The Alabama Bass Trail will consist of 11 lakes that offer outstanding bass fishing in a variety of watersheds and fishing conditions. The lakes are Guntersville, Wheeler, Pickwick, Lewis Smith, Neely Henry, Logan Martin, Lay, Jordan, Eufaula, the Alabama River and the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
Gov. Robert Bentley helped unveil the Alabama Bass Trail last week at Lake Guntersville State Park. The trail is a joint effort among the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Alabama Tourism Department, Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society (BASS), the Governor’s Office, Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and the tourism offices in the various communities located near the trail lakes.
“This is a very apropos place to make this announcement,” Bentley said from the lakeside park pavilion before heading to areas in north Alabama hit by recent tornadoes. “I just wish I had time to go fishing. I don’t get to go fishing as much as I used to. Fishing is one of my favorite sports.
“When Don Logan [Birmingham native and one of the BASS owners] came to my office, we discussed the concept of promoting the great fishing places in the state of Alabama. Today is a realization of that goal. Anglers across the nation will be encouraged to come and fish where the pros fish. That’s what we were talking about – defining lakes where professional fishermen fish. Just like we have golf trails across the state, we wanted to have this. The creation of the Alabama Bass Trail will bring more visitors into this state. When our tourism benefits, it benefits all of our communities. I believe when people realize what we have to offer they will come and visit. Not only do we have the most wonderful people, we have the most beautiful state. They can come and fish and enjoy the natural resources we have, and I think this promotes it. I am so proud to be a part of this.”
Logan, former CEO of Time, Inc., said he firmly believes the Alabama Bass Trail will be a very successful program.
“This has been a project, a labor of love, that we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Logan, who brought BASS back to Alabama last fall after several years in Florida. “Gov. Bentley was accurate in his statement about the first time we sat down and talked about this. He said, ‘Count me in. Let’s make it happen.’
“The thing is, if you can take your children out fishing and spend a few days with them on the water, you’re going to create memories that will last a lifetime. We think that is terribly important.”
DCNR Commissioner N. Gunter Guy Jr. said the benefits of the recreation for individuals and families are obvious, but some may not know how much fishing means to the state of Alabama in terms of the economy.
“No one is more pleased than I am for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to be working with Don and the Alabama Bass Trail,” Guy said. “We’re going to be promoting angling and conservation all across Alabama on our beautiful waterways. I’ve got some numbers I’d like to share. Expenditures by anglers in Alabama for goods and services exceed $878 million annually with an economic impact of more than $1 billion. Freshwater fishing recreation supports more than 15,000 jobs in this state. We look to forward to increasing those numbers. The Alabama Bass Trail will help do that.”
Kay Donaldson of the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, the Alabama Bass Trail program director, said each of the 11 lakes will present different opportunities for the anglers.
“The opportunity that people have to fish when they come to Alabama is not found anywhere else,” Donaldson said. “The opportunity to challenge yourself on these different waters is unbelievable.
“This has been a dream of mine. We go to eight to 10 trade shows a year to promote the great fishing in Alabama. We think overall, we have more quality and challenging fishing than anywhere. The Alabama Bass Trail is geared toward recreational anglers and those touring anglers who go on trips to fish several lakes during one trip.”
The Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association will also be working with the Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association to hold conservation projects at each lake.
“I just got back from Lake Eufaula and watched 252 high school kids weigh in fish,” Donaldson said. “That’s exciting to see our sport get down to this grass roots effort. When we first started, we thought it would be a Web site and brochure. It’s grown so much since then.”
The Alabama Bass Trail Web site (alabamabasstrail.org) is going to make it easy for anglers to plan their fishing trips by providing information on the lakes, local fishing guides, camping and hotel facilities, as well as weather, lake conditions, fishing reports and tips from the pros.
“We really believe this will be one-stop shopping for the anglers,” Donaldson said. “We hope by April 1 to have the hotel booking engine up and running that will allow people to book their trips totally online.”
Donaldson did say there is a misconception that the Alabama Bass Trail is a tournament trail.
“This is where we grow a lot of pros,” she said. “A lot of them are born here, live here, but we have a lot of people who just love to fish for bass. This is not a tournament trail. We just want to promote our great bass fishing in the state.”
Of course, Donaldson said it would be easy to get the wrong impression, considering the number of top professional anglers who hail from Alabama.
“For each of the past two years, Alabama has sent 10 anglers to the Bassmaster Classic,” she said. “This year, Alabama placed first [Chris Lane of Guntersville], second [Greg Vinson of Wetumpka] and third [Keith Poche of Pike Road] in the Classic. This state has the reputation of being a great bass fishing state, and we plan to promote that even further.”
PHOTOS: (By David Rainer) Guntersville fishing guide Michael Carter, right, shows Gov. Robert Bentley a 12-pound largemouth bass that Carter caught the morning of the launch of the Alabama Bass Trail. Gov. Bentley and Don Logan,one of the ownersof the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, discuss the benefits before the unveiling of the trail at the lakeside pavilion at Lake Guntersville State Park last week.