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Three Alabama Anglers Among Bassmaster All-Stars

July 21, 2011

By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Three anglers from Alabama will be right at home when the Bassmaster Elite season wraps up during the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week, which starts Saturday, July 23. Twelve anglers will compete in two tournaments – the Ramada All-Star Semi-Final on Lake Jordan and the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship on the Alabama River at Montgomery – in a new format that will pit anglers in head-to-head competition in the championship.

Two of Alabama’s qualifiers made it through the season Angler of the Year standings. Gerald Swindle of Warrior finished third in the standings, while Steve Kennedy of Auburn finished fifth. The others who qualified through point standings were: Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich.; Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla.; Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tenn.; Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.; Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C.; and Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C.

The other four competitors in the 12-man field were voted in by the fans. Aaron Martens of Leeds qualified via that route, as did Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., Jeff Kriet of Ardmore, Okla., and Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif.

The semi-final begins Saturday, July 23, with preliminary competition on Lake Jordan near Wetumpka. The anglers will compete for two days on Jordan and then the top eight will advance to the finals, where the format will switch to match play. The top eight will be seeded and then compete in elimination rounds for two days until only two anglers remain for the final round on July 31. The angler who prevails on Sunday will take home $100,000.

In another interesting twist, 12 Bassmaster fans will be selected randomly and paired with the 12 anglers in the finals as virtual competitors during Toyota Trucks All-Star Week. These 12 fans will be able to follow their angler daily on Bassmaster.com. The fan paired with the eventual winner will win a fully rigged bass boat.

While the fans can follow the anglers in air-conditioned comfort, the anglers will head out into Alabama’s legendary mid-summer heat.

Kennedy, who claimed his second Bassmaster title earlier this year at the Elite Series’ Pride of Georgia event on West Point Lake, said about the only good thing about how hot it’s been lately is it takes a lot of power to operate all this air conditioning, which means Alabama Power will likely have to generate current during the tournaments.

Current is especially key to July success on Lake Jordan, a 6,800-acre Coosa River impoundment that is known for its spotted bass population, although largemouths abound also.

Kennedy said he hasn’t fished Jordan that much in the past, but he’s pretty sure what to expect. He took several relatives to the lake a couple of months ago and the visit reinforced his previous experiences.

“We caught a bunch of fish,” he said. “I was really impressed with Jordan. We had one four-pound spot. They’re in there. Those Coosa spots are just fun to me. They are bad dudes in that current. You may have a kicker largemouth or two, but the thing about Jordan is you’ve just got to make the top eight. Winning Jordan is not a big deal other than being seeded a little better. It really doesn’t matter to me where I finish as long as I’m in the top eight. You’ve just got to go up there and catch them, because these guys are all going to catch them. There’s not doubt about that.”

Kennedy said he’s going into the Jordan event with an open mind about strategy.

“I don’t really know what I’m going to do until we get on the lake,” he said. “I’m sure VanDam is going to be throwing a crankbait, Aaron will be throwing a drop-shot, and somebody else will be throwing a frog in the grass. There are so many things you can do there. That’s what makes it neat.”

Kennedy said if he’s fortunate to make the cut, he likes fishing the Alabama River – where he finished in the top 10 in the Bassmaster Open Championship in 2005 – under the right circumstances.

“Typically, you’ve got lots of current coming through there with those big spotted bass,” he said. “It depends on what they’re generating, but if that water is moving, you can catch them. I hope they’ll have to generate. I know it’s so hot outside my windows are sweating. Heck, even my front door was sweating the other day. I hope there will be plenty of water moving through there, and it’ll have those spots set up in that current.

“There are plenty of four-pound spots in that place. Every time I’ve been over there, I’ve caught them.”

Kennedy said the head-to-head format at Montgomery is going to be interesting to the fans and anglers.

“Each day, you’ve only got to beat one guy,” he said. “It’s not like you’ve really got to show out the first two days. But if somebody catches a huge bag, you’re shut out. We don’t do head-to-head very often. Basically, you’ve got to catch them every day, and then figure out what you’re going to do the next day.

“I’m just going to be looking for that current. I’m hoping for current. I don’t have any secret spots. Every time I’ve been there I’ve run a similar pattern and done fairly well. But I’ve never fished it July. If the water is moving, they’ll bite. If they shut it off, they’re not. If they cut that water off, it gets hard. But that opens other doors, too. They might not bite where you’re expecting them, but it gives you the opportunity to go do something else. You’ve got to make those choices on the water. Things can change by the hour, really.”

The public is invited to watch the daily takeoffs and weigh-ins. The anglers will start each day of the semi-final at Lake Jordan Marina at 7:30 a.m. The weigh-in festivities will begin at 5 p.m. at the Wetumpka Civic Center in downtown Wetumpka. All events are free.

At the Wetumpka Civic Center on Saturday, fans can get samples from the Cookin’ on the Coosa barbecue competition, which will benefit the Elmore County Community Foundation. On Sunday, the band Sweet Young’Uns will perform at 4:30 p.m.,  before the anglers bring their fish to the weigh-in station. The band will play another set after the weigh-in.

During the final three days of competition (July 29-31) in Montgomery, anglers will launch at 7:30 a.m. daily at Montgomery Riverfront with the weigh-ins scheduled for 5 p.m. each day.

Fans will also be treated to a pair of free live concerts at Montgomery Union Station on July 30 and July 31 after the weigh-ins. Country music’s Darryl Worley will play at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, while Mercury Nashville recording artist Easton Corbin will hit the stage at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Despite torrential rains during the weekend, the Alabama Deep Sea Rodeo squeaked into the Guinness World Records book as the largest fishing tournament in the world. A total of 2,220 anglers either weighed in fish or turned in their rodeo tickets to beat the old mark by a mere 14 anglers.

PHOTO: (Courtesy of ESPN/Bassmasters) Auburn’s Steve Kennedy qualified for the upcoming Bassmaster’s Toyota Trucks All-Star Week with a fifth-place finish in the Angler of the Year standings. Kennedy’s stellar season also included a victory at the Elite Series Pride of Georgia tournament on West Point Lake.

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