From its dam near Guntersville in northeast Alabama the lake extends 76 miles up the Tennessee River into Tennessee. It is Alabama’s largest reservoir with waters covering 67,900 acres and 890 shoreline miles. It stays very stable since the TVA requires a set depth in its channels. Water will seldom vary more than two feet in depth which is good since vast areas of the lake are very shallow flats.
Built between 1936 and 1939, Guntersville has seen a lot of changes the bass population. The lake is very fertile and full of hydrilla and milfoil but one of the main reasons the bass are so big now is the size limit. On October 1, 1993 a 15-inch size limit was placed on bass. That size limit now includes smallmouth and largemouth and it allows smaller, faster growing bass to reach quality size. According to the Alabama DCNR there are growing numbers of bass bigger than 15 inches in the lake each year and they are in good shape. The numbers of bass 12 to 24 inches long has consistently increased each year since the size limit went into effect. In the BAIT survey Guntersville has the highest weight per bass and the shortest time to catch a bass over five pounds of all lakes reported.
All this does not mean Guntersville is a piece of cake when it comes to catching keeper bass. The BAIT survey shows Guntersville ranking pretty far down the list in percent of angler success, number of bass per angler day and pounds of bass per angler day. If you don’t know the lake every acre of it looks like it holds bass and you can spend a lot of time with nothing but casting practice.
Randy Tharp knows the lake well. Although he has been fishing all his life he got started tournament fishing with a club about seven years ago and really liked it. He started fishing Guntersville in 2002 and now has a place on the lake. He has learned its secrets and has had great success there.
In 2007 Randy placed first in the point standings in both the Bama and Choo Choo Divisions of the BFL. He came in third in the Bama BFL on Guntersville last February then placed first in that division in September and second there in the Choo Choo Division the same month.
The past few years reads like a dream come true in Randy’s resume on Guntersville. In 2006 he placed second in the Bassmasters Series Crimison Divison in March and eighth in that series Volunteer Division the same month, won the seventh Annual Kickin’ Bass Coaches tournament there in June, got a fifth in the Bassmasters Series Crimsion Divison in September, and second in the Choo Choo BFL in September.
He also won the 2005 BITE Tournament on Guntersville in April and was second in the BITE Championship there in November. Guntersville has played an important part in Randy’s tournament winnings and has helped him get Ranger Boats and Chattanooga Fish-N-Fun as sponsors. He is planning on fishing the Stren Series and some other bigger trails like the BASS Opens if he can get in this year.
Best Time Of Year
Randy gets excited when thinking about fishing Guntersville this time of year because he knows what lives in the lake. He says from now to March is the best time of year to hook a monster bass here and expects to catch some of the biggest fish of the year. When asked what it would take to reach “monster” status he said a 10 pound bass would qualify and he expects to catch one that big. He has seen bass in the low teens caught this time of year, too.
There are lots of ways to catch Guntersville bass from the end of January to March but Randy usually sticks with shallow water. He says the colder it gets the more shallow the big bass hold, and he seldom fishes deeper than 10 feet. You will be surprised at the numbers of big bass in less than three feet of water on the coldest days when the water is in the 30s, according to Randy.
Baits To Use
Right now Randy will have a Rapala DT 6 or DT 10, a Cordell Spot or Rattletrap, a one quarter to three eights ounce jig and pig to cast, a Texas rigged Paca Craw with a heavy weight to flip in any thick grass he finds and Pointer jerkbait read to try. He likes shad colors in the crankbait and the red in the lipless baits. Worms and craws are usually green pumpkin and he also casts a black and blue jig and pig.
Although the grass is not growing much right now there is still some “stubble” on the bottom that will hold bass. Randy looks for flats near a drop and it helps to have grass on the bottom. He finds those kinds of places back in the creeks and out on the main lake but winter winds often make it impossible to fish open water. He likes to have some protected areas as well as open water to fish.