Mobile-Tensaw Delta--Alabama Bass Trail
The anglers that live in and around the Mobile-Tensaw Delta don’t realize it, but other anglers around the state absolutely never look forward to going there. It’s usually a local angler’s event to win when a big tournament rolls in to town. The Delta is challenging, and having flooded, heavy current conditions only adds to the confusion for conventional tournament competitors. With most docks underwater from recent rains; the river banks spilling over into the wooded areas in the creeks and extremely heavy current rushing toward the coast, the 3rd stop for the Alabama Bass Trail South Division was a tough puzzle to solve for most of the 140 teams that made the trip.
Most tournament anglers don’t mind a small “challenge” on a fishery, but last weekend’s flooded conditions had most scratching their heads trying to find a limit of decent largemouth or spotted bass that the Mobile-Delta has to offer. Normally, some anglers head south to find the grass areas in the shallows for their tournament catches. Others head to some of the many small lake areas that feed into the Delta and flip Cyprus Trees and creek mouths to get their limits. Then there are a handful that bite the bullet and take their chance on fuel and make the long run up the Alabama River to fish the current for spotted bass. Making that long run was exactly what the first place winners and 3rd place finishers did. Launching from Live Oak Landing, the Claiborne Dam area is 92 miles and hundreds of floating logs away. It’s a treacherous boat ride to say the least, but at least four of the teams in the tournament made that long ride, including my partner, Brent Crow, and myself.
Running 92 miles one way was never on my bucket list for tournament fishing, but it proved to be well worth the chance taken. As a team, Crow and I handle current well. We understand the effects that current has on bass and always look forward to finding swift river current, especially when spotted or smallmouth bass are present. The Alabama River offers healthy spotted bass and the last portion of the River below Claiborne Dam is no different.
We started the morning making sure the Phoenix/Mercury rig was tapped full of fuel. The Phoenix 920 fuel capacity is 50 gallons, and at optimum fuel consumption headed against current, it gets about 4mpg, so the math says we would be really close on fuel for a 184 mile round trip. After a two hour ride while conserving fuel, we get to the dam to find three other boats also had made the trip. After a few minutes, another arrives and chooses not to stay. That boat would be the eventual winners, Bo Hunter and Jon Canada who are heavy hitters when it comes to spotted bass. We had found a couple areas that were holding spotted bass on Friday, and concentrated on those early on. A quick couple keepers then the bite slows. Patience comes into play after making a long run for a current bite, but time is also of the essence because it’s another two hour ride back to the weigh-in.
We make a couple trips up and down the rip-rap bank with shakey-heads and spinnerbaits before we pick up a crankbait and start getting the better bites. Hitting the rocks with the current was the ticket. Nice two to three pound spots were slamming the crankbait and we hung around making several passes in one area culling the rest of the time we were there. What we didn’t know was that Hunter and Canada had went just around the corner and found an even better big spot bite on a jig in deep water trees that were flooded. Of course we find that out at the water tanks in the weigh-in line when Canada says “ya’ll should have come down there with us, the big ones were biting”. All we could do was laugh when he showed us his catch that pretty much drowned our hopes of a win.
Hunter and Canada did manage the win with a nice spotted bass limit of 16.66 pounds. “We lost two four pounders and a huge six pounder that would have really given us a boost” said Hunter while on stage. That boost wasn’t needed since they outpaced the field by almost three pounds to take home the first place check of $10,000 and several bonus money checks. Last year’s second place team of Chris Rutland and Coby Carden come land in 2nd place once again with 13.86 pounds, while Crow and I land in 3rd place with 13.38, winning $4,000 and another $1,000 for the Freedom Marine bonus program.
The last place check in 40th place only took 7.63 pounds to put a little perspective on just how tough the Delta fished last weekend. Big fish for the event was a mere 5.61 pounds brought to the scales for the 4th place team of Wayne Cox and Jimmy Harrison. The all-important points race for the division was taken over at the top by winners Hunter and Canada while Crow and I move up to a tie for 5th place with another trip to the Alabama River from Miller’s Ferry is waiting in the wings for next month’s stop south division of the Alabama Bass Trail.