MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage 5 on Smith Lake officially underway

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Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs threw out the first cast for the MLF's Stage Five event on Smith Lake Tuesday morning from the boat of Cullman's Matt Lee. (Photo courtesy of Josh Griffin)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Stage Five of the 2019 Major League Fishing Bass Tour officially kicked off early Tuesday morning and Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs threw out the first cast from the boat of Cullman native and pro angler Matt Lee. The tournament will be accompanied by a “festival-style fan experience” in downtown Cullman’s depot park and festhalle and Mitch Smith Chevrolet will be giving out drinks and Chick fil a sandwiches on the water Wednesday through Saturday.

There will be activities happening every night at the downtown festival and live music, kids’ activities, craft vendors & artisans, food trucks, a farmer’s market, meet and greets, and more over the weekend. The anglers will make their way to the stage downtown at 3:30 each afternoon to talk about their day on the water and all of them will be working to make the final cut for championship Sunday.

As in all Bass Pro Tour events, the Cullman visit will feature seven hours of live coverage on each competition day with access to the MLF NOW! free live stream found on the league’s website, www.majorleaguefishing.com. The Smith Lake event will also result in a two-hour television show that will air on Discovery Channel in the fourth quarter of 2019 and repeat on Sportsman Channel in first and second quarters of 2020.

The people of Cullman are not strangers to the bass fishing scene. Sixteen of the Bass Pro Tour’s 80-angler field call are from Alabama, and Jesse Wiggins is an Addison native while Matt Lee and Jordan Lee are from Cullman. Jordan Lee won the inaugural Bass Pro Tour opener in Kissimmee, Florida, and he’s the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion with back-to-back Classic titles in 2017 and 2018.

Lee is not only excited to get out on the water and compete, he’s excited to see the sport he loves bring its biggest stage to his home town.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed of: having a big event come to Cullman, you know, to showcase not only the town but, you know, the great fishing we have around here,” Lee said. “This is going to be…it’s just a great experience. I think the town of Cullman’s going to get to see what Major League Fishing is all about and what it has to offer.”

Lee’s mind will be on the water this week as he chases another title, but he knows that the event will be bring plenty for the community to enjoy as well.

“It’s going to be a great fan experience.  I mean, I know a lot of the high school anglers are going to be, you know, super excited about this,” Lee continued. “Cullman’s been in need of this. You know, Smith Lake: it’s a great fishery and it never had that big event out of Cullman, out of the park. This is really going to get to showcase it, and I’m just excited to be a part of it. And I’m thankful for the City of Cullman and everybody, you know that’s been behind this to get this here. It’s going to be, you know, it’s going to be a great time and it’s going to be very exciting for everybody.”

The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) recently reopened the public boat landing that served as the Stage Five launch site. The renovated facility includes a 90-foot-wide, six-lane launching slab and a paved parking lot with room for 113 tow vehicles with boat trailers, and 10 cars.  

Other improvements include security lighting, a paved overflow parking lot for another 70 truck and trailer rigs, a 45-foot stationary aluminum pier, two large floating aluminum piers and a fixed aluminum pedestrian bridge that connects the overflow and main parking areas. The launch site is located on the northeast side of Ryan Creek and accessed free of charge through Smith Lake Park at 403 County Rd. 386 in Cullman.

As for Smith’s quality fishing, anglers often find themselves challenged in deciding whether to focus on the lake’s generous population of spotted bass, target the bigger largemouth bass or rely on both. Making it even more interesting is the fact that the MLF Bass Pro Tour uses a unique catch-weigh-and-immediate-release format in which all “scorable” bass caught do count in an angler’s score. That means Smith Lake’s big schools of healthy spotted bass could be game changers throughout the competition.

It’ll be a busy week for all the anglers on Smith Lake and their fans, culminating in the final round on the water Sunday and the trophy presentation on stage Sunday afternoon.

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Photo courtesy of Josh Griffin