Terry and I went down to Lake Guntersville in late March of 2010 for a photo shoot and tackle review testing. The long-range forecast looked great with temperatures in the 70s. That first morning, however, we were greeted with brutal below freezing wind chills, sleet, ice and snow on the lake. On top of that we faced 15-20 mph winds. This was my first time on Guntersville, so I was not sure where to normally look for fish on the lake that time of year. But I made some general observations as we got started.
It rained all day the previous day, and water temps had peaked at 53 degrees. It was cold and nasty, and it was the blowing cold day in a frontal system. The following day was to be much warmer and sunnier. But that first day, we believed the fish would pull back off to deeper water with the brutal conditions. The water was churned and muddy in the shallows, the rain was freezing and the fish we thought would be in a foul mood.
We decided to start on a road bed in about 10 feet of water offshore targeting it with lipless crankbaits. We fished the road bed and point from 4 to 10 feet of water for about 45 minutes. The wind and waves were brutal and holding the boat in position was hard. I felt like it would take too much time and effort to pattern fish along that roadbed in those conditions. So we made a change.
We moved to a series of points where the creek channel swung close. This gave the fish deep water access close by and some points to move up and feed on when the mood struck. They proved my hunch right. We caught a bunch of smaller bass on Spro McStick and Lucky Craft Pointer DD jerkbaits. We missed a few fish early, but we caught them fairly steady given the amazingly cold conditions.
About mid-day, I picked up the football jig and worked it out deeper on the points. I hooked up with a 3 1/2-pounder pretty quick. About 15 minutes later, I hooked into a big one. Terry netted the big bass. The largemouth bass went 5 pounds, 8 ounces. About 5 minutes later, Terry was asking for the net. He had picked up an Buckeye Lures Football jig with a Strike King Rage Tail chunk. He pulled the bass boatside, and I netted her. This fish weighed 7.1 pounds on the Rapala scale. We had about 16 pounds in 3 fish. We hit another 3-pounder and a 4-pounder in short order and lost another big fish.
So on a day when we probably should have just stayed in and worked on the website, we hit a five bass limit that weighed 23 1/2 pounds. This is just day one of my first experience bass fishing on Lake Guntersville. I’ll update more this evening and each day as well as share a few photos and tips we learn along the way.
The first day lesson: fish backwards from the staging areas. We started where the bass would move to when it warms up in prespawn. We backed out from there and just fished slow with a jerkbait and jig. Pretty simple idea, but it’s great when a plan comes together.
On the second day, we decided to venture out from our beaten path. The first day we battled a crazy cold front with blowing sleet, snow and rain. We struggled to keep warm and dry but the fishing was unbelievable. While the fishing could not be classified as fast and furious, the quality was good. We had several 3- to 7-pound bass. Our best five weighed 26 pounds. The fish were relating to channel banks and most of our quality came on football jigs.
The weather changed drastically the second day. Mid-morning, the clouds finally started to melt away, and the sun broke through. The wind started fairly strong, died for a few hours and then picked back up late in the afternoon. We spent a good portion of our day running different parts of the lake to see if the fish were moving shallow yet or if they were out deep still.
We moved around a lot more today. We found the fish willing on one channel swing bank on the main lake. There was some grass mixed in with some rocks and stumps. The ledge bank went from 5 feet to 15 feet quickly. The fish were biting funny. We missed more than we caught on jigs. They just wouldn’t pick up on the jig. But we did manage a couple keepers including a 4-pounder.
From there we moved into a shallow spawning bay. We fished rip rap, docks, big grass flats, laydowns, steeper banks, flatter banks and everything in between. We didn’t get a single bite. From there we moved to another similar cove on the opposite side of the river. Same result. As we worked out of the bay we hit two small non-keepers heading out of the bay on the outside points.
We left that area and fished a big shallow flat full of stumps. Again not a single bite.
At this point we’ve thrown jerkbaits, jigs, lipless crankbaits, swimbaits and spinnerbaits without much luck.
We worked back to the area where we caught fish the previous day. The area had a lot more boat pressure the second day, and we couldn’t get back on the small area where we hit a 5-, a 6- and a 7-pounder. But the fish were still biting. We managed another keeper and a couple short fish. We shared the area with some friends that traveled with us. One of the reasons we ventured out more the second day. They fished the area and managed three keepers. So we were piecing together where the bass were staging.
The second day was a high pressure system after the cold front. The bass bit very funny. Some would pick up on a jig, swim 10 feet with it and never have it when you set the hook. It’s like they had it by the trailer. The bites were few but we thought fishing would improve on the third day with the high pressure subsiding and the sunny warming temps making the shallows more attractive.
The main lake had 57-degree water while most of the pockets had 54-degree water. So our search continued. We felt like we could yank on the fish again on our first-day stretch, but we were trying to piece together more of the puzzle. There were obviously fish biting in more areas.
We learned from day two that the bigger fish weren’t roaming around the shallows just yet. We decided to go back to what we did on Monday, targetting channel swing banks in the big bays. When we launched the third morning, the fog was so thick you couldn’t see 10 feet. So we decided to hit the first deep channel swing near the ramp. We idled over and pulled the football jigs from the locker again.
After about 10 casts, we had our first keeper of the morning, a chunky 3-pounder. A few casts later and Terry hooked a good fish. It barrelled to the surface, rolled and jumped and the jig came loose. It was a 5- or 6-pounder judging by the fish we’ve caught so far this week. We worked the point swing hard for another 2 hours and managed one more keeper around 3 pounds.
On our next move, we decided to hit a roadbed and some staging flats. We hit another 3-pounder out of a brush pile near the roadbed on a Carolina-rigged Hag’s Tornado. We ran the flat zig-zagging over the roadbed for a couple hours. After a while we decided the fish weren’t out deep on that flat or roadbed. We didn’t want to go shallow, so we headed back to some deeper points.
Within minutes, we hit a 5-pounder. Then I hit a 7-pounder, and Terry hit a 5-pounder. Then Terry hit a 4-pounder. All the fish came on jigs in shallow water near a deep water edge. The fish were pretty aggressive for about 45 minutes and then the action slowed dramatically. Working the jig is nothing but a slow drag, making a point to feel every rock. If we get snagged on a bigger rock, we try to just pop it over and keep it close. A lot of the bites came as we pulled the jig over a big object and it fell for just a second.
It’s a painfully slow process fishing like this. We had thoughts driving down that we’d be ripping traps in the grass and snatching jerkbaits over clear water. But the fish showed they didn’t want to chase in the areas we found them. So we’ve been grinding it out.
That third day, we joked that we might not have even found the pattern that’s working had the weather not been so brutal on Monday that we actually went looking for some wind protected areas to get out of the sleet in the face. We went looking for the deeper water and knew we were going to catch them when we got to the first channel. Since then that’s been the most productive pattern for us.
Our Wired2fish buddies Mike Blake and Doug Francis from Illinois traveled down with us and caught a lot of short fish shallow on Carolina rigs and jigs. Then late in the day they went shallow in the back of a pocket and caught a 4 1/2-pounder and a 7-pounder on a Carolina rig.
The water temperature was near 60 degrees. We thought it might hit 60 degrees in the shallows. I thought by the next week, these fish were going to be headed to the beds. Basically we were looking for where they would spawn and then going to the deepest water near that.
We ran into Guntersville Guide Chris Jackson of Fins and Grins Fishing Adventures. He said he caught a 5-pounder shallow and some fish to 3 pounds after that. According to Chris, the lake was four weeks behind. Judging by his fishing logs, he should be sight fishing this week in the grass but the bass are just starting to move shallow. He felt, however, the bass are going to the beds quickly.
We were happy with another limit weighing more than 24 pounds (7,5,5,4,3). The next day forecast called for rain and severe thunderstorms with wind gusts to 30 mph. We ended up trying to fish for an hour and put it on the trailer and called it a day so no day 4 report.
The final day we hit a spot we found earlier in the week on a map for most of the morning. When we got there that morning, the wind was blowing pretty steady out of the Northwest. It shifted to the North later in the morning and then continued shifting around to the East. The wind was cold and the skies were dark and overcast until around 3:30 p.m. The water clarity was stirred but still fairly clear — maybe a couple feet at worst.
We hit a point where a creek channel swung in and touched an underwater point with a lot of big rocks and brush. The fish were schooling. We caught them early and often on jigs and Zoom Brush Hogs on Texas rigs. I decided last night, I wanted to fish a Texas rig. Call it a gut-instinct, but the way the fish had been hitting Carolina rigs and jigs this week, I felt like I’d have a more direct connection to my lure crawling it around the brush and big rocks.
The hunch paid off. In about 20 minutes, we had five keepers for around 14 pounds. We continued to upgrade. We boated a 4 1/2 -pounder on a jig, then a 4-pounder on the brush hog. We boated several fish between 2 1/4 pounds to 3 3/4 pounds as well as quite a few short fish. We stayed on the spot most of the day because we wanted to see how many bass we could boat on this pattern. We boated 55 bass before leaving the area. We had more than 30 keepers. Our best numbers day by far. And it was because we looked for another channel swing further back in a creek arm where fish travelling to spawning flats could stop.
We left and hit our best area but it was covered up with other boats fishing the same stretch. We fished off of it a bit and managed another 4-pound bass. We stayed until we caught four more bass to get to 60 bass. The weather was less than favorable and we didn’t break 20 pounds, but we did come close with 19 pounds.
This week we had hoped to be sight fishing and fishing shallow around the grass. Unfortunately the lake was way behind on the spawn cycle because of the long harsh winter Alabama had experienced. It maybe helped that we weren’t local to the lake and had to figure it out on the fly, rather than going with what we thought should be happening on the lake. I had heard a lot of folks did find fish shallow. We never really got on anything consistent shallow unless it had deep water close by.
The top baits for us this week were football jigs, casting jigs, Zoom Brush Hogs, shaky heads with Zoom Mag Finesse Worms and jerkbaits. Our road-warrior friends from Illinois caught a bunch of fish on Carolina rigged Zoom Lizards and Strike King Redeye Shad lipless crankbaits.
Terry and I boated a 26-pound limit on Monday, a 24-pound limit on Wednesday and 19 pounds Friday for the best five each day. We struggled on Tuesday and ran short yesterday because of colds and bad conditions on the lake. Fishing is about what the fish are doing and not what we want to do to catch them.
I love to throw a jig and was glad when I boated the first 5-pound plus fish on it. That sort of clued us in for the right pattern the rest of the week. Terry and I knew there was something special about our most successful bank the very first pass we made on it. It had all the text book attributes to make it a special spot. A creek channel turn, a long flat point, an abundance of shad and eventually we found that it had the big bass we had hoped for.
Terry and I both caught 7-pound bass. Terry caught a 6 pounder and we both caught several 5 pounders. It was a great week at Guntersville. We were able to get a lot of photography and reviews done for future stories. But more importantly it was a good lesson for working backwards to until you find the fish knowing where they should be headed in the spring. Hope you liked this report style blog and let us know if you want us to do pieces like this on other lakes in the future.
Goodbye Guntersville — for now — a very special bass fishing destination!