GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Ask any pro fishing the Walmart FLW Tour Open on Lake Guntersville what it will take to win the four-day event this week and you are likely to get an answer that runs the gamut from 55 pounds to 75 pounds.
Usually pros are in the same ballpark when guessing winning weights in FLW Tour events, but at Guntersville this week, guesstimates are all over the map.
After a three-day practice period, some of the Guntersville favorites are forecasting a rather low-weight tournament by Guntersville’s standards. Standouts like Wesley Strader, Randall Tharp and Kyle Mabrey are thinking that 15 pounds per day in this event will be strong. All three agree that Guntersville will still produce fish, but the 20-pounds-per-day standard this lake is known for is now out the window.
“Three things are coming together to throw Guntersville off pace right now,” Mabrey detailed. “First, the fishing pressure here over the last few years has been intense. It’s a great thing that a lot of people are enjoying our sport on this fantastic fishery, but keep in mind all that fishing pressure makes bass smarter.
“Second, Guntersville now has more grass than I’ve ever seen,” Mabrey continued. “There are vast fields of matted grass, and it gives those fish a place to seek refuge from the pressure. I’m sure a lot of these fish are buried way back in that stuff, and we simply can’t get to them.
“Finally, it’s fall, and historically fall fishing on Guntersville is not on the same level as spring or summer fishing.”
EverStart pro Randall Tharp won a BASS Open on Guntersville in October 2008 with a three-day total of 66 pounds, 12 ounces.
“The stars kind of aligned just right for that event,” Tharp said. “The grass was set up perfectly for how I like to fish, and we had a front that stalled out right over Guntersville for two days, providing a prolonged period of warm, balmy conditions, which makes the big ones bite here. This time around it’s not so easy. There is a lot more grass, and these bass have become a little wiser. Bites will be fewer and farther between. But I like tough tournaments, so in that respect I’m looking forward to it.”
Power-Pole pro Chris Lane, who resides in Guntersville, Ala., is venturing a much higher winning guesstimate.
“It’s Guntersville; it’s loaded with fish. Someone, somewhere will find a wad of bass that will put them into the high teens each day,” said Lane, who won an EverStart event here in October 2009. “So I’m going to say you will be looking at 75 pounds for four days to win.”
Guntersville is well-known for its matted milfoil and hydrilla, in which the techniques of flipping and frogging reign supreme in the fall. But this TVA impoundment also offers a myriad of other fishing options including docks, riprap, lay-downs, lily pads, current up in the river, offshore ledges and open-water schooling fish. With that, perhaps another prominent pattern other than matted grass will emerge out of this event.
At the last FLW Tour Open on Lake Champlain, Ranger pro Dave Wolak won by switching from milfoil to rock with dropping water temperatures. Guntersville is a long way from Champlain, but it’s also a month later and there has been more than one FLW event won off riprap in the colder months here. What’s more, an approaching cold front promises to drop air temperatures by some 30 degrees by Thursday morning. Maybe a sharp drop in water temperature could get the rock bite going.
As an example of how diverse Guntersville can be, in past tournaments here, Walmart pro Wesley Strader has weighed in some huge 3- to 4-pound spotted bass. Will spotted bass be a factor in Strader’s tournament this week?
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he grinned.
Chris Lane noted that schooling bass could even be a player by week’s end.
“There are several big schooling areas going on right now, and some of the fish in them are dandies,” he said. “Some guys will get paid with schoolers this week.”
And as for the ledges, TVA “Ledgemaster” Mark Rose has been busy scouring Guntersville’s ridges and drops with his Lowrance units.
“I haven’t found much out there,” the National Guard pro said. “This time of year the bass tend to leave the main channel and scatter back across the flats and into the bays, chasing balls of shad. But I’m going to keep looking, because if I can find just one place where they’re still ganged up, it could be game on.”
For complete pretournament video interviews from Mabrey, Rose, Lane, Tharp and Strader, click here.
Anglers will take off from Lake Guntersville State Park located at 7966 Alabama Highway 227 in Guntersville at 7 each morning. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at Lake Guntersville State Park beginning at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at Walmart located at 11697 Highway 431 S. in Guntersville beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.