With Alabama struggling through a multi-year drought in 2007, many anglers had an idea that the fishing would also suffer.

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

However, according to the Bass Anglers Information Team (B.A.I.T.) report, that assumption was wrong, dead wrong.

Surprising both anglers and fisheries biologists with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources&8217; Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, bass fishing in 2007 was outstanding, according to the tournament reports filed by tournament fishermen from Alabama and bordering states who fish Alabama waters. The report is comprised of 22 lakes that had at least five tournament reports. The lakes are ranked according to five indicators &045; percent success, average bass weight, bass per angler per day, pounds per angler per day and hours per bass five pounds or larger.

Fisheries Biologist Damon Abernethy, who compiled the B.A.I.T. Report, said anglers did have to find new water to fish.

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Abernethy said Lay Lake is a good example of what happened last year. Lay is known for its fishing in the grass. During the drought, the areas that usually had the productive grass were dry as a bone.

&8220;The same thing happened to me,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;ve got a lot of places I like to fish. With some of these lakes down five, 10, 20 feet, you&8217;re not going to be able to fish those places. Some of my favorite places were high and dry. I think that&8217;s the reason people felt the fishing wasn&8217;t as good. They went back to places where they had always been able to catch fish and didn&8217;t do as well. But, they evidently went somewhere else and caught fish. And that&8217;s statewide. They weighed in more fish last year. Some lakes were up and some were down. But when you average it all out, people caught considerably more fish.&8221;

Abernethy said Alabama&8217;s river and reservoir system is a resilient fishery, adapting to changing conditions.

&8220;Actually, our reports have been pretty consistent through the years,&8221; he said. &8220;Like I said before, we have some lakes that go up and some that go down. But statewide, it&8217;s been consistent since 1986.

According to the data provided through the 2007 tournament reports, more bass were caught per day, which resulted in more pounds weighed in per day. The average size of the fish, which hovers around 1.8 pounds each year, didn&8217;t change, but people caught more fish.

The Largemouth Bass Virus swept through Alabama and the South, then went through the Midwest and finally up North. The virus killed many of the larger fish in the lakes and reservoirs.

According to the 2007 B.A.I.T. Report, the overall winner (drum roll please) &045; Aliceville, an 8,300-acre Tombigbee River impoundment in west central Alabama.

Aliceville, meanwhile, was third in percent success, fourth in average bass weight, first in bass per angler per day, first in pounds per angler per day and second in hours per bass five pounds or larger for a total score of 104 points.

Second place went to Pickwick on the Tennessee River with 97 points, while Wilson, another Tennessee River lake, took third at 75.

One of the more consistent lakes in Alabama is Neely Henry, according to Abernethy.