Can you believe the 50th anniversary of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk kicks off this week? I know I can’t. It’s crazy to think that a tournament organization has been going strong for that many years.
I remember growing up in Hemphill, Texas, hearing stories about the “Hemphill Gang,” a group of anglers who absolutely dominated the B.A.S.S. tournament scene early on. One of my mentors, Tommy Martin, was part of that group of anglers and also was the winner of the 1974 Bassmaster Classic. You know in all the years of knowing Tommy, he has never told me the story of how he won the Classic or what it was like. But what I do know is he helped instill a bass fishing passion inside me that is burning even hotter today.
Now, to the Classic techniques. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Lake Guntersville quite a few times and to be honest, I absolutely love the place. It reminds me so much of Sam Rayburn. We can all look at the footage of the last time the Classic was at Guntersville and see what the guys were throwing. Will it be won cranking bridges? Trapping grass? Jerkbaiting docks? It’s anyone’s guess. Here are a few things that I think could be major players this week at Guntersville that you might not expect.
Swimbaits on bridges
Over the last several years many pre-spawn events have been won on Lake Guntersville (local and regional tournaments) fishing single swimbaits around bridge pilings. This technique is time consuming and takes all day. Truly feast or famine. However, it only takes one giant day to put you in a great spot. Will the winner use this technique? Hard to say, but seeing that it wasn’t a major player the last time the Classic was in town, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it shine this year.
Cranking rock (not just riprap)
Guntersville doesn’t have a ton of rocky areas, but it has enough. The last time the FLW Tour fished Guntersville, Mark Rose won the event fishing a flat sided crankbait around rock banks, channel turns and riprap. Hard cover can be a big player with fluctuating water, especially if it gets dirty. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a few anglers figure out the hard cover cranking bite and exploit it every single day. Not to mention Randy Howell used this technique on the corner of the causeway at Spring Creek.
A balsa flat-sided crankbait, Shad Rap and Strike King KVD 1.5 Flat would be three things I had tied on for that bite.
Fishing the Hydrilla
The last time I visited Guntersville we dealt with freezing temps and dirty water. The bite was hard to come by, but it got better as the event went on. There are quite a few different types of grass in Guntersville, but by far my favorite is hydrilla. I grew up fishing hydrilla on Rayburn and Toledo Bend. Catching bass out of hydrilla can be great, even during frontal conditions.
I expect many guys in the field are looking for this bite and many will find it. I especially love finding little stretches of hydrilla growing down hard bank lines. It limits the amount of places the fish can move to and allows you to catch them easier.
Three baits that I would have tied on for this would be a handful of Strike King Red Eyed Shads in various shades of red and white, a Strike King Thunder Cricket and the Hybrid Hunter, a new hydrilla crankbait that Strike King is getting ready to release soon.
Cranking eel grass
Eel grass has become one of, if not, the most popular type of grass on Lake Guntersville over recent years. It grows deeper than hydrilla and can be found all over the lake. I remember seeing a picture of a school of fish that Elite Series pro Buddy Gross found side-scanning on Guntersville on top of the eel grass. That’s what makes it so unique; you can actually find the bass on top of the grass with your electronics. That’s huge for these guys. If someone spent a good amount of time behind the wheel during practice, they are likely to find the winning spot just by graphing around.
Cranking eel grass has become the favorite of most in the area, with the Rapala DT6 being the most popular crankbait you can own for that grass. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an old school Strike King Series 4 play just as big a role. It’s a bass catching machine when the water is cold, and I happen to know one of the competitors in the field loves to throw one. That competitor is Elite Series veteran Mark Menendez.
It’s hard to win any tournament, much less the Bassmaster Classic. The pressure is something that is indescribable. I experienced the Classic once, and I know I won’t be satisfied until I experience it again. We all speculate who the winner will be and how it will be won, but honestly we won’t know until the Bassmaster Classic Champion lifts the trophy over his head in Birmingham. Oh what a great feeling that must be. One day I hope that winner is me.