By Rex Chambers
FOR THE TIMES
Fishermen usually love to hit Wilson Lake in the fall, mostly to try their luck at big smallmouths in the current below Wheeler Dam.
The combination of moving water and plentiful shad have the smallies and largemouths in a feeding frenzy on most autumn days, and the 15 anglers who showed up for the Top Rod Solo Trail’s regular season finale anxiously awaited the good tailrace fishing on Saturday.
However, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which controls the current flow from the dam, threw the anglers a curveball on this day, as the Wheeler Dam turbines were still during tournament hours.
The weather was perfect, reaching 80 degrees with a steady breeze to compliment the plentiful sunshine, while water temps held around 70 degrees, unusually warm for this time of year.
There was plenty at stake in the year’s last Top Rod Solo Trail event, with three anglers in the race for Angler of the Year race and six fishermen vying for one of three paying positions in the AOY standings.
In the end, it was North Alabama Guide Service’s Brent Crow who came out on top in the tournament and battle for Angler of the Year. The Hartselle resident wrapped up a solid season with a win, one second- and two third- and fourth-place finishes to earn his top spot on the circuit.
Crow, fresh off sixth in the Bassmaster Southern Open at Smith Lake the previous week, caught 15.04 pounds of largemouth bass and a big fish of 4.64 pounds on Saturday to take home a total of $555.
He was one of the few anglers who didn’t mind the TVA not running any water during the tournament.
“I had been on Wheeler Lake guiding for the previous five days, and we had been catching them really good in shallow water,” Crow said. “So, even though I have not fished Wilson in a few weeks, I felt like I should be able to do some of the things that I had been doing on Wheeler. That happened to be the case.”
Crow caught his big fish and one more weigh-in keeper early on a Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater bait, throwing it over shallow rocky points. Late in the day, he upgraded his limit by catching three solid fish over 2.5 pounds with an Excalibur XR50 lipless crankbait on a flat in depths of 3 feet.
Second place went to Lee Black, who finished 20th at last week’s Bassmaster event. He stayed near the dam area, even though there was no current flowing, for his 11.12-pound haul of largemouths. Black used a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm in green pumpkin on a 1/4-ounce Texas Rig to catch his fish.
The Danville man clinched second in the AOY standings and secured the big fish of the year with a 7.63-pound bass he hooked at Guntersville in July. Black walked away with $240 for his finish at Wilson.
Rex Chambers, of Baileyton, took home the final check of $80 for his third-place result with 10.78 pounds of largemouth bass. He used a mixture of baits to bring in his fish, which were mostly caught schooling around shad. Chambers reeled in his biggest fish on a topwater bait but also caught others on a spinnerbait and Alabama rig.
The remainder of the top seven is as follows: Sam Johns, fourth, 8.74 pounds; Chris Dunlap, fifth, 8.04 pounds; Allen Peters, sixth, 2.24 pounds; and Jacob Gibbs, seventh, 1.24 pounds.
Nineteen anglers qualified for the Top Rod Solo Trail’s two-day championship, which will be held in November at Smith Lake.
The schedule for the 2013 season is expected to be announced in the near future. It will be posted on the Top Rod website at www.toprodtrail.wordpress.net.
% Rex Chambers, who contributed this report, was a participant in the tournament.