Fantasy Fishing: Transition time at Guntersville

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Andy Crawford

The 2020 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt is coming off a 13th-place finish at Neely Henry Lake.

Lake Guntersville has long been one of the most popular destinations for B.A.S.S. competitions, with a total of 25 events being held on the Tennessee River impoundment in Northern Alabama. With that being said, choosing a Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing team based on history is definitely an option. I would expect the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville to be a little bit different than events we have seen in the past. In recent memory, Elite Series events or the Bassmaster Classic have been held in every stage of the year on Guntersville except for this time of year. Early prespawn, spawn, summertime and most recently in the fall but never in the transition period from spawn to postspawn which will make this event really interesting.

Although most fish have already spawned, there will still be plenty of fish in shallow water with the possibility of a shad and bluegill spawn occurring. With that said, there will most definitely be fish caught offshore as well.

With so many possibilities of how the event could play out, it’s rather difficult to pick a Fantasy Fishing team. The majority of my picks are guys that I believe could mix in a shallow or deep approach because frankly I’m just not sure which way to lean at this point. 

Let’s kick it off with my Mercury Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge roster:

  • Jason Christie 
  • Justin Atkins 
  • Frank Talley 
  • Gerald Swindle 
  • Hank Cherry 
  • Scott Martin 
  • Matt Arey 
  • KJ Queen 

BUCKET A: PALANIUK

For the second event in a row, I’m going with Brandon Palaniuk in Bucket A. My logic behind this pick is almost the same as it was for Neely Henry. The five-time Elite Series champion has a knack for finding something off the wall that most anglers will miss, and I believe that is what it might take to win this event. Palaniuk is also notorious for being able to mix in different game plans and not get too locked into one technique or pattern. 

Solid secondary selection: My gut is telling me that Gerald Swindle will finally get the win on his home pond. We have seen two consecutive events won by a local angler. Third time's a charm? I think it’s certainly possible. Hitting Guntersville at a transition period might just play right into the hands of the Elite Series veteran.

BUCKET B: AREY

After a slow start to the season, Matt Arey has made three consecutive Day 3 cuts. The third-year Elite pro has some serious momentum coming into this event but has also done well at Guntersville in past Elite events with a third-place finish in 2019 and a 32nd-place finish in 2020. Hopefully he will keep that big topwater tied on from Neely Henry and give us some more exciting blow ups! 

Solid secondary selection: Regardless the time of the year, you can always put Brandon Lester high on your list of picks on Lake Guntersville. If there is anyone in the field that could find a big group of fish schooled up, it’s Lester. 

BUCKET C: WENDLANDT

Clark Wendlandt is another angler who got off to an uncharacteristically bad start to the season but should have some momentum rolling after a 13th-place finish at Neely Henry. The 2020 Bassmaster Angler of the Year has two Top 25 finishes in his two Elite Series trips to Lake Guntersville. Wendlandt being such a versatile angler makes him a great pick in Bucket C.

Solid secondary selection: At only 5% player percentage, Bryan Schmitt may be a steal of a pick in Bucket C. Lake Guntersville is full of different types of grass, which means Schmitt will feel right at home.

BUCKET D: ATKINS

I think it’s safe to say that there are a few anglers in Bucket D that you wouldn’t expect to see. One of which is Elite Series newcomer Justin Atkins. Although Atkins calls Pickwick Lake home, having an abundance of Tennessee River knowledge will be a huge advantage. Once again, I think Atkins is an angler who could find fish shallow and deep and be able mix it up.

Solid secondary selection: It’s hard to argue against picking Scott Canterbury on Lake Guntersville, especially in Bucket D. As you would expect, the 2019 Angler of the Year has a high player percentage at 22.4% but that may be well worth the risk. Canterbury obviously hasn’t had the season that we would expect, but his history on Lake Guntersville is enough to make it a great pick.

BUCKET E: GLEASON

Darold Gleason feels at home when he is fishing away from the bank. I imagine the Elite Series rookie will spend his entire practice searching for special offshore spots which could pay off big time. Gleason also understands how to manage groups of offshore fish which could be a key considering that the schools of fish won’t be as big as they may be a few weeks later in the year. 

Solid secondary selection: It’s quite possible that Kelley Jaye will get his jerkbait bite going over submerged grass like we have seen him do in the past, but at a 23.3% player percentage I’m going to go with Gleason at a much lower percentage.