If the weather cooperates, records will be broken on Lake Guntersville during the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk.
Davy Hite, host of Bassmaster TV and 1999 Classic champion, is pumped up about the possibilities for the 50th anniversary Classic, scheduled for March 6-8 with weigh-ins and Expo in Birmingham, Ala.
“Early March is the optimal time for Guntersville, and that’s why I’m so excited about this Bassmaster Classic,” Hite said. “It’s one of top five fisheries in the country, in my opinion, and we’re going there at the perfect time to catch big bass on the biggest stage, and somebody’s going to have their biggest dream fulfilled holding that trophy over their head.”
The famed lake, site of 23 previous B.A.S.S. pro events, already holds several Classic records from two visits there, and it’s among the seven lakes where anglers have earned Century Belts — more than 100 pounds in four days of fishing. While that’s happened five times on Big G, it’s highly unlikely in a three-day derby.
Yet Hite said if conditions are conducive, the record Classic weight of 69 pounds, 11 ounces could be eclipsed, and there’s potential someone could top the one-day mark of 32-3, which Paul Mueller weighed on Day 2 of the most recent Classic there in 2014.
“I think the 69-11 can be surpassed,” Hite said. “It’s the perfect time, but we may need a little help from Mother Nature. It could be lows in the 20s and high in the 40s the first week of March, but it could also be lows in the 40s and high in the 70s. Regardless of good weather or bad, big bass will be caught.”
Four anglers topped 100 pounds in the Elite event on Guntersville in 2009, and Hite was on pace to crack that milestone the following year. He had nearly 80 pounds after three days but fell short of the mark and Elite title with a subpar Day 4 of only 13-6, leaving him with 93-3. Finishing second without any hardware that year didn’t sour him on the fishery that’s ranked third in Bassmaster’s 100 Best Bass Lakes.
“For my whole career fishing the Bassmaster tournament trail, Guntersville has always been a marquee fishery, a place there’s an opportunity to have record-breaking stringers,” he said. “All fisheries cycle, but year-in and year-out Guntersville is always in the top five fisheries in the country.”
George Cochran nearly earned a belt in winning a tour event on Guntersville in late February of 2004, totaling 99-10, but the winners only needed around 70 pounds in April events in 2006 and 2007. The Century Belts awarded there came in early May.
Guntersville was a mystery lake for early November 1976 Classic when Rick Clunn won his first of four championships with 59-15. Each morning the temperatures were below freezing, making it the coldest Classic for 33 years. Clunn was bolstered by a Day 2 bag of 33-5, still the heaviest in Classic history, but the limit was 10 fish.
In the most recent Classic on Guntersville, Randy Howell rallied with a final day stringer of 29-2, the fourth largest five-fish limit in Classics. His three-day total of 67-8 ranks second to Kevin VanDam’s 69-11 on the Louisiana Delta in 2011, and the top four finishers in the 2014 Classic stand second through fifth among all-time heaviest Classic weights. Hite said he can certainly see why Guntersville seems to always show out.
“Food and cover are two big things you need to have to have a good fishery,” he said. “The Tennessee River is very fertile, a lot of threadfin shad, gizzard shad, then just a lot of water depth and cover that’s the optimal range for good bass habitat. There’s a lot of ledges that are 12 feet and less with stumps, vegetation, just a lot of food and cover.”