Marshal’s 10 takeaways from Guntersville

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Shane Durrance

For the third time in 16 months, the Bassmaster Elite Series (including the Classic) gathered at Lake Guntersville for an event that had been scheduled in July on Cayuga Lake. The Alabama fishery did not disappoint. I had the opportunity to spend four wonderful days in the boat with some of the best anglers on the planet serving as a Bassmaster Elite Series Marshal. Here are my top 10 takeaways from the Noco Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville:

  1. Fishing” History vs. Fishing “History”… Brandon Lester was among the favorites to hoist the blue trophy due to his history on Guntersville. The Elite Series pro spends an average of three to four weeks a year on the Alabama fishery and has a lot of experience there. Lester never could put the right fish or right limit together and finished a frustrating 61st. Scott Canterbury is another angler with history on Guntersville. He shared several stories in the boat on Day 2 about a specific flat or a particular dock where he’s caught fish in the past, some stories going back 12 to 15 years. I asked him about that history, and he noted that in a tough fall tournament like this, he’s not relying on history. Even so, because of that history, he knows he’s got more available places to fish than his competitors who had three practice days to figure out the lake. “It gives me confidence that I have places I can get a bite if it comes to that,” noted Canterbury.

  2. Guntersville is a legendary fishery and a destination lake for any avid angler; however, that distinction comes with challenges. The Tennessee River fishery receives a ton of pressure. At any time during the day, a random boat is subject to pull up and fish the same area that you’re fishing. While this is perfectly legal, it’s among the items in the “Unwritten Rules of Fishing” that you try and avoid. I experienced this on Day 2 with Scott Canterbury where he was fishing a large grass mat, and a boat pulled in with two anglers and began fishing the same mat. Canterbury never said a word but went about fan casting the mat. After a few minutes without a bite, the other boat picked up the trolling motor and appeared to be leaving. Canterbury set the hook on a 4-pounder and the other boat dropped the trolling motor and returned to fishing the same mat. I had a similar experience on another day with an Elite that said, “It’s like old high school football. Everybody’s somebody, and they don’t care who you are. That’s Guntersville.”

  3. There are positives and negatives to fishing grass. Watching Canterbury fish on Day 2 and spend most of his day around various types of grass, the reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year noted, “Eelgrass has completely changed this lake. It can ruin a spot. You can be on the best school of fish, and if the wind is blowing just right, that eelgrass can blow in there where you can’t even make a cast at them.” A similar experience on Day 4 with Brandon Cobb involved Cobb hitting a waypoint he’d fished in March during the Classic which had been a rock bed in a small pocket off the main river only to find that the area was completely engulfed in eelgrass when he arrived. Cobb never made a cast, picked up the trolling motor and moved on.

  4. I heard a young angler once ask Gerald Swindle when he knew it was time give up on a particular fishing spot that wasn’t producing. The two-time AOY said, “The minute you lose confidence in that spot, get out! You can always come back later.” Sometimes that one decision can make the difference in fishing four days rather than three. On Day 3, I had the opportunity to spend the day with Brandon Card. Sitting 10th after two days, Card returned to the same spot he’d mined for his key fish on Day 2 and spent more than five hours of his day in that area but was only able to scratch out a limit of roughly 11 pounds which left him outside the Top 10. Brandon Cobb, who I spent Day 4 with, made a different call. Having mined a key area with a buzzbait and swim jig on the first three days of the event, which had landed him in ninth heading into Saturday, Cobb looked at me during the brief fog delay at launch and said, “We’re fishing new water today. I’m in ninth place. It’s going to take a miracle for me to win, and I don’t have any miracles left in my spots, so we have to fish new water in hopes to get the big bite.”

  5. I’ve often heard Elite Series anglers talk about the importance of confidence and fishing to your strengths. On Day 1, I was paired with Hunter Shryock who put five rods on the deck, four flipping setups and a frog rod, and he spent the day flipping. He’s got the reputation of being a flipper and has a ton of confidence in that setup. Shryock only had 10 bites all day but remained confident, fished three days and left Guntersville firmly inside the Classic cut.

  6. One common denominator among successful people is their attention to details. That holds true on the Bassmaster Elite Series. While riding with Brandon Card on Day 3, he would routinely stop fishing in order to check his line, retie and replace the treble hooks on his crankbaits. Scott Canterbury, on Day 2, went as far as to change out reels on a flipping setup mid-morning in order to get the retrieve speed in which he was most confident and went on to fill out his limit.

  7. Early Saturday morning I met Brandon Cobb in the parking lot when he arrived at Goose Pond. As he surrendered his Tundra to me in order to assist him in launching his boat, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I made $3,000 and we haven’t even launched yet!” What Cobb was referring to was being the highest finishing Toyota Bonus Bucks participant in the event for the second time this season. The other nine competitors in the Top 10 didn’t drive a Toyota tow vehicle. Toyota Bonus Bucks is free to join and for more information, check out www.toyotatrucksbonusbucks.com.

  8. Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams. Frank Talley notched his first Bassmaster Elite Series win and hoisted the blue trophy. Talley, at 45, is in his second season on the Elite Series and reminded us to never believe that your greatest moments are in the past. I found it very telling to see a number of the Elite Series pros, most of who were eliminated after Day 3, hanging around on Saturday to show their appreciation of Talley’s accomplishment.

  9. The wives of the Elite Series anglers are the ultimate teammates. A number of the wives (or girlfriends) will accompany their angler to the ramp each morning at dark-thirty, assist him in launching the boat and return each afternoon to debrief on the day. Many will come back with a camera and serve as the photographer or social media manager of their angler and some even go as far as baking treats for the day on the lake. Kelly Card, the wife of Brandon Card, sent a bag of “Rally Cookies” out with us on Day 3 which were homemade dark chocolate chip cookies, and they were a delightful treat.

  10. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Marshal Program at B.A.S.S. is the best thing going. I just returned home from legendary Lake Guntersville and spent four days on the water with Hunter Shryock, Scott Canterbury, Brandon Card and Brandon Cobb. I became a better angler in the process, made new friends and had experiences that I will take with me forever. Make your plans to serve as a Marshal for the Bassmaster Elite Series.