The Alabama Catfish Trail (ACT) is bringing act two of Winter Blues on Wheeler (WBW) to Rogersville, Al on January 2, 2016. In its first year the 2015 event attracted anglers from 11 states to do some winter catfishing on Wheeler Lake.
Rogersville and Florence/Lauderdale Tourism welcomed nearly 90 anglers and 34 boats in 2015. The registration for year-two is already larger. As of this writing there are 51 paid and registered boats and many do not register until the Captains Meeting. WBW organizer Daniel Parsons said he would not be surprised if participation doubled this year.
The Alabama lake is part of the attraction. One of last year’s competitors, Carl Morris Jr., is anxious to fish the WBW again. “The Wheeler Lake tournament is on one of the best fisheries for catfish in the Untied States,” proclaimed Morris. “It is an opportunity to do some competitive catfishing when there isn’t any other tournaments going on.”
Janet Fox agrees. “Wheeler is popular with all of us fishermen because of the monsters that come out of the lake.” Janet and Bink Fox won the 2015 event with 5 fish totaling 155 pounds, including Big Fish at 76.9 pounds. The Ohio team will make a 10-hour drive from their home in McArthur, Ohio to defend their title in 2016.
The January date adds weather to the mix of elements that could determine the outcome of the tournament. Anglers have to prepare for every possibility.
B’n’M pro staffer Mark Blauvelt and his partner Ryan Lawrence will be fishing Winter Blues for the first time. “Given Wheeler’s reputation for big blues we have a long list of things to do,” said Blauvelt. “We are spending time looking at lake maps, starting to watch the extended forecasts for heavy rains which may change our plan of attack as well as force us to look at other options for getting fresh bait.”
Plenty of rigging chores will also be a part of the preparation. “We just got some new line yesterday from Vicious, one of our sponsors,” disclosed Blauvelt. “We will be reloading all outfits and double checking equipment and building a bunch of pre-tied rigs with new line and new Daiichi Hooks. I have cleaned a few reels this week and worked on getting the kinks out of a new bigger livewell.”
“We will be prepping equipment and getting everything laid out,” continued Blauvelt. “We want to make sure we do not forget anything. We also have to clean up the boat and make sure the tow vehicle and trailer is good to go for a 9-hour drive. That means greasing the bearings, checking the tires, including the spare, being sure the batteries are charged, etc. It is keeping us busy, that’s for sure. It’s the little things that can make or break you when you may have only 1 shot at the kicker fish you need to make your limit.”
Many catfish anglers believe that bait is one of the most important elements of a successful tournament. Veteran tournament angler Larry Muse is among em’. “We got to catch some fresh skipjack which may be difficult. It depends so much on conditions,” revealed Muse. “Wintertime is unpredictable.”
Muse will fish with Kevin and Roger Breedlove and some decisions won’t be made until tournament day or after prefishing. “If it’s calm we’ll suspend,” commented Muse. “If it’s rough we’ll drag. I’m not sure if we’ll fish Wheeler or lock through to Wilson until we scout.” Last year anglers could not fish Wilson. Locking through is one rule change for 2016, so anglers are allowed to fish Wilson Lake.
Jonathon and Jackie Cooksey will be travelling from Mississippi to fish the tournament. “We are really looking forward to the Winter Blues Tournament,” said Jonathon. “I haven’t been on the water since the Memphis Big Cat Quest Tournament.”
Most of Jonathon’s free time has been spent in a deer blind, so the ole boat is gonna’ need some attention. “Our boat has been getting some maintenance performed,” continued Jonathon. “It should be ready in a few days. We will have to get everything back organized and returned to its proper place in the boat.”
Bait is also a major question mark for Team Cooksey. “We hope to get some fresh, but will have plenty of frozen on hand just in case. We will be arriving at Joe Wheeler State Park on the Thursday before the tournament. We have several spots that we think the fish should be. “We’ll use our time checking those spots and trying to figure out a game plan.”
Team Cooksey has some good advice for anglers. “We try to fish conditions and not memories,” advised Jonathon. “It’s difficult to do when you have such great memories on Wheeler. Wheeler is one of the best lakes in the country right now. If all the stars align we should be in for a treat. Winter is an awesome time to catch a trophy catfish. I’m hoping for above freezing temps and little wind.”
Parsons gives a lot of credit to the folks in Rogersville for handling an overflow crowd last year and planning for a bigger event in 2016. The Captain’s Meeting and Registration will be held at the First Baptist Church of Rogersville on New Year’s Day. It begins at 6:00 p.m. and ends about 7:30 p.m. The meeting and dinner will be a Southern themed New Year’s Day menu. The dinner is free, but diners are asked to make a donation to the church.
The rod and reel only event allows fishing to begin at 7:00 a.m. CST on January 2, 2016. Each team will be given a token with a team number and that token must be in the weigh-in bucket by 3:00 p.m. CST for the team to weigh in. The weigh-in takes place at First Creek Ramp. It is located on the road to Joe Wheeler Lodge.
Anglers will be competing for a guaranteed $5,000 in cash and prizes for First Place. Big Fish will win $500. ACT will have a boatload of other prizes to be distributed. The entry fee is $200.
“The awards for Winter Blues arrived last night,” said Parsons in a Facebook post. “They are gorgeous! We can’t wait to see the fish that earn them!”
For more information, including a complete set of rules, visit the website at alabamacatfishtrail.com and click on the Winter Blues tab at the top of the page. Other information can by found on the Alabama Catfish Trail Facebook Page. Parsons can be reached at (205) 209-2794.