In northern Alabama, the end of February is a magical time to be a bass fisherman.
On famed Lake Guntersville, that’s when trophy-class female bass feed frantically in preparation for the spawn. With so many lunkers feeding heavily, the fishing is outstanding.
Lake Guntersville is the scene for the upcoming CITGO Bassmaster Tour event, Feb. 24-27. At stake is a $100,000 top prize and valuable points toward the coveted 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic in Pittsburgh.
The last two times BASS staged events on the 69,100-acre Tennessee River reservoir the results were nothing short of amazing. In 2002, Kelly Jordon weighed in nearly 82 pounds of bass to claim the top prize. That catch was eclipsed late last February when two-time Classic champion George Cochran weighed in nearly 100 pounds of bass over four days. Three other pros broke the 83-pound mark in 2004.
So you can see why the pros are eager to return to Lake Guntersville.
“There’s no doubt that it could be as good as it was last year,” said Tim Horton, the 2000 CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year from Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I’d really like to see it break 100 pounds, and I think it can.
“The bass are all pre-spawn. There won’t be any spawning yet, but they’ll be eating. That’s the main thing. They’re starting to feed up because the days are getting longer. That’s the fattest they are the whole year.”
Horton isn’t alone in that assessment.
“It should be real good,” said Jimmy Mason, a Tour competitor from Rogersville, Ala. “We’ve had a lot of cold weather the last three or four weeks, and I think it’s settled the fish down. I expect it to be a real good tournament.
“If we don’t have a big front come through, I think it will take over 100 pounds to win it.”
Reigning Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle, who lives in Hayden, Ala., noted, “I don’t know if the weights will be quite as high as last year, but I think you’ll see another strong tournament. I think it’ll take at least a weight in the 80s to win.”
The expert Alabama pros predict that, like last year, fast-moving baits will be the ticket to Guntersville’s big pre-spawners. Last year, Cochran used a couple of different jerkbaits to collect the second-highest winning total in Tour history (behind only Dean Rojas’ 108-12 in 2001 on Florida’s Lake Tohopekaliga).
The weather has been cold enough to kill off much of the aquatic vegetation, which should improve the lipless crankbait fishing.
“It’ll either be a Rat-L-Trap tournament or a jerkbait tournament, depending on the water temperature,” Mason said. “Most of the fish will be out on the breaks – out from the spawning areas. That will be the predominant pattern, I believe.”
The Lake Guntersville event marks the mid-point of the six-tournament Tour schedule. Entering the event, Tennessee pro David Walker holds the lead in the Angler of the Year race, followed by reigning Classic champion Takahiro Omori, Arkansas’ Scott Rook, Skeet Reese of California and Andre Moore, an Arizona pro who is leading the Toyota Rookie of the Year race.
Weigh-ins for the first two days will take place at Lake Guntersville State Park at.3:00 p.m. CT. Weigh-ins for the final two days will take place at Wyeth Park at 3:30 p.m. CT. Anglers launch beginning at 6:15 a.m. CT from Lake Guntersville State Park on Feb 24-25 and from Wyeth Park on Feb. 26-27..
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
Local Sponsors include the City of Guntersville, Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce, Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Guntersville Merchants.