Bassmaster returns to Lay Lake

SPECIAL TO THE REPORTER

When the 37th annual Bassmaster Classic unfolds on Lay Lake Feb. 23-25, it will be familiar waters for many tournament contenders.

In fact, 18 of the 50 Classic contestants for 2007 fished on Lay Lake during the 1996 or 2002 world championships. These participants will get a leg-up then, by already knowing their way around the lake strategically and navigation-wise.

But it will be a different Lay Lake than the ones they experienced previously, since the upcoming Classic will be only the second time the event has been held in the late winter and early spring months.

“I think it could be a real good tournament, but it will be a lot different than it was in those summertime Classics,” said Russ Lane of Prattville, whose experience and tournament success on Lay Lake makes him one of the pre-Classic favorites. “It really depends on the weather, but either the spotted bass or the largemouth should be biting.”

Gerald Swindle, the 2004 Bassmaster Angler of the Year, was also excited when he first found out that Classic XXXVII would be coming again to Lay Lake.

“The thing that makes those Coosa River lakes good is no matter how cold it gets, they bite,” Swindle said.

“The guys won’t be able to get on the Classic stage and blame the cold for not being able to catch them. When it gets cold here, they still bite. The fishing could just be wide open.”

Fellow Alabama pro and Classic contender Tim Horton agreed, saying, “Lay Lake is going to be a good site for the Classic. You can catch fish a variety of different ways. It’s going to be exciting.”

Lay Lake is an impoundment of the Coosa River, located about 40 miles from Birmingham. With more than 250 miles of shoreline and 12,000 acres, Lay is home to a sizeable population of both largemouth and spotted bass. The reservoir was impounded in 1914 and is 48 miles in length.

The event will mark the sixth time the Classic has been staged in Birmingham, and the 10th time it has been held in the state.

The fishery went off-limits to Classic qualifiers on Dec. 1 and did not re-open until this week’s official pre-fish days Feb. 13, 14 and 15. It will be off-limits again until the official practice day for the Classic on Feb. 21