Wheeler Lake connects to the lake I’ve been guiding and fishing on all spring — Lake Guntersville. Even though Wheeler can and does fish differently than G-ville, they’re both on the Tennessee River (TVA) and in the same geographic region.
I feel my recent experience with the current conditions, and the spawning phase that most of the bass are in right now, give me an advantage in picking my Wheeler Lake roster.
We’ve had unseasonably cool weather in North Alabama for much of the spring, and we’ve been hammered with wind as well. The cool weather and wind finally gave way to warm, windless days last week. As a result, the water temperature on Guntersville has risen sharply to the low 70’s. While a wave of fish moved up to spawn on the recent full moon, most seem to be finished and are funneling back out toward deeper water. There’s a strong shad spawn going on right now as well.
I’m picking anglers who have proved they’re strong on the TVA chain and who can cover water quickly. Not just covering water by fishing, but using their electronics as well. The anglers who can find the biggest groups of post-spawn females and take advantage of the shad spawn will have the best chance at winning this event.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
If it seems like I pick Justin Lucas often it’s because I do. Lucas continues to be a solid performer who consistently puts himself in a position to make the final-day cut. I also know him better than most of the other Elite anglers, which gives me some added insight.
When I moved to Guntersville in 2010 I looked for a roommate to split rent with and discovered Lucas was looking for the same thing. It turned out to be a perfect situation for both of us — one we capitalized on. While we’re no longer roommates, we are neighbors, so I see the time and preparation he puts into being one of the most consistent and competitive Elite Series anglers.
Lucas has gained a ton of experience on the Tennessee River since moving to G-ville and has become highly skilled with his electronics, which will be critical for this event.
Seriously considered: David Mullins
Mullins is coming off two solid events and is an excellent offshore angler who performs well on the TVA chain. He knows where to look for postspawn fish moving out to their summertime holding areas and how to catch them.
BUCKET B: REESE
Skeet Reese caught some of the biggest limits of bass on Bull Shoals last week, and I look for him to bring that momentum to Wheeler.
Reese has more experience and Top 5 finishes on the TVA chain than most anglers in the field. He also understands how to approach the shad spawn and the bass postspawn phase, which I believe will be the keys to success this tournament. Look for Reese to continue using a crankbait and swimbait to catch the better than average fish on Wheeler.
Seriously considered: Keith Combs
Combs is another talented offshore angler who relies on his electronics and crankbait to find the right schools of postspawn fish. He’ll undoubtedly do well this week.
BUCKET C: HORTON
Timmy Horton, from nearby Muscle Shoals, Ala., is one of the most experienced Tennessee River anglers in the field and is always a threat to win when given the chance to find schools of postspawn fish scattered along offshore drops and points.
I feel Horton, who had a Top 10 finish the last time the Elites visited Wheeler, will again make the final-day cut.
Seriously considered: Brandon Coulter
Coulter has fished well the past two events. and is finding his footing in his second Elite Series campaign. He’s from nearby Knoxville, Tenn., and is an excellent offshore angler who has significant experience on the TVA chain during his time competing on the FLW Tour.
BUCKET D: R. LANE
Russ Lane placed seventh on Wheeler in 2011 and consistently performs well on the Tennessee River. Like Reese and Combs, Lane will use his electronics and crankbait to search for the winning group of fish that have recently finished spawning.
Seriously considered: Greg Vinson
Vinson hasn’t fished well the past two events, but I look for him to have a strong tournament on Wheeler. Vinson, an Alabama angler, is experienced on the TVA chain and versed in the techniques needed to capitalize on a shad spawn and postspawn bite.
BUCKET E: WALKER
Walker won the 2011 Wheeler event but hasn’t finished better than 72nd place in the first three regular season Elite events this year. That doesn’t scare me from picking him in Bucket E.
Walker, who is a versatile angler, has the confidence and experience on Wheeler to put his slow start behind him with a high finish this week.
Seriously considered: Clent Davis
Davis, an Elite rookie, is currently 88th in the AOY standings, but is a talented angler who’s comfortable fishing on the Tennessee River.
Davis might have a reputation as a shallow water angler, but he’s also skilled at finding schools of postspawn fish out deep. He’ll turn his season around at this event.