GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – As the Angler of the Year race heats up and summertime temperatures become the norm, the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Fuel Me takes on Lake Guntersville for B&W Trailer Hitches Stop 4 Presented by A.R.E.. With fish still on beds, fish moving offshore and a burgeoning shad spawn, the famous Tennessee River reservoir is set to fish well for the start of the second half of the season.
No longer a fresh face from out west trying to make it, Jacob Wall has turned into a seasoned competitor who is a lock to finish well in the points. Having moved to Guntersville to start his career, this will be the first professional-level event that he’ll have any kind of “homefield” advantage in.
“You can catch them all over the place on all kinds of different stuff,” said Wall. “I caught them in practice on a frog, I caught them on a wacky rig, there’s all kinds of fish spawning still, which is crazy with how warm the water is. On my Lowrance graphs I’m getting 75 degrees, and there are more fish coming.”
The strength of the shallow bite isn’t exactly a surprise, but Wall is pretty clear on not counting it out.
“This time of the year, usually in the past a lot of fish move offshore when they get done spawning,” said Wall. “With the introduction of eelgrass, you’ve got a lot that is growing all the way out to 12 feet of water. Instead of being postspawn and immediately going out to shell bars, they’re using that eelgrass and those edges, they’re gonna stay a lot more in that 6 to 10 foot range on the edges of the grass, it doesn’t need to be out in the main river channel, it can be on a break on a point in a creek.
“On Pickwick, I fished shallow, I threw a wacky worm a lot, and on Day 2 they left, and started going deep. That’s not what they do on Guntersville, these fish are shallow, and they’re going to stay shallow.”
With a full moon this weekend and fish visible on beds all over the lake, it wouldn’t be a shock to see John Cox, or someone else make hay with their eyes, despite the summer-like temperatures on deck.
“This isn’t like Florida, where it might be a spawning tournament, but it’s in specific little areas,” said Wall. “On Guntersville you can pull into an area, and there are so many holes and nooks in the grass, you may not even see a bed one day, and then you go back when it’s calm and see a 3-pounder in the grass. I think you could fish four days on spawning fish, I feel like I found enough fish spawning I could fish four days on spawning fish. The biggest thing I found on this lake, especially late in the season right now, is it seems tough to find fish over 3 pounds on a bed.”
Even if pros decide not to count on bedding bass, Wall says there is still a downright luxurious array of shallow options. From flipping primrose and docks to chasing a shad spawn or throwing a wacky rig, an angler could easily stay shallow enough all week for Power-Poles to touch.
Sitting in fifth in the standings coming into the event, Alabama native Josh Butler is almost too excited about his chances this week.
“If you told me I’d be sitting in this spot now, I’d have probably told you that you were lying,” said Butler of his hot start. “Minus Pickwick, I’d never been to the other two lakes on the schedule before, and they’re big lakes. If you’d have told me I’d be in this position, I would have never launched the boat. Coming into this event, I’ve got a lot of experience here, and lot of hours idling, it’s setting up how I like to fish, I’m pretty excited for it.”
How Butler likes to fish is no secret, he’s one of many southerners trained to find fish deep with electronics and then hammer on them. For this event, he’s going to have to ignore some other options if he wants to stay true to himself.
“It’s all over the place right now,” said Butler. “I wish we was like three or four days later maybe, because then it would be really good for me. They’re in all phases, however you want to fish, you should be able to catch them – they’re in 6 inches to 30 foot. I think you could have two guys on bream beds finish Top 10, two guys on a shad spawn on offshore grass bite, shallow, a couple of guys fishing deep, pick your poison, you can do whatever you want to do.”
Unfortunately, Butler’s poison of choice is looking pretty risky considering the recent history off offshore fishing on the Tennessee River.
“You’ve got to put all your eggs in one basket I feel like,” said Butler. “If you bounce back and forth, you’re going to get spread out. Me, obviously, all my eggs are in the offshore basket. They’re out there, I’ve got some found, I just don’t know how much pressure they’re going to get, and how many will come.
“The last two or three years, more and more people try to fish offshore, and normally the guy fishing the bank or fishing shallow is the guy that’s gonna win. But, we’re hitting it just right where the fish are just now pulling out, so I think anybody could win at any depth.”
“I caught some out deep, and I went and looked shallow, but that just ain’t me here,” said Butler. “Once it’s the first week of May, all the shallow stuff goes up and it’s nothin’ but big crankbaits, swimbaits and spoons, going out there and fishing how I like to fish. Practice was good, I’ve got numerous spots found, and I think they’re showing up by the minute.”
The main takeaway from practice is that nobody is complaining, which is a dramatic departure from the norm. Though weights aren’t likely to be astronomical this week, if you like bass, there will be plenty of ‘em.
“It should be an exciting, fun event,” said Butler. “I could see like 16 ½, 17 pounds a day to make the cut , 51 pounds total. To win, someone in that 20 to 22 range will have a realistic shot. The quantity of 6-, 8-, 9-pounders that were here years ago, they’re not here. But, I haven’t seen as many 3-pounders in the last four or five years as I saw this winter in the Toyota Series. It’s coming back, it’s really healthy.”
Wall is of basically the same opinion.
“I think if you have 16 ½ pounds per day, you’ll be in the Top 10 after three days,” he said. “I think if you catch 15 pounds a day you’ll make the 50 cut, which is going to be one of the highest weights we see all season. The lake is so healthy right now, and you can get bit going around fishing whatever.”
As for the local experts, Davis and Ryan Salzman have high hopes. Davis thinks it will take 18 pounds a day to make the Top 10, and Salzman thinks 17 pounds a day will make it and 21 will win on the final day. So, buckle up for some bass catchin’ action, because there’s gonna be a lot of that this week.