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Starting Strong at Guntersville

Starting Strong at Guntersville
Brian Latimer

(The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.)


The FLW Tour season is almost here, and I’m starting to feel the excitement, anxiety and pressure already.

Our first Tour stop is at the world-famous Lake Guntersville. There’s not a single tournament fisherman in the land that isn’t familiar with this fishery and its reputation for big bass, and for living up to the hype. Many lakes in this country that are known for producing heavy bags are very conditional. Timing is key, and in the early season in particular, it’s often easy to fall victim to the dreaded cold front. At lesser fisheries, results can swing widely from record weights one day to mediocre if things don’t line up perfectly.

That’s not usually the case at Guntersville. Without a doubt, weights will be strong throughout the field, and records could be broken regardless of the weather, which is what makes Guntersville such an amazing tournament fishery.

I’ve fished Guntersville several times at the Costa FLW Series level over the past five years, and while the lake has always shown out, my results have varied. Partly, that’s because you absolutely have to catch a strong bag for a good finish. A 12- to 14-pound limit on average seems to put you in the bottom third of the competition, while that could land you a top 20 or top 10 on other fisheries.

The magic behind the thriving bass factory of Guntersville is the abundance of habitat as well as the large forage base. Guntersville has miles of shoreline riddled with good cover and structure. Docks, laydowns, riprap and bluffs are in every creek arm. There is also expansive habitat on the main river. Shell beds, humps, ledges, hydrilla and eelgrass can be found all along the main river and provide fertile grounds for a healthy forage base.

With so much cover and structure to fish, this tournament could be won from any part of the lake. For that reason, I’ve decided that the best way to tackle Guntersville is to focus on one or two areas and learn all I can about those areas. That’s how I’ve had my best success in the past. In fact, at my best tournament, I narrowed it down to one lure.

My preparation for this event is distinctively different than the rest of the tournaments on the FLW Tour schedule, for several reasons.

First, I’m most familiar with fishing the clay banks of Lake Hartwell in South Carolina, so my experience with fishing aquatic vegetation is next to nothing. To better myself in that area I made a few trips to Chickamauga and Guntersville in the fall to seek a better understanding of the way fish and forage use grass.

Second is the weather. I know that I need to spend as much time as possible acclimating my mind and body for extreme conditions. In the Southeast, Mother Nature can throw about anything at you weather-wise in early spring, but I can guarantee that it will be cold, wet and nasty at some point during the week of the event. I’ve gone fishing every day that the weather was deemed by others to be too horrible for a productive day of fishing. I’m trying to train my mind and body to keep pressing even when the conditions are miserable.

Third, with a year of Tour competition under my belt, I now have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed at this level. And I’m even more driven. I know how important it is to start the season strong, and I’m committed to earning a solid finish at the opener, no matter how much hard work it takes to prepare.

Guntersville is an amazing fishery. If anyone calls it overrated, he’s wrong. But it has its challenges and has given me a few fits in the past. For an angler like me, who’s just starting out, success is not always about top 10s, but about beating the mental obstacles of past failures. That’s my goal.

If I can finish the Guntersville tournament knowing that I practiced hard, discovered a pattern and executed it to the best of my ability during the tournament, it would give me fuel for anything the Tour could throw at me for the rest of the season.

Tags: guntersville  flw-tour  brian-latimer  blog 

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