SCOTTSBORO, Ala. — Veteran Alabama pro Matt Herren has heard the question a lot lately, “What’s a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament going to be like on Lake Guntersville in the fall?”
Herren isn’t exactly sure how to answer.
“If we were going to Guntersville about two weeks later, I think it would be a true fall tournament and the weights could be a lot heavier,” he said. “But right now, we’re gonna hit it right in the middle of the change. We’re headed toward fall, but we’re not quite there yet.
“We could be looking at a different set of circumstances every day of the tournament.”
The NOCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 3, with takeoffs each day at 6:30 a.m. CT from Goose Pond Colony Resort Marina and weigh-ins back at that facility each day at 2:30 p.m. The 85-angler field will earn valuable points in a Bassmaster Angler of the Year race that is entering its stretch run, and the overall tournament winner will walk away with $100,000.
Fall has begun taking hold, with shorter days and cooler nighttime temperatures slowly lowering the water temperatures on lakes all over the Southeastern United States. But Herren said it is unlikely conditions will have changed enough by tournament time to congregate bass in any one distinct area.
That means multiple patterns will likely be in play, and anglers may have to figure out several — even after the tournament begins — to stay in contention.
“Guntersville is a grass lake,” Herren said. “It’s full of hydrilla, full of eelgrass. It has a little bit of milfoil and a little bit of lily pads. Somebody’s going to have a really good tournament fishing that kind of stuff. Then, there will be guys who have successful tournaments fishing typical Tennessee River stuff like ledges and drops.
“My guess is it’s gonna take a little bit of all of it to win.”
Herren said, considering the conditions are likely to be changing constantly, he wouldn’t be surprised if 17 to 18 pounds a day put an angler in a good position to win.
Reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Scott Canterbury, another veteran Alabama pro with plenty of experience on Guntersville, said the lake could be even stingier than that.
“I really think it could be won with 16 pounds a day,” Canterbury said. “I’ve been watching the results of the tournaments up there, and that’s about what it has been taking.”
Canterbury said Guntersville’s reputation as a “big bass factory” will likely shine through sporadically, with a few big bass and an occasional big limit being brought to the scales. But he doesn’t expect the consistency the lake is known for during the spring when bass movements are easier to predict.
“It’s Guntersville, so you’re always going to see some big ones,” he said. “The guy who separates himself from the pack will be the one who manages to get several of those big bites.
“When I say I think it’ll take a 16-pound average to win, that could mean somebody catches 21 pounds the first day and then only brings in 11 the next day. One really good day could mean a lot.”
Typical grass tactics like flipping and frogging are likely to play, Canterbury said. But the trick will be finding new places to employ those tactics for each round of the four-day event.
“We’re not in a situation right now where those places are gonna replenish,” he said. “If you go into a place and really burn them on a frog, it’ll be done. There just aren’t going to be enough fish committed to one area right now to just keep going back to a spot over and over again.”
During a normal year, the Elite Series schedule would be about done. But since the COVID-19 pandemic forced B.A.S.S. to pause the schedule for three months, many events that would have been held in the spring or summer have been pushed to the fall.
Though it won’t be a typical Guntersville slugfest, Canterbury and Herren said they are looking forward to spending time on a familiar lake during an unfamiliar spot on the calendar.
“I’ll be starting fresh, and I’ll really have to spend some time figuring things out in practice,” Canterbury said. “But that’s OK. I really like tournaments like this where you kind of have to piece things together — and to have one on a lake I know really well will be a lot of fun.”
“Obviously, I haven’t spent a lot of time up there this time of year the past few seasons,” he said. “But I’m ready to go. With all we’ve been through this year, we all just want to be able to finish this season.
“We’re doing that. So, Hallelujah!”