Bassmaster pros have enjoyed some memorable big-bass bonanzas on Alabama’s famed Lake Guntersville during regular spring visits in past years.
What will the big lake have to offer in the late summer and early fall?
That is the $50,000 question as the anglers arrive for the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open, Sept.. 22-24.
In addition to the $50,000 top prize, valuable points toward qualifying for the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship (Dec. 1-3 in Prattville, Ala.) and a possible berth in the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic (Feb. 24-26 in Kissimmee, Fla., on Lake Tohopekaliga) are at stake.
Few bass waters create the air of anticipation and excitement among the pros as Lake Guntersville. But lake expert Troy Jens cautions that the abundant bass in the 69,100-acre Tennessee River impoundment currently are in fall transition – moving shallow from their deep summer lairs - which typically complicates fishing.
“We’re in it now,” said Jens, a top Guntersville guide and long-time Open competitor. “It usually starts and hits real hard after the August full moon. Things start changing after that.
“I think the fishing will be good. I think you’re going to see a lot of good weights and a lot of limits. But I don’t think we’ll see weights anywhere close to what we see in the spring, of course,” he said.
“But the fall transition is probably the toughest time of year to fish Guntersville. Just a couple of cold fronts can be the difference between a lot of big weights or nothing at all. It really is a conditionally based situation. I think it’s going to take at least 18 pounds a day to win it. It’s not out of the question to see a 25-pound bag in the tournament. We’ll see several bags in the 20- to 22-pound range.”
With water temperatures still in the mid-80s and gradually dropping, Jens believes the tournament will be won shallow. He could not predict what technique most likely would prevail, but said frog bites, jig bites and spinnerbaits would be a factor.
“There’s a lot of different ways the tournament could be won,” he said. “I don’t think anybody can call it right now.”
Frog or rat fishing across the top of Lake Guntersville’s topped-out hydrilla mats is a classic bass fishing experience and the type of action for which the reservoir is most famous, according to pros. The CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open pros and non-boaters should get plenty of opportunities to see Guntersville’s big largemouth exploding through the surface vegetation to inhale the hollow-bodied rats and frogs.
“In a lot of places, the grass is topped out,” Jens said. “Most of the main mats are starting to wash down the river. This year’s grass was different. We didn’t get a lot of grass growth early because of the long, drawn-out winter. We had a lot of major cold fronts and a lot of cloud cover. So our grass thinned out a lot quicker this year.
“Most of the mat fishing is going to take place up the river, especially in the big creeks like Crow, Mud and Raccoon creeks — way, way up the river. Typically, that is where our frog fishing is best.”
Anglers will launch at 6:15 a.m. and weigh-in at 2:30 p.m.. at Lake Guntersville State Park Tournament Facility, 7966 AL Highway 227, Guntersville, Ala., 35976.
The Southern Open will close on Oct. 27-29, on Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, Fla., site of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Classic. The top five from that championship are invited to the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, 2006.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 550,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local sponsors include the city of Guntersville, the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Guntersville State Park.