Shortened Toyota Series event starts at Guntersville - Major League Fishing
Shortened Toyota Series event starts at Guntersville
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Shortened Toyota Series event starts at Guntersville

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Unpleasant conditions are in store for the anglers on Day 1 at guntersville. Photo by Cobi Pellerito.
February 17, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – “It’s been the screwiest thing.”

Tackle Warehouse Invitationals pro Alex Davis has seen Lake Guntersville in just about every condition, seeing as he’s lived and guided on it most of his life. So, when he says the weather and lake are “screwy,” he knows.

While there’s a ton of excitement for the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division opener, Davis said this week will be all about the weather, and that was before Day 1 was canceled due to wind and the threat of severe storms. Now, those unseasonably warm conditions will give way to a frisky cold front as the entire field battles it out for two days.

About the fishery

The largest lake in Alabama, Guntersville extends 75 miles from end to end and covers about 69,000 acres between the cities of Bridgeport to the north and Guntersville to the south.

While Guntersville has long been known for its aquatic vegetation, the types of vegetation that its bass call home has changed dramatically in recent years with the proliferation of eelgrass that has slowly choked out a lot of milfoil and hydrilla.

“The eelgrass stretches end to end now,” Davis said.

Guntersville is known for its grass, sure, but the sprawling fishery has plenty more to offer in the form of docks, riprap, laydowns, creek arms and some famous causeway riprap areas that have been major tournament winners in the past.

The weather is anything but kind right now on Guntersville.

Current conditions

Any gameplans pros had for this event are pretty much shot right now.

As mentioned earlier, Day 1 was canceled due to the weather, which came in full force overnight. So now the entire field gets to fish the final two days – but in far different conditions than what they saw in practice.

Yesterday hit 71 degrees, but this morning it’s barely in the 40s and it’s going to be 24 degrees at takeoff tomorrow. That’s definitely a true cold front, which would be bad enough if not for the conditions Davis has seen all spring.

“Normally, this time of year the water temperatures are 45-46 degrees,” Davis said. “In practice, they’ve been 53 degrees. That’s going to send the fish much shallower than they should be.

“But after that front, it’s going to get tough. These fish don’t get jacked with until the second day after a front. So, Friday they’ll really bite, but Saturday is going to be tough.”

Fortunately, it’s still Guntersville, which means plenty of big fish roam these waters for an angler to get right in a hurry, even on the toughest days. Though, Davis says the true giants the lake is known for have given way in recent years to more quality.

“The lake has transformed over the last few years to where you don’t have big ones anymore, but the average is considerably higher,” Davis said. “You see a lot of 14-17-pound bags when you used to see 12-15-pound bags. So, really good averages, but you don’t have big ones.”

Red is a staple on Guntersville in the winter and spring.

Tactics in play

Just look back at the top 10 baits gallery from last year’s Toyota Series event. That’ll be pretty much the same deal this year.

Vibrating jigs, swim jigs, lipless crankbaits, Alabama rigs and swimbaits will all be heavily favored this week in and around the various grass areas. It’s Guntersville, after all.

Tristan McCormick will be one of the favorites for the event.

Critical factors

  • Weather – We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. The unseasonably warm winter, thunderstorms, wind and cold front will have the fish all confused. Plus, Davis warned the wind could easily muddy up many areas.
  • Pressure – While it’s a big lake, Guntersville can fish very small. So, navigating the pressure a 260-boat field will have on the fishery will be crucial. With strong winds on Friday, that could make large sections of the lake unfishable as well.
  • Quality bites – There are plenty of 4- and 5-pounders in Guntersville, but someone able to catch a 7-, 8- or 9-pounder like the lake is known for can really separate themselves.

Dock talk

Winning practice doesn’t get you much. Then again, from the “whispers” Davis is hearing, it might actually lose you more.

Davis said he’s hearing folks aren’t catching many fish, but the quality has been stellar, with 18-pound bags being common. Problem is, Davis is worried anglers are going to do so much good catching during practice they may actually smarten up the fish too much prior to the event, especially with the weather coming.

“Everything I’m hearing is what I’d expect,” Davis said. “They’ll just need to be careful they don’t burn too many fish, because they’re going to need them once this weather starts changing.”

Thus, while it took nearly 20 pounds a day to win last year’s Toyota Series event, Davis doesn’t know if it will take that much this go-round, especially after the front. Then again, Big G has a reputation for surpassing expectations, so don’t be surprised if Guntersville finds a way to keep anglers on their toes in more ways than one this week.