It’s regional & championship tournament time across the FLW BFL & Costa Trails, including two that will take place the next two weekends, one in Alabama and one here at Lake Lanier. While the Lanier event will garner a lot of attention locally, many Georgia bass fishermen will be watching the results the next three days at the T-H Marine BFL Regional event on Lake Wheeler. Included in the event will be the Top 50 anglers from four divisions: Bulldog, Bama, Choo Choo and the Music City division.
Georgia big sticks will include Bulldog points winner Kip Carter, who is not only a threat to win the regional, but also made it to the pinnacle of bass fishing–the BFL All-American tournament–four times in his impressive career.
So how does he size-up Wheeler Lake on the eve of this regional event?
“It’s going to be a tough tournament,” said Kip in an interview tonight after the draw meeting. “I’ve got a late draw, but I don’t have anything to race to,” he laughed. “It’s pretty tough fishing right now–I’ve not cashed a check over here [in three or four events] so I’m not sure what to expect.”
Kip has had a busy year–both on and off the water. Besides winning the points race on the boater side of the T-H Marine Bulldog BFL, he and his wife Julie are expecting their second child in the coming months (see our profile of Julie in an earlier post). If that’s not enough, Kip has been busy building a new house. How this Social Circle pro has the time to compete (not just compete, but win!) with all that going on is just another middle Georgia miracle! But this low-key and affable Georgia angler takes it pretty much in stride.
“I haven’t really fished much this year,” he said with characteristic modesty. “Well, I showed up for Lanier and that first day (17 pounds) was a real blessing. But that second was pretty tough. I haven’t fished at all since then.”
Watch for Kip to be around the leaderboard wherever he is competing. Like an Energizer bunny, he’s running both on and off the water, but never underestimate him come tournament time.
Kip Carter and wife Julie are ‘hanging around’ with son Reid in this photo. Reid will soon become a big brother to the Carter’s second child. Kip is one of Georgia’s fiercest competitors and won the T-H Marine BFL Bulldog division in 2017. He’s one of the favorites going into Wheeler Lake this weekend and is coming off a second place finish at the Lanier Super Tournament last month.
Wheeler Lake is not as famous as its nearby cousins (Pickwick & Guntersville) but the Tennessee River location has largemouth, smallmouth and spots. It’s located near Decatur, Alabama.
No Rest for this Couch
Tony Couch, the Godfather of Georgia tournament fishermen, who celebrated his 67th birthday today pre-fishing in the rain at Wheeler Lake, is right where he should be this time of year–fishing another T-H Marine BFL regional. Tony, once ranked as the 13th best fisherman in the world, is back at the spot where he competed in a Costa Series event in May of last year (he finished 34th in that event with about 21 pounds). Like most of the anglers we talked to, Tony says there are plenty of bass to be caught at Wheeler, but most of them will be squeakers–in other words, just making the 12 inch limit. He felt like 10 pounds a day might get you into the final round. “Well, most everybody’s going to catch some little fish,” said Tony. “If the limit was 14 inches instead of 12, there wouldn’t be any fish to catch,” he added with a laugh.
Tony has a busy couple of months. After the Wheeler Regional, he’ll be headed to Kansas, where he’ll be running the Midwest Whitetail Adventures lodge for the next month (with a week off in between to fish the Costa Championship on Kentucky Lake). That’s a lot of driving from Alabama to Kentucky to Kansas, then back to Kentucky (for the Costa) and then back to Kansas and, finally, back to Kentucky before bringing his boat back home to Lake Oconee. You can bet he’ll take some time off over the holidays–as his busy fishing life includes running the Mid Georgia Tournament Trail from February through September, in addition to fishing the Costa’s and BFL’s every year.
Tony says the whitetail hunting in Kansas is incredible, with the minimum deer in the 140 point range (which Tony said would be considered a prize here in Georgia). “They grow them big out there–some incredible racks,” he added. Tony will be running the lodge during these trophy hunts, where he says 18 hour days are the standard, but it’s a little break from the grind of one tournament after another. No rest for this weary but always resilient fisherman.
Watch for Tony to do well in this tournament, but like everyone we talked to, he said “…if you get 10 pounds a day you might be in high cotton.”
Georgia Big Stick legend Tony Couch is ready to fish another regional. He won the BFL points race last year and finished third behind friend Kip Carter in this year’s Bulldog Division.
Some of the trophy bucks from the Midwest Whitetail Lodge, where Tony Couch manages guided hunts in the fall. These deer often exceed 180″ and many 200″ bucks are seen each year (courtesy midwestwhitetailadventures.com.
Duvall Now Fishing for Family of Four
John Duvall, who finished sixth in the T-H Marine BFL Bulldog points standings and is coming off a trip to the All American this past June, said he has not fished Wheeler this time of year. “I don’t know how to feel–we’re catching a lot of little ones but I’d be happy if they gave me 11 pounds a day.”
John will be back fishing the Lanier regional next weekend and he’ll join Tony at the Costa Championship at Kentucky Lake. John and wife Jessica just had their second baby, Macey, who John said was already “eating a pile”.
John was celebrating his birthday today, as was Tony Couch–although the two are probably about 40 years apart. I know they’re hoping for a birthday present in the form of a big sack of Wheeler largemouths–and we wish them and all the Georgia Big Sticks good luck at the Regional. Bulldogs Rule!
John & Jessica on their wedding day in 2013, with Jessica’s medaled Marine Dad giving away the bride. The Duvall’s just welcomed their second daughter, Macey, into the family but there’s no rest for Dad. John will fish two regionals in the next two weeks and then head to Kentucky Lake for the Costa Championship.
Tournament Info: Wheeler Lake anglers will take off from Ingalls Harbor in Decatur at 7 a.m. each day. The winning angler will receive a new Ranger Z518C with a 200-horsepoer Evinrude outboard and a check for $20,000 and the winning co-angler will receive the same Ranger boat and Evinrude motor. The 2017 T-H Marine BFL has 24 divisions dedicated to weekend anglers. The top six anglers and co-anglers in each of the six regional tournaments will be invited to the All American, the oldest and most prestigious tournament in all of bass fishing. The 2018 All American will be held at Cross Lake in Shreveport, Louisiana May 31-June 2.