At least one of the 111 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers who qualified for the opener Feb. 8-11 is hopeful a long-range forecast doesn’t pan out then for central Alabama.
Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia knows an Arctic cold front most likely would force him to target smallmouth bass at Lake Martin near Alexander City. He’s OK with that but welcomes a chance to go after largemouth bass if the weather’s warmer because many of them move shallower to spawn.
“Hopefully, another Arctic blast will happen after the event,” Sumrall said Thursday afternoon from his home off Mullins Road.
“If a cold front rolls through it’ll probably turn it into more of a smallmouth (tournament) and make the largemouth a little more elusive and harder to catch,” he said.
A warming trend will work in his favor because largemouth bass tend to make a push closer to the shoreline, he said.
As Sumrall and his family prepare for his debut as one of nine rookies on the tour, his emotions run the gambit.
“I’m nervous, scared to death, all of them,” he said.
The first official practice day is Monday, the day after either the Philadelphia Eagles or the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl. He’ll leave later this week to appear at an outdoors show on behalf of one of his sponsors, Missile Baits, in Jackson, Mississippi, and then go fish lakes around Lake Martin.
That game plan was successful when he qualified for the Bassmaster Elite series and the Bassmaster Classic in March by winning the B.A.S.S. Nation Champion in mid-October on Lake Hartwell in South Carolina.
“Practice doesn’t start until the 5th, so I’m probably going to leave (Jackson) Friday and fish a couple lakes around it to see what’s going on with the fish, kind of get a feel for what’s going on,” he said.
Sumrall will be making a return trip to Alabama, where he traveled two weeks ago to pick up his Phoenix bass boat in Birmingham. The boat was one of his prizes for winning the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
“It’s rigged out. I got a few things adjusted to my liking,” he said about the boat he has free use for a year to compete in Bassmaster Elites and Bassmaster Opens.
After a two-day scouting trip on the lake the first week of January, before it went off-limits to the Elites, he learned it’s a lake unlike Toledo Bend or Lake Sam Rayburn and, even, Lake Hartwell.
“It’ll be a different deal, not anything I am used to. It’ll be a true test to my abilities,” he said.
The lake has oodles of smallmouth bass, many averaging 2 pounds, and, as far as he can determine, fewer largemouth bass.
That two-day outing boosted his confidence because he caught bass despite weather conditions. When he stepped out one morning to go fishing it was 17 degrees.
He did a lot more riding around than fishing — examining the lake with marine electronics — but still caught bass.
“It was no problem catching numbers when I went there,” he said.
Just about every piece of fishing tackle he owns will be in the boat and Toyota Tundra he drives to Alabama. That’s 40 rod-and-reel combos and stacks of plastic trays for fishing tackle, Sumrall said.
When he does get to Lake Martin for practice Feb. 5, he said, “I plan to cover a little more area of the lake than I did those first two days. The first thing I want to do is figure out how to put a limit in the boat pretty fast. I’ll try to concentrate how to catch bigger fish later,” he said.
He also wants to find the warmest water temperatures as soon as possible and target fish in that area or areas, he said.
The New Iberia outdoorsman, a deer hunter who also hunts ducks occasionally, is as ready as he can be for whatever gets thrown his way by Mother Nature and Old Man Winter. He believes he’ll be throwing mostly drop shots and shaky heads deep, as well as shallow-diving crankbaits and jig-n-pigs around docks.
If the conditions warrant flippin’, he’ll have five flippin’ rods ready, each with a different setup.
He’s ready and rarin’ to go, he said.