By David Rainer
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Alabama is known for some of the best bass fishing in the world. Our state is blessed with an abundance of rivers, reservoirs, and waterways teeming with many species of black bass, which means bass fishing tournaments abound throughout the state. Except for one place – Tuscaloosa.
Stan Adams, executive director of sports for Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, and Adam Hollingsworth, president of the University of Alabama (UA) bass fishing team, want to do something about it, and everything starts with awareness.
“If you google Tuscaloosa and fishing, what comes up is Chuck’s Fish, a restaurant here,” Adams said. “What we’re doing is trying to find something that will have an economic impact on the region. We have this river; how do we use it?
Adams reached out to Dr. Hobson Bryan at UA and Bob Hale at L&L Marine in Northport, and they told him Tuscaloosa County was missing millions in the economic impact that bass tournaments can produce.
“We’re missing out between $1.3 million and $3.5 million by not being able to hold fishing derbies on this river,” Adams said. “We knew it was huge. My boss and I went to the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham just before the COVID shutdown and spoke to Kay Donaldson with the Alabama Bass Trail.
Donaldson, who runs the highly successful Alabama Bass Trail (ABT), was asked how to organize an ABT event in Tuscaloosa to fish for Black Warrior.
“You’re going to have to start doing more tournaments,” Adams said of Donaldson’s response. “Show us you can do it, and we’ll start talking about adding you to the track.”
Adams said residents around Tuscaloosa Lake, a lake formed by the North River dam, aren’t interested in expanding bass fishing, which means the focus will be on Holt Reservoir soon. populated and Lake Bankhead on the Black Warrior.
“It really is a goldmine here on the river,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to market it. The more it is marketed, the more interest there is. It creates a demand and politically they are going to have to build infrastructure because of the demand.
Adams said he was talking to the town of Northport about building a boat launch capable of handling larger tournaments.
“They have an area at Bankhead Dam where we want them to build a six or eight lane wide boat launch to accommodate a lot of boats and add parking,” he said. “I know the state of Alabama is all about fishing, and that’s one of the untapped areas.
“Right now it’s all about Alabama football, and we’re enjoying it. But it’s only seven weekends a year. Fishing is our next focus. It may be an offer Monday to Friday, not just weekends, and we know that anglers arrive a few days before the actual tournament, which has a real economic impact.
Hollingsworth said Adams asked for advice on how to boost the Tuscaloosa area’s reputation for bass fishing. Holt Reservoir is a 3,296 acre reservoir in the scenic Appalachian Highlands. Upriver, Lake Bankhead spans 9,200 acres and cuts through Walker, Jefferson, and Tuscaloosa counties.
“I told them I would absolutely help them because I’ve fished these rivers and lakes all my life,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s a very versatile place. You can throw a swimming jig in one place or throw a Shaky Head or a jig against a wall in another place. You are not limited. Holt has water spots with visibility around 2-4 feet. If you go up to the dam (Bankhead) you get cooler water but with current. Going south, it’s warmer and it cleans up a bit too. I like to fish Holt because there is a bigger population of fish, bigger fish too.
While Hollingsworth is more than willing to help with marketing, his role is actually to fish as a member of the UA team. Hollingsworth is considerably older than his UA fishing teammates. The 34-year-old former police officer, army veteran and current member of the Army National Guard decided to go to UA to get his criminal justice degree to further his career in law enforcement. . He is graduating this week with an average of nearly 4.0 and plans to enter college.
Before Hollingsworth became president of the UA bass fishing team, he helped get uniforms and graphics for the anglers’ boats, and he started adding sponsors to fund expenses.
“Being that old in college is kind of weird,” he said. “I just try to be a role model for other team members.”
Hollingsworth said he got hooked on fishing since he was limited to a rod pole and a bucket of minnows.
“I had a crappie rig and I put a minnow in it and threw it away,” he said. “A big old man with a big mouth ate it. There were people fishing right next to us, and their mouths dropped.
“That’s what really sparked my love for her. I got away from it a bit when I was in the military. When I came back here in 2012, I started fishing again. I had with my buddy Dwayne Allen, and he showed me pretty much everything, I learned how to fish a swim jig with him.
Although Hollingsworth has a few plastic worms in his tackle box, they rarely see the light of day. Slow fishing is not his game.
“I like to fish fast,” he says. “I’m going to pull out a Shaky Head if that’s the last thing I think about catching a fish. Most of the time, I will have a swim jig or a jerkbait in my hands. If it’s early morning, I’ll walk a Spook around and throw a buzzbait. I like to go fast and cover a lot of water. In the summer I will cast a crankbait.
The UA Fishing Team competes in the Strike King-Bassmasters College Series, Abu Garcia College Series, Association of Collegiate Anglers (ACA) Bass Pro Shop Series, and Southern Collegiate Series, which will hold its state championship at Lake Eufaula later this month. .
“I first went to Eufaula two years ago,” Hollingsworth said. “It was the first time I had seen alligators on the water. I saw alligators almost as long as the boat I was in. I thought, ‘Oh, my gracious.’ And I was not far from Lakepoint State Park.
After Eufaula, Hollingsworth and his fishing partner, Travis Pattillo, will head to Michigan to fish Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.
“It’s going to be a journey,” Hollingsworth said. “We are going to have three teams there. I’ve never been there. Travis has never been there. What I heard is that it’s a Disneyland of small mouths. We have just been warned of the waves. I’m going to have to learn to drift fish.
While fishing in the South, Hollingsworth enjoys fishing for bedding bass.
“It’s a game, and I like this challenge,” he said. “It’s a competition between me and the fish. I’ll lock myself in on a fish for an hour, especially if I see it getting crazier and crazier. When they spread their gills or turn sideways, you know it’s on.
Photo: Adam Hollingsworth of the University of Alabama Fishing Team shows off a nice spotted bass landed at Holt Reservoir near Tuscaloosa.
Photo by David Rainer