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2017 Lake Guntersville Preview

2017 Lake Guntersville Preview
Lake Guntersville

Lake Guntersville

Guntersville, Ala.

Feb. 2-5, 2017

Hosted by the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

About the Fishery

Lake Guntersville is perhaps the best known of the legendary reservoirs that line the Tennessee River on its course through Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

Guntersville Dam was completed in 1939, and the resulting reservoir spans about 76 river miles. At regular pool, it covers nearly 68,000 acres with 890 miles of shoreline.

Guntersville is filled with the usual mix of fish species common to the South and is known as a great ledge-fishing lake, like many of the other Tennessee River reservoirs. However, it is perhaps best known for its lush grass. From eelgrass to milfoil to hydrilla, the grass in the lake is expansive enough to create a veritable bass heaven.

One of Guntersville’s additional defining features is the abundance of bridges with long rock causeways that spawn across the mouths of shallow coves and creeks and provide habitat for bass nearly all year long.

 

Bryan Thrift

Last Time

The most recent early season tournament on Guntersville was a T-H Marine Bass Fishing League Choo Choo Division event held Feb. 13, 2016. Derek Hicks took top honors with 25 pounds, 3 ounces. He caught his fish on a lipless crankbait in a ditch on a shallow shell bed at the upper end of the lake. In 2015, Chris Webb won the Feb. 7 Choo Choo event by fishing around Goose Pond with a jig, a swimbait and a lipless crank. He weighed in 28-8.

Of late, nearly all the high-level February tournaments on Guntersville have been won on bridges. In early February 2009, David Fritts won an FLW Tour event on a bridge. In 2011, in late February, Robert Boyd won a Costa FLW Series event on the very same bridge. And Randy Howell won the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on a bridge in mid-February. Several multi-day events held at Guntersville in March have also been won on bridges.

Though fishing bridges isn’t the only way to win on Guntersville and certainly isn’t the only way to make the top 10, the now legendary structures seem to dominate the storylines of major tournaments in late winter and early spring.

 

Alex Davis leans way back as he sets the hook on fish three.

What to Expect this Time

Cranking riprap and winding a swimbait around bridges will probably factor into the storyline once again, but other patterns will be in play. There are plenty of bass to be caught shallow and deep in offshore areas, and tighter to the bank. Grass beds are likely to be key, especially on the main lake or located on the way into creeks and spawning areas – the places that prespawn bass set up in late winter.

According to Tour pro and Guntersville guide Alex Davis, the water and weather conditions figure to be the deciding factor in how this event plays out.

“It really depends on how much rain we get,” says Davis. “Two years ago we didn’t have a lot of rain. It [the lake] stayed pretty clear, and there wasn’t a whole lot of current. It was some of the best fishing I can remember. You could find schools of them and go there every day and just hammer on them.

“Last spring, following all that rain at Christmas, and it was some of the worst fishing in the spring we’ve had. There were a couple times they were pulling 200,000 CFS, and 75,000 CFS is too much. It basically washed out the whole river. A lot of places where fish like to live, you just couldn’t fish them.”

Given stable conditions and water temperatures in the mid-40s – a typical week in February – Davis projects a slugfest. If winter is colder than average or the water is muddy and moving, the top-end weights might still be impressive, but weights across the board will suffer.

 

Baits and Techniques

The standard baits on Guntersville in the winter are well known and include lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, jigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and jerkbaits. If pros could throw them, umbrella rigs would probably be a major factor, but they’re illegal on Tour.

 

3 Critical Factors

1. Weather – Heading into the tournament, the biggest storyline will be the weather conditions. Northern Alabama in early February can still be cold, and wintry precipitation is possible. Tough conditions could affect the anglers as well as the fish. Then again, a stretch of stable weather or a nice warming trend could have the lake primed to go off.

2. The Guntersville funk – In the fall of 2016, Guntersville was stingier than ever, and many tournaments were won with less than 20 pounds – not G-Ville standards by any means. Many people speculated that the pressure of hundreds of anglers fishing Guntersville nearly every day had finally taken its toll. We’ll see if the fishing is back to the normally exceptional levels that Guntersville is known for come February.

3. Those dang bridges – These days, it seems almost impossible to win on something other than a bridge on Guntersville in the spring. While there are plenty of anglers in the field who know other ways to catch them and will look to do other things, there’s going to be a big contingent putting pressure on the bridges. And though there are bridges scattered around the lake, they can only support so many anglers.

 

Fantasy Fishing Picks

Even though mid-February isn’t ledge-fishing season, which is when the locals dominate along the Tennessee, you can still expect the usual cadre of Tennessee River sticks to show out, including Andy Morgan and Brad Knight. Also consider Guntersville locals Alex Davis and Jay Kendrick.

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