Fantasy Fishing: Shallow or deep?

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Matt Arey had more consistently sized fish in his limit of 15-4, good for fourth place. Arey had been struggling this year compared to the past two years, but his good start led to a solid showing at Neely Henry and a climb inside the Classic cut.

Matt Arey had more consistently sized fish in his limit of 15-4, good for fourth place. Arey had been struggling this year compared to the past two years, but his good start led to a solid showing at Neely Henry and a climb inside the Classic cut.

It’s hard to believe it, but we’re on the home stretch already for the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series season. It has been a wild ride full of twists, turns and curveballs, but these Elite anglers have shown time and time again that they are at the pinnacle of the sport for a reason.

Before we head up north to wrap up our season, we are going to visit one more venue where the largemouth variety of bass will be the star player. B.A.S.S. has been to Lake Guntersville more than 20 times, and while sometimes it takes 70 pounds to win and other times over a hundred, the fishery never fails to bring the fireworks.

This time around, we should be hitting Guntersville at a time that will show us the true versatility the lake has to offer. It is full of grass, deep ledges, rip rap, bridges and bluff banks and each one should get some TV time.

With the guys able to spread out between all the available types of cover and structure, it would be wise to have a team comprised of some deep and shallow water wizards. In my research, I can’t tell what depth the winning fish are coming from in recent tournament results, but I would bet that it’ll be won catching them in transition either way. I’m going to mix it up for now, keep my eyes on the weather and let that dictate what my game day lineup will be.

I’m not going to pretend to know exactly how all these guys are going to fish, but given what I know of their strengths, momentum and history, here are my best guesses as to who will do well and at what depth I would expect them to spend most of their time.

Let’s jump in.

BUCKET A: FEIDER

Go shallow with: Seth Feider

It’s hard to bet against a guy with a 2021 record like Seth Feider’s. He has three Top 10s, a 12th and two finishes in the 20s, and we haven’t even visited his perceived wheelhouse yet. However, despite being known as a smallmouth guru (which he is), he loves flipping heavy vegetation and throwing a frog. In four attempts at this lake, he only has one blemish, which was a 94th-place finish in 2015 when he was still getting his feet underneath him. Since then, he has a pair of 11th-place finishes and a fourth to add to the resume. This will be my first time picking him this year, and hopefully this won’t resemble my ability to pick stocks; a day late and a dollar short.

Go deep with: Buddy Gross

With the home waters of Buddy Gross being just one link over in the TVA chain at Chickamauga, expect him to feel right at home. He is no slouch when fishing offshore and knows how this part of the country behaves in pretty much every type of condition. His results on Guntersville aren’t overwhelmingly good, but he has plenty of scraps that lead me to believe those two recorded results aren’t a sum of his talents. He loves fishing deep with crankbaits and big worms and should be out on the ledges grinding it out for five big bites. 

BUCKET B: AREY

Go shallow with: Hunter Shryock

If you want a guy you can bank will be in less than 4 feet of water, Hunter Shryock is your guy. It’s been an up-and-down career for him the last few seasons, but he seems to consistently find himself near the top of the leaderboard as the season progresses. He loves flipping shallow cover, and whether that is grass, docks or rocks, he consistently comes across a few of the right bites. If he can manage to catch a limit each day, he could be dangerous.

Go deep with: Matt Arey

Matt Arey is on a tear as of late, and I’m really hoping to see that continue through this next one. For now, I’m banking on his knack for finding subtleties with his electronics to bring him some big bites. His results are mixed, but there are a few top-20 finishes including third- and 13th-place finishes in June. Even though we’re well ahead of what the fish were doing during those events, it stands to reason that he can adjust to find them doing their thing under the current lake conditions.  

BUCKET C: WENDLANDT

Go shallow with: Jamie Hartman 

Jamie Hartman is doing everything he can to claw his way back up the standings and stay inside the Classic cut. He won here a few years ago fishing the tail end of the shad spawn and throwing deep crankbaits over grass to pull off a come-from-behind victory that no one saw coming. He has improved in the standings over the last three events and knows enough about this body of water to make a run at it this time around.

Go deep with: Clark Wendlandt

There will absolutely be a handful of anglers that end up fishing both shallow and deep, and Clark Wendlandt should fit that bill. He has been to this lake in professional tournaments more than most and has mixed results. However, this time of year fits right into his wheelhouse. Look to find him fishing shallow in the morning but spending the bulk of his day offshore on the highways where fish are waiting to be intercepted after spawning.

BUCKET D: DAVIS

Go shallow with: Scott Canterbury

Not to harp too much on it, but Scott Canterbury burned me along with about half of the Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing field in the last event, despite being a clear favorite. I’m not sure what happened, but I can’t see that happening twice in a row. This isn’t exactly his home lake, but he has plenty of experience here. He does not enjoy fishing offshore, so expect him to put together a pattern targeting shallow bass, which should be plentiful. In seven recorded results, Scott has two Top 10s and a few in the 20s or better.

Go deep with: Clent Davis 

If you haven’t put it together yet, I’m putting a lot of stock in the offshore bite for now. Clent Davis is known for his ability to fish ledges and brushpiles effectively. He has also never finished outside of the top 20% in professional competition on Guntersville no matter the time of year. He isn’t having a great season, but he cashed his second check in 2021 at the last event on Neely Henry Lake. Keep the train rolling, baby.

BUCKET E: GLEASON

Go shallow with: Darold Gleason 

To say I was happy with my Paul Mueller pick at Neely Henry would be a gross understatement. It’s difficult to peg a Bucket E guy who will have a breakout event and find himself fishing all four days more than once or twice a season, but I’m hoping we can land two in a row. Darold Gleason understands enormous grass fisheries, and while he may spend his time shallow, he may very well find them out deep. His biggest issue this season seems to be stringing together multiple good days. I know he has the skill; it’s only a matter of time before we see him on a Sunday.

Go deep with: David Fritts

We got to see a fun old-school display of bass fishing on Neely Henry from the legend David Fritts. There will certainly be ample opportunity in this one to catch bass doing what he loves: fishing a crankbait offshore. He has won on Guntersville along with several top end finishes. He’ll certainly have some waypoints to pick from.

Drain The Lake

  • Matt Arey 
  • Clent Davis
  • Buddy Gross 
  • Taku Ito 
  • Brock Mosley 
  • David Mullins 
  • Gerald Swindle 
  • Clark Wendlandt