Lake Guntersville, site of the third and final Southern Open of 2008, is a massive TVA impoundment on the Tennessee River covering nearly 68,000 acres at normal pool. Known as one of the better bass fisheries in the South, this northeast Alabama reservoir is the beneficiary of stable water levels and lots and lots of grass.
According to professional angler, Ron Klys, those two factors will combine to make this week's event one to be remembered.
"I've never seen so many little bass in my life. They're everywhere," says Klys after two days of practice. "I think that's because the water only fluctuates a couple of feet during the year and there's a lot of grass here. Both of those things make for a great spawn and high survival rates for the fry. That makes for a huge bass population.
"Nearly all of them this week have been shad oriented. All you need to do is follow a ball of shad and wait for the bass to bust on the surface. When they do, you can catch a dozen of them in as many casts with almost any topwater bait. Stick baits, poppers, frogs and buzzbaits are all good.
"And I've caught a few flipping the grass with a Berkley Chigger Craw. It seems to work pretty well in the pockets. The grass-oriented bass are bigger, at least mine are anyway. I think that's where this tournament will be won. The schooling bass are just too small."
Based on his practice, Klys believes that there may not be all that many limits caught despite the high number of small bass and the hot bite. But at the same time he says the cut weight and winning weight will be relatively high.
"I think a lot of guys will have trouble finding a limit of keepers. We'll all catch a lot of fish, but most of them will be short. At the same time, however, this is Guntersville. Someone will get on a mess of big ones.
"It's really not inconsistent to say there may not be all that many limits, but the weights will be high. The guys who get on the big ones will have heavy sacks. The rest of the field will struggle."
After all is said and done, he believes it'll take somewhere in the 26- or 27-pound range to make the cut on Friday night and fish on Saturday. To win this one, Klys believes it'll take at least 54 pounds. In that mix will be at least one in the 7-pound range, with an 8-pounder a realistic possibility.
"This is a good lake. Despite my struggles with smaller fish, there are plenty of bass between 3 and 5 pounds in the grass. It's a matter of finding them. In three days I've caught a 5-, a 4- and a 3-pounder, and I'm definitely not on a big bass bite. Fifteen bass that average 3 1/2 pounds or better isn't out of the question here — not by a long shot.
"I can't say much more than that because I don't know what the other guys are doing. I don't have anything to compare my experience with. They're all being real stingy with information. That usually means they're on fish. The question is, are they keepers?"
As usual, weather could be a factor in the event.
Thursday is predicted to be stable with a high around 83 and a low of 63. Friday could see rain with the arrival of a cold front. Friday's high is predicted to be 68, the low 51. Saturday will be even cooler with a high of 66 and a low of 45. That could drop the water temperature — currently between 73 and 78 degrees — down below 70 degrees in places and seriously alter the fishing.
"The cold could drive the bass back into the grass and make them harder to catch. If that happens, the number of limits will decrease and so will the cut weight. But the heaviest weights will stay pretty close to what they would have been had the weather stayed warm. Some of the guys will get on them no matter what ... they always do. This is Guntersville."