Bassmaster Southern Debut

Alabama's Wheeler Lake Hosts Season-Opener

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Like the atmosphere of an NFL training camp or Major League Baseball's spring training, optimism is the rule as the Wheeler Lake hosts the season-opening Alabama CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Busch Beer beginning Thursday.

As with other sports, opening day of the three-event Southern Division season finds all 200 pros with a clean slate fueling ambitious goals. At stake is a $50,000 top prize and valuable points to the inaugural CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December. That event will send the top finishers to the coveted CITGO Bassmaster Classic next summer.

Formally known as Joe Wheeler Reservoir, the 67,000-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River located in northern Alabama is home to quality populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The second largest lake in Alabama, Wheeler has hosted five BASS events, including the 1974 Classic won by Tommy Martin.

"At one time, this lake was as good as any lake in the country," said Tim Horton, 2000 BASS Angler of the Year and a former guide on Wheeler. "I think Wheeler is on its way back.

"We didn't have as much milfoil as we did the last four or five years as we did in the '90s. The (largemouth bass) virus hit here in '97, also. But I think it's starting to come back a little bit. We're having a lot of 3-pounders showing up this year. We just don't have as many 7-pounders as we used to."

By all accounts, the fishing should be competitive as the pros make their first casts into the Southern Division season.

"I think the fishing is going to be pretty decent," Horton said. "The (local tournament) stringers all summer have been taking 15 to 18 pounds to win. I think it's going to be a pretty good tournament.

"It's not our best time of year, but if we get some cool temperatures it will be a little better. The fish have already started moving to the backs of the creeks and stuff like that - the typical fall migration. And if it gets cooler the fishing should be a little better because they will start feeding more."

"I think we are going to see some good fish of all three varieties come to the scales," added Troy Jens, an Open competitor and guide on the reservoir. "Largemouth, spots and smallmouth are all active and catchable during this time period. The water level should stay low, near normal pool, and that is favorable for some good fall fishing."

Both Horton and Jens advise that largemouths will be the ticket to doing well in the three-day tournament.

"I expect the bigger bags of largemouth to come out of the grass, and many of those will probably come on topwater if the weather doesn't mess up the shallow open water areas," Jens said. "Specifically soft jerkbaits and buzzbaits.

"The weather can get nasty in late September, and it is always a factor on Wheeler, so we will have to see what Mother Nature has in store. Pitching jigs and plastics in shallow grass and around stumps is always a winning pattern in September on Wheeler. Down river there will be some schooling bass, and some good bags will come off of points, ledges and creek mouths with small crankbaits and Texas-rigged plastics."

Horton predicts that the winning weight will be around 45 pounds.

"It to take around 10-pounds a day to make the (top-50) cut if wind and rain conditions don't get out of control," Jens added. "The weights have been much better all year on Wheeler, so if conditions stay right it could take 16 to 18 pounds a day to win. There are still some 20-pound bags (being caught in) local team tournaments."

Daily weigh-ins will begin at 2:45 p.m. at Riverwalk Marina and are free to the public.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local sponsors include Decatur Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.

Boater Entries
Todd Ary, Birmingham
Larry Barron, Dadeville
Fred Bland, Birmingham
Dalton Bobo, Northport
Hobson Bryan Jr., Tuscaloosa
Greg Buie, Athens
Coby Carden, Shelby
Ken Dodson, Ashville
Boyd L. Duckett, Demopolis
T.R. Fuller, Auburn
Roger Gean, Huntsville
Terry Goggans, Ft. Payne
Edward Guice, Decatur
Rickie Harp, Cottondale
Matt Herren, Trussville
Larry Hopson, Hamilton
Jamie Horton, Centreville
Tim Horton, Muscle Shoals
Randy Howell, Springville
Gary Howington, Gadsden
William F. Huntley, Athens
Chris Ingram, Eclectic
Tommy Jacques, Jr., Wetumpka
Troy Jens, Brownsboro
Russ Lane, Prattville
Felton Langley, LaFayette
Jerry Lawler, Athens
Thomas C. Lynch, Birmingham
Kyle Mabrey, Birmingham
Jimmy Mason, Rogersville
Chris McCollum, New Hope
Harry Moore, Valley
John Perez, Wetumpka
Gregory Pugh, Cullman
Ronnie Ray, Phenix City
Mark Rizk, Arab
Gerald Swindle, Hayden
John Vardaman, Anniston
Eric White, Anderson
Barry Wilson, Chelsea
Bass Cat Boats, Mountain Home
Stephen Browning, Hot Springs
Lucy Mize, Ben Lomond
Mark Rose, Marion
Ray Scheide, Dover
Mike Wurm, Hot Springs
Aaron Martens, Castaic
Lee Bailey, Jr., Amston
Wayne Black, San Mateo
Billy Bowen, Jr., Ocala
Lee Cepero, Thonotosassa
William Closson, Beverly Hills
Roger Crafton, Boca Grande
Steve Daniel, Clewiston
Chet Douthit, Clewiston
Chuck Economou, Redington
Mark W. Fann, Clewiston
David Foshee, Pensacola
Doug Gilley, Winter Springs
Mike Gough, Gainesville
Carroll Hagood, Auburndale
Tony Hogan, Pensacola
Koby Kreiger, Okeechobee
Chris Lane, Lakeland
Barry Macchione, Winter Haven
Gregory S MacLean, Okeechobee
Scott R. Martin, Clewiston
J. R. McGovern, St. Cloud
Sandy Melvin, Boca Grande
Robert Miley, Miami
Gene Mobley, Plant City
Charles Pippin, Jr., Altamonte Springs
Walt Reynolds, Clewiston
Mark Rogers, Naples
Bernie Schultz, Gainesville
Terry Scroggins, Palatka
Terry Segraves, Kissimmee
Jerry Shawver, II, Jacksonville
Mark Shepherd, LaBelle
Walter Swafford, Winter Garden
Sumiyuki Takano, Oviedo
Peter E. Thliveros, Jacksonville
Jesus Villegas, Miami
Karl Waller, Tallahassee
Jim Williams, Winter Springs
Charlie Youngers, Oviedo
Horace Alred, Cedartown
Randy Bartholomew, Bainbridge
Danny R. Bishop, Buchanan
Evan Boutwell, Ashburn
Marty Brown, Dalton
Allen Burkhalter, Columbus
Ryan Coleman, Flowery Branch
Jody Cordell, Flowery Branch
Tony Couch, Buckhead
Joe Crosby, Gainesville
John D. Curry, Norcross
Donald Eaton, Covington
Mike Echols, Athens
George T. Forrester, Jr., Lula
Jerry Guest, Royston
Gene Hacker, Buford
Tom Hamlin, Jr., Macon
Paul Hanley, Hull
Kenny Holloway, Eatonton
Tim Hoskins, Gainesville
Michael Johnson, Talking Rock
Larry Jones, Acworth
Danny Kirk, Bartow
John Kitchens, Atlanta
Robert 'Duke' McCardle, Marietta
Ricky McFarlin, Toccoa
Shane Meers, Rome
Jimmy Millsaps, Canton
Lamar Moody, Villa Rica
Brad Morley, Newman
Jim Murray, Jr., Arabi
Eric Nethery, Acworth
Bobby Padgett, Columbus
Kevin Parrish, Lawernceville
Eric Perkins, Monticello
David Pollard, Carrollton
Robert T Richardson, Palmetto
Scott Sills, Danlonega
Brendan Smith, Kennesaw
J Todd Tucker, Moultrie
Butch Tucker, Moultrie
Matt VanPaepeghem, Marietta
Danny White, Milledgeville
Chris Woodward, La Grange
Travis G. Loyd, Vienna
Chad Morgenthaler, Coulterville
George Brown, Frankfort
Shawn Burton, Frankfort
Tommy D. Creech, Amboy
Douglas Lubs, Indianapolis
Jim Pickett, Martinsville
Mike Renfro, Greenfield
John Valles, Edinburgh
Mike Auten, Benton
Dennis Garland, Vine Grove
Greg Hoskinson, Louisville
Damon V. Kiper, Louisville
Lance Lautzenheiser, Berea
Mark Menendez, Paducah
Chad Ramsey, Louisville
Roger Boler, Slidell
Sam Swett, Covington
Frank Ippoliti, Airy
J. T. Kenney, Frostburg
Daniel Chapman, Interlochen
Denny Brauer, Camdenton
Chad Brauer, Osage Beach
Shane Voyles, Blue Springs
Jeff Magee, Mendenhall
Bobby Myers, Brookhaven
Raul Morineau, Mexico City
Chris Baumgardner, Gastonia
Gerald Beck, Lexington
Guy H. Eaker, Cherryville
Mike Goodman, Nebo
Robert Karbas, Wake Forest
Alex Ormand, Bessemer City
Jim Sheehan, Fayetteville
Marty Stone, Linden
Wally Szuba, Cary
Dustin Wilks, Enfield
Ron Wolfarth, Locust
Steve Floyd, Sabina
Charlie Hartley, Grove City
Eddie Hicks, Centreville
William Smith, Powell
Dave Smith, Del City
Todd Auten, Lake Wylie
David A. Castleberry, Chapin
Davy Hite, Prosperity
Wayne Jeffcoat, Chapin
Larry Laymon, Lexington
Jason Quinn, Lake Wylie
Ray Sedgwick, Cross
Rickey Shumpert, Lexington
Chad Baker, Pine Flats
Ray Brazier, Lawrenceburg
Phillip Burnett, Ramer
Jim Butler, Clarksville
Luke Dunkin, Lawrenceburg
Darrell J. Hille, Springfield
Dwayne Horton, Knoxville
Eddie Jewell, Lawrenceburg
Jay Kendrick, Ooltewah
Ralph Petty, Jr., Cleveland
Wesley A. Strader, Spring City
David Walker, Sevierville
Jimmy Watson, Jr., Springfield
Takahiro Omori, Emory
Carl C. Chambers, Salem
John Crews, Jetersville
Chris Daves, Spring Grove
Bo Fraser, Lorton
Mike Hicks, Mineral
Rick Morris, Virginia Beach
Raymond Tweedy, Appomattox
Kevin Bartsch, Spooner
Joe Stiehl, Appleton
Jeremy Starks, Charleston
Dan Welch, New Martinsville

Non-boater Entries
Norman Allen, Perdido
Michael Birge, Florala
Tommy Bryant, Opelika
John Calhoun, Alpine
Glenn Deal, Headland
Donnie Dodd, Guntersville
Bradley Dortch, Atmore
Tim Edgeworth, Cullman
Joel Etheredge, Springville
Steve Goodwin, Trinity
Terry Henson Sr., Saraland
Tyrus Hester, Russellville
Darrel L. High, Opelika
Brian Holley, Decatur
Ricky Hornbuckle, Huntsville
Mike Johnson, Madison
Brannon Jones, Hope Hull
Pat Kelley, Rogersville
David Kilgore, Jasper
Randy King, Auburn
Todd Lee, Jasper
Bill Logsdon, Ozark
Jeromery Mason, Columbiana
Hulan Mattox, Alex City
Kevin McLemore, Moulton
Randy Miller, Toney
Jonathan Oliver, Hodges
John Pate, Grant
Thomas R. Pemberton, Dadeville
Glen Perry, Decatur
Keith Phillips, Calera
David Reeves, Phenix City
Russ Ritter, Lexington
Henry Rockhill, Jr., Tuscumbia
Craig Rosetta, Moody
Mark Shannon, Birmingham
Gary Stephen, Guntersville
Brian Stiffler, Birmingham
Steve Stinson, Huntsville
Kimberlee Stiker, Cullman
Todd Sutton, Decatur
John Thornton, Muscle Shoals
Chuck Thurlow, Auburn
Greg Tucker, Winfield
Brad Vandiver, Phil Campbell
Timmy Walker, Andalusia
Thi Walker, Muscle Shoals
Mark Weden, Madison
Ferlin Weeks, Trinity
Tim Windsor, Prattville
Hubert M. Korbus, Hot Springs
James Scott, Franklin
Larry Cahan, East Palatka
David Cragg, Jacksonville
Jared Dial, Lake Wales
Tim Ezell, Key West
Donald Fann, West Palm Beach
Brenda K. Fann, Clewiston
Bob Funnell, Vero Beach
James E. Glover, Crestview
Hugh Gray, Kissimme
Danny Grissett, Walnut Hill
David Hagens, Brandenton
Fred W. Huch, Cape Coral
Abbie Israel, Clewiston
Judy Israel, Clewiston
Steve Jalbert, Fort Myers
David Johnson, Marianna
Joe Laguna, Pensacola
Phillip Lee, Deltona
Roan McCollough, Inverness
Craig A. Parker, Tallahassee
Richard Persson, Miami
James Richerson, Pensacola
Emre Sarihan, Deerfield Beach
Tobert W. Stumpe, Florahome
Larry Summey, Orlando
Todd Wagman, Winter Garden
Randy Webb, Christmas
A. J. Willequer, Eustis
John Windham, Lake Worth
Frank Woodley, Kissimmee
Eddie Amos, Dalton
Peter Babbini, Kennesaw
Rob Boswell, Winder
John Glenn Botteicher, Cumming
Lyle Burns, Bishop
Keith Carpenter, Cave Spring
Robert Castleberry, Caton
Duane Causwell, Alpharetta
David Childress, Calhoun
Jim Cochran, Edison
W.T. Davis, Snellville
James Dudley, Lake City
Jeff Ellis, Acworth
Mark Grizzle, Blairsville
Kevin Guest, Royston
Scott Jenkins, Franklin
T.J. Kemp, Cummin
David H. Kent, Lumpkin
Stephen King, Columbus
Jerry Last, Ringgold
Tim Little, Ackworth
Keith Loveday, Pembroke
Jamie Mills, Resaca
Tim Moore, Canton
Doug Morgan, Rincon
Roger Morrow, Griffin
Skip Mundy, Cusseta
John Pettit, Calhoun
Jeff Poe, Calhoun
Robert Slaton, Marietta
Rod Sullivan, Carrollton
Christopher Thompson, Clyo
Donnie Tutton, Tyrone
Jim VanPaepeghem, Marietta
Johnny Walker, Calhoun
Tim Werdyk , Rincon
George W. Williams, Pembroke
Perry Brooks, Wahington
Steve Herrington, Ingleside
John M. Hudzinski, Rockford
Herbert Rix, Marion
Ryan Varner, Highland
James R Lamb, Greenwood
Frank Payne, Nineveh
David Phelps, NEw Salisbury
Robert Rose, Kokomo
Larry Cundiff, Dunnville
Ken Freeman, Sonora
Mike Kirby, Scottsville
Robert Kise, Louisa
Timothy Lanham, Louisville
Mike L. Pickett, Brandenburg
Les Underwood, Louisville
Jeff Walker, Gamaliel
Cole Garrett, Calvin
Margaret West, Leesville
Dan Hamilton, Bearlake
Bernard Gram, Kansas City
Kenny Hemmen, St. Louis
Robert Hill, St. Louis
Jimmy Batts, Raleigh
Lewis Bouhkris, Hendersonville
Terry Chapman, Cornelius
Emory Dennard, Winston-Salem
Flred Floyd, Cary
Darren Gay, Concord
Billy Hill, Candler
Fred Hill, Roxbow
Jim Hill, Candler
Billy Medlin, Apex
Vince Mowery, Shelby
Ear Newhouse, Bryson City
Clyde Roberts, Marshall
Scott Smith, Apex
Marty E. Walker, Moravian Falls
Todd Davidson, Middletown
Gary Garren, Lebanon
Steve Linville, Harrison
Brad D. Wall, Clarksville
Jonathan Bailey, Cottageville
Chance Bralley, Inman
Robert K. Fravel, Leesville
Homer C. Guffey, Simpsonville
Grover Jones, Starr
Tony Kay, Anderson
Carlton Lemmond, Barnwell
Billy McIntosh, Wedgefield
Clint Pack, Gable
Vincent Renew, N. Augusta
Glenn Rogers, Sumter
Billy Schwach, Charleston
Howard Stephens, Chapin
Jimmy Ward, Goose Creek
Joel Warwick, Beaufort
Billy Brewer, Lyles
Danny Bucher, Spring City
FLoyd Cole, Memphis
Dow M. Cox, Jonesborough
Carl Guffey, Friendsville
Jim Guy, Caryville
Jeff Haines, Bartlett
Cindy Hill, Smyrna
Mark Howell, Fayetteville
Lynn McWhorter, Cookville
Richard Powers, Smyrna
Ralph Rose, Knoxville
Bill Terrell, Bartlett
Cletes Scott Towry, Lawrenceburg
John Wells IV, Nashville
Philip Wolcott, Midlothian
Zoran Krecak, Franklin
Rudy Vuckovic, West Allis
Jeff Caruthers, Scott Depot

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