The Top Rod Solo Trail has certainly upped the ante among North Alabama Bass Fishing circuits in 2012.
In just its second year of existence, the founders of the Top Rod Trail have secured $6,000 in prize money from area and national sponsors that will allow them to pay back over 150% of entry fees. The trail is for solo anglers only. Each participant fishes alone in their boat and it is open to anyone willing to pony up a very reasonable $50 entry fee.
“The original idea came about because of the declining numbers of participants in weekly jackpot tournaments in the area”, said one of the fishermen behind the Top Rod Trail, Allen Johnson of Trinity. “As a result, a winning team would only make $150 or so for winning, and then you would have to split that between two people. We thought that we would start something worth fishing, so if you got lucky and won the tournament, you would actually make two or three hundred dollars.”
The low entry fee is what makes the Top Rod Trail such a great value, and it now offers a chance to make quite a bit more than a couple hundred dollars. Each of the 10 monthly tournaments has an additional $500 added to the purse from the sponsors, resulting in a guaranteed $500 minimum first place prize. The remaining payback depends on the number of entries, and part of every entry fee is withheld for the year end two day championship and Angler of the Year purse.
“We decided that we might as well take a little bit of money out of the entry fees every tournament and actually keep up with the standings all year. It made it a lot more fun last year to check to see how you were doing for the year and it paid pretty well too”, said Nick Reeves of Moulton, who was the 2011 Top Rod Angler of the Year. “That is another thing that separates the trail from your normal weekly wildcat tournament.”
With an average of just 25 boats per tournament, the Angler of the Year and Championship purses grow to $2500 each, with $500 from sponsors thrown in on top of that. One unique aspect of the trail is the qualifications for the championship and Angler of the Year.
“We hope that with the additional money from our sponsors, we do even better than a 25 boat average this year”, said 2011 Alabama Bass Federation Champion Rex Chambers of Cullman. “We had a high of 27 boats last year with a higher entry fee and nothing added to the purses. This is just too good of a deal for anyone that likes to fish tournaments in this area to pass up.”
The trail will visit five North Alabama lakes again in 2012, hitting each venue twice, once on Sunday and once on Saturday. To qualify to fish the Championship, an angler only has to fish one tournament on each lake on the schedule, but he must fish each lake at least once. Also, the Angler of the Year standings take each angler’s best finish at each lake, giving each angler two chances to get points on each body of water.
“The whole point is to get people to fish all of our lakes”, said Brent Crow of Hartselle, a North Alabama fishing guide. “Everywhere we go has lots of fish and we try to schedule each tournament when everyone can catch them. We have half of our schedule on Sundays and half on Saturdays, to try to avoid any conflicts with other tournaments, and we made it very easy to qualify to fish the championship. You just have to fish each lake, even if you don’t catch a fish to make it.”
The sponsors come from mostly the North Alabama area and include some companies not normally associated with fishing. Shelton’s Outdoors of Moulton, AL returns for a second year as the sponsor of the Angler of the Year. Dobyns Rods, T-H Marine and Frogg Toggs are recognized nationally for their involvement in fishing and are some of the new additions for 2012. A and A Tackle of Gardendale, Eddie Preuitt Ford of Hartselle, MarMac Real state, Streamline Cutting and Lawn Care of Decatur, Superior Scaffolding and Insulation, Shook and Fletcher Insulation, Patrick Johnson State Farm Agency and Berry, Berry, Little & Brunner Attorneys at Law make out the list of companies that make the terrific 150% payback possible.
“We are really thankful for our sponsors this year”, Crow said. “Most of them evolved from personal relationships of mine, Nick, Allen, Rex and Joel Green and no one even hesitated when we approached them. I think they see the opportunity that we have with this trail to attract some major attention in this area and have some really big numbers at our tournaments.
The full schedule for the trail as well as results, rules, and standings are updated after each tournament at the Top Rod website: www.toprodtrail.wordpress.com.
2012 Top Rod Schedule
Jan 8. Dobyns Rods Open Smith Lake. Smith Lake Dam *Sunday* 7AM-3PM
Feb 26. A&A Tackle/ Shook and Fletcher Insulation Open at Guntersville, Waterfront Grocery *Sunday*
March 11. Superior Scaffolding Open at Pickwick, McFarland Park *Sunday*
April 15. Eddie Preuitt Ford Open at Wilson, Safety Harbor *Sunday*
May 13. Streamline Cutting Open at Wheeler, Ingalls Harbor *Sunday*
June 16, Piedmont Insurance Open at Wheeler, Ingalls HarborJuly 7, Dobyns Rods Open at Guntersville, Waterfront Grocery
August 11, Patrick Johnson State Farm Open at Pickwick, McFarland Park
September 1, Berry, Berry, Little & Brunner Open at Smith Lake, Smith Lake Dam
October 13, Frogg Toggs/ T-H Marine Open at Wilson Lake, Safety Harbor
MarMac Real Estate 2-day Championship