PELL CITY—Thousands of anglers gathered at Logan Martin Lake Saturday for the largest bass tournament in the state of Alabama, the Mark’s Open. 

“I enjoy doing it every year for Mark’s Outdoors,” professional angler and the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell said as fans gathered to obtain his autograph. “It’s always a fun event because we get paired with somebody we don’t know, typically a youth or a teenager. So, we end having a lot of fun helping people learn stuff and having a good time. That’s what it’s all about. Our sponsors Livingston lures and Daiwa, they’re the ones putting up the child entry fee. Those guys help me be here too, so we appreciate them.”       

For Morgan Ciesla, this was her first ever bass tournament. 

“It was fun,” she said. “It was just really slow. I expected there to be bigger fish, but it was fun.”

Morgan’s father, Paul Ciesla, helped ensure his daughter would have the opportunity to fish in a bass tournament.   

“She’s always cared more about bream fishing, but over Memorial Day we went to a friend’s lake and she tried bass fishing and loved it,” he said. “That was just a couple of weeks ago, and then she said ‘I want to fish at a bass tournament, dad.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ We heard Mark’s was open and went ahead and fished it. She did good, got a little burned out, but she did good.” 

Braving a beating sun and intimidating temperatures, locals and nonlocals alike seemed to come away with an enjoyable fishing experience. 

“We live within 20 miles of Lay (Lake), so I love that lake because I know the lake and the fish a lot,” Paul Ciesla said. “As far as fishing, I’d rather fish that lake. The facilities here are a lot better and the way they had it set up with the separate ramp for the parent-child and they actually valet parked your truck and backed you in so you could just take off, it was great.”  

Jimmy Mason, a pro angler from the Florence area, said the event was well worth the trip south. 

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a great format. It was an enjoyable today and yesterday talking to folks there at the store, talking about our sponsor’s products. It’s just a lot of fun here on the lake. It’s a great lake; we caught a lot of fish and had a good time.” 

Pro angler John Crews fished with local Grayson Southern and the team walked away with an impressive total weigh-in of 20.6 pounds and a big fish that weighed 5.1 pounds. Crews credited his equipment. 

“Mainly, we caught them on two baits,” Crews said. “A SPRO Bronzeye Frog with a 65 pound Vicious Braid. I had on a Pinnacle seven foot heavy action rod. That rod is key to that bait, working it. I caught some of the other fish on a half-ounce homemade jig with a Missile Baits D Bomb trailer. I had that on a 20 pound Vicious Pro Elite Fluorocarbon putting it up under the piers and catching them that way.” 

Southern won a drawing through Mark’s Outdoors to have the opportunity to fish with Crews. 

“I learned a whole lot,” Southern said. “It was a long, hot day with big fish. It was a lot of fun.” 

This year, the tournament changed locations. After many years at Lay Lake, the tournament moved to Logan Martin. If attendance was any indication, it was clearly a popular move. 

“Everywhere I went there was a boat,” Howell said. “You just keep riding and there was a boat everywhere. I tell you, we’re real thankful and blessed to get what we got today.” 

Crews, who said he hasn’t fished at Logan Martin in roughly a decade, enjoyed his return. 

“I like it,” he said. “It’s got a lot of shallow grass; the water is up, it’s got a little sting to it. For June, there are still of fish shallow. They seemed like they’re pretty much recovered from the spawn, so they’re starting to bite a little bit. It’s just fun right now.”