently 29th in the AOY standings. "In a spawn cycle; that triggers everything to get into place and brings the fish up."

Thanks to the grass coming back, Herren said Pickwick has taken off and is more productive than it has been in 25 years. He expects to see a lot of pros going with soft plastics and topwater lures, mostly in 7 feet of water or shallower.

"I don't think we'll see it transitioning into postspawn; everything's happened so fast over the last few days," Herren said. "Fishermen will want to cycle those fish into a postspawn deal, but it's just started happening to where they can come up and spawn. But it might happen with smallies — they tend to go on water temperatures that are cooler, surface temps around 55 or 58."

Herren said his guess for a four-day winning weight is between 78 to 80 pounds, close to 20 pounds a day.

"It could go higher — if we get in there and hit them in a full-blown spawn pattern or we get some cloud cover and rainy conditions, that will get a good bite going. I think a lot of the weights will surprise people."

Fishing fans can catch all the on-the-water action from the four-day event on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (re-airs Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. ET on ESPN2). The daily weigh-ins for all regular-season Elite events and the two postseason events will air live on ESPN3.com, ESPN's broadband sports network.

Bassmaster.com will follow the Charge each day with BASSCast, BASSCam, real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins, photo galleries, daily results and Hooked Up with ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. Live, streaming video will be carried by ESPN3.com. Click here closer to tournament time for a complete coverage schedule.

The Alabama Charge has a top prize of $100,000 and awards valuable points in the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. The full Elite field will compete Thursday and Friday, with the top 47 advancing to Saturday's competition. From there, the top 12 will advance to Sunday for a shot at the trophy and the top prize.

The public is invited to attend the daily launches at 6:10 a.m. CT at McFarland Park, 200 James M. Spain Drive, Florence, Ala. Also free and open to the public, the daily weigh-ins are set for 3:30 p.m. CT at McFarland Park.

Local sponsor of the Alabama Charge: Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.

The top 12 pros in the AOY standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series postseason, in which the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be determined.

Toyota Trucks Championship Week is set for July 24-31 and will be played out once again on two productive Alabama fisheries. The first leg, the July 24-25 Trophy Chase, returns to Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka. The finale, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, is slated for July 30-31 on the Alabama River from Montgomery.

Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter and Yamaha.

Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance and Triton Boats.