Randall Tharp lived near Lake Guntersville for 17 years before moving back to his home state of Florida last summer. Over that period of time, Tharp witnessed a change in bass spawning habits here.
"When I first started fishing here, the fish didn't spawn back in the creeks," Tharp said. "They spawned just off the main river channel."
When Tharp got here in December to look over the lake, before the cut-off date, he saw fish ganged up near the river channel again and thought they might go back to their old habits this year.
"That's what gives me the best chance to use my local knowledge," said Tharp.
He doesn't know exactly why the bass change but thinks it probably has to do with the amount of aquatic vegetation in the lake. The one thing he doesn't like is the lake level, which is only a foot or so higher than normal, but that's like 5 feet at other reservoirs.
"This lake is notorious for not fishing great when it's high," Tharp said. "When you get to the ramp and it's low, you know you're going to catch 'em."
Tharp said he's mainly throwing moving baits this week, X-Caliber lipless crankbaits, Rapala DT6s, and SPRO McStick jerkbaits, while mixing in a jig at times.
Tharp moved again, to another flat just off the river channel. We can't tell if this is part of his plan or if he's in scramble mode. This is the type of spot I'd assumed would be unfishable due to boat traffic, but spectator traffic is far from overwhelming.
Jordan Lee just put his second and third bass in the livewell. Another 3 and a 4, both caught up shallow.
Paul Mueller lands a fish that would cull him up a half pound.
Steadily, Mueller’s crowd grows. Tharp just made a move, and we’ve picked up some of his boats. More and more are crowding into his spot, unbeknownst to them. However, the crowd is policing itself, telling errant boats to move. Mueller’s picked up a jerkbait and is twitching it along, showing the fish something different. Being a coldwater specialist, Mueller is likely pretty handy with the long, slender twitchbaits.
As soon as I pressed "send" on that last entry, Tharp put on his life vest and moved a short way to a spot we did not see him fish yesterday. It appears to be a flat on the edge of the river channel, the first place these fish would move up after leaving their wintering places.
Edwin Evers picked up and moved about 200 yards, near the back of this creek, and immediately landed a 2-pounder. He caught this one flipping a laydown. He landed a short fish about two casts later. Still looking for that fifth fish.
As what seems to be a long dry spell continues for Tharp, he's gradually losing spectator boats. They're peeling away, one by one. That could make the dry spell more mentally draining. On the other hand, fewer whirring trolling motors might also loosen up the bite.
We've speculated that this is his "limit sport." We'll see how long he sticks it out, or whether he'll bail earlier than expected.
Jordan punched up another bass, but this one won't help. It was just short and went back in the water. He said he didn't start fishing shallow yesterday until after noon, but with two caught already this morning, this bite may be good all day.