Back in mid-March, it appeared North Sand Mountain and Pisgah student-anglers had fished their last Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association tournament of the season.

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic forced schools to close, the ASABFA canceled many of its tournaments. 

But the ASABFA held out hope of still holding its 2020 state tournament. And while the tournament will feature some variations from the past because of COVID-19 precautions, that hope will be realized starting Thursday.

The 2020 ASABFA State Tournament on Lake Guntersville starts Thursday and concludes Friday at Goose Pond Colony in Scottsboro.

“They are all excited for the chance to finish the season and fish again together, especially my four seniors,” said NSM fishing coach Jeremy Moore. “We were fishing the Wheeler Lake tournament when we received word of schools closing and feared the season was over. ASABFA really worked hard to make it happen and as safely as possible.”

Because of the COVID-19 precautions, the tournament is being split into two days. Thirty-eight schools, including both NSM and Pisgah, are slated to fish on Thursday while 36 more schools are scheduled to fish on Friday. Pre-tournament activities have been limited, and there will be no spectators permitted at the daily weigh-ins.

“This set up is not ideal, but considering we could be done, (and) to make it fair, this was the way they chose to do it,” said Pisgah fishing coach Emily Smith.

“There will be changes, (but) on the water it should be business as usual,” Moore said. 

NSM’s fishing duos for the tournament are Greyson Chappelear and Jayden Culpepper, Kolten Cooper and Jace Shankles, Briley Cornelison and Cruz Yates, Logan Davis and Josey Williams, Brayden Ellison and Landon Green and Jonah Pennington and Josh Palmer.

Fishing duos for Pisgah are Bode Smith and Parker Law (boat captain Scottie Barrentine); Brantley Barrentine and Dallon Phillips (boat captain Dwight Barrentine), Gracie McKee and Madelyn Griffith (boat captain Steve Griffith), Tykobi Hutchins and Haven Moore (boat captain Mike Olinger) and Dawson Campbell and Shelbey Campbell (boat captain Jeremy Campbell).

Both coaches said their teams are excited to fish on their “home lake” but have cautioned their anglers that won’t guarantee success.

“It is really nice to pre-fish on a lake not hours away from home,” Moore said. “Typically we only get one or two days to learn and figure out the lake. This extra time on the water will hopefully pay off during the tournament,” Moore said. “Prior knowledge of Lake Guntersville is definitely an advantage when eliminating unproductive water pre-fishing.  However, sometimes those past experiences make it difficult to try something different when things are not going as intended.”

Said Smith, “Every day changes and sometimes you can pre-fish a lake and have success but the game changes during the tournament. Weather, current and temperature all factor in the bite pattern. Lake G is fished a lot this time of year, so that makes the fish smarter to lures. Also you feel the pressure to bring it on your home lake more.”

After nearly being unable to conclude their seasons, both coaches have urged their anglers to take advantage of this second chance.

“I want them to put forth their best effort, practice good sportsmanship and enjoy this opportunity,” Moore said. 

Said Smith, “We are so excited and we feel fortunate to get to finish our season. I feel for the kids that didn’t get to finish their seasons out, and we feel so blessed to get to do this one tournament.”

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