Have you ever gotten through with your chocolate cake after dinner and thought, “Man, a nice bowl of bread pudding sounds right?” Well, we are about to get our second helping of dessert as we head back to Lake Gunterville for round two and the sixth stop of the 2020 regular season — if you can call anything in 2020 “regular."
This time of year on Guntersville can be absolutely magical. The grass is as thick as it will likely be all year. According to the Guntersville fishing reports, the main lake grass has started to be a key component. That tells me all I need to know. I fully expect this tournament to be absolutely dominated by one special bait: a frog.
Certain areas of this lake will produce year after year. A few years ago, I had the privilege of fishing a frog-only tournament here in early October. We stumbled across a mat that was fairly unassuming compared to some of the major community holes out there. We ended up fishing alongside a lot of touring pros that live on Guntersville who said that particular mat had just fired up the day before we got there, and it was a secret. We smashed them there, and if it weren’t for a confirmed 10-plus pounder — it was 15 feet away from one of those pros who were casually fishing — two Texas boys would have walked away with the victory. If these guys can find those historically relevant, under-pressured mats, they could have a monster tournament.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are plenty of ledges that are producing still. Big worms, jigs, spoons and crankbaits should all play. These ledges will likely be good for a solid bag or two, but the big ones will be in the mats come game day.
There are a few interesting points to make about the event this time around. The first is that this is the time of year the guys would normally be wrapping up the season and prepping to head home until the start of the next season. We haven’t had a fall B.A.S.S. event on this lake since the Megabucks events in the early 90s, and before that it was the 1976 Bassmaster Classic, won by the legendary Rick Clunn.
Second, there are several guys who live on and around this lake that likely fish Guntersville in the offseason to keep themselves sharp. I’ll be leaning on some history here, but I’m putting more weight on both proximity to the lake and guys that are technique-specific to get it done.
Let’s check out the buckets.
BUCKET A: FEIDER
I’m sure I’ve said this in prior articles, but if Seth Feider had one way that he could fish, it would be fishing shallow grass. He grew up doing that in the North. He can read a mat with the best of them, not to mention this guy is dangerous with a heavy Texas rig and a frog. This event will be similar to the current-driven Northern fisheries like the Mississippi River and even Cayuga where Seth has had great success in past seasons. He struggled here in 2015, but he has gotten progressively better finishing 11th and ninth in his last two rounds out here.
Also considered: Buddy Gross
Buddy Gross is a proximity pick. He lives on Chickamauga, which happens to be right upstream from Guntersville. He has probably spent many, many days during the offseason on this lake. The big thing about Buddy is he knows how these fish respond in different conditions. Whether they’re pulling a lot of current, it’s dead calm, sunny or stormy, he should be able to adjust.
BUCKET B: LESTER
Brandon Lester has impeccable history on this lake. He lives in Fayetteville, Tenn., which is only about 60 miles or so from home. He tends to live and die offshore more than most, but he knows which areas of this lake will be productive. Don’t count him out in the grass though. He has three recorded finishes here as an Elite: two Top 10s and a 27th. Not too shabby.
Also considered: Matt Herren
If there was anyone I would consider swapping over to, it would be Matt Herren. I genuinely believe this event will be won shallow, and it’s hard to beat Matt Herren with a big rod and a cannon ball for a sinker. He is also more local than most and has a fair bit of tournament experience here. His best finish was a third place in 2008 in a Southern Open in … you guessed it ... the fall. Early October, in fact.
BUCKET C: LOWEN
Another shallow grass giant, Bill Lowen has no problem grinding it out. If he can’t get them to bite a swim jig, he will work hard all day for the five best bites he can get. He’s no local, but he is one of those technique-specific guys that should show out. He doesn’t have any tournament history that I can see for this time of the year, but that doesn’t scare me one bit. He does however, have eight tournaments on record, so he will definitely be able to break down the lake quickly.
Also considered: Cliff Prince
Florida angler Cliff Prince should feel right at home. If he can’t find a flipping bite shallow, there must not be one to be had. He’ll put a broomstick to work, and if he can be consistent day-to-day, he should have a good event. His best finishes on his resume have come from springtime shallow events with lots of vegetation.
BUCKET D: SWINDLE
Gerald Swindle can cast a jig from his driveway and just about land it in the lake. He is the most local guy here. He literally lives in Guntersville on the lake. In fact, he is one of the pros I referred to above that was fishing that mat with me. He is all but guaranteed to know which areas are going to produce the best and the best ways to get them to bite. He has loads of tournament history here, but being so close to the lake is what gives him the edge.
Also considered: Lee Livesay
Lake Fork has massive grass mats full of big fish. It doesn’t have the current, so as long as Lee Livesay can put that part of the puzzle together, he could have a great event. I think most of all, he is just excited to be back in green fish country. He had a tough time up north and will be looking to make a historic run over the last few events in an effort to lock in his Classic berth on Ray Roberts just north of Dallas, Texas, next year.
BUCKET E: CREWS
John Crews released a video on his YouTube channel recently where he refers to his string of bad events that resulted in him being in Bucket E this late in the season. It seems like each year, there are a few guys who end up in this bucket who seem to struggle all season long. John says the key to coming out of that is to keep being yourself and doing what you do best, and it will eventually come to an end. Well, what he does best historically is fishing shallow grass. It seems like any time he can throw a frog or a swim jig, he works his way to a solid finish. There are a few guys here that are good at the techniques I think will be in play, but John is primed and ready and will come out swinging.
Also considered: Bill Weidler
Bill Weidler is another local who only lives an hour and a half away from this legendary fishery. You’ll find a lot of pros that make their home base within a few hours of this area of the country because of the diverse fishing opportunities. Like Lester, Swindle, Gross and Herren, you can bet he spends plenty of time out here when his schedule allows. He finished 27th in last season’s event in late summer. Apart from his recent win on St. Clair, his best B.A.S.S. finish was a sixth place on neighboring Chickamauga, which was dominated and won up shallow. Don’t be surprised if he rides his momentum coming off his win to another solid finish here.