By Jason Duran
The final stop of the ABT 2023 regular season was held at Wheeler Lake in Decatur. Two hundred and twenty-five teams from the north division competed for the top prize of $10,000.
Allen and Danny blasted off as boat number 216. ABT photo
In this final event, numerous factors were at stake including the AOY points race where the top 9 teams qualified to fish the BASS Team Championship, and the top 75 moved on to fish the ABT Championship. Teams reported tough fishing in practice, but the team of Allen Hayes and Danny Bishop caught 23.23 for the win lapping field by over two pounds to win $10,000.
Allen and Danny blasted off as boat number 216. Due to the high boat number, they were “hoping that no one would be in our area when we got there.” When they showed up to their area, they were surprised no one else was there, so they quickly went to work. On their second cast, they both caught a fish; one weighed 2 pounds, and the other was over 4 pounds. They were able to spend all their fishing time in that area. They described the area as a “river channel ledge that was holding fish because of a hard spot.” They found the area using side scan in practice and noticed there was an abundance of bait in the area.
Allen Hayes and Danny Bishop caught 23.23 for the win. ABT photo
Other fishermen came to the area throughout the day, however, they were there first and were able to hold their ground and protect the area. They started out early with a topwater and crankbait, but quickly realized they needed to make a bait change because it seemed like the fish “didn’t really want to chase the bait.” They made a change to Texas-rigged large worms and creature baits in June bug and green pumpkin color. Once they made the change, they were able to fill out their limit and upgrade it to 23.23- pounds. Once they reached that weight, they decided to head back and do their best to protect their fish. They arrived back at the landing 4.5 hours early and waited for the scales to open at 1:30. They weighed in as the first team and led wire to wire over a very tough ABT field. With this win, they collected the $10,000 payday and automatically qualified for the ABT Championship.
The second-place team of Walker Brown and Sloan Pennington caught 20.65. The team shared, “We caught several small ones in practice, and if we stayed in and around Decatur and the grass, we could get bit. We just never caught any big ones. We spent two and a half days looking around for hard spots that should be holding big fish this time of year. On tournament day, we knew we were going to stay in the grass all day.” The first cast of the day they used a “Zoom Ol Monster
The second-place team of Walker Brown and Sloan Pennington caught 20.65. ABT photo
worm. We cast it all over the Decatur Flats. The goal was to spend time covering lots of water with the trolling motor. We only cranked the big motor twice, but we probably covered three miles on the trolling motor today. We also used a Buck Eye Mop Jig. We never could find the kicker fish; our biggest was 4.25. We were looking for one over 5 pounds. We tried to fish our own water and fish for fish that had not seen as many baits hopefully. We have struggled some this year, so this second place feels good.” With this finish, they collected $5,000 and moved into 58th place in AOY which qualifies them to fish the ABT Championship.
The third-place team of Bryan Dowdy and Kyle Lewellen caught 18.65. “We put a lot of practice time into this event. This lake has been our nemesis; we have never cashed a check here, so we put in the time to find some fish. We put together three patterns. We found some deep fish, some creek fish, and some dirt shallow fish. Today we weighed half our bag from deep and half from dirt shallow. We started out this morning on a deeper spot using a worm and spinnerbait. We really had to wait this morning for the fish to bite, but when they did, we caught a 3-pounder, a 44-pounder, and 3.80 on back-to-back casts. The first six fish we caught gave us 17 pounds. From there, we went dirt shallow targeting wood and lily pads using a frog and a Jig.“ This finish moves them into 6th place in the AOY standing and qualifies them to fish the BASS Team Championship and the ABT Championship. They collected a $3,000 ABT check, a $500 Garmin bonus, and a $2,500 Phoenix Boats payday.
John Kellett and Zeke Gossett claim the title of Anglers of the Year for the North Division and also qualify with the other top 9 teams to fish the BASS Team Championship:
PLACE ANGLERS POINTS
1 John Kellett/Zeke Gossett 1021
2 Michael Wooley/Joe Wooley 992
3 Mark Mccaig/Tim Hurst 979
4 Shane Meers/James Meers 975
5 Wesley Sams/Jordan Wiggins 969
6 Bryan Dowdy/Kyle Lewellen 968
7 Damien Willis/Tyler Kiker 967
8 Justin Bussey/Ben Webb 960
9 Craig Daniel /Jackie Flack 940