For years, Will Davis has been making the short drive to Lay Lake.
Living near Childersburg, Davis needed just a few minutes to reach Lay, and he gained valuable experience on the lake during those frequent trips. For Davis, the experience paid off in a big way Saturday (May 11) in the third Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation (ABN) qualifier of the year. Davis (Pro Line Bassmasters) boated a 20.33 limit of bass and topped the field of 62 boaters in the tournament held out of Beeswax Boat Ramp.
Another Lay Lake veteran, Coby Carden (LA PO Boys), finished second with 18.82, and Jackie Quillen (Tennessee River Bass Club) claimed third with 18.21.
On the co-angler side, Donny Davis (Belgreen Bass Club) boxed a three-fish limit that weighed 12.23 for the win. He topped high school senior Ethan King (Shelby County Fishing Team), who caught 10.19.
Rickie Harp (Lake Tuscaloosa Bassmasters) caught the Academy Sports + Outdoors Big Fish, a 6.96 largemouth. He caught the big bass swimming a worm. At least six bass over six pounds were weighed in the tournament.
Will Davis and his father, William Davis, owner of Davis Bait Company, fished together in the tournament. Will Davis put a couple of company products to good use, catching the majority of his weight on a Davis Bait swim jig, the M Swim. He later added a solid spotted bass on another Davis Bait jig, and topped his catch with another good largemouth on a Big Bite Baits stick bait, the Trick Stick.
“We started on a shad spawn (in the mid-lake section) and caught three big fish that weighed almost 15 pounds,” Davis said. We went upriver near (Logan Martin Dam), and I caught a three-pound spot. Then we started hitting pockets with the (stick bait) and caught a bigger largemouth.”
All of Davis’ weight was in the livewell by late morning.
“It was a lull the rest of the day,” he said.
“I live right over the big mountain. I grew up fishing this lake since I was five years old. My dad taught me everything I know about fishing this lake. I’m very blessed to win on my home lake fishing in the same boat with my father.”
The father-son combo combined to win the team competition with a total weight of 29.02.
Carden continued his hot streak on Lay with the second-place finish. He had finished first and second in team tournaments on the lake the previous weekend.
In winning the co-angler division, Donny Davis got a big bite early, culled through several three-fish limits, and then added key keepers late in the day. He fished with Don Cox (Belgreen Bass Club).
“(Cox) had found some spots upriver with a shad spawn going on,” Davis said. “I saw a good fish bust on the shad and threw the swim jig over behind the grass. It hit when I swam the jig through the grass.”
Later in the day, after what Davis called an extended dry spell, a move back downriver proved critical. He switched to a small squarebill crankbait in a bream color and landed two key culls that boosted his winning weight to over 12 pounds.
King, the second-place co-angler, fished near his home in Wilsonville. He said he caught a limit quickly and added a 6.19 largemouth later in the day. All fish came on a white swim jig.
Other top 10 finishers on the boater side following Will Davis, Carden, and Quillen were Kopeland Rosser (University of Montevallo, 17.95); Harp (16.94); Justin Nichols (Fayette County Bass Club, 15.66); C.J. Knight (Marathon Bassmasters, 15.08); Caiden Sinclair (Crimson Tide Bass Anglers, 15.00); Brian Stiffler (Underground Bass Mafia, 14.85); and James Richerson (New Line Bass Club, 14.72).
Following Donny Davis and King in the co-angler standings were Lacson Reid (Rumbling Waters Bass Anglers, 9.81); Francis Beard (Neely Henry Bassmasters, 9.19); William Wood (Pro Line Bassmasters, 8.84); Jonathan Barnette (Carbon Hill Bass Club, 8.84); William Davis (Pro Line Bassmasters, 8.69); Colby Bendall (Belgreen Bass Club, 8.43); Terry Crabb (Coosa River Rats, 8.34); and Phillip Curvin (Neely Henry Bassmasters, 8.25).
In the team standings, Jackie Quillen and Barry Quillen (Wiregrass Bassmasters) followed the Davis team in second place. Nichols and Will Devaney (Shelton State Bass Club) came in third followed by Cox and Donny Davis and Myles Palmer (Pro Line Bassmasters) and Wood.
The top teams from each ABN qualifying tournament will be eligible for the state championship, scheduled for Nov. 1-2 on Lake Guntersville. Last year, the top four teams out of the state championship advanced to the Toyota Bonus Bucks Team Championship, which was fished on the Harris Chain in Florida.
Because some of the top finishers had already qualified for the state championship in the fall, two other teams, Derek Jackson (Belgreen Bass Club) and Bendall and Bill Gordon (Tiger Bassmasters) and James Sweazer (Tiger Bassmasters), also earned a place in the year-end event.
Sponsors for the ABN include Academy, Airport Marina, Office Partners, Triton Boats, Mercury, Motor Guide, Lowrance, NetBait, Shell, Hammer Rods, Daiwa, Shelby County, StrikeZone Lure Co., Charlie’s BBQ, Davis Bait Company, and George Paint and Body.
The ABN’s final qualifier of the year will be held Sept. 14 on the Mobile Delta out of Live Oak Landing near Bay Minette. The tournament, originally scheduled for March, was cancelled due to flooding. Qualifiers, both team and individuals, from the four events will be eligible for the state championship on Guntersville.
Greg McCain is a freelance writer with current credits in Alabama Outdoor News, Great Days Outdoors, Alabama Game & Fish, and CrappieNOW online magazine in addition to producing content and photos for this website. He is a member of the Belgreen Bass Club, an ABN chapter near Russellville.
2nd-place boater Coby Carden