Heffington catches 27-9 to start things off on Guntersville, 11 pros cross the 20-pound mark - Major League Fishing
Heffington catches 27-9 to start things off on Guntersville, 11 pros cross the 20-pound mark
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Heffington catches 27-9 to start things off on Guntersville, 11 pros cross the 20-pound mark

Image for Heffington catches 27-9 to start things off on Guntersville, 11 pros cross the 20-pound mark
Griffin Heffington weighed one of the 11 bags over 20 pounds that hit the scale on Day 1 at Guntersville. Photo by Cobi Pellerito. Angler: Griffin Heffington.
February 17, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Maybe 10 minutes – that’s how long into weigh-in it took for Lake Guntersville to remind everyone why it’s one of the top-quality fisheries in the country.

A day after the threat of massive storms canceled Day 1 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division event, anglers launched today in chilly, overcast, blustery (and sometimes sleeting) conditions that were so miserable many questioned if anyone would crack the 20-pound mark – typically the mark to beat on the fishery.

Jake Lee answered that with an emphatic “yes” when he brought in 26-10 mere minutes into weigh-in. Then Lee’s former college fishing partner Griffin Heffington put an exclamation mark on that “yes” when he weighed in 27-9 right after him, giving him the lead on a day that, despite terrible conditions, 20 pounds didn’t even get an angler in the Top 10 (Josh Bragg caught 20-0 and sits in 11th). Heck, even the leading Strike King co-angler, Mark Lyons, caught 21-5, and 18 pounds barely got you in the Top 30.

Needless to say, conditions aside, Guntersville showed out today; and it started with the former teammates from Bryan College.

Both said they had terrible practices, only getting three bites apiece. Yet, they both drew early boat numbers, and to say that made a huge difference is an understatement, as both had more than 20 pounds by 9 a.m.

For Heffington, the early draw allowed him to sit on some deep fish he’d located using forward-facing sonar. It was just a matter of being patient.

“I’m sitting there looking at 100 4-pounders, but it’s just not easy to get them to bite,” Heffington said. “You have to wait until they fire, and when they did, I caught them really well quick.”

No secrets, Heffington was using an Alabama rig to catch his fish. However, after not getting a shallow bite all week, his biggest of the day came shallow today with an hour left to go.

After making his co-angler watch him “LiveScope” fish all morning, Heffington decided to try and get his co-angler some fish on another spot. So, while his co-angler was casting out deep, Heffington decided to make a few casts up shallow. The result was a surprise 7-12 kicker.

“It was just my day today,” Heffington said.

A college teammate of Griffin Heffington, Jake Lee joined him across the 25-pound mark.

The same could be said for Lee, as he went to the only creek he got any bites in practice. On his way in, though, he stopped on the bridge and just so happened to find the spot.

“I just kept making the same cast with the same lure,” Lee said. “I was the first one there, but eventually there were other boats fishing it. I just so happened to go to the perfect spot and get lined up just right, because I was the only one catching fish.”

Now, will the duo be able to replicate it tomorrow? Heffington was optimistic, as he had so many fish located. Lee, not as much, as he didn’t figure he’d be able to get on his bridge, and he said the mud in the creek was quickly overtaking it.

Then again, with the forecast calling for mid-20s at takeoff, bluebird skies and high pressure, tomorrow is certainly going to be tough on everyone.

Vernon Lowe did his work in Guntersville’s legendary grass.

Even Vernon Lowe – the best of the “grass fishermen” today with his third-place 24-12 – acknowledged that while he feels he’s got a special pattern going, tomorrow’s weather may shut down his bite completely.

Fortunately for him, he only hit one of the three creeks today where he had quality bites in practice, and he feels he can run the pattern all over the lake. So, if he keeps running it, he’s optimistic he can find enough fish willing to bite, especially since he’s using something different than most.

“I’m fishing stuff that got no pressure today; I didn’t share it with anyone,” Lowe said. “And I’m definitely throwing a different bait than everyone.”

The lure is a “jig,” though he wouldn’t specify what type. Then again, if you caught an 8-4 and 7-12 within the first 10 minutes of your day you probably wouldn’t share it either.

That seemed to be the consensus of all the other top anglers who were fishing grass. Either they were looking for something a little bit different (combination of vegetation, depth, location, etc.) or were doing something different with their presentations.

Then again, all are worried about what the cold front will do to the grass fish tomorrow. But, after what we saw today, to doubt the quality of a lake like Guntersville is to be a fool. Cold, high pressure or not, everyone agreed someone was going to replicate their 20-pound bag from today to take the win.

Top 10 pros

1. Griffin Heffington – 27 – 9 (5)      

2. Jake Lee – 26 – 10 (5)         

3. Vernon Lowe – 24 – 12 (5) 

4. Gabe Jelley – 23 – 11 (5)    

5. Chris Ferguson – 22 – 15 (5)           

6. Corey Bradley – 22 – 8 (5)

7. Cal Lane – 22 – 3 (5)         

8. Isaac Warta – 21 – 1 (5)

9. Samuel Fish – 20 – 14 (5)   

10. Casey Martin – 20 – 3 (5)

Complete results