Guntersville: It’s the pressure

There’s been a lot written about Lake Guntersville recently. I thought this would be a good opportunity to give you my take on what the lake is like and how it has changed over the years.

Back seven or eight years ago I started fishing this lake. There were bass pretty much everywhere. I didn’t know much about fishing then — every day was a learning curve — but I could still catch fish, and some good ones too.

It really wasn’t that hard. Find some grass, catch some bass. Over time, however, it seemed like going out and catching a bunch of solid fish got harder and harder.

The sheer number of 4-, 5- and 6-pound bass in the lake from 2008 until 2011 was incredible. It seemed like when the Bassmaster Elite Series went there they went at the perfect time and put Guntersville in the spotlight. The big fish catches were incredible.  

But, all that weight brought a lot of pressure. Everybody wanted a piece of the action. The lake was covered over with bass boats. Day after day, week after week and month after month anglers were coming from all over to fish the lake.

Guntersville is 75 miles long and covers 69,000 acres. That may sound massive, but the more I travel around the country and fish places like Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend I’ve come to realize it isn’t as big as it seems.

About 40 miles up the lake it turns into a river, which doesn’t hold the numbers of big fish that are in the middle and lower sections of the lake where the grass grows. This concentrates anglers and makes that “secret spot” harder to find.

With all that said, however, the lake still has big bass in it — and they get caught often enough to prove it.

Back in the fall of 2011 Paul Elias won an event here with over 100 pounds. He changed the game with an umbrella rig. I remember how tough the lake was fishing back then and how everyone was thinking there had been a fish kill, or that they had been removed somehow. I didn’t buy it. I knew there were too many bass in the lake for them to just disappear.

Elias proved that they just got tired of seeing the same baits over and over again. When they saw something new it was the same old hot bite that we’d seen years before. My advice to anyone going to Guntersville is to fish with something different. The fishing has changed. You have to change with it.

Back when I started fishing here the grass was all hydrilla and milfoil. Now there’s coontail and eelgrass mixed in with the hydrilla and the milfoil. The eelgrass can be dynamite in the winter and spring but really chokes things out in the summer and fall. The fish have more options, and so do anglers. Guntersville still pumps out big stringers of fish. But it’s not the Guntersville of years ago where anyone and everyone could catch a bunch of big fish. It’s more complicated now.

My conclusion: It’s the pressure. No matter how big or how good a body of water might be it can be fished too hard and finally fished to the point where it gets hard to catch good numbers of big fish.

The solution: We need several years of good spawns to get the numbers back up in the lake. I also think that a few fingerlings stocked in the lake throughout the year would help.