This week is the 2019 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series at Guntersville, and while I was working on tackle it hit me just how important Guntersville is to the history of B.A.S.S. and professional fishing. There have been so many amazing Guntersville magic moments to recall from tournaments there over the years, that I’m not sure we could even count them.
Being from the state of Alabama, I’ve always known how good the fishery is, but when I started thinking about some of the memories I have about tournaments on Guntersville; it hit me what this lake means to the sport.
There are many, but here are some important moments, and some of my favorites.
Rick Clunn winning the 1976 Bassmaster Classic – the world didn’t know it yet, but that win unleashed an animal. This was the first of four Classic titles for Clunn – so far.
Aaron Martens and his 107-pound performance in 2009. He cranked squarebills on shallow shell beds over ledges to win that event, and it was impressive.
Paul Elias’ 2011 FLW Tour Series Win – with the Alabama rig – wasn’t a B.A.S.S event, but Elias turned the fishing world on its ear that week. He also gave a huge jumpstart to the Alabama-rig craze with his 102-pound winning weight.
Skeet Reese’s two big wins at Guntersville in 2010 and 2015 – the first one was amazing because he topped 100 pounds, and the second showed the fishing world that big swimbaits could play on southern lakes.
Randy Howell’s come-from-behind win at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic – I don’t think anyone will forget the final day Randy had under the Spring Creek causeway bridge to win that event.
But, to me, my favorite memory of Lake Guntersville is the 5-pounder that Denny Brauer caught in the final moments to seal his Bassmaster Megabucks win in 1992. That fish came bustin’ out of a dock and immediately went airborne. The way the fish was backlit, and the water spray made the bass look like it was on fire. Boy, that one still gets me going every time I see it.
My point is that Guntersville has been the stage for so many huge Bassmaster – and professional fishing moments – over the years, and I am excited to see what this week will bring. There is a whole new group of anglers that bring a fresh perspective and different approaches to the game. And that makes anything possible.
Looking at the weather and the time of the year, the offshore bite should be good, but with this bunch, you never know. It’s possible that we’ll see somebody do something that we’ve never even thought of before, which would only add to the memories-of-Guntersville pile.
There are a lot of anglers who have a ton of experience on the lake that could light ‘em up. Scott Canterbury is very good on Guntersville, as is Clent Davis. Keith Combs is a master with deep crankbaits, and offshore fishing in general — it wouldn’t surprise me to see him standing there on the final day. For that matter, we’ve got the original crankbait guru David Fritts, and he’s at his best this time of the year.
The guys that came from FLW have got some good experience on the lake, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see one of the Johnston Brothers, Brandon Cobb, Matt Arey have a good event either. Also, if the swimbait bite is on, watch out for Chris Zaldain, he’ll sneak up on you if they’re eating that thing.
I’m going to be one of those guys out there in practice looking for something just a little bit different hoping to have something to myself. It won’t be easy. Between our bunch, the guides who make their livings on the lake and the people who come to Guntersville looking to make memories of their own every day, there will be challenges. My goal is to make a difference.
Either way, Guntersville has been a place that has experienced a ton of bass fishing magic over the years, and I promise this: There will be people who come out to witness it happen again this week.
Our sport is blessed to have some of the most loyal fans out there, and the area around Lake Guntersville especially is home to a large number of them. I know I’ll see a lot of friends and former competitors there, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them and watching more Guntersville magic take place this week.