Christopher Graham and Bill Granberry win 2018 Alabama Bass Trail Lay Lake

by Dan O’Sullivan

February 24, 2018 – Columbiana, Ala. – With a full field of 225 teams preparing for the first Alabama Bass Trail Southern Division event of 2018, the expectations were high for an absolute shootout.  As warm, tropical rains had buffeted the Southeast for weeks prior to the event, water levels and temperatures were on the rise – hurriedly.

The double digit increase in air and water temperatures brought with it rising expectations for a good, old fashioned Coosa River Slugfest on Lay Lake.  Rumors of 30-pound winning weights, and 20-pound limits being needed to cash checks were commonly heard in the week leading up to the event.  There was even discussion that someone may win the event by sightfishing for bedded bass.

Then, the conditions changed. While temperatures stayed warm, the lake level began to fall in anticipation of coming storms, and with that, the conditions became tougher.  But, with a field of anglers the caliber of whom compete in the Alabama Bass Trail, someone will figure out how to put together impressive performances in tough conditions.

The team of Christopher Graham and Bill Granberry – who call Lay Lake their home waters – ran a morning pattern that produced little, but made adjustments and culled up to an impressive winning weight of 22.29 pounds to claim the first trophy of the 2018 Alabama Bass Trail season.  Their victory earned them the $10,000 Champion’s purse.

They did so by junkfishing.  “We caught them on several baits, and every one of our fish but two came from different spots,” they said.  “We used a variety of swim jigs, a lipless crankbait and even a spinnerbait, but the key was finding fish that had not yet left the prespawn mode.”

They said they spent most of the day looking for cooler temperatures.  “The water temperature was in the upper 60’s in most areas and we felt like most of the fish had made their moves into the spawn early because of it,” they reported.  “We went in and out of areas looking for water that was a few degrees cooler to try and target fish that were still in prespawn mode; we found just enough to win.  It’s surprising, because we felt like we were a bite short, this is really cool to be standing here having won an ABT event on our home lake.”

Joe Wickoff and Radney Atchison used a different approach to win. The pair fished one area in Paint Creek, and relied on one technique to post their 20.84-pound limit to finish the day in second place and earn a $5,000 payday.  “We caught 50 or 60 fish in Paint Creek,” they reported.  “We caught them on Radney’s homemade Thunder Head jighead and Merthiolate Trick Worms in three feet of water; it was a really fun day of fishing.”

The Georgia based team of John Drew and Christopher Brummitt earned the Mountain Dew Big Bass award of the day with a 7.13-pound largemouth that bit a Texas Rigged swimbait around the grass.  Their giant earned them the $500 Mouthain Dew Big Bass bonus.

Complete Standings Below: