Damian Clark and Andy Williams Win
Bama Blues on Wheeler
Big Fish and Second Place go to Chuck Woodall, Jace Guess, and Bobby Grider.
Bama Blues kicked off the tournament season with an American Catfishing Association (ACA) Tournament Alliance Division 1 event. The tournament was originally scheduled for New Year’s day, but a threatening weather forecast appealed to Chris and Cory Ramsey’s (Pipeline Tackle) sense of safety. They made the tough but wise decision to move the tournament up and fish it on new year’s eve.
The ACA Tournament Alliance event was capped at 150 boats and took place out of Decatur, AL at Ingalls Harbor Pavilion and Event Center. As part of the ACA Tournament Alliance, competing anglers earned an opportunity to win a SeaArk boat package to be given at the end of the season.
Three-hundred fifty-four anglers competed in the 3-fish limit tournament. At the end of the day, Wheeler did not disappoint. Numerous trophy cats came to the scales in a close contest with less than two pounds separating 1st and 3rd place.
Tournament day was characterized by falling air temperatures as a cold front was moving into the area. Winds changed from SSW in the early morning hours to N by weigh-in. Winds in the 7 to 10 mph in the morning gusted to as high as 21 mph during the day. The official weather records show a high temperature of 66 degrees at 5:00 am and a temperature of 51 degrees and falling at 3:00 pm.
An early 4 am start had anglers launching and traveling to be at their first fishing spots by 6 am when lines could go in. The early morning launch was characterized by light rain and a bit of wind, but the launch was smooth and effective.
The top spot at Bama Blues went to Damian Clark and Andy Williams. In what Williams described as an “epic” day, the team caught 66-, 64-, 61-, and 58-pound blue cats. On top of that, they caught 32- and 43-pound flatheads. Their 3 weigh-in fish topped the scales at 138.90 pounds to earn the first-place check for $20,000 and the beautiful silver hardware that went with it.
It was a string of circumstances that led up to Clark and Williams fishing the event. Clark was originally scheduled to fish it with Jeremy Farrar and Adam Osbure but they had decided on Monday not to fish because of the weather.
“Tuesday night when Bama Blues decided to move it to Friday, I got a call from Andy Williams,” explained Clark. “He said his partner, Mark Robbins, had a family emergency and was unable to go. So I told Andy I would get my boat ready and we could leave around noon Thursday. We would just drive down and fish since we had both already paid for 2 entry fees.”
On Thursday morning the new partners were pouring concrete in Owensboro, KY because Clark, who owns a concrete company, had already ordered concrete for 8:00 am. Once finished they drove to Decatur in time to make the captain’s meeting. The next morning they put the boat in the water and headed downriver.
“We put the boat in at 5:30 am,” reported Clark. “It was still dark as we pulled out of the harbor. We saw a lot of sticks and stuff so Andy suggested we just pull over and fish until the sun comes up. So we went to the ledge and Spot-Locked. The water was about 14 to 25 feet deep. At 6 am we cast out and by 6:30 am we had close to 100 pounds in the boat. Our first fish was a 58-pound blue.”
Clark and Williams moved down river and found similar water with the same results. They continued to catch overs while struggling to find a solid under. Persistence paid off and they finally caught an 11-pound blue to replace a channel cat that had been their under. At that point, they had the weight that would win the tournament.
“I want to first thank the Lord,” concluded Clark. “Thanks also to Monster Rod Holders, Wettstain’s Rustic Cuts, Mad Katz Rods, and C&B Family Construction.
Second Place and Big Fish
The runner-up spot went to the Trophy Cat Tackle team of Chuck Woodall, Jace Guess from Clarksville, TN, and Bobby Grider. Grider drove from Indiana to fish the event with Woodall and his son, Jace in their Mirrocraft Pro Fisher. The team brought 137.55 pounds to the scales to earn the 2nd place check of $10,000.
Their bag included the Big Fish of the tournament at 69.95 pounds to add $1,500 to their payday. And the checks kept coming as they also received the Parks Planner Board bonus for being the highest-placing team using their boards.
“Today was the best day I’ve ever had catfishing,” said Woodall in a Facebook post. “And it just paid me $12,000!”
“The best parts were taking second place, and having the weather cooperate with us,” responded Woodall when asked what he liked best. “We didn’t get washed out or blown around the lake.”
“It was a great day,” added Grider. “The weather was cloudy with a bit of rain early in the morning with winds blowing at about 5 to 10 mph. We caught good fish all day long. We fished on the anchor most of the day, hitting spots between 8 to 12 feet deep.”
The team used Mad Katz rods and Trophy Cat Rods rigged with Trophy Cat Tackle Kitty Calls and baited with skipjack to catch more than 250 pounds of fish on tournament day. Grider boated the 69.95-pound blue that won Big Fish with a Trophy Cat Rod.
Woodall thanked Bama Blues for putting on a great event. He also thanked Trophy Cat Tackle for providing the needed tackle, Matt Knight for the Mad Katz rods, and Macy’s Fish and Finds for getting his reels delivered in time to use them in the tournament. He ended by thanking his wife, Paula, for putting up with him fishing so much.
Grider added BKPC Nation, Dirty South Dragging Weights, and Outa Line Rod Racks to the thank yous before he too thanked his wife for putting up with him “…being a catfish angler.”
“I would like to add thanks to God for blessing us with the opportunity and ability to fish,” concluded Woodall.
Team Snotrocket, Trey Thorpe, Rick Arkenbout (Zebco Rick), and Brian Gillis, brought home the third-place check. They had a 3-fish weight of 137.50 pounds, less than two pounds out of the top spot and just .05 pounds out of second place.
Thorpe said they had a 12-hour drive to get to Decatur. It only left them around 5 or 6 hours to prefish.
“We got to Decatur around 6 am on Thursday,” recalled Thorpe. “We put the boat in and started scanning. Most of our day was spent in the main river section but we really didn’t mark much. So we slid out of the main current and anchored up.”
That spot gave up a nice blue in the 50-pound class. That was enough to give them a strategy for tournament day so they reeled em’ in and put the Excel StormCat back on the trailer.
“On tournament day we made a 30 to 40 minute run upriver,” explained Thorpe. “We anchor fished all day, focusing on wood structure. We stayed within a mile of where we started. Surprisingly Gizzard Shad was the only bait we could catch a fish on.”
The team caught 10 fish for the day, including all three major species. They caught blues, channels, and a flatheads. They had one big fish break off in structure that may have helped their weight, but they were fighting another fish at the time.
“It was a super close finish,” concluded Thorpe. “Even though we didn’t win I couldn’t be more proud of our performance on our first trip to Wheeler. Rick and I used BCF heavy rods with Slimeline and Reaper Hooks from Hookers Terminal Tackle and Brian used Mad Katz rods.”
“The tournament went fantastic,” stated Cory Ramsey following the event. “We watched the weather and as the tournament got closer the predictions were getting worse for game day. We made the call on Tuesday to move the tournament a day early to avoid the dreaded Wheeler windy conditions. This was absolutely the best call to make sure that our field of 150 boats could safely compete on Wheeler for $50,000!”
Ingalls Harbor’s Pavilion provided the perfect venue for the captain’s meeting. The Decatur facility is top-notch and very accommodating for the large field of teams attracted to the city by Bama Blues. The anglers enjoyed a nice dinner with friends and filled their last-minute tackle needs from sponsors set up at the meeting.
“The morning bite was on fire,” reported Cory. “A lot of the anglers had their limit by noon. We had quite a few big fish in the 60-pound range including the big fish of the tournament at 69.95 pounds. The upper end of Wheeler seemed to produce the bigger bags while some of the field struggled to get their limit on the lower end of the lake.”
As the weigh-in began a little after 3 pm there were already about 20 boats in line and ready to weigh. Thanks to Glen Thomas (ACA) the weigh-in was carried on a live feed giving Cory and Chris complete freedom to work the boats and communicate with the anglers.
“It was an exciting weigh-in and we enjoyed every minute of it,” declared Cory. “We had a large number of lady anglers as well as youth anglers participating in the event. The top weights were very close and made for an exciting weigh-in. The top team took home the big money and two silver cup trophies.”
Bama Blues kicked off the New Year with a very successful event and Chris and Cory Ramsey shared their gratitude first, for all the support they receive from the anglers around the nation. They also recognized the city of Decatur and the sponsors that support the event.
“We want to sincerely thank every angler that participated,” concluded Cory. “Because of you, we will be back bigger and better as we work to bring you one of the very best tournaments in the country!”
“We want to thank Decatur for allowing us to continue to grow this event to its fullest potential,” continued Cory. “And thanks to our sponsors that produce the very best products that are used by anglers in the toughest of tournament conditions! Without these great companies backing us, we could not bring the anglers an event of this caliber. Thank you to all our supporters from the Bama Blues crew!!”
The Wheeler Lake event was a great start to the 2022 catfish tournament season. Chris and Cory Ramsey will now turn their attention to the King Kat Tournament Trail where they are co-directors for the 2022 season.