April 24, 2014 by Rob Newell
GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Largemouth bass in Lake Guntersville just might be some of the most prolific bass in the world. How one fishery continues to pump out so many bass under the duress of so much fishing pressure is a mystery that many bass pros have pondered.
Yet, the real mystery seems to be, when exactly do all these Guntersville bass create baby Guntersville bass?
We've all heard - and witnessed - the tales of Guntersville's giant limits of pre-spawn bass that push the mid-30-pound mark in February and March. And of course we know what happens in May and June when hordes of post-spawn bass cover the ledges in a massive feeding frenzy.
But what about the spawn? Somewhere between all that pre-spawning and post-spawning, there must be some actual spawning, right? When does the stork fly over and make it rain bass fingerlings at Lake Guntersville?
It's a mystery that Rayovac FLW Series anglers hope to answer this week at the Southeast Division season finale on Lake Guntersville. Unlike many other Rayovacs on Guntersville which have been held either in late winter or early summer, this event lands towards the end of April, when thousands of Guntersville bass should be making beds in every bay, cove and pocket on the lake. So certainly bedding will play a big role this week. Or will they?
"I don't know," laughs Keystone Light pro Casey Martin. "TVA bass are not like bass in Florida or Texas where huge groups come into spawn and hang around for weeks in the shallows making beds you can see from 30 yards away. The spawning habits of these bass are a little strange. It's like they spawn in 24 hours or less and then they are gone."
"And when you do find some on beds, good luck catching them," Martin suggests. "They are the weirdest bedding fish I've ever seen. They are so high-strung and jittery, bolting around all over the place. They're crazy. You can work one for 10 minutes and it's all nosing down on your bait, aggressing it and then all of a sudden, it just swims away. And it doesn't come back. Gone! With no explanation."
Martin, who now guides on Guntersville several days a week, tells tales of finding bays loaded with spawning bass one day, only to have them completely evaporate the next.
"I have found groups of spawning bass here where you could see 20 pounds of bass everywhere you look," he recounts. "And you come back the next day and there is one 3-pounder left out there all by himself. The rest have completely vanished. It's just strange. It's like they would rather be out on the river eating than back in a bay spawning."
Alex Davis, another well-known guide on Guntersville, agrees.
"I hardly ever find bass actually paired up here like you see in Florida," Davis says. "When I do find bedding bass here, they are usually small males. The big girls simply don't stick around for very long at all."
Both agree that bedding will be caught this week, but it's not the way to win, despite water temperatures that are just starting to kiss 70 degrees and a new moon in five days.
"You can catch a lot of bass up to 3 pounds that way and get a check, but if you want to tote the hardware out of here, you better be out where the big ones are just starting to arrive," Davis says.
Out? Where post-spawn bass are just starting to arrive? Already? Wait a minute. So when did they spawn?
Even Davis himself was not on Guntersville when that mysterious window happened.
"When we were at Beaver Lake (for the FLW Tour event) the first wave came in on that warm up and those were the big ones," Davis says. "I think this group showing up now is our second wave of the year and typically they're smaller."
Another common consensus about the spawning habits of TVA bass is that many of them actually spawn out on main lake bars and shallow ridges along the river channel in water clarities that make them less vulnerable to a pair of sunglasses.
"These are river bass," Martin adds. "Their whole life cycle revolves around the currents of that main river. I think the ones we see back in these clear water coves and backwaters are just a fraction of the ones that spawn out there on the river that we never see. And if this tournament is technically won with `spawning bass' that's where they will come from - a guy catching spawning bass that he can't see but are on beds."
If there is a sight-fishing bite to be had, bed-peeping ace Koby Kreiger will be one to watch.
When asked his opinion of why Guntersville bass seem to leave the beds so quickly when compared to Florida bass he promptly replied, "In Florida, those bass have no where else to go, so they just hang out; these bass on Guntersville have way better places to be than wandering around in a backwater pocket."
Anglers will take off from the Lake Guntersville State Park located at 7966 Alabama Highway 227 in Guntersville, Ala., at 6 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 11697 US Highway 431 in Guntersville, beginning at 3 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518C with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
Sunrise: 7:04 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 63 degrees
Expected high temperature: 67 degrees
Water temperature: 73 degrees
Wind: NE 5 to 10
Day's outlook: rainy, cloudy, cooler