Tennessee pro Michael Neal is gearing up for a new season on the Bass Pro Tour. He’ll be ready with the right rods, reel, and tackle for each of the various stops on tour and will also pack his clothing accordingly for each region.
Stage One - Sam Rayburn Reservoir, TX - Mar 21 - 26, 2021
Neal said he has only been to Rayburn once but thinks things are setting up perfectly for big bass.
“You never know what you will encounter during March, so your foul weather gear is so important,” Neal said. “You need to stay warm and dry so you can stay focused on the water.”
With this in mind, he’ll pack both his AFTCO Hydronaut and Anhydrous 2.0 bibs and jacket.
“I keep them both with me and wear one or the other depending on the air temperature,” Neal said.
Heavy Hitters - Falls Lake, NC - Apr 9 - 14, 2021
The Bass Pro Tour has fished the lakes outside of Raleigh, North Carolina before and that excites Neal.
“We had a great tournament when we went there last time and we will be right around the spawn this year,” said Neal. “It will be a lot of flipping and pitching, shallow water fishing and some sight fishing.”
Neal is a fan of wearing a hood when sight-fishing and said the AFTCO Samurai Sun Protection Hoodie is a must.
“It keeps the sun off of you and protects your skin, but the hood also helps you see fish better when you are sight fishing,” Neal added.
Stage Two - Lake Travis, TX - Apr 30 - May 5, 2021
The stop at Lake Travis outside of Austin, Texas, should be another great one, according to Neal.
“It is really deep and clear and unlike most of Texas,” he said. “It will be a post-spawn tournament with maybe a few late spawning fish. There could also be a good bite around the shad spawn.”
Stage Three - Harris Chain of Lakes, FL - May 21 - 26, 2021
Fishing Florida in late May will be sweltering, but Neal expects good fishing at this event.
“It will be hot, but there will be a lot of big fish caught,” Neal said. “Last year we fished Toho in June and it was really good. That time of year in Florida doesn’t get the notoriety that the winter does, but it is great fishing.”
With the hot temperatures, he’ll have his AFTCO Solago Sun Gloves covering his hands.
“I’ve gotten to where I wear them all the time now,” Neal said. “They are really comfortable and protect your hands from the sun.”
Stage Four - Lake Chickamauga, TN - Jun 4 - 9, 2021
The fourth regular-season event will be on Neal’s home lake, Lake Chickamauga. He’s excited to showcase the fishery under the every-catch-counts format.
“I’m thinking it is going to be a great event and people don’t realize how quickly you can catch fish when you get a school of bass lit up,” he said. “That SCORETRACKER is going to go crazy and there will be a lot of fish caught. I can’t say how much it will take to win, but it will boggle some brains.”
Weather-wise, he’s expecting some warm temperatures.
“It is going to be hot,” Neal predicted. “You’ll have to wear sun shirts, shorts, gloves and Sun Masks. You’ll need all of the above.”
Stage Five - St. Lawrence River, NY - Jun 25 - 30, 2021
Neal has never been to the famed river but believes the timing should be perfect for a sight fishing slugfest in New York.
“At the end of June, there should be a ton of sight fishing going on,” he predicted. “It should be a great tournament since we have never had an MLF format tournament there and things could get really crazy with the amount of fish being caught.”
Thinking ahead to packing clothes, he thinks it will be a cool weather event, even though it is in June.
“Up north, it never really gets that hot and I’ll be packing my Gamma Ray Pants and Original Fishing Pants for that one.”
Stage Six - Lake Champlain, NY - Aug 5 - 10, 2021
Lake Champlain is a favorite for many anglers, including Neal.
“It is always fun and unique because you can compete with either largemouth or smallmouth bass there,” he said. “I think we will see a battle between the smallmouth guys and largemouth guys, but think the smallmouth will have an advantage. There should be plenty of them offshore that time of year.”
Stage Seven - Lake St. Clair, MI - Sep 10 - 15, 2021
Wrapping up the season, the Bass Pro Tour anglers will take on Lake St. Clair and Neal thinks it will be a fitting end to the year.
“That should be a great event to end the season with,” Neal said. “It has always been known as a lake with solid three to five-pound fish and I think we are going to catch plenty of them.”
The late summer timing has Neal thinking of cooler weather.
“It will start to cool off by then and I will have to break out the Hydronaut suit again.”