By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Bassmaster Elite Series anglers hopefully got plenty of rest during the 5-week layoff since their previous event, as these next 5 weeks will be ultra-hectic.
The tournament that starts today at Lake Guntersville is the first of four that will play out through the first week of November. With some creative rescheduling, B.A.S.S. was able to maintain the nine-event regular season that was originally slated and then ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Guntersville, which hosted this year's Bassmaster Classic and is one of the most renowned bass fisheries on the planet, is not in peak form as September comes to a close. Alabama has experienced some violent weather over the past few weeks that's caused the Tennessee Valley Authority to make frequent adjustments to the water level – a phenomenon that usually slows the bite anywhere it occurs.
The northern swing that concluded at Lake St. Clair in late August produced some dramatic movement on the Angler of the Year points list. Competitors who were outside the Classic cutoff (Top 40) when it began are now in the hunt for the AOY title as the frenetic final run gets under way.
Clark Wendlandt, one of the tour's most seasoned competitors and a three-time AOY on the FLW Tour, leads the pack into the home stretch. His closest pursuer is one of the greenest – Japanese rookie Takumi Ito, who posted three straight Top-10s in the North Country.
Before delving deeper into the bite at Guntersville, here's some lowdown on the fishery.
BassFan Lake Profile
> Lake name: Guntersville
> Type of water: Lowland reservoir fed by the Tennessee River
> Surface acres: Approximately 70,000
> Primary structure/cover: Grass (hydrilla, milfoil, eelgrass), causeways/bridges, creek channels, humps, riprap, boat docks, shell beds, laydowns
> Average depth: Roughly 15 feet
> Species: Largemouth, spotted bass
> Reputation: Big-bass factory that sustains itself despite an incredible amount of fishing pressure
> Primary forage: Shad
> Weather: Mostly sunny and seasonably cool on competition days
> Water temp: High 60s to low 70s
> Water visibility/color: Varies by location
> Water level: Fluctuating
> Fish in: 1 to 20 feet
> Fish phase: Late summer/fall
> Primary patterns: Frogs and other topwaters, bladed jigs, flipping, plastics, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits
> Winning weight: 64 pounds (4 days)
> Cut weight (Top 40 after 2 days): 22 pounds
> Fishing quality (1=poor, 5=great): 2 for Guntersville
> Biggest factor: Big fish. This lake’s got ‘em and one (or more) per day will be a huge difference-maker
> Wild card: The up-and-down water level – it'll affect fish location and mood
Here's a good look at Guntersville (depth contours included), courtesy of the folks at Navionics:
Storms Took a Toll
Alex Davis, an FLW Pro Circuit competitor who operates the Spinnerbait Kid Guide Service at Guntersville, said that two weeks ago the lake was fishing as well as he'd ever seen it at this time of year. Then the nasty weather commenced and things changed drastically.
"It was phenomenal; in one week I got two fish over 9 (pounds), two over 8, a few over 7 and a bunch of 5s," he said. "That was right before Hurricane Sally – they were biting a frog and a ChatterBait real good.
"The (low barometric pressure from) the storm messed with them and (the TVA) drew the lake down 2 1/2 feet because we were supposed to get a bunch of rain from Sally, but we didn't get any. In 2 days they filled it back up, then here came (Tropical Storm) Beta and they dropped it another 2 1/2 feet. The fish didn't know how react and it got extremely tough, but late last week it started to come back a little."
He said the average fish size will trend well to the low side for Guntersville and it likely won't take more than 27 pounds to make the Top-40 cut after 2 days.
"A 5-pounder is like gold right now. Guys who can catch a 5 and a 4 will really distance themselves from the pack."
There are fish still holding in their summertime haunts while others have moved to the shallows. The deep ones might be tough to catch as they've been pounded with the same lures repeatedly since June and presently tend to bite only in small time windows that are dependent on current.
"There were some mats that were perfect, but now they're under water and soupy-looking," Davis said. "They TVA certainly isn't doing these guys any favors.
"The most significant thing is this tournament probably won't be won from one area. Generally at this time of year you can find a frog mat that's got enough fish for 4 days, but this time you're going to see people doing different techniques instead of being all-in on frogging or flipping because that's how consistent bags are built. A guy might throw a ChatterBait in the morning, then go to one or two frogging areas and catch some and then flip an area and catch some more."
Anglers will launch each day at 6:30 a.m. CT From Goose Pond Colony Resort Marina in Scottsboro, Ala. Weigh-ins will be held at the same location beginning at 2:30 p.m.
The NOCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 3, with takeoffs each day at 6:30 a.m. CT from Goose Pond Colony Resort Marina and weigh-ins back at that facility each day at 2:30 p.m. The 85-angler field will earn valuable points in a Bassmaster Angler of the Year race that is entering its stretch run, and the overall tournament winner will walk away with $100,000.
> Weds., Sept. 30 – Sunny - 74°/46°
- Wind: From the NW at 9 mph
> Thurs., Oct. 1 – Sunny - 67°/43°
- Wind: From the NNW at 8 mph
> Fri. Oct. 2 – Sunny - 71°/49°
- Wind: From the NNE at 3 mph
> Sat., Oct. 3 – Mostly Sunny - 73°/51°
- Wind: From the S at 6 mph