Scary But Great Times on Pickwick

Don at day 2 weigh-in with two large mouth bass. Photo taken by Talara Allphin

Fishing a new reservoir (Pickwick Lake, Alabama) and especially one so different than the lakes and reservoirs out here in the mountain states, was a daunting task. Learning to manage current, navigate the Tennessee River, and finally, catch fish in a new and challenging environment was (at times) downright scary.

According to the rules, none of the anglers were allowed to be on the water, seek information or help from local anglers, guides, or anyone else as to how and where to fish Pickwick Lake. Left on our own, most anglers (including me) decided to fish one certain portion of the lake and put all our eggs in that basket.

Since I found willing fish in the upper portion of the reservoir, each day would require a 40-plus mile run to and from the fishing area and the launch ramp.  This proved to be a slight flaw in my preparation.

Day One

The first day of the tournament I drew a co-angler from Ohio (Jody Atkins) and we traveled 44 miles up lake into a hefty headwind.  Once near the dam, we fished in a major creek channel and over the course of the morning I was able to catch a good limit of largemouth bass. Bait fish were on the move and bass chased them back and forth in the backs of coves. (Each fish had to be 15 or more inches long and we could keep up to five bass each per day).

We had to be back at the launch area by 2:30 p.m. so we left the north area at 1:50 p.m. to allow sufficient time to make it back. (You are penalized one pound for every minute you are late.)

With 13 pounds 9 ounces in my live well, I finished the day in 12th place, a great start to the event.

Day Two

On the morning of day two, we awoke to a soaking rain and a promise of big wind in the specific areas I chose to fish. My co-angler from Nebraska, (Dolyn Brown) and I were forced to travel through 3-to 4-foot “rollers” caused by strong river current and a cold, relentless, northwest wind. I was amazed at how tough navigation was and how long it took us to get up to the areas I wanted to fish.

Once at our destination, conditions didn’t improve. The entire area was “blown out” by wind and wave action and was literally unfishable. We were forced change plans, hide from the wind, and try to force the fish to bite. Neither of us had a single fish until 11:00 a.m., at which time I finally began to catch a few non-keepers (four fish barely under 15 inches).

The day was slipping away from us I had to make something happen, so we made multiple stops on several short banks, trying to entice a few bites from larger fish.

At 12:30 p.m. and within 20 minutes of our “drop dead” time head back to our 2:00 p.m. weigh in, I caught three beautiful bass that seemed to get hungry as the sun popped through the clouds for the first time that day. Though excited about the bass beginning to bite, it was too little too late and we simply ran out of fishing time so at 12:50 p.m. we headed back down the lake.

We were met in the main lake by waves (rollers) between five and six feet high and it was nearly impossible to stay on plane and move through the current and the wind as it smashed against the hull of my boat. We gave ourselves an hour and 10 minutes to return to the weigh in and finally pulled into the dock with four minutes to spare.

I weighed three fish for 9 pounds 14 ounces and slipped from 12th to 14th to finish the event.

We had a marvelous time in Alabama, and finishing as high as I did in such a prestigious tournament was very rewarding. This tournament, to coin a phrase was indeed “Scary Great.”

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