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Championship preview: Slim pickings at Pickwick

Championship preview: Slim pickings at Pickwick
Tournament boats navigate an awaiting barge while exiting the lock onto Pickwick Lake.

EverStart championship could be a lightweight, strategic affair

FLORENCE, Ala. - Anglers making final practice runs for the 2001 EverStart Series Championship on Wilson, Wheeler and Pickwick lakes are fishing under bluebird skies and temperatures creeping into the mid-70s. The comfortable conditions make for a nice November tan, but they put a damper on the bass fishing coming into the $325,000 year-end tournament.

"(The fishing) hasn't been real fast and furious, that's for sure," said Texas pro Carl Svebek over the weekend. "The shad are pretty much all balled up like they typically are this time of year."

The warm fall temperatures have held many of the Pickwick chain's renowned smallmouth bass population to deeper water. Competitors hoping to come into the championship and fish for shallow-water bass are being forced to look long and hard for them.

"I just think it's that time of the year," said Indiana pro Koby Kreiger Monday. "I don't think it's quite cold enough yet. We're between a summer and a fall pattern, and the way that most people fish (shallow) will make it more difficult. It's going to be a tough tournament."

Not that it will be any less intriguing. Anglers say that catch weights will be down - Kreiger estimated a leading pro weight around 16 pounds per day - and that will force competitors to be more resourceful to make the cuts.

"The main thing is not to get frustrated and impatient," said Svebek, who won the 1998 EverStart Central Division event at Sam Rayburn Reservoir and the Texas Tournament Trail event at Rayburn this year. "These smallmouth move a lot. You almost have to figure them out day by day. You might just have to change technique and follow the shad. ... Without a doubt there will be some big ones caught in the tournament, but I haven't quite figured out yet how I'm going to do that."

At the last Operation Bass pro event held at Pickwick Lake, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour stop here in June 2000, many contending anglers were successful fishing a shallow-water pattern with finesse baits. But in the end, it was Rick Clunn and Arlie Napier who took the top two spots by using a deep-diving crankbait pattern. Many of their bigger smallmouth and largemouth came from depths reaching 40 to 60 feet.

While the fishing conditions this week on Pickwick are different from that FLW event, look for the contending anglers to bring in their sacks full of fish taken off of deeper ledges and humps. The balmy weather looks like it should hold at least through Thursday.

"Some of the best fishermen on this lake rely on a small pattern, like Clunn and Napier last year," said Svebek. "To this day I give Clunn credit. That was a really small area he was fishing. You've got to be really in the zone to find those deep fish on a crankbait. Those are usually the guys that you've got to look out for at this type of tournament."

One the 2001 EverStart Series Championship top contenders, pro Arlie Napier of Middlesboro, Ky., finished in second place at the 2000 FLW Tour stop on Pickwick Lake.While there is no Clunn, Napier is fishing the championship this week and is the one pro that everybody's keeping their eyes on. The Kentucky native dominated the Eastern Division tournament at Kerr Lake in late May-early June and could be a force again at Pickwick if his deep-water crankbait pattern holds up.

"We're not catching them everywhere," said Kreiger, who won this year's Central Division event on Kentucky Lake. "It's more like just one or two spots. But I'd rather fish a tournament like this than to have to go out and catch 20 pounds per day. It will be the mentally tough anglers who will do well."

Said Svebek, "After the first day, we'll know more about what's working."

The 2001 EverStart Series Championship gets underway Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. The full field of qualifiers, 162 pros and 162 co-anglers, will take off each day from McFarland Park in Florence and compete for four days. Weigh-ins are at McFarland Park the first two days at 2:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart on Hough Road in Florence. Friday's weigh-in starts at 5 p.m. and Saturday's starts at 3:30 p.m.

Related links:

EverStart championship heads to Pickwick Lake
Championship pro qualifiers
Championship co-angler qualifiers
Pickwick Lake map

Tags: jeff-schroeder  article 

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