Apparently they do more than play football in Alabama.
Some pretty good bass fishing must unfold in the “Heart of Dixie” too, as evidenced by the state sending eight qualifiers to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, which begins Friday at Lake Hartwell.
No other state has more than five Classic qualifiers.
“I think all they do is football in the fall and fish in the spring,” said Marty Robinson, a two-time Classic qualifier from Lyman.
That tack seems to be effective.
The Crimson Tide annually ranks among the top college football teams in the nation and the state has long been a key player in the world of bass fishing.
The Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society (B.A.S.S.) was founded in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1967 and is currently headquartered in Birmingham.
The state has hosted 12 Bassmaster Classics – twice as many as runner-up Louisiana – and boasts several of the top bass-fishing destinations in the country, highlighted by Lake Guntersville, which hosted the 2014 Classic.
So it should come as no surprise that many of the sport’s top contenders would hail from the state.
The original “Alabama Gang” was composed of several NASCAR drivers from Alabama who gained popularity in the 1960s and early 70s; perhaps the state’s talented assemblage of bass fishermen could be tabbed the “Alabama Gang II?”
“I didn’t know we had that many,” said David Kilgore, a Jasper, Alabama, native who is competing in his second consecutive Classic. “Four of ’em are transplants, but they live in Alabama now, so that’s what matters. I know all of ’em and get along with all of ’em.”
The “transplants” include two former Classic champions – Chris Lane, who moved to Guntersville, Alabama, from central Florida in 2009, and Randy Howell, a North Carolina native and defending Classic champion who lives in Springville.
Aaron Martens, who now resides in Leeds, and Justin Lucas, who lives in Guntersville, both moved to Alabama from California to enhance their fishing opportunities.
In addition to Kilgore, the Alabama natives in the 56-angler field include veterans Matthew Herren of Trussville, who’s fishing in his fifth Classic; Gerald Swindle of Warrior, who’s making a 15th Classic appearance; and Shelby’s Coby Carden, who’s fishing his second Classic.
One of the new “Alabama Gang” could wind up being the fifth Classic champion from Alabama come Sunday evening. Robinson considers Martens and Swindle among the favorites at Lake Hartwell, where Martens finished ninth in 2008 and Swindle 21st.
Martens has four runner-up finishes in the Classic while Swindle placed second in a regular-season tournament at Hartwell in 1998.
“Aaron, he did a good job the last time they were here,” Robinson said. “He’s a good finesse fisherman and the finesse bite is usually pretty good this time of year.
“Gerald has a lot of history on that lake as well, so I think people should keep an eye on both of them.”