Matt Lee's Two-Step Offseason Conditioning Program: Guntersville and Smith Lakes - Major League Fishing

Matt Lee’s Two-Step Offseason Conditioning Program: Guntersville and Smith Lakes

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MLF pro Matt Lee takes advantage of his home lakes during the offseason with Guntersville and Smith at his backdoor. Photo by Garrick Dixon
December 1, 2020 • Dave Landahl • Cup Events

Matt Lee grew up watching and participating in bass fishing tournaments on Lake Guntersville in Alabama. It’s a legendary bass fishery, and many local and national tournaments have been held there over the years, and still are to this day. Consequently, Lee had plenty to observe and learn.

Now he lives in Cullman, Alabama, on Smith Lake. It’s not like Guntersville at all – other than having water and bass – but he spends loads of time in the cold-weather, offseason months fishing there and at Guntersville as well.

It’s the Matt Lee winter workout, pre-season Bass Pro Tour program.

“I have a never-ending need to fish and be out and about,” Lee admits. “I love fishing and hunting. It’s how I get most of my exercise. I love staying in tune with nature. My brother Jordan and I grew up watching and fishing tournaments on Guntersville in its heyday. One thing led to another, and I wanted to become a pro angler. I also always wanted to live on Lake Guntersville. So when my brother and I were finished with Auburn University, we rented a house there. We lived there for a couple years.

“Now I live in Cullman, on Smith Lake. It’s a pretty good lake, but it’s different from Guntersville. Lots of blueback herring and spotted bass. For big largemouth, Guntersville is sure better, but Smith is tough to beat in winter. It’s a very good fishery. I really enjoy spending time fishing there, it’s cool and different.”

Lee’s Lake Workout

Having Smith Lake and its clearer, deeper water spotted bass in your backyard and Guntersville’s shallow, grassy largemouth-filled water a short drive away seems like the perfect situation to keep your pro angler skills sharp in preparation for the Bass Pro Tour. Lee agrees.

“I really enjoy being able to sharpen my skills fishing deeper, open water for spotted bass on Smith,” he says. “Spots don’t mind the cold weather as much as largemouth do. On Smith Lake, the average visibility is about 6 to 8 feet, and it has deep water. I can work on fishing shaky heads, swimbaits, finesse jigs, a variety of baits really. Fishing a lot of offshore structure and submerged timber. That translates to a lot of other fisheries around the country.”

When Lee tires of fishing clear, deep water for spots, he makes the short drive to Guntersville to chase Tennessee River largemouth.

“Smith and Guntersville are total opposites, so it really hones your skills fishing both,” he says.

Breaking in New Baits, Too

In addition to getting his pre-season workouts in fishing Smith and Guntersville, Lee gets to try out a few baits to see how productive they are before using them when the money is on the line during MLF events and the Bass Pro Tour.

“It’s no secret red baits do really well during the winter and early spring on Guntersville,” Lee says. “One of the baits I tried on Guntersville – and it works great – is the 6th Sense Snatch 70x. It’s really good for covering water. They also make a cool bait called a Swank 77x. It’s another hard bait and it comes through grass really well. It’s a loud bait, and really cool for fishing hydrilla.” 

Lee fishes a lot of moving baits at Guntersville during the colder weather in anywhere from 6 to 10 feet of water in ditches and drains – that’s the total opposite of what he sees on Smith. 

“(At Smith, I’m) fishing deep stands of timber with smaller finesse baits like underspins – for example, the Divine Underspin – and swimbaits like the 3.2 Vine Swimmer,” Lee says. “It’s really fun to try these out on fisheries before the season starts. I need to keep active and fish. Taking time off from fishing and being outdoors doesn’t keep me in the right physical or mental shape I need to be in to compete. Having two terrific lakes to practice on helps me stay ready for the season ahead.”