Sticking around BASS' home state of Alabama for a while longer, the Bassmaster Elite Series will head south from the Alabama Charge at Pickwick Lake this weekend to Lake Guntersville for the May 6-9 Synergy Southern Challenge out of Guntersville.
Guntersville has been the site of 20 top-level BASS events, including the 1976 Bassmaster Classic, won by Elite Series pro Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. The Elites competed at the fishery in 2009, when the top four overall weights for the four-day tournament crashed the scales at more than 100 pounds. Elite anglers caught nearly 1,300 fish and more than 5,300 pounds in four days.
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., took home the $100,000 first-place prize and the Southern Challenge trophy for his fifth career BASS victory. With 107 pounds, 8 ounces, through four days, Martens stayed ahead of 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., for the win by just more than 3 pounds.
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Southern Challenge on The Bassmasters, which airs Sunday, May 16, at 10:30 a.m.
Bassmaster.com will follow the Charge each day with BASSCast, BASSCam, real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins, photo galleries, daily results and Hooked Up with ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. Live, streaming video will be carried by ESPN3.com.
In the 2009 competition on Guntersville, after a productive first three days, Martens struggled on Day 4 as local fishermen were in his key spots early in the day. He recovered by switching locations and patterns, going with a deep diving crankbait and a worm.
Martens said the best spots were those with grass and shell beds. In those spots, he would retrieve the crankbait erratically — similar, he said, to the method of retrieving a jerkbait. He said his retrieve was key to enticing the bigger bass.
While Martens is a Guntersville expert, Clark Reehm of Russellville, Ark., fished his first BASS event on Guntersville in 2009. After a subpar first day, Reehm figured things out, playing to the current. He eventually finished in 38th place on the strength of his near 30-pound limit on the second day.
"You might see something similar to last year in terms of weights," said Reehm, who has qualified for three straight Saturday cuts to begin the Elite season. "If they turn on the generators, it could get ugly and guys will really smoke them."
Reehm said that lipless crankbaits would be an obvious lure choice and that the early morning bite would be important to capitalize on. Additionally, he said the shad spawn should be starting at just the right time for pros to capitalize on schooling bass.
Reehm estimated that it could take anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds to get the victory on Guntersville.
"On a big-bass lake, it's really hard to pinpoint how much it will take to win," said Reehm, who was in the middle of his three-day practice period on Pickwick. "Targeting those schooling fish where the good-sized bass are wadded up is the best approach. It's such a phenomenal lake. You can go through nearly 50 4-pounders on Guntersville and it's considered just an average day."
Along with the top prize of $100,000, the Southern Challenge awards valuable points in the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. With 885 points after four events, Reese leads the AOY standings after winning the April 15-18 Blue Ridge Brawl on Virginia's Smith Mountain Lake. Trailing him are Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., in second with 798 points, and Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., in third with 730 points.
The public is invited to attend the daily launches at 6 a.m. CT at Lake Guntersville State Park, 1155 Lodge Drive, Guntersville, Ala. After Day 2's competition Friday, the field will be cut to the top 50 anglers for Day 3. Only the top 12 will go on to compete in Day 4. Also free and open to the public, the daily weigh-ins are set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Lake Guntersville State Park.
Local sponsor of the Southern Challenge: Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The top 12 pros in the AOY standings at the end of the regular season will advance to the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series postseason, in which the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year will be determined. With the completion of the Southern Challenge, the 2010 regular season will have just three events remaining.
After Guntersville will be the May 20-23 Pride of Georgia on Clarks Hill Lake out of Evans, Ga.
Toyota Trucks Championship Week is set for July 24-31 and will be played out once again on two productive Alabama fisheries. The first leg, the July 24-25 Trophy Chase, returns to Lake Jordan out of Wetumpka. The finale, the Evan Williams Bourbon Trophy Triumph, is slated for July 30-31 on the Alabama River from Montgomery.
Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter and Yamaha.
Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance and Triton Boats.