Laying off fish not an easy choice on Lake Guntersville

Locals and anglers have to share the waters at the Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville.

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Uncertainty always surround the first day of competition, when anglers don’t know just how good some of their spots are and weights always seem to turn out heavier than expected.

Last year surprised everyone when two 30-pound bags were brought to the scales on Day One and anglers that settled for low to mid 20-pound stringers were left barely inside the cut. Anglers may be talking about tougher conditions in 2010, but plenty of fish are still being caught.

“I think you will see quite a few 20-pound bags, but I don’t think there will be as many 30s,” said Zell Rowland, two-time BASS winner on Lake Guntersville. “You might see a couple because there are still some big fish up bedding, but there won’t be as many big bags a last year.”

This time of year, when an angler is either fishing for limited numbers of bedding bass or schools of bass offshore, how long should they stay in those areas and continue to pressure the spot?

“It used to be you could hold off on the fish you could catch,” Rowland said. “Now that it’s a two-day deal before the first cut, you better catch all you can catch.”

Rowland predicted 27 to 28 pounds would be leading after Day One and fellow competitor Brent Chapman agreed.

“25 pounds here will be a big bag, but it is really hard to say until you get out there and start getting on them,” Chapman said. “Really on Day One, you just need to put yourself in contention. You are going to need at least 20 pounds to be in the top 12.”

One of the other factors that influence an angler’s decision to stay on a spot and keep fishing or leave is the amount of recreational anglers that can move in behind them if they leave.

“Anything out here you practice on, a boat will pull up on you when you leave,” Chapman said. “That is frustrating, especially in practice. You can’t go around catching them on a crankbait because the boats around you will see.”

Matt Reed agreed and said he has probably seen more locals out here than ever before.

“It’s hard to hold back because you never know if you will be able to get back on your spot,” Reed said. “We probably don’t fish anywhere with more locals on the water and they have every right to be here. You can’t let those things blow your mind, because they are part of the game.”

Reed almost laughed at the idea of holding back on a lake like Guntersville. He wouldn’t feel comfortable laying off the fish unless he had a monster limit in the livewell.

“You better have a bunch of fish before you hold back,” Reed said. “Lakes like this are scary because you never know how much you need to have. There’s going to be some big bags this year, but I don’t think there will be as many as last year.”

Plenty of fish are being caught already on Day One of the Synergy Southern Challenge. Last year’s runner up, Skeet Reese, is on them again this year and has been catching them almost every cast this morning. To follow along with his day on Lake Guntersville, log on to BASSCast.