A right to use Lay Lake

Mike Brasher, after reading this column in the Shelby County Reporter two weeks ago, a column in which I mentioned the BASS Masters Classic on Lay Lake, raises an intriguing and probably controversial issue.

At issue is whether people who fish the lake, especially those with houses along its shores, have the right to use Lay during the tournament or whether they should allow the professionals exclusive use of the lake.

In an e-mail rumination, he said he was thrilled when he learned that the tournament would be held on Lay, which he said, &uot;we consider our home lake.&uot;

However, Brasher said, after observing what befell the competitors during the tournament, &uot;I wouldn’t blame them if they never come back here again.&uot;

The tournament anglers, he said, &uot;were plagued by spectator boats that followed them from one spot to another, creating extra noise and churning the waters around them.&uot;

Other competitors, Brasher said, &uot;even reported having spectators move in to fish their spots after they left.&uot;

He noted that Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, the tournament winner, said that &uot;two guys moved in on one of his spots after he left and dropped live bait. Thankfully, they didn’t catch anything and Yelas was able to move back to the spot and catch a 6-pounder.&uot;

Then Brasher wrote these stinging words:

&uot;What are these people trying to prove? Are they such pathetic fishermen that they have to follow someone else to find a good place to fish?

&uot;They should be ashamed of themselves. They’re giving Lay Lake and the entire city of Birmingham a black eye.&uot;

Brasher said the most of the people who read his e-mail comments agreed with him, but that many did not.

&uot;Do you think we local fishermen should give up our lake every few years and let the pros fish without having local fishermen in the way?&uot; he asked.

My reply was that this would be the ideal situation but that when people live on a lake and have access to it, whether they could be barred from the lake during a tournament would be questionable and, furthermore, that it would be difficult if not impossible to enforce such a rule. Brasher’s objections could apply to any lake that hosts a tournament, in Alabama or elsewhere, and it would be interesting to get the reaction of tournament officials and sponsors, lake dwellers and anglers in general.

On another tack, I have a quibble that has nothing to do with who has the right to use Lay during a tournament.

That deals with news reports about the BASS Masters Classic. All the out-of-area stories that I saw, on television and in newspapers such as USA Today, used Birmingham as the dateline, whereas Lay Lake lies in Shelby, Coosa and Chilton counties.

Only the weigh-ins occurred

in Birmingham, while obviously none of the bass were caught in Jefferson County. Of course, Shelby County has the same problem with the Bruno’s Golf Classic held each year in this county, with Birmingham getting the ink and air time, so it probably is a losing battle.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. (e-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net