News from the Tennessee Valley Sports
MONDAY, MAY 7, 2007

Bama Division bass tournament headed to Ingalls

It has been a while since I answered your outdoor questions. I always try to answer all outdoor questions directed to me in one way or another. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll help find it.

Here are answers to a couple of recent questions:

Q: I have learned so much about bass fishing by going to watch the weigh-ins of some of the larger tournament trails. For me and probably a bunch of others, going to these is like attending a class on bass fishing.

Can you tell me if there is going to be another large tournament held in Decatur at the new ramp (Ingalls) or anywhere else any time soon?

A: The larger bass fishing circuits you are thinking about probably include FLW (Forrest L. Wood) Tour or the Bassmaster trail. Each of these has a long list of smaller tournament groups that are under the FLW or Bassmaster umbrella.

On Saturday, the Bama Division of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL) is scheduled to take place at Ingalls on Alabama 20 in Decatur. The new ramp is definitely attracting a lot of attention.

The BFL falls under FLW rules and routines. Recently, the Choo Choo Division of BFL held a tournament out of Ingalls and had a field of 151 boats. That’s an excellent showing for a smaller circuit.

The word is out that the Bama Division event Saturday is going to be even larger, but you can never tell with competitive bass fishing.

Blast-off from Ingalls is set for 5:30 that morning with weigh-in slated for 2 p.m.

Another great way to learn about bass fishing is to be in the boat of a competitor yourself. You don’t have to own a boat to fish in one of the larger circuits. You can sign up as a non-boater or co-angler, depending on the organization.

When signing up for a co-angler spot, you will be required to fish from the back of the boat and you will not have any official say about where to go fishing. By doing this, you can learn in person from some of the best anglers in the smaller-tournament business.

Take the upcoming BFL Bama Division tournament for example. You can fish as a co-angler, and the cost is only $100. For that price, you get to fish all day and have a chance to win as much as $3,000, and you don’t even have to pay for any of the high-priced gas the boat uses. The only other costs to you would be small, such as a few bottles of water or soft drinks (no alcoholic beverages allowed — instant disqualification) and a sandwich or two, or maybe a few packs of crackers.

For those who wish to fish in the boater division, the entry fee is $200 and you could win more than $6,000.

Anglers in either division can register by going to flwout or by calling (270) 252-1000. On-site registration is also available and will be from 4-7 p.m. at the Decatur Wal-Mart On Spring Avenue Southwest the day before the tournament.

Q: I read about Kevin VanDam winning the Bassmaster tournament on Lake Guntersville. It said he caught his fish near areas where shad were spawning. How do you find places where shad are spawning, and have you ever found a shad-spawn area?

A: Last week, I was fishing a small club tournament on Wheeler Reservoir with Decatur’s Brandon Price. We were going to a place I call the “Dinner Table” because of the wide variety of fish and bait found there.

Once we arrived at the “Dinner Table,” I could see that there wasn’t a lot of surface action taking place. But still, there were a few boils on the surface. The “Dinner Table” essentially is a small stump flat that has a secondary point that creates current breaks. It has a hard bottom and there is a deep ditch nearby.

We were in about 3 to 4 feet of water and decided to make a few casts because we saw a couple of shad leaping from the surface as if to avoid a predator. To cover a lot of territory quickly, Brandon and I decided to throw one-half-ounce, chrome-colored and shad-colored Rat-L-Traps (lipless crankbaits designed for quick cranking).

It isn’t uncommon to see shad leaping from the water wherever you go on Wheeler or Lake Guntersville. Our technique actually was casting for largemouth and smallmouth bass but because of the rapid retrieving, you might hook or accidentally snag anything in the water close by.

Brandon came in contact with the first and second (3- to 4-inch threadfin) shad, and soon I had hooked one myself. By looking at the water closely with sunglasses on, we were able to see the large schools of shad all around us.

Soon after our discovery early in the morning right after the sun came up, we had to deal with a wind of 15 to 20 miles per hour with gusts up to 25. A swift west wind throws out a “no fishing” sign on the “Dinner Table.”

Look for places I have described and have a good pair of sunglasses to see what’s underneath the waves if that is possible. If you see activity above or below the surface, crank a swift bait, and if you hook one shad, it’s a good bet that a lot more are around. The chances are good that if you find a big shad school, you also will find a lot of largemouth bass, hybrid stripe and white bass lurking nearby.

By the way, VanDam’s tournament-winning technique was throwing a spinnerbait over the shad schools. He would make cast-after-cast and wait patiently for the strike, which came often.

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Paul Stackhouse
Paul Stackhouse

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