Pickwick example of state’s fishing diversity

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

Anyone who doubts the diversity of fishing venues in Alabama has obviously never had the opportunity to cast a bait into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and then travel to the other end of the state to fish the Tennessee River lake known as Pickwick, which offers some of the most scenic vistas in the state as well as some of the best freshwater fishing.

Pickwick Lake is the home lake for avid bass anglers Lance Walker and Chris Armstrong. Though they might fish all over creation, they always end up at the 47,500-acre impoundment that lies in extreme northwest Alabama and borders Tennessee and Mississippi.

It’s that opportunity to catch a trophy smallmouth bass and plenty of largemouth bass that lures the fishing buddies back to Pickwick.

“Upriver toward Florence, there are a lot of gravel bars down through there,” Walker said. “In late February through early April, the smallmouth and largemouth like to spawn on those bars. In the summer, it can be really good, too, but it is current-driven. Then later in the summer, you can target the grass on the ends of the islands all the way up toward Florence.”

Before the grass gets thick, Walker depends on current to push the fish into areas he calls “roll-ups,” upwellings where the current pushes bait over some hump or ledge, offering an ambush point for the bass.

“You’ve got to have current for these fish to relate to cover,” said Walker, whose personal best smallmouth is 7 pounds, 3 ounces, caught this past spring in Alabama waters on a Lucky Craft 100 jerk bait.

While Wilson Lake, the next lake up river, rivals Pickwick in terms of smallmouth fishing, Walker insists Pickwick has the potential to produce a new world record smallmouth (currently 11 pounds, 15 ounces).

“There is no question in my mind there is a 12-pound smallmouth swimming around in Pickwick,” Walker said. “The lake is so healthy with so many bait fish; I know there is a record fish down there. The thing is, I think they are different creatures. They stay deeper, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t spawn in 20 feet of water. The average fisherman is not fishing for that fish. But she’s down there.”