By Marty Dixon
As I write this week’s column a day earlier than usual, I’m looking forward to having 99 of the best fishermen Bassmaster has to offer on Neely Henry Lake next week. It should be a good week to entertain this line up of true hammers. We have fish spawning and post spawn, as well as the ever-present spotted bass. This tournament is a major score for Mr. Hugh Stump and Greater Gadsden/Etowah County Tourism Board, as well as the City of Gadsden. We should have many visitors for this event that will help bring in much appreciated money to our local economy.
Sponsored by Whataburger, this Bassmaster Elite event will present $100,000 to the winner with a total purse of around $760,000. The tournament will run from May 6-9 with launches from Coosa Landing around 5:45 a.m., with weigh-in starting at 2 p.m. The event is free to the public with parking at The Venue with the Riverwalk open. Saturday and Sunday will feature an outdoor expo with various local and out of town vendors. The expo is also free and will run from 12 to 4 p.m. I encourage everyone to bring the whole family and check out the entire event. Portions of the event will be televised and nearly all of it will be available via the internet.
The tournament features a fishing version of the Alabama Gang in that we have 12 Alabama fishermen participating. Two or three are local hammers that you might see fishing at our local Tuesday and Wednesday night tournaments through-out the summer out of Coosa Landing. The Alaba-ma Gang is led by local hammer and former angler of the Year Scott Canterbury, Matt Herren and the youthful Wes Logan. Other members include Justin At-kins, Clent Davis, Justin Hamner, Kelley Jaye, Steve Kennedy Will Widler, Kyle Welcher, and last but cer-tainly not least, Gerald Swindle. Several other well-known and successful fishermen will also be on hand, including several past classic champions, including Rick Clunn, Jay Yelas, Jason Christie, Seth Fieder, Brandon Palanuik, Greg Hackney and David Fritts, just to name drop a few. I’m getting a little carried away with the names but it’s not very often that we have this strong a field in our backyard.
With the water temperature warming and the river recovered from all the rain, we should see several good bags of fish brought to the scales. Expect a good morning top water bite, and whomever can solve the midday bite and current flow will be in strong contention. The pros should start arriving in town on Sunday, May 2, to get in some lake time prior to the tournament.
Enough of the excitement of the big guns coming to town on to the usual fight for fish. I myself caught a few still in the coves this past week flipping and flipping for bedding fish. I’m trying to stay in a positive state of mind and coax some fish into the boat. It’s that or disc golf.
I will say that my fishing time was down due to cleaning out both the garage and boat house. I fished a few days, but only in short spurts. Brother Butch managed to run into one or two here and there while staying shallow. I’m ready for the frog bite to kick up, which is my favorite thing to do fishing.
Thanks to The Chief, her are Tuesday night’s tournament results. The big winners were Chris and Matt with 8.57 pounds, second place went to Homer and Matt with 6.94 pounds, and third was L.C. and Chad with 6.22 pounds. The Big Fish went to Hunter and Rodney with a 4.20-pound lunker.
I hope to see everyone at the expo. I plan to be there for autographs and photo shoots (insert mild sarcasm here). Give these guys a little room next week, as they are fishing but also earning a living. Until tournament week, here’s wishing you tight lines and largemouth glory!
Marty Dixon is a 1982 Sardis High School graduate and retired high school educator and coach. He was head coach of the Gadsden State women’s basketball team from 2015 to 2019. He and his wife Texann live in Gadsden. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and the Neely Henry Bass Fishing page on Facebook.