The Elite BASS pros will be fishing Alabama’s Lake Guntersville May 7-10 in an event dubbed the “Southern Challenge.” Rest assured, Alton Jones, Dave Wolak, Edwin Evers, Terry Scroggins, Matt Reed and the rest of the best will pick that lake apart, but for the rest of us, I asked Jimmy Mason, a bass guide on the lake who also fishes tournaments, for some advice on fishing this lake known for size and quantity of bass.
Guntersville is a manmade impoundment about 75 miles long. The first quarter or so of the lake is a true river-type environment, then at its midsection it widens out, with a definite channel and flats on both sides. The lake becomes a bowl with bluffs on both sides for the last 15 miles or so. His favorite area to fish is the midsection.
“I like areas where you’ve got big flats and great spawning areas,” he said. “You’ve just got a bigger bass population in those areas.”
I fished the lake with Mason April 14 and 15 during the late prespawn and few bass were on beds. “These cold fronts keep knocking them back and preventing them from completing the spawn. The next four to seven stable days, I think you’ll see a tremendous rush of fish to the banks.”
When that happens, Mason relies on a YUM Dinger or Lizard. “If I’m blind fishing – that is, I can’t see the beds – I’ll go to the Dinger or Lizard, or even the Boogie Bait or Money Minnow like we were using today,” he said.
If Mason can see the bass on the bed, he’ll throw a watermelon/red flake Dinger Texas rigged with a very light screwlock sinker. “I let it get near the bed then give it a real good ‘pop,’” he said, “to get the bass to spin on it. Sometimes it takes a heavier weight with a Craw Papi to get them really mad. But that’s what you’re doing – you’re getting that bass mad. Then I follow up with the Dinger to catch it.”
During the postspawn before the bass have settled into summertime patterns, Mason says the Zell Pop is a top producer. There are a lot of fish guarding fry and he looks for areas with willows and grass, then works the topwater through the cloud of fry.
After that pattern breaks down, Mason starts Carolina-rigging a green pumpkin YUM Lizard or cranking a No. 7 Fat Free Shad. “I look for the first structure the fish will hit as they come out of the spawning areas,” he said. “Bends in the creek channel, humps, extended points in about 12- to 15-feet of water – these are great places to look. I have more fun fishing offshore at this time of year because the fish are ganged up tight sitting on that first piece of structure.”
During summer, Mason focuses on deep structure. A No. 7 Fat Free Shad or No. 7 Switchback Shad are his weapons of choice. The Switchback Shad features a more rolling action as opposed to the Fat Free, which produces a harder “Xing” action. “The Switchback really works after a lot of people have been hitting the area with other crankbaits,” he said. “I turn off the rattle. It’s still not silent because of the hooks and rings, but it doesn’t have that loud rattle like the baits everyone else is throwing.”
Mason says that it’s important to locate plenty of deepwater brushpiles and other cover/structure during the summer and to hit them several times throughout the day. “A lot of times it’s some cover on top of the breakline,” he said. “Bass move up to feed and you’ll catch the big one first. After 15 or so casts, I move on to the next, then come back later to see if any more bass have moved up.”
Mason says that Guntersville also presents a good topwater bite early and late in the day during summer, and the only other technique he will go to is punching grass mats. With a 1-ounce tungsten weight and Texas-rigged F2 2ube in hand, he looks for areas where grass is matted on the surface near deep water.
“Fall is topwater time on Guntersville,” Mason said. “The grass is breaking up and areas that have been mats have more open areas. I throw a buzzbait and a Super Spook Junior, but the buzzbait is my favorite.” He likes a white bait with a white blade or a Cortez Shad pattern. He looks for secondary areas on the backsides of river channels or around the mouths of bays. He says it’s important to stay close to some kind of channel or deep water.
“Key on the baitfish,” he said, “and especially the size of the baitfish. In the last few years we’ve had a great population of baitfish so I’m looking for the biggest I can find, because that’s where the biggest bass will be.”