B.A.S.S. and Lake Guntersville have a long and continuing history dating back to 1976. That year, Rick Clunn won his first of four Bassmaster Classics, and next March, the fishery is on slate to hold the 50th edition of the Classic.
The upcoming Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville will be the 23rd major B.A.S.S. event held on the storied Alabama lake and will unquestionably add another chapter to the history books.
The tournament, which is hosted by the City of Scottsboro, begins Friday and runs through Thursday with daily takeoffs at 6 a.m. CT from Goose Pond Landing, where the daily weigh-ins will begin at 2:15 p.m. All 75 anglers will fish the first two days before the field is cut to the Top 35 anglers for Day 3 and the Top 10 anglers for the final day on Monday.
“This tournament is important,” said Elite Series Pro Kelley Jaye, who is hoping to qualify for his first Bassmaster Classic this season. “I knew before Texas Fest, I was sitting in the cut for the Classic, but after a slip there, I have not even looked at the standings.”
The Alabama pro is currently 51st in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with the Lake Guntersville event marking the halfway point of the season. Only about the Top 40 competitors in the final AOY standings end up qualifying for the Classic.
The last time the Elite Series visited Lake Guntersville in April 2015, Jaye finished Day 1 in fifth place, but fell to 36th for the tournament.
“Anytime I am in Alabama, I feel good about my chances,” Jaye said. “It is setting up to be a deep-water tournament, I am sure some (anglers) will catch them shallow, but I would think the tournament will be dominated out deep.”
When the famed Guntersville ledges are in full swing, the home-field advantage may pay off for Jaye and other Alabamians who know offshore haunts off the beaten path.
“The community holes at Lake Guntersville will be pounded by the time we get there,” Jaye said. “The angler that finds the right shellbed (or other structure) that is kind of sneaky will be the one who wins.”
Jaye suspects that the normal “Tennessee River” baits of choice will be likely be key: crankbaits, swimbaits, big worms, spoons and jigs among others. The victor will have to weigh in more than 20 pounds a day, and it will take about 15 pounds a day to make the Top 35 cut after the first two days of competition.
“Whoever finds the right school with three- to five-pound fish could easily pull up and catch their limit within 20 minutes,” Jaye said.
With B.A.S.S.’s 23rd visit to the lake, Guntersville becomes the second most visited lake by B.A.S.S., behind Sam Rayburn Reservoir (32).
Jaye attributes B.A.S.S.’s frequent visits to Lake Guntersville to the lake’s quality of forage and cover.
“The water is just so fertile,” Jaye said. “You have eelgrass, hydrilla, shad the size of your hand — this place is not like any other highland reservoir that we visit. That’s what makes it so fun.”