I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of experience on Lake Guntersville, but I can tell you for certain that this lake gets tremendous fishing pressure — just like anywhere up and down the Tennessee River. It seems that more and more anglers are getting better with their electronics, so it could be frustrating for anglers trying to get on the schools of offshore fish.
I got a taste of this recently, when I went to Pickwick Lake — on Wednesday — and just bout every ledge had three to four boats on it. Everyone has a right to enjoy the resource, but all this pressure educates the fish.
I think the major effect this has on fishing is that it makes the windows of opportunity very narrow. Because of this, I think timing will be a big consideration during the tournament and the biggest consideration will be when the current runs and how much water flows through the lake.
Time of day may also play into the equation, as well. You may try to fish a spot in the morning, but someone may have been on it before you and scattered the fish. But sometimes, all it takes is an hour without any fishing pressure for the spot to get right again, so checking key areas multiple times during the day can be key.
In any case, local knowledge is going to be very valuable during this tournament because, a lot of times, knowing exactly how to line up on a ledge is just as important as knowing where to fish. I’ve seen it many times where highly-pressured fish are very particular and the right angle can mean the difference between getting bit or not.
A guy might also need to downsize his baits and even pull out a spinning rod and finesse the fish. This is a big fish lake, but small details can definitely help you get a school to fire up.
Now, even though the offshore ledges are the dominant pattern this time of year, I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of guys do well in shallow grass in 8-10 feet. When everyone’s focusing out deep, these fish that stay shallow get a break, so we may see some good fish caught this way.
Someone may also get on a frog bite or a shallow flipping bite. These are patterns that could possibly hold up for four days, but the biggest challenge will be all the fishing pressure. You could find a good area and fish it, but when you leave, you might look back and find another boat moving in.
So, the question becomes: Do you leave a spot to fish another spot and risk having the first one fished out; or do you park on a good spot and give up the potential of finding more fish?
In another scenario, someone might go way up the river to get away from the crowds and actually find some good fish. I don’t think the tournament will be won up the river; I think it will be won offshore, but going up the river might be the only way to fish in solitude.
No doubt, decisions will be a big deal in this Elite event. To be successful, a guy will need to manage his time well and an important part of that will be having a solid back-up plans in case someone is on his spot.