By Rex Chambers
The Cullman Times
WHEELER LAKE —
The second half of the Top Rod Solo Trail season kicked off where the first half ended — at Ingall’s Harbor on Wheeler Lake, which was a little stingier this time around. Saturday’s field consisted of 26 anglers, and the winner almost didn’t make it in time for the 5 a.m. blast off. The start time had been moved up a few minutes from the normal safe light to avoid a concurrent tournament, but not everyone got the memo.
Cullman’s Sam Johns pulled into the parking lot just as the other 25 anglers were taking off and quickly called a tournament official to register just in the nick of time. His late start didn’t prove to be a handicap, however, as he wound up with a winning bag of 14.40 pounds. That haul included a 4.83-pound largemouth bass, which was good for the big fish of the day as well.
Johns won $561 for first place and $130 for the big fish pot. His entire bag was caught on a 3/8-ounce black and blue jig with a black and blue Strike King Rage Chunk for a trailer.
Johns said he had a rough practice, and when he saw everyone taking off as he drove up, he almost decided to call it quits and go home. Instead, he made his way to a shellbed he discovered 25 years ago that he hadn’t frequented earlier in the week. That turned out to be the right call, as Johns caught over 30 keepers in deep humps of 7-9 feet throughout the day.
In second place was Nick Reeves, of Moulton, with 13.03 pounds of largemeouth. Reeves travelled 10 miles to his first spot, only to see it turned to mud by an early morning East wind that made for rough conditions early. He never made a cast at that location, instead catching his fish by turning back around and hitting various places throughout the day with a variety of baits. Reeves said he caught about 10 keepers on the day on a jig, Carolina rig and a shaky head worm from depths of 8-20 feet. He took home $204 for his second-place result.
Local guide Brent Crow, of Hartselle, finished in third place with 12.62 pounds of largemouth bass. He caught three fish early, then hit about a dozen spots before finding a group of fish around 11:30 a.m. that made up the rest of his weigh-in haul. Crow caught all eight of the fish he claimed on a homemade 1-ounce football jig in brown and green, using a green pumpkin Strike King Lobster for a trailer on his jig. His first spot was a hump that topped out at a depth of 18 feet, and his other location was a small drop off with depths of 18-22 feet. Crow won $153 for third place.
Lee Black’s 12.31 pounds was good for fourth place and the last check of $102. The Danville man caught about 10 keepers in depths of 9-12 feet on two different baits, a deep-diving Bomber crankbait and a 1/4-ounce shaky head work with a green pumpkin finesse worm.
Coming in one place out of the money was Jacob Gibbs, of Holly Pond, who widened his lead in the Shelton’s Outdoors Angler of the Year standings with a fifth-place finish. He caught all of his fish on a 3/8-ounce Aaron Martens Scrounger head with a Zoom Albino Fluke as a trailer. Gibbs reported catching over 30 fish on the day, mostly when he saw them schooling at depths over 12 feet.
The remainder of the top 10 is as follows: Paul Garrison, of Natural Bridge, Ala., sixth, 11.55 pounds; Johnathon Poole, of Trinity, seventh, 11.16 pounds; Clay Terry, of Trinity, eighth, 10.21 pounds; Jordan Wiggins, of Addison, ninth, 8.25 pounds; and Larry Pierce, of Athens, 10th, 7.46 pounds.
The Top Rod Solo Trail’s next stop will be Guntersville Lake on July 7.