SCOTTSBORO, Ala. – You know a lake is one of the best in the country when even terrible conditions can’t stop it from showing out. Because that’s what happened at the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on Lake Guntersville.
Despite the first day being canceled due to the threat of severe weather and a cold front that dropped temperatures nearly 50 degrees, it still took nearly 20 pounds a day to make the Top 10, with Griffin Heffington averaging more than 26 pounds a day to take home the win.
Here’s a look at the lures that helped the Top 10 anglers.
1. A terrible practice and constant boat issues couldn’t stop Heffington from blowing away the field. He located a massive population of suspended “freaks” gorging on baitfish near one of the Spring Creek bridges, which he was able to single out using his Garmin LiveScope. When he saw one or even a small group, he’d toss out a Picasso Bait Ball Pulse Jr. Umbrella Rig with True Bass Hollow Body Swimbaits. He also caught a 7-12 kicker on Day 1 that surprised him while firing around a Rapala DT 6.
2. Hanging near takeoff and looking for “tic tacs” amongst sparse eelgrass on his 360 sonar, Corey Bradley alternated between a vibrating jig and discontinued XCalibur XR100 lipless baits custom painted by Miller Time on the Water. Initially, red/crayfish colors worked, but on Day 2, it was shad patterns that got bit.
3. There’s endless grass in Guntersville, but it was the isolated patches in Town Creek that were the focus for Gabe Jelley. A ditch that came off the main river made a few swings inside the creek, and on each swing were isolated patches of grass he plied with Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammers (green pumpkin shad or black and blue) and Yamamoto Zako trailers. However, that area dried up the final afternoon, and while just fishing around, he “stumbled upon” a 6-12 in a creek he hadn’t fished all week to get him in the top five.
4. Many anglers had their plans completely derailed by the strong winds this week. Aaron Stephens wasn’t one of them. The pro found some protected eelgrass that never got muddy and also allowed him to efficiently soak a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer (red craw). He never got more than a handful of bites, but they were the right ones.
5. Terry Fisher can only wonder ‘what if.’ In practice, Fisher found an area near Browns Creek where two channel swings came together by an island with grass on the point. From the moment he found it, the fish were “stacked in there,” and not just numbers, as he caught a pair of 8-pounders there. Unfortunately, the winds on Friday made it impossible to fish it, but he got to the final day, throwing a BOOYAH One Knocker in a discontinued green ghost craw color to catch more than 50 fish and bring in 25-4 to jump him into the Top 10.
6. As soon as Josh Bragg noticed the red mouths and sharp teeth of the bass he was catching in practice, he knew the bass were keying on crayfish. Hence, he switched between a red XCalibur XR50 and a red Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a Big Bite Baits Kamikaze Swimon on main-lake grass. However, he also had a patch of deep eelgrass that produced some quality bites on a 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle Co. Top Hook Swimbait.
7. What kind of vegetation was Vernon Lowe fishing this week? He admits he has no idea. He could only describe it as a “shallow vine with flowers on top of it.” Regardless of what it was, the fish were up in it and would destroy a Z-Man Big Blade ChatterBait (chartreuse white orange) with a RaZor ShadZ trailer that he’d slow roll near it.
8. It was a tournament of polar opposites for Jake Lee. On Day 1, he got on the spot on the South Sauty bridge and quickly sacked up 26-10 on an Alabama rig with 4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT (pro blue red pearl) swimbaits to sit in second. Unfortunately, a late boat draw and muddy water completely ruined the area, forcing him to scramble, only catching three fish off some channel swings the final day.
9. There’s shallow, and then there’s “dirt shallow” like what Isaac Warta was fishing. Keying on hyacinth mats and even mats of eelgrass blown up against the bank, Warta tossed a Z-Man Big Blade ChatterBait (chartreuse white orange) with a Missile Baits Spunk Shad (green pumpkin) trailer to make those shallow fish “mad” and prompt a reaction bite in water often a foot or less.
10. Three “really good spots” that could all produce 20-plus pounds turned into one decent spot for Travis Alcock thanks to the weather. All three spots had a mix of eelgrass, hydrilla and coontail out on the main river. The first two never panned out, though, because they got ruined by the winds, but the third spot was enough to get him a Top 10 by throwing a red Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a matching Yamamoto Zako trailer. He also mixed in an Azuma Shaker Z (Aztec).