Unlocking Pickwick - Major League Fishing

Unlocking Pickwick

FLW Tour anglers search for keys to success on tough-fishing Tennessee River
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Some 60 or so FLW Tour boats wait in Wilson Lock on their way upriver at the start of Wednesday's competition. Photo by Jeff Schroeder.
March 1, 2006 • Jeff Schroeder • Archives

FLORENCE, Ala. – Season stop No. 3 of the 2006 Wal-Mart FLW Tour is under way after 200 boats took off onto Pickwick Lake Wednesday morning. While many anglers have had trouble finding keeper bass bites in coldwater conditions in practice, a warming trend could provoke a feeding frenzy for a few persistent pros.

Alvin Shaw won the Pro Division of FLW Tour competition launched last year out of Wheeler Lake, two pools upriver from Pickwick Lake. In that event, Shaw targeted shallow, spawning largemouths in bass-heavy Guntersville Lake, located one pool past Wheeler. Wednesday morning, Shaw and others toyed with the idea of running all the way up to Guntersville, but he hinted that he probably wouldn’t make that long of a run.

“Yeah, I thought about it,” he said. “But that wouldn’t leave a whole lot of fishing time.”

With every piece of water accessible by boat in play this week, look for anglers to spread out all the way up and down the river in search of fish. Some pros have talked about Guntersville, others have discussed heading as far as Kentucky Lake the other way. Still more have tinkered with the idea of going as far as Bay Springs, Miss. The main obstacles, besides the distance, are the locks and dams, which could make a long run a little nerve-wracking.

Most, however, will probably stay within the Pickwick-Wilson-Wheeler chain. All three types of bass can be found in this part of the river – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted. Many pros will be looking for that one spot or two that holds some nice largemouths, but look out for the pros who can effectively target the smallies. This lake hosts world-class smallmouth bass, and anyone who can get on a couple 5-pounders will definitely be in the hunt.

That said, expect catch weights to stay low, particularly the first two days. Practice has been tough on many of the anglers, but not so tough that nobody will catch them. A 20-pound sack or two wouldn’t be at all surprising, especially with warmer weather welcoming the start of competition.

The start boat sends them off at McFarland Park.Logistics

The full field competes in the two-day opening round for one of 10 slots in Friday’s competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday’s weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.

Hosted by Florence/Lauderdale Tourism, the tournament features 400 anglers from 37 states, Japan, Canada and Australia, with 200 of the world’s best bass pros fishing for a top award of $100,000 cash. Two hundred co-anglers will compete for a top award of $20,000 cash.

Anglers will take off at 7 each morning from McFarland Park in Florence. Wednesday and Thursday’s weigh-ins will also be held at McFarland Park beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 3100 Hough Road in Florence beginning at 4 p.m.

Wednesday’s conditions:

Sunrise: 6:20 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 62 degrees

Expected high temperature: 75 degrees

Water temperature: 47-52 degrees

Wind: SSW 13 mph

Maximum humidity: 59 percent

Day’s outlook: mostly sunny