Good ole trusty Lake Guntersville. Stop No. 7 of 2021 is back on the familiar fishery this week for the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville, which will be hosting its fourth B.A.S.S. tournament in the past two years.
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Guntersville was a late addition to last season’s schedule due to a COVID cancellation. The event came six months after the 50th Academy Sport + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic, which was nine months after an Elite in June of 2019. The 2020 Guntersville Elite was the first of three consecutive events that offered the possibility of fishing 12 days of competition in a 20-day span.
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This will be the 26th pro B.A.S.S. event on Guntersville, the second most-visited venue by the Bassmasters. Guntersville is a famed 69,000-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River in northeast Alabama that’s known for producing big bass. It ranked second in Bassmaster Magazine’s list of Best Bass Lakes of the Decade and continues to produce despite hundreds of tournaments held there each year.
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Goose Pond Landing at 417 Ed Hembree Drive in Scottsboro, Ala., is tournament central. Launches will take place at the award-winning facility at 5:30 a.m. CT each morning with weigh-ins there each day at 2 p.m. CT.
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Last fall, winner Frank Talley was heading upriver to his spot but stopped on a patch of eelgrass that looked good. That gut feeling paid off quickly for Talley, who started in sixth place almost 3 pounds behind the leader.
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Talley made up his deficit with an early 5-pounder and was culling by 9 a.m., building the day’s biggest bag of 18 pounds, 2 ounces. His 64-3 total gave him his first Elite title at age 45.
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Talley had put aside his dreams of fishing a major bass circuit to raise his family, and it was an emotional reunion when they drove all night to watch him launch on Championship Saturday. Finally hoisting a trophy surrounded by his family created another moving moment, and wife, Christy, said it was finally his time.
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Talley’s victory came just six months after Hank Cherry won the 2020 Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville for another dramatic family celebration. Cherry opened with 29-3 on Day 1 to tie for third largest bag in Classic history, then he went on to win the 50th Classic wire-to-wire with 65-5.
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In the 2019 Elite on Big G, Jamie Hartman rallied from 10th place with 23-15 in late June to win with 79-10. Hartman started a trend of sorts as two other Elite winners climbed from the 10th spot to win. Micah Frazier and Buddy Gross also pulled off the last-in, finish-first feat.
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Those events just added to Guntersville’s special place in B.A.S.S. lore, which began with Rick Clunn’s victory in the 1976 Classic. There have been several two-time winners and the two winners topping 100 pounds in four-day events to earn B.A.S.S. Century Belts.
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The record single-day weight in a Bassmaster Classic came at Guntersville from B.A.S.S. Nation champion Paul Mueller. Fishing his first championship in 2014, Mueller caught about 25 pounds in a matter of minutes then culled past the previous record of 29-6 to finish with 32-3. He missed winning by a pound, and he might have won if not being short two fish of a limit on Day 1.
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There is always a possibility of a double-digit bass at Guntersville. Chris Zaldain landed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass in the 2020 Elite, an 8-6 on Day 1 that made up more than half his 14-10 total and gained him around 50 spots in the standings. The Guntersville record is a 14-8 caught in Feb. 1990.
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Seth Feider leads the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings heading into Guntersville. The Minnesota pro has 525 points, 41 ahead of second-place Patrick Walters. Brock Mosely is third at 464, and Brandon Palaniuk, coming off a win at the James River Open, is fourth with 462. It will be a critical tournament in that race as well as for anglers trying to get inside the cut for the 2022 Bassmaster Classic.
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The Elites are coming off the circuit’s first event at Neely Henry Lake, 50 miles south of Guntersville. Second-year Elite Wes Logan of Springville, Ala., won his first event on his home waters with 57-9. He is the 10th first-time Elite winner in the past 14 tournaments.
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The Elites will be greeted with rising temperatures this week. The forecast for host city Scottsboro calls for stable conditions through the competition with temps rising to near 90 degrees.
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Guntersville resident Gerald Swindle previewed the fishery for Bassmaster.com, reporting the lake could fish big. “I think you could see someone threaten to win it somewhere up the river where Frank Talley won it last year, and I think it could be won all the way down by the dam because of the (diversity), the shad spawn, the way the grass has changed and what the fish are moving to,” the longtime Elite angler said.
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“I think a guy’s going to need two primary patterns and two styles of fishing to stay consistent for four days,” Swindle said. “You’re going to have to move around; there’s just not enough fish (in any given scenario) to sit on it and win it. And even if you sit on it one day, you’re not going to sit on it the next day because there’s going to be people there.” He estimated the winning weight at around 80 pounds.
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The Elites can bring in their best five fish each day, with a minimum length of 15 inches. Live coverage for all four days of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.