GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. – When bass fishing enthusiasts hear mention of Lake Guntersville, many think right away of a lake that’s played host to some of the sport’s biggest moments.
During the past six years alone, the historic Tennessee River fishery has been the site of three Bassmaster Elite Series events and the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
On Dec. 9-12, another historic moment will take place when the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship is held from Guntersville State Park with a 2016 Classic berth on the line. Daily launches will take place at 6:30 a.m. CT, with weigh-ins held back at the park each day at 2:30 p.m.
A full field of about 400 anglers from across the country will fish as two-man teams Dec. 9-10, with the top pair being crowned national team champions. Then on Dec. 11-12, the six anglers from the top three teams will compete individually in the Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off.
The winner of the individual competition will earn a bid to the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, March 4-6.
“For the average guy who has heard so much about Guntersville, I know they’re excited just to fish the lake,” said Jon Stewart, Bassmaster Team Championship director. “Anytime you make a cast at Guntersville, you feel like you have a chance to catch the fish of a lifetime. To experience that and also have a chance to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic is a pretty amazing thing.”
Though Guntersville is indeed nationally known for producing big numbers of trophy-sized bass, the fishing has been tough of late — perhaps due to a mild fall that has seen daytime temperatures remain in the upper 60s and low 70s into early December across the southeastern United States.
Some of the top anglers in the world have struggled on the lake recently, including 2015 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens. During a live video presentation on Bassmaster.com in late October, Martens landed just one fish for the camera between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Justin Lucas, an Elite Series pro from Alabama who finished just behind Martens in this year’s AOY standings, had an even harder time recently figuring out the Guntersville bass.
“I spent some time out there a while back, and I fished four hours and never got a bite,” said Lucas, who lives just minutes from the lake. “Guntersville was actually better in September and October this year than it had been in September and October of years past. But since then — since all the mats have gone away — it’s gotten really tough.”
Though he said he wouldn’t be surprised to see low weights across much of the field, Lucas is confident some anglers will find good fish. He listed a variety of baits he would use if he were taking part in the event.
“I would be using lipless cranks, swimbaits, ChatterBaits — all moving baits — in less than 10 feet of water,” Lucas said. “And I’d be looking for places where I could get multiple bites.”
He said those types of places are common on Guntersville if the anglers can only find the right ones.
“One thing about the Tennessee River is the fish do tend to school up — whether they’re in big, giant schools on ledges or on the edge of the grass,” Lucas said. “If you catch one, you can typically catch another one or two from that area.
“That’s what you need to find. To me, if I’m out there with the trolling motor down all day only catching one here and there, that doesn’t give me a lot of confidence to go back out the next day in a multiday tournament.”
Anglers qualified for the Team Championship through various independently operated team trails sanctioned by B.A.S.S. A complete list of those sanctioned events is available at Bassmaster.com.
In last year’s inaugural Team Championship at DeGray Lake in Arkansas, teammates Flannagan Fife and Royce Davis from the Fishers of Men circuit clinched the team title in their home state and advanced to the Classic Fish-Off. However, North Carolina angler Brandon Gray from the Anglers Choice team trail won the fish-off and qualified for the 2015 Classic on Lake Hartwell out of Greenville, S.C.
Gray finished 37th out of 55 anglers in the Classic with a two-day total of 15-10, earning $10,000. A weekend angler who had fished only one Bassmaster event prior to the Classic, Gray finished ahead of several veteran pros, including Paul Elias, Cliff Crochet and Brandon Palaniuk.