By Marty Dixon/Staff Correspondent
It’s been a long week of floods, bass tournaments and a bit of little fishing. I’d like to thank the Greater Gadsden Tourism Bureau, The City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department and B.A.S.S. for putting on a Class A Whataburger Elite Tournament with some of the best pros in the business. B.A.S.S. made me feel very welcome and bent over backwards to take care of me arranging interviews, including a media boat on the last day of the tournament.
Parks and Rec was also on point with the local vendors, security at night and shuttling patrons back and forth to the expo. The weather was about the only thing that did not cooperate, with a flash flood causing a one-day delay. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Hugh Stump for helping to bring the tour to town. We had good crowds every day, and we had a full house to cheer on the top 10 on the final day with the weigh-in at 2:30 p.m.
Let’s get into what went on during the tournament. The river took a beating from the weather with floods for the first few practice days. When the pros finally hit the water on Friday, conditions were different, to say the least. We had flooding upriver while the water was three feet below full pool on the lower end. All of the water was pooled up at the Minnesota Bend trying to go down river. Needless to say, this situation made for fluid and tough condition that affected the overall weight, but the pros figured it out and caught fish.
Wes Logan, a young man from Springville, won the tournament championship. He grew up fishing the Coosa River from the age of 5, so he has intimate knowledge of how the river reacts. Wes adjusted daily to the conditions by relying on three or four main baits – the jig, frog, swim jig and crank bait.
Wes seemed excited every time I interviewed him and was very forthcoming. This was his first Elite Series win and it came on his home lake. I enjoyed talking with him during the last three days of the tournament. Wes a very earnest young man with just a little cockiness. When asked what his key bite was for the tournament, Wes’ reply was the two larger fish he caught near the Gadsden bridge on special painted crank bait. The reason it was such a big deal is that he does not throw the crankbait very often. That stringer on Sunday put him in the lead for good. The final push for first place was not without drama. It appeared by 10 a.m. that it was a three-horse race between Wes, Paul Mueller and crowd favorite Gerald Swindle.
Gerald weighed in before the other two and took the lead with a nice bag of fish. Gerald is a Bama boy and part-time comedian who always has something entertaining to say. From watching him fish on TV and while following him in the media boat, Gerald always maintains a positive attitude. I watched him lose what would have been a big upgrade fish right at the boat. The first words from his mouth were, “That’s all right; we’re gonna catch some more.” If that had happened to me, my reaction would not been suitable for television. Gerald finished third behind Paul Mueller, who was one of the few anglers that fished his pattern for most of the entire event. He stayed with crankbait on a hump in Greensport and along the causeways on the lower end of the river. Paul busted a 6.6 pounder on the final day, which looked as if he would take the lead. He just could not get enough two-plus pounders to go with that big catch in order to knock off Wes. When the dust settled, Wes weighed in 14 plus pounds to take home the title.
I watched Wes as they wheeled him around in his boat for the weigh-in. I was not sure he would make it to the stage without passing out or throwing up, but who could blame him? This was a huge win for him in showing his ability to adapt each day to ever changing body of water. He and Gerald showed more ability to roll with whatever the river threw at them each day. So congratulations to Wes, who is the proud owner of the coveted blue trophy. As for me, what I took from watching those pros is that I’ve been fishing those same areas and not catching anything, so my rea end better find a way to figure it out.
I did get out on the lake on Wednesday afternoon with my friend Honest Eric Hubbard. We managed to catch a few decent ones before calling it a day. We caught the fish on a variety of lures jig, swim jig and stick worm. We fished a few different places, including a few we’d seen watching the big boys fish during the tournament.
The Tuesday evening tournament results were James and Joseph in first place with 6.34 pounds, Sonny and Walter in second with 6.21 pounds and Jonathon in third with 5.87 pounds. The Big Fish went to Jamie Loyd with 5.22 pounds.
In Wednesday’s tournament, Hunter and Dallas took first place with a massive catch of 12.13 pounds, second place was Will and Jake with 7.74 pounds with Big Fish of 5.37 pounds and third was Kade “The Sledgehammer” Kitchens with 7.33 pounds.
The B.A.S.S. Whataburger Elite Tournament was a giant success for all those involved, from the crowd to fishermen. Nearly all of the fishermen were friendly and willing to accommodate most requests for pictures and autographs. I hope we can host another big tournament soon. Once again, I can’t say enough about of the anglers that participated, as well as the crowds that turned out. We definitely have a champion to be proud of in Wes Logan.
From here on out, I’m trying the new Gerald Swindle approach of being positive, at least until my next meltdown. Tight lines and be safe out there!
Marty Dixon is a 1982 Sardis High School grad-uate 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 email@example.com and the Neely Henry Bass Fishing page on Facebook.