I think it was Ghandi who said, “The fall transition for bass fishing can kick your ever-loving rear end.” Nailed it, Ghandi — nailed it. Lake Guntersville has always been a “Home of the Giants” of sorts, but the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament last week showed us that even the best lakes in the country, given the right circumstances, can be absolutely brutal. However, despite the tough fishing, the guys put on one heck of a show and not only brought several giants to the scales, but we got to see a group of anglers break into a Championship Saturday and make a name for themselves. A hearty congrats to Frank Talley on his first blue trophy. Here’s to many more.
This was the worst event of the year so far for me in Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing. I’m still narrowly holding onto my lead amongst the pundits, but Rich “HellaBass” Lindgren has all but caught up. I was really hoping that the local Guntersville knowledge would help bump a few of my picks to the top of the leaderboard, but for whatever reason my strategy backfired. If there is one thing I know, it’s that the guys are looking forward to our next event at another big bass factory out in South Carolina, Santee Cooper.
B.A.S.S. hasn’t been here on the pro tour level since 2006 where a spring event shattered records as hundreds of giant bass moved in to spawn all at once during the event. We won’t have that luxury this time around, but the fish will definitely be on the move. The fall transition is when bass move away from their summer haunts to follow the bait as it moves shallow, ultimately to end up in the backs of creeks where the bass put on their feeding sacks to fatten up before winter. We will likely hit this event a little short of the prime window, but I wouldn’t expect this event to be nearly as stingy as Guntersville.
Santee Cooper has plenty of fish that live both shallow and deep between the two separate lakes. I would expect that the deep bite may be a little less reliable, although we may see a few anglers bring in some good fish from the depths. My gut, though, is telling me that we will probably see more fish caught shallow in the grass and around the cypress trees than we will out deep.
I’m putting all my eggs in the shallow basket. Texas rigs, topwater, crankbaits and jigs seem to be what has been getting it done in recent tournaments out there. It’s been taking one-day totals in the low 20s to bring home the win in recent local team events, but I would suspect a big bag in the low 20s accompanied by several bags in the high teens will get the job done.
Let’s jump in.
BUCKET A: CANTERBURY
I’ve been stubborn for way too long. Scott Canterbury has consistently proven that he belongs at the top. Despite a few rough events this year, he is still in fourth in Bassmaster Angler of the Year points, not to mention that he is the defending 2019 AOY champ. He just finished with a solid Top 10 on Guntersville, finishing ninth. Two of his other single-digit finishes this year were fishing brush piles on Eufaula and flipping up giant spawners in thick grass on the St. John’s River. No matter what depth he finds them in, he can do it all. Not to mention, if he can scrap up a Championship Saturday on Guntersville last week, he gets my vote of confidence here if it gets tough.
Also considered: Matt Arey
Many of Matt Arey’s highest finishes in the Elites have come from shallow grassy lakes, although he excels fishing deep too. He is from North Carolina, just a few short hours from our venue. Arey currently sits in 11th in AOY and just cashed a check at Guntersville. He may mix it up, fishing both shallow and deep, but I bet he’ll find a way to do what he loves and may end up power fishing his way to another solid finish.
BUCKET B: WALTERS
There is not a more local angler in this field than Patrick Walters. The fact is that most of the Elite anglers don’t have any professional tournament results at all during the month of October. Patrick is a young buck that has been taking people’s money on this body of water for years, and more than likely many of those dollars were earned catching fall bass. He loves shallow power fishingm and he will be a force to be reckoned with here. His best Elite finishes were on the St. Johns River fishing shallow vegetation (fourth and 10th), but he also has a seventh-place finish right down the road at Winyah Bay. Let’s see if he can add another breakout performance to his resume this week.
Also considered: Jason Williamson
If you are looking for tournament results on Santee Cooper, Jason Williamson is one of the few guys who have any. In 2006, he took second in a multi-day event here, however it was in April. He also had a rough event in a 2008 Open in May, finishing in the middle of the pack. Last season on Winyah Bay he finished fourth which is similar in a lot of ways to Santee Cooper. The biggest positive point for Williamson is he is coming off a great finish on Guntersville (16th) and should have some solid momentum going into this one.
BUCKET C: COX
John Cox is another angler who actually has a little tournament experience here, however, my mind blows right past it and lands on his 2019 win at Chickamauga where he flipped up solid bags on cypress roots. He is as committed to shallow power fishing as you can be. His one tournament result that I can find is a fourth-place finish in the 2008 Southern Open, but this one just flat out fits his style. Last week on Guntersville, he started strong, but fell from the Top 10 to the mid 50s. Here’s hoping he can be a little more consistent this time around.
Also considered: Wes Logan
We got to see how truly talented this young angler is last week on Lake Guntersville where he was just a few bites away from bringing home the trophy. Wes Logan calls Santee Cooper his favorite fishery, so you can bet he’ll be riding that momentum into this event. He excels at fishing shallow vegetation, especially when he gets to flip a big jig or Texas rig. He may be a rookie, but don’t let that keep you from adding him to the team. He could show up in a big way this week.
BUCKET D: WEIDLER
Bill Weidler seems to have found his stride as he just backed up his win on St. Clair with a solid showing on Guntersville. He is no stranger to fishing this part of the country and boasts a 21st on Winyah Bay back in 2019. He showed us all what he can do with a flipping stick last week finishing in the teens. Maybe he can keep his streak going.
Also considered: Bill Lowen
I really wanted to pick Bill Lowen again here because I think a buzzbait or swim jig could really play big. However, after Lowen’s finish on Guntersville and how bad that hurt my Fantasy Fishing team, I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t say he is a bad pick by any means because he loves tough, shallow-water, power-fishing events. I’m not sure what this funk that he is in can be attributed to, but rest assured he will eventually break out of it.
BUCKET E: LIVESAY
I’ve been pulling for Lee Livesay the last several events in hopes that he can turn his season around and fish the 2021 Classic in Dallas. However, I think it’s to the point that he needs to salvage what he can of the season and make a push to finish as high as he can. Lake Fork where Lee guides is such a fantastic and versatile fishery. But when it wants to get ugly, it get’s "Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark-melt-your-face-off" kind of ugly. Those fish can flat out vanish, and it’s Lee’s job to find them. For Santee Cooper, he is very good at fishing shallow grass and if he can find areas where they’re coming and going, he will find a way to put them in the boat.
Also considered: John Crews
For the same reasons as I had for not picking Bill Lowen, I’m considering John Crews a value pick, but not putting him on my team. He’s having a consistently rough year, and even the events that should bode well for him find him in the bottom of the standings. He is one of the best with a frog and swim jig. If he can fix whatever is broken, he may find himself bringing in some solid points.