High school anglers take to Smith Lake
by Johnathan Bentley
Mar 30, 2014 | 3033 views | 0 0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 400 high school anglers from across Alabama were on Smith Lake Saturday competing in an Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association Tournament.
More than 400 high school anglers from across Alabama were on Smith Lake Saturday competing in an Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association Tournament.
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SMITH LAKE DAM — Oakman High School’s anglers were looking forward to pulling huge bass out of Smith Lake during the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association tournament Saturday at Lewis Smith Lake.

Following a storm front coming through early in the morning, followed by windy, cloudy conditions, the Wildcats were lucky to get a bite.

Tough fishing conditions hampered the approximately 70 teams in the one-day tournament.

“In our practice rounds, we had 16 or 17 pounds,” Oakman’s Austin Swindle said. “Today, it was rainy, windy and cloudy. It messed everything up.”

Despite the struggles, Oakman finished 19th in the tournament.

Beulah High School won the event, beating out Holly Pond High, which was fishing on its home lake. Wetumpka High School took third, followed by Mortimer Jordan, Corner, Jemison, Thompson, Pelham, Tuscaloosa County and Hartselle high schools.

The top seven teams automatically qualify for the state tournament set for May.

“We didn’t do that bad, and we didn’t do that great,” Oakman coach Brad Murray said. “We didn’t get to where we needed to be. We had kids going to the lake that were talking about catching 15, 16 or 17 pounds a day. That storm hits and those same kids are getting 5 or 6 pounds a day.

“I’m proud of them. Even in tough conditions they didn’t give up.”

The team of Adam Grace and Logan Key summed up Oakman’s day on the lake.

“We caught our first fish right off the bat,” Grace said. “We were thinking that we needed to get five real quick. We didn’t get five. We ended up catching one of the smallest ones we’ve ever caught.”

The duo came away with one fish weighing .91 pounds.

“We went from 15 to 16 pounds to less than a pound,” Grace added.

“The conditions were a whole lot better during practice,” Key said.

Saturday’s top duo was Fayetteville High School’s Seth Butts and Jonathon Harbin, who caught a five-fish limit weighing 14.23 pounds.

Butts is one of three Fayetteville anglers who has already signed a letter-of-intent with Bethel College.

The Eufaula High School team of Dustin Johnston and Trevor Brown placed second (13.7), followed by Glencoe’s Will Brown and Jamon Phillips (13.41), Tuscaloosa County’s Tanner Jones and Clay Teague (12.46), Mountain Brook’s Sam Stewart and Buddy Pell (12.13), Gardendale’s Laura Ann Foshee and Jon Hill (12.1) and Colbert County’s Chase Ligon and Tody Hagen (11.67).

All five Oakman boats caught fish on Saturday, led by the team of Fisher Tubbs and Clay Dawson, who placed 41st with a 5.89 total. Colton Adkins and Case Key placed 54th at 4.17, Austin Swindle and Dylan Willcutt were 81st at 2.88, Mason Millwood and Bradley Swan took 91st at 2.38 and Adam Grace and Logan Key were 109th at .91.

A total of 32 two-angler teams caught a five-bass limit, while 50 came back empty-handed.

Saturday’s tournament marked the second ASABFA event held on Smith Lake. The first was last year.

“We love coming to Smith Lake because the Chamber of Commerce (of Walker County) is great to work with, and I think the lake is probably the prettiest in the world,” ASABFA President Norman Brown said.

Though next year’s schedule isn’t set, Brown sees a return trip to Smith Lake in the future.

“I do see us having a tournament at Smith Lake next year, possibly the state championship,” he said.

Oakman’s Murray is also a fan of the Wildcats’ home lake.

“We’ve been to tournaments all over the state in the last couple of years. The Chamber of Commerce is really the best around. That’s why tournaments keep coming back here,” Murray said. “They get people in and out of the water so well. (Chamber of Commerce of Walker County President) Linda Lewis was out there in 25 mile per hour wind directing traffic like a pro.”