High water has Elites Facing the Unknown

Category: article

 Apr 5th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Apr 5th, 2011 at 12:00 AM

A quarter of the way through the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series, Alabama’s Pickwick Lake marks the third stop for the Bassmaster Elite Series Pros.  After a two tournament swing through two of Central Florida’s most renowned big fish waters of the Harris Chain of Lakes and the St. John’s River, the Elites leave Florida and the sight fishing dominated events to a very unpredictable Tennessee River impoundment that will certainly see conditions changing daily.

Scattered days throughout the last few weeks of rain and cool temps have Pickwick Lake in a completely unknown for many of the Elites.  Water temps are in the mid to high 50 degree range, having both largemouth and smallmouth in prespawn modes. 

Just weeks ago, water levels were more than three feet above full pool, causing flooding all the way up into McFarland Park where the weigh-ins will take place this week.  The TVA pulled the water down eight feet shortly after, but has been steadily rising since.

Last year’s event took place almost three weeks later where it seemed 50% of fish had spawned while the other 50% of fish were still looking to move up to do their yearly ritual. 

Winner of the 2010 event, Kevin Short, dominated last year’s Alabama Charge by choosing to focus almost solely on the Pickwick’s largemouth population even though Pickwick Lake is known as one of the top smallmouth fisheries in the country.

The largemouth of Pickwick are bountiful, so bountiful that the April 2010 tournament won by Short, none of the Elite Series anglers failed to bring a limit to the scales.  Hundred-bite days are not completely uncommon on Pickwick.

“Guys were catching 60, 80, 100 fish a day last year, and from all over the place, not just out of little, bitty areas,” Short said. “This year I think it’ll be different, I just don’t think that’ll be the case this year.”

The 47,000 acres that makes up Pickwick isn’t nearly as big as many locations the Elite field sees, but the question the anglers must decide each morning is should they spend time on the smallmouth population near the rocky tailrace of the Wilson Dam, or search out the largemouth in the creeks.

Muscle Shoals, Ala. pro Tim Horton said, “You can catch a whole lot of 2-pound largemouth, but the average smallmouth is in the 3- to 5-pound range,” Horton said. “But both smallmouth and largemouth can get really big, thanks to the lake’s baitfish population.”

Another huge factor anglers will have to face is the uncertainty of water levels.  One local said almost three feet of water was pulled from Pickwick late Friday into Saturday morning and a major front moved through the area Tuesday evening.  One thing is for certain, water fluctuations will be a huge deal and anglers will have to adjust according to conditions each day.

The April 6-9 launches and weigh-in will take place at McFarland Park, 200 James M. Spain Drive, Florence, AL 35630.  Launch time will take place 7:30 a.m. CT and weigh-ins are set for 4 p.m.

BassFIRST is on site in Florence, Ala. and providing live daily coverage from each of the Bassmaster Elite Series events.  Follow the morning and afternoon interviews with the pros, take-off and weigh-in image galleries, reports and behind the scenes extras each day.  Follow OutdoorsFIRST on Twitter @OutdoorsFIRST and on Facebook under OutdoorsFIRST Media.

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