GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- The final Classic berth is on the line this week at Lake Guntersville as the nation's top weekend anglers take to the water for the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship.
Returning to defend his title is 2009 winner Darrell West, who badly wants another chance to fish at the highest level after a disappointing finish on Lay Lake in February. "Fishing in the Classic was something I dreamed about my whole life," West said. "After being there, it made me want to get back again more than anything."
To get back, West will need to be the last angler standing Saturday, and he knows he faces an uphill battle with the tough conditions on a lake known for producing big bags of Tennessee River bass. "I've been a little disappointed because I want to win this again," West said. "But my two and a half days of practice didn't go well and my chances are going down."
The full field of 200 boaters and 200 non-boaters fish the first three days of competition beginning Wednesday, with only the top 25 advancing to Saturday's final round. The angler that amasses the heaviest four-day total will gain entry into the 2011 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans. Boaters will be fishing for a five-fish limit of bass measuring at least 15 inches in length, while non-boaters are trying for a three-fish limit. According to West, the fishing has been tougher than it should be for Lake Guntersville and that will play right into the hands of local anglers, as it did for him last year on Lake Dardanelle.
"After coming to Guntersville for the first time this week, I feel like the other anglers at Dardanelle last year," West said. "Under extreme conditions, I had an advantage knowing a few key places I could catch fish. I'm on the opposite end here. With tough conditions in practice, it's hard to locate anything. Just like last year, local knowledge will be a definite advantage."
Adding another twist to the Guntersville puzzle will be the weather. A front will be passing through northern Alabama Wednesday, bringing rain and ideal fishing conditions. After the front leaves town, however, forecasts are for overnight lows in the 30s, putting a premium on a good Day One.
"It will be crucial to start off strong tomorrow with that front coming through," West said. "Tomorrow will be the day to catch them. Local rumor is that the fishing is as tough as this lake has seen. One big day could be the difference between winning and going home."
Anglers will launch from the Lake Guntersville State Park at 8:00 a.m. ET and weigh-in at 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday through Friday. Saturday will feature the American Bass Anglers Barbeque Cookoff starting at 4:00 p.m. ET with the weigh-in starting immediately after at 5:00 p.m. ET.