Guntersville a different kind of tough

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – Folks, I don’t want this to come across the wrong way.

I think Lake Guntersville is one of the Top 10 bass-fishing destinations in the country, and if I was going to pick a lake anywhere in America just to go fishing for fun, it would certainly be on my short list.

But this is not my favorite place for a professional bass tournament.

For what we do, it’s downright tough.

I don’t mean it’s tough to catch fish. There’s an amazing amount of bass here, and anyone who knows much at all about fishing is going to catch them.

But as a tournament fisherman, it’s frustrating.

You go out there and you grind and you catch fish and see fish, but you always feel like you’re missing something. If you can’t catch 30 pounds a day, you just don’t feel like you can win.

That’s what’s going through your mind, and that makes it really hard for me to have a positive mindset going into the game. To win, you go out feeling like every bite needs to be a six-plus.

It’s especially tough to figure the lake out this time of year.

There will be pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn fish available to the field this week, and trying to figure out which ones you need to be catching is tough.

You can’t just assume that you ought to be fishing for the big spawning females, because I don’t think the biggest fish really come to the banks here. They spawn out on these flats where you can’t see them. So unless you stumble into the right pod that’s ready, you’re out of luck.

On the Sabine River, it was tough to catch a keeper – period. So you just went out trying to catch as many fish as you could.

Here, you don’t care if you only get seven or eight bites a day as long as they’re big. That’s hard because you know you could be catching a lot of fish doing something else. But you might catch them all day without getting anywhere.

It’s hard to leave a bunch of hungry 3-pounders – even for those of us who do this for a living.

An old man told me years ago that you don’t leave fish to catch fish, and you don’t ride by fish to catch fish. But here, you just have to. There’s so many fish in the lake that you’ve got to find the right group.

Another thing that’s going to be tough about the timing of this tournament is all of the boat pressure we’re going to be dealing with. It’s spring break in a lot of places, and people visit Guntersville from all over the country. I’ve seen boats from all over.

They’re out there fishing, and they’re catching fish, big-time. It’s going to be crowded, and that’s just something every angler has to deal with on public water.

With the tournament about to start, I’m almost afraid to guess what it might take to win. I’d say at least 90 pounds, and maybe a lot more than that.

I won’t feel really good about today’s first round unless I bring in 20-plus – and that’s just to finish in the Top 53 and get a check.

Every tournament brings a new set of challenges, and all you can do is just keep grinding.