June 26, 2010 by Brett Carlson
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - The pros said it time and time again - on the new Lake Guntersville you can't spot sit for an entire tournament. Those days are long gone - too much pressure, both from tournament fishermen and recreational anglers. But Brent Long didn't listen. He fished one little U-shaped ledge all four days of the 2010 FLW Tour finale and walked away with a first-place check of $125,000.
Of the 20 fish Long weighed this week, 17 came from this one particular ledge, located at the intersection of Siebold Creek and the main-river channel. Each of the first three days he whacked 25-pound-plus stringers from the area, but day four was much different.
"It's amazing; you never see a tournament like this won on such a small area," Long said. "But you could tell today that I had really pounded on them. I feel like I caught just about every fish down there. And the ones I didn't catch are now well educated."
During the first two days of the tournament, Long did not start on Siebold. Instead he fished a little ditch in the marina by the 431 Bridge. He'd assemble a quick limit worm fishing and then run over to his big-fish spot. But he was boat No. 2 on Friday and with the intense traffic, he didn't want to take any chances. After driving straight to Siebold, he never left - alternating between guarding and fishing. On Saturday, he took the same approach, but ended up resorting to his worm spot late in the afternoon.
"At 12:15 I had three average keepers and I decided I had to take a risk and leave. I went and fished another area for 20 minutes without a bite. But then I kept thinking back to how it easy it was to get a limit in the marina. So at around 1 p.m. I ran in there and got five quality bites. I lost two, but it felt so good to go in and catch a few. In that last hour or so, I went from hero to zero and then back from zero to hero."
Long's ledge arsenal was pretty standard fare. His two main baits were a Norman DD22 and a hand-tied Ernest Langley 3/4-ounce football head jig with a Zoom Fat Albert Twin-Tail grub. Unlike most competitors, Long burned the crankbait as fast as possible to generate reaction strikes from suspended fish. When the bass were schooling and chasing bait, he'd throw a Strike King Shadalicious swimbait. At his marina spot, he opted for a 10-inch Zoom Ole Monster in red plum.
"The top of the ledge was 13 feet deep and the bottom was about 24," Long explained. "The bottom had baseball-sized rock, but the sweet spot was clean. In the morning, they were busting the surface. But those usually weren't the biggest ones and eventually they settled back down. During the day, they kind of hung out and suspended on the sides. That's when I picked up the crankbait. When they weren't suspending I would slowly drag the jig."
For Long, it was a great ending to what was, until recently, a disappointing season. Coming into Guntersville the pro winner had not accumulated so much as a penny in FLW Tour earnings. Even worse, he had a disappointing Bassmaster Classic and a lackluster BFL All-American. But in a matter of four days, those bad memories have been erased by Guntersville giants.
"I came here with the sole intention of cashing a check. I wasn't fishing for points. I got exactly what I was after."
For a total weight of 95 pounds, 7 ounces, Long earned $100,000. He also earned $25,000 from the Ranger Cup program. To add to the moment, his wife and two daughters drove from North Carolina to be in attendance. And his parents were tuning in intently via FLW Live.
"I called my dad last Sunday and wished him a happy Father's Day and he said, `Thank you, but are you catching any fish?' And I said, `Yeah.' And he said, `Well, that's what I want for Father's Day.' I can only imagine what him and my mom are doing right now. She's probably laying on the floor fainted right now."
Rose retains second
On the strength of a 7-pound kicker, Mark Rose brought a 19-pound, 9-ounce limit to the scale Saturday to push his total weight to 87 pounds, 4 ounces. Over the past few years, Rose has become an excellent TVA ledge fisherman. He did his homework for Guntersville by spending several days of prepractice scouring ledges with his ridiculously large Lowrance units. That extra effort resulted in a stable of 15 different areas, located from the mid-lake region down to the dam, three of which Rose described as big-fish spots.
"When we used to fish deep, we'd look for stumps and shells on our graphs. Now the technology is so good I look for schools of fish instead of just structure."
Rose too used a variety of baits but his best was the Strike King 6XD (sexy herring color). He'd take a rattling 6XD and make precise casts to the deepest sides of the ledge corner. He'd then follow up with the same 6XD only in the Silent Stalker model. The baits were great for quality, but not for quantity.
"My partners caught more than me all week, but I knew if I stuck with the crankbait I'd get a few bigger bites each day."
And that theory proved accurate. Unfortunately, he lost his two big bites on day three, which could have been the difference in contending for the win.
His second-place finish earned him $36,077.
"I just try to work as hard as I can to be a student of the game."
Fritts rises to third
After catching a 28-pound stringer on day three, Lexington, N.C., pro David Fritts came back to reality Saturday with a 21-pound, 3-ounce catch. He finished the tournament with a total weight of 87 pounds, 2 ounces. His final-day limit came on a Rapala DT20 in Pearl Gray Shiner.
"That bait is just phenomenal," Fritts said. "We worked on it for a long time and now it just catches huge fish. DT stands for David T. Fritts as well as Dives-To."
Fritts' day-three stringer was caught Carolina rigging a Zoom Brush Hog in water 30 to 35 feet deep. The defending Lake Guntersville champion used a green pumpkin Hog, but dipped the tails in chartreuse so it mimicked a bluegill.
"I have never had a piece of plastic get bit so hard in all my life.'
Fritts fished from the lower end of the lake to above Waterfront (Tackle). For third place, he earned $27,010.
Rising one place to fourth was Sevierville, Tenn., pro David Walker, perhaps the most consistent angler of the week. After sacking limits of 20-4, 21-4 and 21-12, Walker managed another five bass Saturday that weighed 20 pounds, 12 ounces to finish with 84 even. Walker employed a two-pronged approach on Guntersville. In addition to fishing ledges, he also flipped the outside grass line in water 5 to 8 feet deep.
"Of the 20 I weighed, 13 came from offshore stuff and seven came from the grass," Walker said. "I didn't have that many ledges so I just hopped back and forth (between shallow and deep)."
Both his ledges and grass were located in the Alred Islands area. He started every morning out deep, then would come up to the skinny water around 9 a.m. With enough light, he could see through the little pockets of grass. In the afternoons, he'd switch back to the ledges.
"When I flipped, I used a 1-ounce jig with either a Chigger Craw or a Paca Chunk on 65-pound braid. I wanted a trailer with an erratic motion because 90 percent of bites came on the fall.
"That grass grew a lot from two weeks ago during prepractice. In a few areas, it's really starting to top out."
When ledge fishing, he used a big 12-inch worm and a crankbait. Today the crank accounted for a few key fish including two on back-to-back casts. His best spot was covered up early with boats so he adjusted and ended up working the 431 Bridge area.
Combs falls to fifth
South Texas expert Keith Combs brought his lightest stringer to the scale on day four. His five best weighed 15 pounds, 6 ounces - pushing his total weight to 82 pounds, 2 ounces. For fifth place, he earned $16,130.
Combs fished a handful of spots near the mouth of Spring Creek. On his better ones, he positioned the boat in approximately 26 feet of water and threw up to about 12. His key baits were a Strike King 6XD Silent Stalker (chartreuse blueback), a 3/4-ounce Oldham's jig and a new bait from Power Tackle called a Lateral Perch.
Saturday, the 6XD crankbait accounted for four keepers. He burned it extremely fast like Long and Rose.
"The Silent Stalker gets down there quick and just eats the bottom up. If you were really grinding it hard and getting that deflection, you'd get a big bite."
The final FLW Tour event is the Forrest Wood Cup, slated for Lake Lanier in Duluth, Ga., Aug.5-8.