Despite the cold, fishing should be good on Lake Martin Saturday for the annual stop of the Alabama Bass Trail and its $10,000 first place prize.
Alabama Bass Trail (ABT) director Kay Donaldson said the weather will not dampen the fishing or the economic impact of the tournament.
“If we get the anticipated warming trend, I think the fishing should be good,” Donaldson said. “The fish should be active and hopefully biting.”
Donaldson said the weather might delay fishermen by a day coming to town as some might be iced in across the state, but they will still come.
“With our tournament, the likelihood of the fishermen not coming is low,” Donaldson said. “They prepay the fees so they will come despite the cold.”
Donaldson said traditionally fishermen start showing up on Wednesday to learn the fishing patterns for the weekend.
“This week they will likely be out on the water just Thursday and Friday because of getting to town a day late,” Donaldson said. “About 40 of the ABT guys were on Lake Martin with Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation. So they got in a little extra practice before coming back for this weekend.”
Donaldson said tournament officials will take a few extra precautions due to the cold.
The Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation had 114 boats in Saturday’s tournament with the top single angler Mark McCraig landing a 14.32 pound, five-fish bag. Donaldson expects the winning bag in ABT’s 225 boat field to be over 17 pounds.
No matter the size of the bags for any of the fishermen, one thing is certain: the economic impact of fishing on Lake Martin.
Donaldson said the ABT estimates the economic impact of just ABT’s tournament to be about $400,000. Those numbers are based on spending by fishermen at previous ABT tournaments. It averages to $1,778 per boat in expenditures for things such as gas, fuel, food and hotel stays.
“I’ve called the Hampton Inn and they are full,” Donaldson said.
Alexander City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Ed Collari said fishing is a way to extend the economic impact of Lake Martin beyond lakefront and boating activities.
“We try to use fishing to try and offset the off-season of the lake through the months of November through February,” Collari said.
Lake Martin Tourism Association executive director Brandy Hastings said the fishermen will spend money in the area.
“They are putting boats in the water starting at 3:30 a.m. Hastings said. “They will spend at least one night in a hotel. For this weekend, I know some are staying in hotels, vacation rentals and even Mistletoe Bough.”
Hastings said an email went out to fishermen with things they might need such as non-ethanol gas, places to stay, eating establishments and places to get work done if fishermen run into mechanical issues with their boats.
Collari said fishing tournaments run almost like clockwork now.
“A lot of the credit goes to (Wind Creek State Park superintendent) Bruce (Adams) and his team,” Collari said. “We also use the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center for registration events. Between the two, it has basically turned into a turn-key thing. We always get good response about how things are run at tournaments. We are so used to having these groups; it’s a level of comfortability.”
But the seasonal nature of Lake Martin is changing.
“We are used to seeing the season being April through October,” Collari said. “With COVID-19 people are finding they can work from home more. The pandemic has shown people coming to the lake as early as March and staying.”