Guntersville, Ala. – While takeoff of the final event of the 2017 Alabama Bass Trail Northern Division schedule was happening, there were a lot of questions to be answered. Not only would there be a tournament winning team, but also, the Northern Division and overall Alabama Bass Trail Anglers of the Year would be decided.
While those are always dominant questions, Lake Guntersville was the source of a lot of head scratching as well. Normally one of the most anticipated stops of the year, Guntersville has been giving anglers fits as the fish have taken on a new and unpredictable role, thanks to changing conditions on the fishery.
While there have been some befuddled teams, Lake Guntersville showed what it is capable of as the team of Darien Craig and Houston Calvert produced a 30.45-pound limit to narrowly eke out a win over the team of Hadley Coan and Scott Keeling, who weighed an equally impressive 30.06 pounds.
Craig and Calvert were amazed and shocked at their day; Craig especially. The young angler had been a part of the promotional film crew at ABT for the first two years of the trail before deciding to turn his attention to competing. "I'd seen this a bunch of times while filming where anglers wouldn't know what to say when they won, and now we can relate," said Craig. "We're standing here right now with my team partner, having weighed the biggest bag of our lives, and we won by doing it – this is unbelievable."
The pair reported running upstream to the Waterfront Bay area and fishing a rockpile in 10-foot of water with brown 1/2-ounce Buckeye Football Head Mop Jigs tipped with matching Rage Craws, and Texas Rigged big worms in green pumpkin with the tail dipped chartreuse. Their final six-pound cull fish came on a light line wacky rigged red bug Zoom Finesse worm around 12:30 in the afternoon.
All of the fish came by making the same cast over and over again. "There was a specific angle of cast that we had to make to in order to get the bigger bites," they said. "We did everything we could to try and duplicate that cast over and over again, and everything just worked out, it hasn't sunk in yet, this is unbelievable. Their efforts resulted in an automatic berth into the 2017 ABT Championship at Logan Martin in October and a $10,000 payday.
Finishing second, with an equally impressive performance was the team of Hadley Coan and Scott Keeling. Coan threw 1/2-ounce Guntersville Craw colored Mean Mouth Jigs with a green pumpkin Rage Craw as a trailer and Keeling tossed 6th Sense Cloud 9 Series C15 and C20 crankbaits to shallow offshore structure.
They offered congratulations to the winners while understandably being in shock with the results. "Any time you put a 30-pound bag on the scales, you think you have a really good shot at winning, so we are a little disappointed at that," they said. "Darien and Houston did a really good job, and had a great day. Congratulations to them, but we're also a little bit stunned at the moment."
The pair took home $5,000 for their efforts, plus the Big Bass bonus of $500 for their 7.56-pound largemouth, an ABT Apparel bonus as other contingency awards.
Brian and Dakota Briggs claimed third with a 21.05-pound limit good for $4,000. They were followed in fourth place by Chase Dorsett and Brandon Smith, who earned $3,000 with 21.02 pounds. The teams of Daniel Puckett and Creig Poole and Rex Chambers and Eric Johnson finished tied for fifth place with 19.94 pounds; they split the fifth and sixth place prize money, each earning $1750.
The top 10 standings are above, for complete standings go to http://www.alabamabasstrail.org/tournament-series/lg-results/
The team of Mitch Mitchell and Candler McCollum wrapped up the Northern Division and overall Anglers of the Year title after a spectacular year. They pair won two events on the season; the season opener at Wheeler Lake and the fourth event on the schedule at Neely Henry, and earned a 27 point win in their division, and a 42 point margin in the overall.
The result had been their goal all along. "We set this as our goal when the schedule came out last year," they reported. "We felt like the whole schedule really fit us and we thought we could challenge for it. That being said, this is a really tough field, and to do things this way is something we would have never imagined; it feels really good to be able to say we accomplished this goal."
For complete season's standings, visit this link; http://www.alabamabasstrail.org/tournament-series/north-division-standings/
The sponsors of the 2017 Alabama Bass Trail include; Bill Penney Toyota, Phoenix Bass Boats, GP8 Oxygen Water, Garmin, Academy Sports & Outdoors, Wind Creek Hospitality – Wetumpka, Wind Creek Hospitality – Montgomery, Alabama Tourism Department, SCA Performance, T-H Marine Supplies, Wedowee Marine, AFTCO, Fish Neely Henry Lake.com, Lew's Fishing, Crossed Industries, YETI, E3 Apparel, TVA and Alabama Power.
For information about Alabama Bass Trail and for complete tournament standings visit www.alabamabasstrail.org.