Lay goes ‘straight to the dirt’ to win Martin qualifier

Story & Original Photos By Greg McCain
Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation

Tuscaloosa angler Joe Lay has traveled to Lake Martin for years and accumulated plenty of intel on the sprawling Tallapoosa River reservoir.

One thing he knows well: When he finds muddy conditions on the lake, especially on the lower end, he can anticipate where the fish will be located. That information proved invaluable Saturday (Feb. 18) in the first Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier of 2024.

Joe Lay-First Place Boater.

Lay, a member of the Lake Tuscaloosa Bassmasters, put the knowledge to use, especially considering the widespread muddy-water conditions due to recent flooding, and bested the field of 112 boaters by almost three lbs. His 16.43 limit, which included two largemouth and three spotted bass of three lbs or more, easily topped second-place competitor Lucas Lindsay (Auburn Anglers), who had 13.55. Jake Childers (Hamilton Bassmasters) finished third among boaters with 12.65

Mark Black, a relative newcomer to ABN events, topped the co-angler field with Kim Giddens finishing second in that division. Black (Wiregrass Bassmasters) caught a three-fish limit that weighed 8.42. Giddens (Wiregrass Bassmasters), who won the 2022 ABN qualifier on Martin and finished second the last two years, had a limit of 7.68. Donny Davis (Belgreen Bass Club) took third with 7.23

The tournament was staged out of Wind Creek State Park near Alexander City.

Lay said he “went straight to the dirt” in finding the winning fish. However, those quality bass were not found on the upper end of the lake, which is typically muddy after heavy rains. The lower end of Martin is usually clear, but Lay made a long run south where he found some heavily stained water practicing Friday.

“Normally, you don’t have a lot of dirty water on the lower end, but with as much rain as they’ve had, there was a good bit of it on the bottom end of the lake,” he said. “The bottom end of the lake is usually clear, and a rule of thumb, if you ever see dirty water down there, it will put some fish shallow that are not normally shallow.”

Some of the bass weighed in.

Lay went to work with “moving baits,” which he later clarified as spinnerbaits and square bills. He caught his biggest bass on a square bill. He said he boated three of the bass that he weighed early but managed a couple of quality culls in the afternoon.

“Without a big bite, I didn’t have much room to grow,” Lay said. “That’s about as big of a stringer you can get without catching a big one.”

In contrast to Lay, second-place boater Lindsay said he spent most of his day in Blue Creek fishing relatively clear water. He used his forward-facing sonar to scope fish in brushpiles and around docks.

“That’s what I really like to do and that’s what’s on my deck, big swimbaits, a big glide bait,” Lindsay said. “It really plays into my wheelhouse because it pulls more fish out from a laydown or out from a dock.

“If you could pull them out with the big swimbait (and didn’t catch them), you could go back in there and catch them skipping up under there with a wacky rig.”

Lindsay, a former Auburn University competitor, said LiveScope “is my game non-stop.”

In winning the co-angler title, Black proved efficient with “only four bites all day.”

“I got three of them in the boat and pulled one off,” he said.

A Davis Bait Co. shaky head paired with Zoom plastics proved to be his best combination. He also used a Berkley Frittside crankbait.

“I can’t say the color,” Black said. “I’ve got to fish here again next week.”

Black fished with Bo Quinnie (Wiregrass Bassmasters), adding that they made a “long run to clear water.”

Fishing his second year with the ABN, Black said he likes to fish Martin.

“It’s similar to the way that I fish at home (on the Alabama River),” he said. “I do pretty good on this lake. I’ve fished here four times and got a check three times. I missed a check last year by ounces in the ABN.”

Giddens, fishing in the back of the boat behind her husband, Marty Giddens, continued her consistency on Lake Martin. She had three similar fish with the largest weighing 2.57.

“I fished a shaky head in the wind,” she said. “That’s my go-to, so I thought I would try it.”

The Giddens, who also won the team competition, fished “some clear water, some stained” after making a long run.

Other winners at Martin included Noah Godwin (Pro Line Bassmasters), who caught the Academy Sports + Outdoors Big Fish with a 4.24 spotted bass. The magnum spots showed up at weigh-in with Ferlin Weeks (Belgreen Bass Club) weighing another one over four lbs.

Rounding out the top 10 in the boater division were Weeks (12.46); Tim Ward (Marathon Bassmasters, 11.66); Godwin (11.45); Jason Howard (Shotgun Sports Supply, 11.38); Jack White (Lake Tuscaloosa Bassmasters, 11.31); Tyler Malone (Wiregrass Bassmasters, 11.23); and Marty Giddens (Wiregrass Bassmasters, 11.17).

Following the leaders among co-anglers were Drake Sturgil (University of Montevallo, 6.93); Damian Pugh (Wiregrass Bassmasters, 6.53); Mark Godwin (Pro Line Bassmasters, 6.39); Kyle Reaves (Alex City Bassmasters, 6.35); Sherry Jacks (Tallapoosa River Anglers, 6.33); Austin Kirk (Tiger Bassmasters, 6.20); and Ashley Sides (Rumbling Waters Bass Anglers, 6.14).

The Giddens boated a combined 18.85 to win the team competition. The top eight at Martin earned a spot in the team component of the ABN State Championship in October. Other team qualifiers were Noah Godwin and Mark Godwin (17.85); Jarrett Brown and Chris Brown (17.65); Hudson Choquette and Sturgil (15.98); Delynn Kirk and Austin Kirk (15.83); Pugh and Bill Weathers (14.71); Danny Grantham and Chad Macks (14.70); and Don Cox and Davis (14.56)

Kim Giddens finished a lucrative day by being the top finisher among Fishin’ For A Cure participants. ABN competitors pay $25 per tournament or $100 for the year to participate in F4AC with the money going to support Children’s of Birmingham. Through the years, the ABN has contributed over $300,000 to help fight childhood diseases at the hospital.

Kelly Stephens (Gadsden Bassmasters) won the $100.00 drawing from Academy and a $100 check from the ABN. The Academy drawing will be a regular feature of the ABN tournaments again this year. Anglers submit their Academy receipts at weigh-in, and a winner will be rewarded at each event.

President Eddie Plemons thanks all the sponsors who support the ABN schedule. In addition to Academy, they include Airport Marine, Impulse Lithium batteries, AmFirst BassCash, Fish Life Fish Care Products, Office Partners, Halo Rods, Radicull Culling Devices, Davis Bait Co., George Paint and Body, BassCats Boats, Nitro Boats, Triton Boats, Mercury, Motor Guide, Lowrance, NetBait, Shell, Hammer Rods, Shelby County, Strike Zone Lures, Charlie’s BBQ, the Rod Glove, T-H Marine, Power-Pole, and Alabama Hosting. Plemons emphasized that ABN members must sign up each year to be eligible for contingency prizes from organizations that offer them. Impulse Lithium is the latest product to offer cash prizes to ABN competitors who are signed up with the company.

The 2024 ABN season continues in March with a qualifier on Millers Ferry at Camden. Other stops this year include Eufaula in April and Pickwick in June. The 2024 state championship will be held on Lay Lake in late October.

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Greg McCain is a freelance writer from Russellville, AL, and a member of the Belgreen Bass Club. In addition to producing content for this website [Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation], his credits include articles in Georgia Outdoor News, the ACC Crappie Stix blog, the Cornfield Fishing Gear website, CrappieNOW online magazine, and Great Days Outdoors.

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