October 21, 2011 by Brett Carlson
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do. When fishing on Alabama's Lake Guntersville, use the Alabama rig. That's what three of the top five pros are throwing this week at the final Walmart FLW Tour event of the season, including pro leader Paul Elias.
Elias isn't just leading the season-ending tournament, he's completely dominating it. Coming into the week, most pros felt roughly 60 pounds would be the winning weight after four days. Elias has nearly reached that benchmark in half the time.
After weighing in his 29-pound, 3-ounce catch, the veteran pro was nearly at a loss.
"I'm having one of those tournaments where you just say, `Thank you, Lord,'" Elias explained.
Early in practice, the Laurel, Miss., native was struggling to catch anything shallow.
"I said to myself, `They're either dead or they're deeper.' So I went deeper."
Mixed in with his offshore domination is the fascinating revelation that Elias is introducing a new presentation - the Alabama rig, which consists of five baits placed on five separate wires that connect like an umbrella. The baits fan out and mimic a school of baitfish. Although Elias admitted to using the Alabama rig, he wouldn't specifically name the baits he puts on the back.
"I guess the word is out on what I'm doing," Elias said. "I'm throwing an Alabama rig. It's a new-type rig that some guy from near Pickwick came up with. It's just an amazing deal and I think the main reason it's so effective is that they haven't seen it before. It's kind of like a crankbait sometimes. You can't always catch them on it unless you're doing it just right."
Elias said he fished the same three areas he did on the first day and didn't receive as many bites. But the ones he caught he described as "a-dults," which drew raucous laughter from the weigh-in crowd.
Although the wind didn't blow Friday, Elias said the bite was strong thanks to the presence of current.
"I've been very fortunate this week. When I got on that pattern I just stayed on it and found as many places to fish it that I could find. I feel like if I don't get too crowded out there I can catch them."
Although continually casting the A-rig is physically exhausting, Elias has no thoughts of slowing down. With a 14-pound lead he can almost taste his first victory on Guntersville, long one of his favorite lakes.
"I'm just going to keep going. I'm going to be chunking and winding for two more days. I've thrown that (rig) since about noon Sunday and my 60-year-old butt is worn out."
Just like Elias, second-place pro Bob Behrle is also using the Alabama rig. But Behrle isn't just using it deep.
"I started on a shallow, windy bank and I caught that 7-pounder on my fifth cast," said the Hoover, Ala., pro. "Then after a while I went to my best offshore spot and I caught a 4 1/2-pounder at around 8 a.m. But I didn't catch another keeper until 1:45 p.m."
Behrle kept the faith, stopped on a few grass spots and caught a keeper. He then returned to his best deep spot and caught three more keepers, which allowed him a late cull.
"I'm still trying to figure out the A-rig. There's definitely a learning curve. I'm using an altered bait and that seems to be working."
Although the tournament is only halfway complete, Behrle appeared resigned to the notion that Elias has already won.
"Paul is just too far ahead. We're all fishing for second, unless something crazy happens."
Behrle's day-two limit weighed 21 pounds, 10 ounces and pushed his total weight to 40 pounds, 12 ounces.
Morrow rises to third
Like Elias and Behrle, pro Troy Morrow is spending considerable time offshore. But he's not using the A-rig, instead opting for traditional ledge fare such as crankbaits and spoons. And he still caught 23
pounds, 14 ounces of Guntersville bass - including a 6-pound, 6-ounce kicker.
"In general, I don't like fishing the grass so I'm avoiding it here and keying on bait," explained Morrow. "I found a good school in prepractice, but they were gone during the actual practice. I stopped on it late yesterday and caught a few of my big ones."
Today Morrow spent more time there and it clearly worked out. He does have one shallow-water spot, but he's concentrating mostly out deep. It's a strategy that has worked well for him over the years.
"I won a BFL Regional on Lake Seminole last year doing the same thing at about the same time of the year. There's fewer fish out on the ledges this late, but they're quality ones.
"These Guntersville fish are just not positioned like they need to be, but they're there. If they pull up and get right, it could be lights out."
Morrow's total weight sits at 39 pounds, 14 ounces.
Local ace Marshall Deakins caught a 14-pound, 6-ounce limit Friday and slipped from second to fourth. Deakins' combined weight is 35 pounds, 9 ounces.
"I caught them today on a frog," said the Dunlap, Tenn., pro. "I probably got the same amount of bites as yesterday, but they were smaller."
Deakins explained that the frog bite is improving, but won't peak for several weeks.
"There is too much grass out there. Later in the year when there are smaller patches it really gets good. They just need to get thinner."
Deakins also said he's considering throwing a swimbait tomorrow in an attempt to coax bigger fish.
Powroznik up to fifth
Jacob Powroznik caught a 19-pound, 14-ounce stringer Friday and rose to fifth place with a total weight of 34 pounds even. Powroznik too is employing the Alabama rig.
"The fish are feeding on shad right now and that rig does a great job of mimicking a school of shad," he said. "They've just got to eat it."
Powroznik is using the A-rig on little drops inside pockets where the shad are funneling in. He works the rig in 4 to 10 feet of water.
"I had been catching them a little bit on a Rat-L-Trap in practice. But then I went down the same bank with the Alabama rig and it was unbelievable."
The Virginia native puts a 5-inch Hollow Belly swimbait on the middle wire and 3 1/2-inch swimbaits on the four outside wires. He also mixes and matches with colors.
"For some reason, they always hit the odd-colored one. Overall it was just crazy. I bet I caught 40 fish on it today. This is just a bait that they haven't seen."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on day two at Lake Guntersville:
6th: Alex Davis of Albertville, Ala., 33-9
7th: Christopher Brasher of Spring, Texas, 33-9
8th: Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., 32-14
9th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 32-9
10th: Blake Nick of Adger, Ala., 32-1
Martin makes his move
Fresh off a win at the FLW Tour Open on Lake Champlain, co-angler Casey Martin will be looking to go back-to back tomorrow on Lake Guntersville. And although his first win a month ago was special, he wants this one even more.
"Guntersville is home," he explained. "I'd really like to win this one because this lake always does me bad on the final day."
Earlier this year, Martin was leading the Guntersville EverStart Series event as a pro only to fall to third. And two years prior to that, Martin led the EverStart event as a co-angler only to slip to second. So the motivation is there, but the New Market, Ala., fisherman will have to adjust his presentation.
"Today I caught almost all of them flipping and I only got six keeper bites," he explained. "I would say I've weighed 80 percent of my fish flipping this week. The other ones have come swimming a 3/8-ounce Omega jig with a Basstrix swimbait as a trailer."
Despite this, Martin said he would rather fish deep, which is exactly how Elias, his pro partner, plans to fish tomorrow.
"I really like deep ledge fishing. Hopefully I can catch them behind him, unless it's an exact spot thing, then I'll be in real trouble."
Martin's day-two stringer weighed 15 pounds, 14 ounces, giving him a total weight of 26-13 and a 5-pound lead.
Rest of the best
Rising to second place for the co-anglers was Castalia, N.C., native Corey Leonard. Leonard caught a limit today worth 16 pounds, 9 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 21 pounds, 12 ounces.
In third was Chad Billiot of Raceland, La., with 21 pounds, 7 ounces. Billiot is a true zero to hero story as he failed to register a single keeper on day one. Today Powroznik set him up with an Alabama Rig, and the rest was history. Anchoring that 21-7 limit was an 8-pound, 12-ounce giant, the Snickers Big Bass of the day in the Co-angler Division.
Slipping to fourth was Thomas Rizzo of Rochester, Pa. After catching 13-1 yesterday, Rizzo managed three keepers for 8-2 today.
Day-one leader Mark Horton also slipped. Horton came in Friday with two keepers weighing 5 pounds, 1 ounce. With a two-day total of 20 pounds, Horton finished the opening round in fifth place.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day two at Lake Guntersville:
6th: Tripp Pittman of Holy Springs, Miss., 18-4
7th: Skip Bennett of Mount Vernon, Ill., 16-0
8th: Dan Clark of Cleveland, Tenn., 15-12
9th: Brandon Ledford of Rome, Ga., 15-9
10th: Jesse Schultz of New Albany, Ind., 15-4
Day three of the FLW Tour event on Lake Guntersville will begin Saturday at 7 a.m. at the Lake Guntersville Resort State Park located at 7966 Alabama Hwy. 227 in Guntersville, Ala.