When the Wal-Mart FLW Tour kicks off action in northwest Alabama this week, the difference between fishing at Pickwick Lake versus fishing at Lake Murray several weeks ago might seem like night and day.
Lake Murray coughed up huge bass by the boatload, breaking tour weight records and causing anglers’ pulses to race with long battles to land their fish.
By contrast, don’t expect to see a lot of huge 9-pounders coming out of the Tennessee River this week. This one is shaping up to be a coldwater tournament, which means the bites could come few and far between.
“It’s been really tough on me. The bite’s been really slow,” Alabama pro Jonathan Newton said while practicing Monday. “I’m having a tough time just catching 15-inch keepers.”
With water temperatures in the high 40s to low 50s, anglers fishing for largemouths might have a more difficult time of it. Look for competitors to target deeper structure, throwing a variety of baits like jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits, as they try to coax a few bass out of the current.
However, Pickwick and adjacent Wilson lakes are renowned for their trophy-class smallmouths, which might play a key role if water temperatures stay cool.
“I think smallmouths could play a big part of it, but we’re still going to see a lot of guys with largemouths,” Newton said.
One factor that could help is the sheer amount of water that will be accessible for the tournament. Anglers will have the run of the Tennessee River, and could conceivably run as far as the other end of Wheeler Lake, two pools upriver, to way down into Kentucky Lake on the other side of Pickwick Dam. It’s going to fish huge, which always helps in a 200-boat event.
Also looking good is the weather. While a shower or two could break things up, the forecast is calling for predominantly clear skies with highs approaching 70 degrees throughout the week.
“Right now, I think a lot of the bigger fish are reluctant to bite.” Newton said. “It’s supposed to warm up a little bit the next couple of days, and that little bit could help out a lot.”
Pickwick Lake was formed by the construction of the Pickwick Landing Dam in Tennessee in 1938, which is 113 feet tall and stretches for nearly a mile and a half across the Tennessee River. It provides a flat pool of water that extends eastward to Wilson Dam in Alabama and covers a portion of the treacherous Muscle Shoals, which once hampered navigation on the Tennessee River.
Pickwick Lake offers 496 miles of shoreline, 85 miles of which is island shoreline. At normal maximum pool, the reservoir contains 924,000 acre feet of water, with a surface area of 43,100 acres.
Pickwick, Wilson and Wheeler lakes each offer a variety of fish species for recreational fishing. All three host populations of largemouth and smallmouth bass, and Wilson also boasts spotted bass.
Previous FLW Tour Pickwick/Wilson/Wheeler winners
2005 – Alvin Shaw of State Road, N.C. (Wheeler)
2003 – Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala. (Wheeler)
2002 – Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Ark. (Wheeler)
2000 – Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. (Pickwick)
1998 – Randy Howell of Springville, Ala. (Wheeler)