In recent years, a handful of pro anglers have made their homes in Alabama. This is not a temporary deal for a few months during tournament season, but a full-fledged relocation with wives, husbands and kids.
Some of the reasons vary from angler to angler, but the bottom line is they want to be closer to the tournament action. Alabama is centrally located for a majority of the tournaments, most of which can be reached in about a day's drive. The added plus for anglers is there are many different types of lakes to fish when there is no competition. And cost of living is better compared to many other states.
From the west
Aaron Martens now calls Leeds home after leaving California, where his family lived on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He and his wife, Lesley, moved to the Yellowhammer State about six years ago and said it is the best decision they ever made. The couple has two children, a girl and a boy, and they all get to travel with Martens when he is on the road. Aaron drives the camper and Lesley pulls the boat.
"Before the kids came along we camped in a tent around the tournaments," Martens said. "But that was only about a year."
The Martens have a house about twice the size they had in California for about the same price. Martens had fished several lakes around Alabama before he won a FLW event in 2004 on Wheeler Lake. Before coming east he won four Bassmaster tournaments in California.
"The weather is similar here as to California," Martens said. "It is a little more humid here and the winters are a little cooler, but we like the weather here."
When he is not fishing, Martens said he likes to mountain bike the trails at Oak Mountain State Park. But he says he doesn't get to do that much, opting to spend the time with his family. Travel for sponsors and tournament practice takes away some of his family time.
In between tournaments, Martens said he likes to fish Logan Martin. The lake is close by and he can get in the water in less than an hour from home. Some of the lures Martens favors on Logan Martin are flukes, soft plastic worms and creatures baits.
From the Far East
Kotaro Kiriyama came to New York about 18 years ago from Japan to study English. He now lives in Moody. Kiriyama lived in California for a while before coming to Alabama to be more centrally located for his tournament fishing.
"My dad wanted me to find a profession that would keep me out of trouble," Kiriyama said.
Kiriyama has been a BASS pro angler for the past eight years and has one tournament win under his belt. He said he likes the mountains here because they remind him some of his home in Japan. Kiriyama only gets to travel back to Japan about once or twice per year to visit family and work with his sponsors.
"The lakes here (in Alabama) are similar to the ones in Japan," Kiriyama said. "Except, the lakes there are on a smaller scale."
Kiriyama said he thinks Alabama is the best place to live for a fisherman and it is the heart of bass fishing. He says there are many different types of fishing around the state. When he is not fishing, Kiriyama enjoys tennis and reading. He also helps design lures for Jakal, one of his sponsors from Japan.
Growing up in Japan, Kiriyama's dad would take him fishing and camping. He says he remembers those times when he is traveling.
"Those spots fight good," Kiriyama said.
From Down Under
The newest pro angler to take up residency in Alabama is Kim Bain-Moore, who now calls Pelham home. She is a southern girl — that is, she is from southern Australia. Bain-Moore came to the States to become a professional angler. Fishing a couple of different tours with the men, Bain-Moore found a place on the Women's Bassmaster Tour, where she won angler of the year and qualified as the first lady angler for the Bassmaster Classic last year. She has received an overwhelming amount of media coverage from the Classic.
While out west, she met Andre Moore, who was a pro angler on the FLW and BASS tours. In 2005 in Pittsburgh, on the Classic stage, Moore proposed and she said yes. The couple moved to central Alabama, where Moore could focus on running his lure company, Reaction Innovations.
"I like it here, except for the humidity," Bain-Moore said. "I enjoy the outdoors and there is plenty to do around here."
Bain-Moore and her husband travel to different tournaments together as he also fishes the BASS opens. She says they function as a team when on the road. When fishing for fun, her favorite lake is Neely Henry.
Some 10 years ago, Randy Howell of Springville moved here from North Carolina to be more centrally located for major tournaments. Mark Davis of Arkansas is hoping to move here, maybe around Southside or maybe even northern Calhoun County if he can sell his present house.
The secret is apparently out that Alabama is the new home for pro anglers. This is a great place to live — but of course we have known it all along.