With an increasingly high profile, thanks to visits from ESPN and nationally recognized fishing tournaments, Prattville’s stretch of the Alabama River is fast becoming an angler’s paradise.
Fishing Enthusiasts Flock Here
The river always has been a popular spot for local fishermen, but when Bass Pro Shops opened its doors in Prattville, a whole new set of enthusiasts came to town. Add in the city’s successful efforts to market the river as a tournament and tourism destination, as well as its ongoing work in sprucing up and expanding Cooters Pond Park, and the recipe for success is easy to see.
“The river really sells itself,” says Drew Peterson, director of leisure services for the city. “We work with the chamber to bring the big tournaments in, but we’ve also got a lot of smaller tournaments going on all the time. We’ve got a sign out at Cooters Pond: ‘If you’re interested in a bass tournament, call us.’ We’ve got to keep a calendar, because otherwise we’d have five or six at once some months.”
The city has a strong working relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates the Robert F. Henry Lock and Dam, which in turn created R.E. “Bob” Woodruff Lake and the various fishing spots on and around the water. Largemouth and Alabama spotted bass are the primary targets here, although crappie, shad, striped and white bass, as well as channel, blue and flathead catfish also can be lured onto a patient hook, as well.
Hosting Large-Scale Events
Prattville’s willingness to host large-scale events, coupled with the river’s variety of fish, began bringing in large tournaments a few years ago, and each success expands the area’s drawing power a little more, says Terry Mullins, chairperson of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce’s tourism committee.
“The river is enjoying more and more tournaments, and it’s exciting for us to see them come into town,” Mullins says. “The local people always knew what a good park and fishing spot Cooters Pond was, and then the city took it over, cleaned it up and made it so attractive that we were able to host the Bassmasters Elite 50 Series Fishing Tournament there in 2004. That got a good response and so we hosted the Bassmaster Open Championship in 2005. And every time we have one of these, more people want to come in here and fish, so it keeps growing.”
The city also has hosted the Alabama Bass Federation Tournament, adds Peterson, who notes that if this level of use keeps up, Cooters Pond and other high-traffic areas may soon need a makeover.
“Anything we want to do, we have to go through the corps of engineers,” he says. “But we have a good relationship with them, and we’ve already added a dog park up there, and we’re adding a third boat ramp and changing the route to the docks so we can eliminate some traffic problems. We’ve had a model airplane exhibition up there, and are coordinating with cycling and lacrosse groups so we can make it a full family park with a lot of activities besides the fishing.”
Read more about the outdoors in Prattville, AL.