2009 Elite Series - Southern Challenge Lake Guntersville - Guntersville, AL, May 7 - 10, 2009

Southern Challenge is off and running

Will the fishing juggernaut known as Kevin VanDam continue to steamroll here?

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LAKE GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — For the first time in a few days, rain isn't in the forecast for the anglers who took off from Lake Guntersville State Park Thursday morning for the opening round of the Southern Challenge. While the weather shouldn't pose much of a mystery, however, the fishing might.


Some anglers in this, the fifth tournament in the 2009 Elite Series, were apprehensive that after more than four inches of rain fell in northern Alabama since the weekend, muddy water in Guntersville's main arms would diminish their results. Other questions remain to be answered:







  • Will the fishing juggernaut known as Kevin VanDam continue to steamroll here? The Michigan angler, who won the Blue Ridge Brawl a couple of weeks ago to move back into the Angler-of-the-Year lead, won the last Elite Series tournament on Lake Guntersville two years ago.
  • Will flooded banks give flipping and pitching gurus Tommy Biffle and Denny Brauer the opportunity to work their magic? Biffle's bank-running tactics under much the same high-water circumstances helped him claim the championship of the Dixie Duel at Decatur in early April.
  • Will the topwater guys who were catching impressive stringers in practice see their patterns blown by muddy water? Zell Rowland, whose 87-pound stringer here in 2005 set an all-time winning weight for a Guntersville B.A.S.S. event, is one of the anglers said to be on a good topwater bite. Dean Rojas is another.
  • Will off-color water in such famed fishing holes as Mudd, Roseberry, North Auty, Town, Mink, Brown and South Sauty creeks even matter? Some anglers, including Alton Jones, don't think that it will.


"Dirty water might even help me where I'm fishing," said the Texas angler Thursday as he waited in line for the 6 a.m. takeoff. "The water was really clear in some of the places where I'm fishing and some of the bass were a little skittish."


Rick Clunn, who won the 1976 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, is another fisherman who downplays the effects of dingy water. Though he thinks that the predicting the winning stringer is a fool's game considering the changing conditions, the lake will still live up to its billing and produce good catches.


"This lake is such a remarkable bass fishery that it's almost weatherproof," says Clunn, who, along with Rowland, has won two B.A.S.S. tournaments on Guntersville. "The only time that it hasn't been awesome was back in the 90s when the TVA decided it was going to kill all the vegetation in the lake. Thanks to B.A.S.S. and others, that didn't last long and since then the fishing has only gotten better. We'll do okay."


As the anglers left the dock Thursday morning, about half the boats headed toward Nickajack Dam in the more riverine portion of the lake, while most of the remainder ran down toward the milfoil flats and broad points where feeder creeks meet the Tennessee River. Current being a major activator, the fishermen who went upstream hold an advantage, but they also will have to contend with muddy water. The anglers fishing the flats and ledges downstream have a strong post-spawn pattern going for them, but bass could relocate or be positioned differently relative to increased current.


More questions to be answered, beginning with the opening-round weigh-in that starts at 5 p.m. ET at Lake Guntersville State Park.


"We'll see; everything seems to be working right now," observed Jones. "Everybody loves Lake Guntersville on Thursday morning."




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