Back in tournament mode


James Overstreet

As we head into practice for the next Elite event on Lake Guntersville, I would have to say this tournament will likely be an open book. It’s about time for the fish to be out on the ledges, but I’m not sure the offshore deal is fully underway yet.

I say that because I recently visited Lake Chickamauga and Nickajack Lake above Guntersville and there were still fish up shallow. In fact, I watched a local catch a nearly 8-pounder in 5 feet of water. 

The guy was fishing from an aluminum boat, and he brought it over to me for a picture. We weighed the fish and it was 7 pounds, 15 ounces. 

I think what we’ll probably find is that some of the fish are still in transition, while some have started to settle on the offshore stuff. The whole area has gotten so much rain that a lot of water has moved through the system. When water levels fluctuate like this, it can slow down the seasonal movements.

The other thing is that a lot of the water I found in the other lakes was kind of dingy from the TVA pulling lake levels down throughout the system. If Guntersville presents a lot of dingy water, I would expect a shallower bite. All the fish won’t necessarily go offshore when you have high water or dingy water, so it’s possible some of the guys who never like to fish offshore could get on a good shallow water pattern.

A key factor for this event will be how the fish are grouping. On Chickamauga and Nickajack, the schools I found weren’t the traditional big schools of 200-300 fish; they were more like 30-40. 

Probably the biggest thing that affects those offshore fish is fishing pressure. All these TVA lakes see a lot of boats pounding the offshore spots during the summer months. For example, on Chickamauga, with 75 percent of the places I wanted to fish, you absolutely had to take a number.

It’s not too bad when the fish first get out there, but once they’ve been there for a few weeks, there’s only so many of them that will stick around after being caught. I’m hoping that our timing allows us to access some fish that have just recently set up offshore, and maybe some that are making the transition.

At this point, it’s hard to say what we’ll face, but I’ll be ready to fish the conditions. I’ll have it all from finesse baits to big crankbaits. The mix may change day to day based on the wind, how much water they’re pulling, water clarity and location on the lake. I’ll rig it all and hopefully, by the end of practice, I’ll have something figured out.

I can tell you that, after a long break, it feels good to be back in tournament mode. I was enjoying my time off, but I was chewing my nails off waiting to get back at it. I’m ready for Guntersville — just have to figure out what they want.