The kids are all right: Marbut triumphs at Guntersville - Major League Fishing

The kids are all right: Marbut triumphs at Guntersville

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Hayden Marbut won Guntersville by 2 ounces with a three-day total of 15 bass weighing 70-1. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Hayden Marbut.
February 16, 2024 • Justin Onslow • Toyota Series

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – Less than a week removed from 21-year-old phenom Drew Gill’s Tackle Warehouse Invitationals win at Sam Rayburn, 20-year-old Auburn University standout Hayden Marbut bested Gill (11th) at Lake Guntersville in the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division opener in impressive fashion, weighing in just a tick over 70 pounds of bass – the only angler in the field to crack the 70-pound mark over three days.

Like Gill at Rayburn, Marbut leaned on his aptitude with forward-facing sonar – not to mention his vast experience on Guntersville – to best an enormous field of 260 anglers. He did so with unmatched consistency, weighing in 22-10, 25-1 and 22-6, respectively. That gave him just enough to edge out Day 2 leader Matt O’Connell (69-15) by 2 ounces.

For Marbut, the first major solo win of his bass fishing career adds to a stacked résumé for a bass fishing phenom not even old enough to have a celebratory beer.

“I’m a junior this year, and I’ll be a senior next year, but I plan on staying a fifth year,” the Auburn University student said. “I’ve fished so much the last couple years that there’s no chance of me graduating on time.

“I’ve been super fortunate. I won a high school national championship and was able to win two college national championships last year, and that’s kind of what drove me to compete at this level.”

Consistency was the watchword of the week for Hayden Marbut, who stayed in the low- to mid-20s the whole time. Photo by Jody White.

One of the young anglers many mention when discussing the future of the sport, Marbut’s affinity for catching big bass using forward-facing sonar is no surprise. At Guntersville, he caught all the fish he weighed in ‘Scoping, although it wasn’t as easy as just eyeballing some fish and casting to them.

After finishing fourth in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League event at Guntersville last weekend, Marbut spent the following few days practicing, trying to adjust to changing weather and water conditions. In the days that followed that BFL, current started ripping on Guntersville, blowing out formerly productive areas and completely changing the way fish were setting up.

“We had a lot of changing conditions this week,” he said. “Everything changed, and I had to adjust a lot. I had to find completely new fish. Everything I was fishing last week was blown out. The current really affected it.”

Because Marbut is from Birmingham and attends Auburn, he’s spent what he estimates to be thousands of hours on Guntersville. (“I’ve idled this entire lake just about and I can tell you just about where anything is out here,” he said.) As such, he was able to pivot to new, similarly productive plans that involved finding some cleaner water outside the roaring current of the main river.

“I had two main little places in an area that had a lot of bait, and I focused in on one of them today (Friday),” he said. “They were both just out of the current, and there was a little bit cleaner water. I think that was something that was really special about them. 

“There was clearer water, and I could get my bait down to them. They could see it from a little bit further. Trying to lead these fish with forward-facing sonar in this current and adjust with the wind and everything like that is hard to do. That cleaner water helped me get extra bites when I was looking at them.”

In those areas, bass were more prone to suspend (as opposed to sticking tight to the bottom around current breaks, as the main-lake bass were often doing throughout the event), making them a little easier to target.

Hayden Marbut did most of his work with a spinning stick. Photo by Jody White.

For the task, Marbut relied on a 3/8-ounce Picasso ball head tipped with a fluke-style bait, tied to 15-pound-test P-Line braid with a 12-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon leader. That was spooled on 3000-size Shimano Sustain reels and a pair of different rods: a 6-foot-10 G. Loomis NRX+ and a 7-foot Hammer rod.

As for his Garmin LiveScope settings, Marbut kept it pretty simple and stuck with the range settings he’s used to: 90 feet out and 40 feet deep.

“That’s what I’ve gotten the most comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve been using that range for a long time, and I’m able to hit them efficiently; I can really tell how big they are that way. You have to play with it a lot to understand and interpret everything that you’re reading on the LiveScope, but I’ve been able to look at the screen so much and get comfortable with that range that I’ve been able to target some of the bigger ones.”

That was certainly the case over three days at Guntersville. Marbut’s spots, both “way down the lake,” produced multiple 5- and 6-pound fish over the first two days and kicked out more than 20 pounds early in the day on Day 3. From there, it was just a matter of slowly culling up throughout the day for enough weight to eke out the victory over O’Connell.

For the win, Marbut was awarded a $100,000 check (which included a $35,000 Phoenix MLF Bonus) and the pride of winning a major solo tournament so early in his fishing career. He’ll tell you, though, it wasn’t about the money.

“The money’s cool and all, but I’ve never fished for the money,” he said. “I just love bass fishing. This is what I do every single day, and it’s what I’m going to try to do every day for the rest of my life.”

Considering the success he’s had to this point, that sounds like a pretty solid plan.

Top 10 pros

1. Hayden Marbut – 70 – 01 (15) – $100,000 (includes $35,000 Phoenix Bonus)

2. Matt O’Connell – 69 – 15 (15) – $28,300

3. Mickey Beck – 66 – 09 (15) – $18,000

4. Travis Alcock – 66 – 06 (15) – $16,500

5. Jordan Wiggins – 65 – 15 (15) – $15,000

6. Austin Swindle – 64 – 10 (15) – $11,500

7. Dillon Falardeau – 64 – 04 (15) – $10,000

8. Clint Knight – 63 – 01 (15) – $8,500

9. Logan Dyar – 62 – 11 (15) – $7,500

10. Michael Black – 62 – 02 (15) – $5,500

Complete results