Here we go: Back-to-back slugfests on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series. With all the heavy rains in Oklahoma, unfortunately Fort Gibson had to be postponed, which means that we are closing in on one of the most historically proven bodies of water that B.A.S.S. has ever fished.
In my research, B.A.S.S. has been to Lake Guntersville for a tour-level event a whopping 18 times! That doesn’t include the Opens, college events, high school tournaments and all the other times Bassmaster has hosted an event there. Needless to say, there is a bit of experience to draw from.
The lake is extremely healthy right now. According to most of the fishing reports that I’ve researched, the fish are setting up on their summertime haunts. This is the time of year where you can find mega-schools loaded up in particular locations. Sometimes you can catch more than 100 fish a day. However, there will be plenty of big fish up shallow.
I’m betting on about 60 percent of the Elites to find their patterns offshore, 30 percent to hit the banks and 10 percent to bounce between both.
Let’s dive in:
BUCKET A: CANTERBURY
Scott Canterbury is the only native ‘Bama boy in the group. That certainly should mean he has more experience on Guntersville than most. He is a self-proclaimed shallow-water fisherman, which means I’m not picking him for the win. However, I certainly think he will find himself in the top 20, as there will be plenty of big fish on the banks. Between all the major tours, there have not been many June tournaments on the famed Tennessee River impoundment, however, FLW did visit in 2010, and Canterbury finished 50th, cashing in the last money spot. Keep in mind that FLW had 136 competitors, so that 50th-place finish was stout.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: CORY JOHNSTON
For whatever reason, Bucket A has been tough for me this time. This might be a swap-out for me. He doesn’t have a ton of experience here, but Cory Johnston has proven he is a versatile angler. He has had one solid finish on Guntersville, finishing 11th in February on the FLW Tour, however I don’t consider that nearly as strongly as his overall consistency. He knows how to fish shallow grass, offshore grass or structure and everything in between. He also has unreal momentum at this point in the season, coming off back-to-back Top 10s.
BUCKET B: LIVESAY
At Fork, where Lee Livesay was a favorite to win, we were all shocked to see him finish below the cut line after Day 2. With the lack of wind, his swimbait bite never took off during the second day and that really hurt him. However, I know he is excited to get out over deep water and put on a show. So far this year, his highlights have been up shallow, but his deep game is strong. I’m fully expecting him to put up a “W” at some point this year, and if you put a big jig or heavy swimbait in his hands then you could see some magic!
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: DAVIS OR COMBS
Clent Davis to some extent is flying under the radar this season. This guy is a stick offshore. In fact, his biggest win ever, the 2018 FLW Cup on Ouachita, was won dragging a massive worm offshore for just a few bites a day. That sort of confidence will be important here. Keith Combs is an offshore master. He reminded us of his cranking skills on Fork. That will certainly be a player at Guntersville as well.
BUCKET C: GUSTAFSON
Momentum is an important factor on the tournament trail. Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson pumped up a rather lack-luster season at Lake Fork with a solid fifth-place finish. He also has a proven track record in this part of the country. He finished 22nd on Guntersville in 2017 and has some solid finishes on a similar fishery, Lake Chickamauga right up the road (57th and 26th), both in June.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: WENDLANDT
Offshore structure to Clark Wendlandt is like a big bowl of cookies and cream ice cream. On his home lake, Lake Travis, you have to live and die offshore. He is a master with his graphs and that will be a necessary tool on Guntersville.
BUCKET D: JAYE
Kelley Jaye’s season hasn’t been what he’d like it to be, but now he’s heading home where he will have the opportunity to turn that around. He lives in Dadeville, which is due south of Guntersville, but he has spent time there and it shows. His two recorded finishes were an 11th (2011-FLW) and a 36th (2015-BASS). Look for him to show up in a big way here.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: CLUNN
No one — I repeat, no one, has more history here than Rick Clunn. He has fished 18 events on Guntersville as a professional angler. In 2015, he stumbled a bit, even after bringing in an 8-pound giant on Day 1. But if he can narrow down all that history, he could be a big factor this time around.
BUCKET E: KENNEDY
Once again, I find myself thinking, “Duh. Pick Steve Kennedy.” Outside of his obvious swimbait prowess, I have a much simpler strategy when it comes to Kennedy. I don’t know if my fellow Fantasy pundit Pete Robbins is picking him or not, but if he is, I will change it immediately. (Robbins is Kennedy Kryptonite. Now you know. )
But it is impossible to dispute Kennedy’s prowess with a swimbait.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT: FRITTS
David Fritts may find himself at the bottom of points list right now, but if you have an event where they will even consider biting a crankbait, you better keep Fritts in mind. His list of giants on crankbaits is deeper than Trumps stack of hate mail! Too much?