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Recap: 2017 Alabama Classic on the Coosa River

What a weekend at the first Alabama Kayak Fishing Classic held on the Coosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama this past weekend!  48 anglers from Alabama and surrounding states came to this beautiful river to fish against some of the best anglers in the region.

The beautiful Coosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama

Jared Atwell, with his 56-inch three-fish stringer, took home the trophy and title of “Alabama State Champion” while Michael Cooper, a just 40.74 inches, took home the title of “Open Division Winner”.  Lance Coley, an angler known for many podium finishes on this and many other rivers in the southeast, finished just a half inch behind Atwell to take second place.

Jared Atwell, the 2017 Alabama State Champion

The Classic represented a year-end grand finale for all the major kayak fishing clubs in Alabama.  The event was co-hosted by the North Alabama Kayak Anglers, Coosa River Kayak Anglers, Iron City Kayak Anglers, Coosa Riverkeeper’s Coosa Canoe and Kayak Fishing Tournament, and the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association.  Each club was able to send the 10 top anglers from their 2017 kayak fishing trails to the Championship Division ensuring the top anglers in the state were battling it out on the same body of water.  Note, due to a leadership change, the now defunct Shoals Kayak Anglers were not able to participate in the event meaning 10 fewer anglers than anticipated were in the field.

Results: Championship Division
Results: Open Division

Atwell, who gained entry into the Classic’s Championship Division by way of the Iron City Kayak Anglers, also claimed the “Best Bass”.  His 21.25 inch Alabama spotted bass was the longest bass caught on tournament day.  That fish would go on to anchor his stringer along with two other Alabama spotted bass of lengths 18.75 and 16 inches.  Coley’s stringer consisted of 20.5, 17.75, and 17.25 inch bass.

Atwell’s winning stringer
Biggest bass of the Alabama Classic

Atwell ended up taking home over $600 for his first place finish and $100 for the biggest bass.  Of note, Atwell likely caught the largest fish of the weekend as he netted a 25-pound catfish on Friday while prefishing.

Jared Atwell with a Coosa River catfish during prefishing

The Classic brought out several anglers who had never fished the Coosa River as well as an angler who had never fished in a kayak fishing tournament.  In attendance were also anglers from the Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association and their large 14-foot-long kayaks, some of which actually made the pass through the rapids on the Coosa River.  On Friday, the river saw packs of anglers who had never met each other guiding one another through the rapids and sharing fishing tips.

Chris Gravely in his NuCanoe Pursuit on the Coosa River

While large stringers were reported by those at the top of the scoring board, many anglers struggled to find large fish through the day.  Strong headwinds as the sun got higher in the sky was just another element anglers had to deal with on the day of tough fishing.  On tournament day, it seemed like the bigger fish were in the deeper pockets of the slow moving water.  Many small fish were caught on soft plastics, fish that normally would not have been worth pursuing expect on a tough fishing day like this.  Grinding out small plastics to catch three 14-inch fish would have paid off as it would have taken just 41-inches of fish to take home the Open Division title and trophy.  The topwater bite was near dead and we are close to declaring the death to the Whopper Plopper.  Had Lake Jordan been open to competitors it is quite likely that there would have been different winners in each division.

Coley’s stringer just 0.75 inch shy of 1st place
Dylan Mason’s 3rd place Championship stringer
Michael Cooper’s winner Open Division stringer

The Classic event brought out some anglers from as far away as South Carolina.  Stewart Venerable (we heard he rented a house on Lake Jordan for the weekend) is a member of the NuCanoe fishing team and it was a pleasure to see such a talented angler with Coosa River experience in the field.  With Venerable unable to boat multiple large spotted bass, it should have signaled to the field it was going to be tough day of fishing.

It was a pleasure to have Brian Carson, the leader of the Heroes on the Water South Alabama Chapter, participate in the event.  Carson made the trip up from lower Alabama with Kayak Bass Series angler and noted lake fisherman Stacey Martin.  Carson was able to quickly share details about upcoming Mobile Bay Kayak Fishing Association events and a bit about what Heroes on the Water does.

Phil Thompson running a rapid on the Coosa

Plans for the 2018 are still in the works but for the most part the Classic Board has agreed that the format for entry into the Championship Bracket will remain the same.  Goals include getting more dealers, clubs, and organizations involved in 2018 as well as standardizing the requirements to be co-hosts in 2018.

Club leaders from each of the Classic co-hosts gave quick talks about what to expect in 2018.  For the most part, 2018 will look a lot like what 2017 did for each club.

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, every angler walked away with something.

Josh Tidwell scoring a large Alabama spotted bass on tournament day

Big Will’s Outfitters stepped up in a big way at the event giving away $500 worth of products included 10 Hawg Troughs to anglers in need of a measuring board.  BWO also donated a pair of polarized Costa Del Mar sunglasses, 100 koozies, a Gillz fishing shirt, an Orion Coolers tumbler, a Gerber River Shorty knife, and a VIBE Kayaks 20-quart cooler.

YakAttack, the leading kayak fishing accessory maker, provided various items including Anchor Trolleys, Rotogrip Paddle Holders, Vertical Tie Downs, YakAttack buffs, and Multimount Cup Holders.

Eric Atkins won the VIBE Kayak giveaway

VIBE Kayaks provided a SeaGhost 110 kayak to one lucky Open Division angler.

Bending Branches, a premiere builder of paddles, provided nine hats, six shirts, and two buffs among other items.

Red Fox Wireless provided a Rover which is a battleproof, weatherproof, drop-in-the-bottom-of-a-lake-proof waterproof speaker with YakAttack mount.

They stayed happily married!

The Coosa Outdoor Center provided outstanding hospitality as usual.  They allowed us to camp on several acres of land along the river and provided 100 hotdogs and fixings to the field during the weigh-in as well as multiple shuttles to Jordan Dam to retrieve our vehicles.

Robby Cook with a nice Alabama bass

Robby Cook provided several dozen of his custom shaky head jig which would have come in handy to the pesky spotted bass on the Coosa River that day.

The North Alabama Kayak Anglers graciously donated a $100 gift card to Academy Sports and Outdoors.

The weigh-in and awards ceremony at the Coosa Outdoor Center

Frank Chitwood, of the Coosa Riverkeepers, did another great job hosting the Captain’s Meeting, weigh-in and awards ceremony as well as manning a jet boat during the tournament.  His professionalism and river-conscious attitude helped make this event the success it was.

Frank Chitwood handing the winning check and trophy to Atwell

We look forward to the 2018 club trails and 2018 Alabama Kayak Fishing Classic.  No doubt this website and Facebook page will provide coverage of kayak fishing news and events happen in 2018.

Pat Hoffman of Mobile paddling a Moken 14 through the rapids

Of note, this event on the Coosa River ended up being the largest kayak fishing event held on that body of water this year.  To boot, so far in 2017 Alabama club event attendance has always topped attendance by national and regional trails hosted on the same body of water and that has been the case for at least the past two years.