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Chris Pope of Pensacola, Fla., shows some of his catch after winning the Alabama BASS Federation Nation Championship on Wheeler Lake on Saturday. His total weight of 23.53 pounds put $3,000 in his back pocket.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
Chris Pope of Pensacola, Fla., shows some of his catch after winning the Alabama BASS Federation Nation Championship on Wheeler Lake on Saturday. His total weight of 23.53 pounds put $3,000 in his back pocket.

Blessing of the fish
Pope cashes in his catch for $3,000, title

By Paul Stackhouse
sports@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

As the final flight of boats maneuvered into Ingalls Harbor on Saturday afternoon, many of the 155 anglers participating in the BASS Alabama Federation Nation state championship tournament became jittery.

At stake for the first-place winner was $3,000 and a spot on the Alabama tournament team.

As many of the contestants gathered at the leaderboard, it became obvious Pensacola, Fla., angler Chris Pope was the winner with his two-day weight of bass at 23.53 pounds. Anglers living out-of-state can join Alabama chapters and participate in all state events.

Taking second place and a check for $1,500 was Jonathan Edwards of Lawrenceburg, Tenn. Edwards’
two-day weight of bass was 22.53 pounds.

Finishing in third place was Kyle Colley of Ashville with 21.28 pounds. Colley collected a check for $1,000.

The top eight anglers receive an invitation to play on the Alabama team that will travel to a regional Federation Nation tournament Nov. 5 in South Carolina with hopes of making the grade to fish in the national tournament, with the date and location of that event to be announced.

Rounding out the anglers representing Alabama are Winfield’s Roy Galbraith, Smyrna, Tenn., angler Ashley Stanford, Tuscaloosa’s Rickie Harp, Darrel High of Auburn and Rick Sharpe of Florence.

Galbraith received $1,000 for catching the largest bass of the tournament, which weighed in at 5.58 pounds.

Also, the Winfield Bassmasters claimed the best team award and $1,000.

The angler of the year award went to Joe Wikoff of Phenix City.

Pope was ecstatic about winning the tournament, especially since this is only the second time he has been on Wheeler Lake.

“I fished here last year on a qualifier tournament, and when I got here this year, a lot of things were different,” Pope said. “Everybody was so nice and organized and this harbor, well, it’s the best I’ve ever seen. Everything here has been user-friendly and that gave me a good feeling about this tournament.”

Pope said he caught seven or eight keeper bass (12 inches or longer) each day and his lures of choice were a chrome-colored Shad Rap, a buzzbait and a Cull RC 1.5.

Edwards said he needed to use several different lures and several different locations to be successful.

“I was fishing the lower end of the lake,” Edwards said. “I was throwing Rat-L-Traps, War Eagle Spinnerbaits and a football head jig. I caught most of my fish in shallow water around wood, boat docks and a few deep drop-offs.”

Don Gowen, District 2 director for Northeast Alabama and state treasurer for the Federation, said the tournament was a success because of teamwork from several groups of people.

“A lot of people and groups helped to make this a great event,” Gowen said. “The city of Decatur has used its money well in building this harbor, and the Parks and Recreation have done a wonderful job with it, also. The Decatur/Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau were just fantastic and even Mayor Don Kyle was down here at daylight on Friday walking the docks and wishing everybody good luck.

“With people like that working together, we can always have great tournaments here.

Alabama BASS Federation Nation tournament

Saturday’s finals action on Wheeler Lake and at Ingalls Harbor

Winner: Chris Pope of Pensacola, Fla., 23.53 pounds, $3,000.

Big fish: Roy Galbraith of Winfield, 5.58 pounds, $1,000.

Team with most weight: Winfield Bassmasters, $1,000.

Paul Stackhouse

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