About 400 of the top bass anglers from more than 40 states will battle for cash and a seat at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic® as the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series National Championship tournament, presented by American Bass Anglers, heads to Lake Guntersville.
Set for Nov. 3-6 at Guntersville State Park in Guntersville, Ala., the tournament pits 200 anglers in the Boater Division and another 200 anglers in the Co-Angler Division in a four-day slugfest to determine the BWS national champions. The full field fishes the first three days. Only the top 25 anglers in each division will compete on the final day. The anglers in each division with the largest cumulative weights win the cash.
“These anglers qualified through four regional events,” explained Randy Sullivan, the tournament director. “The top 50 boaters and co-anglers from each of the four regional tournaments compete in the championship. In addition, the boater and co-angler points champions from each of the 21 divisions automatically get a berth in the championship tournament.
The winning boater takes home a check for $100,000 and qualifies to fish in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic®, slated for Feb. 18-20, 2011 in New Orleans. In addition, the boating champion could add as much as $105,000 in cash bonuses for using a Triton boat, a Mercury outboard motor and a MotorGuide trolling motor. The winning co-angler will pocket $50,000 and could accumulate up to $52,500 in bonus cash.
“The weekend anglers of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series will do battle to win a seat in the world championship — the 2012 Bassmaster Classic® — the most prestigious championship in bass fishing,” said David Hagood, ABA vice president. “Triton Boats, Mercury Marine and MotorGuide have combined to offer the largest contingency incentives ever offered in this series.”
Each boater may bring in up to five bass per day. Co-anglers may bring in three bass per day. The Boater Division angler who catches the largest bass each day will receive $1,000 bonus. The non-boater who brings in the daily division lunker pockets a $500 bonus.
The anglers will launch at Guntersville State Park each morning. Competitors may practice from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2. Free and open to the public, the daily weigh-in begins at 3 p.m. from Nov. 3-6.
Anglers may fish anywhere in the 69,100-acre lake, which snakes about 75 miles along the Tennessee River in northeast Alabama and parts of Tennessee. The largest lake in Alabama dips to more than 60 feet deep in places. Lake Guntersville produces many bass in the 5- to 8-pound range and some topping 9 or 10 pounds. The lake record largemouth exceeded 14 pounds. The lake also contains populations of smallmouth and spotted bass. With such a large lake full of bucketmouth bass, competitors could bring in some impressive catches.
“To win the Boater Division will probably take about 70 to 80 pounds after four days,” Sullivan predicted. “If the bite really runs on, it could take 85 to 90 pounds to win. With that many good anglers on the water, it wouldn’t surprise me to see several 8-pounders and a couple 9-pounders. We might even get a 10-pounder.”
In the northern portion, the lake retains much of its riverine characteristics with current flowing through fallen trees along steep shorelines. The lower lake turns into a typical southern reservoir with several large feeder creeks entering the system. Some better bass creeks include North and South Sauty, Siebold Creek, Brown’s Creek and Town Creek. Vast flats along either side of the main river channel and major creeks grow thick with milfoil and hydrilla.
“Vegetation is the key to fishing Guntersville,” said Randall Allen from nearby Huntsville, Ala., who won the regional tournament at Lake Seminole, Fla. “A lot depends upon the water temperature and the weather. If the water temperature stabilizes, I’ll punch the grass and look for a good frog bite. Besides a frog, I’ll throw a buzzbait and a Zara Spook. I’ll also throw some beavers or chigger craws. If I find some schooling fish, I’ll throw a Rat-L-Trap. If I have a limit in the boat, I’ll concentrate around grassy points where the bigger bass usually stay.”
Besides grass, the lake contains numerous ledges, drop-offs, humps, natural rock piles and docks. Bridges and riprap offer more cover. In the backs of creek, throw shad-colored crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Bang crankbaits off the rocks or work over the area with shaky heads or worms. In the fall, Guntersville anglers might also spot schooling activity.
“For fishing Guntersville, the strategy is to fish the grass and the river ledges,” said David Brunaugh of Carbondale, Ill., who won the regional event at Lay Lake, Ala. “I plan on fishing the grass with moving baits to see how bass react. I’ll keep a Spoon or jerkbait handy to throw into any schoolers that pop up. I’m probably going to concentrate on the mid-lake section. I like to fish South Sauty and North Sauty at this time of year. I’m also going to look at the main river channel and some of the smaller coves off the main river.”
For bigger bass, anglers might want to “punch mats” with large jigs or Texas-rigged plastics. What might look like a dense, imposing raft on the surface frequently opens up beneath the canopy. Anglers who can “punch through the roof” with a heavy bait might surprise a lunker in its lair. “For punching pads and matted grass, I like a heavy rod with 65-pound braided line,” said Travis Merritt of Iowa, La., who won the regional at Lake DeGray, Ark. “I make short pitches. It’s essentially vertical fishing. The key is to use a big enough weight to get through the mat. Then, we have to find the right depth. Bass might relate to certain types of structure, perhaps creek channels or even little drops of only a foot or so. Once I figure that out, I look for that combination to eliminate a lot of unproductive water.”
Allen and Brunaugh both fished Guntersville before, but Merritt has not. To prepare to fish a lake he’s never seen, Merritt plans to read every article he can find in magazines, newspapers and on the Internet. He’ll study maps and Internet fishing reports from Guntersville and nearby lakes.
“Everything I read about Guntersville talks about fishing topwater frogs and flipping the grass,” Merritt explained. “That’s two of my favorite ways to fish. It’s a lot like what I do at Toledo Bend Reservoir and Lake Sam Rayburn, my two home lakes. I plan to locate fish with frogs and come back punching those areas with beavers or similar baits. I don’t have time to run all over the entire lake so I’ll just focus on one or two creek arms and work them hard.”
Besides watching the weigh-in, fans can check out the cooks competing in the ABA BBQ Championship Cook-off, sponsored by Early Times Whisky, or participate in various activities during the outdoors festival from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 6. The festival includes exhibits from various sponsors and vendors, a Kid’s Fun Zone, silent auction and a U.S.O. show featuring the Bama Girls. Ashley Davis of Dothan, the reigning Miss Alabama, and Jeff Cook from the musical group Alabama will also be on hand.
The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series is sponsored by Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Early Times Whisky, Royal Purple, Busch Beer, Hobie Polarized, Federated Auto Parts, Carlisle Tire and Wheel, ProBass Networks, and Rejuvenade. For more information on this tournament, call (888) 203-6222. On line, see www.americanbassanglers.com.
About American Bass Anglers: The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series provides weekend anglers a professionally operated competitive tour with a path the world championship of bass fishing the Bassmaster Classic®. American Bass Anglers commitment is to provide low cost, close to home tournaments for the weekend angler and at the same time offer each competitor an upward path for individual angler progression. For more information about American Bass Anglers and the American Fishing Tour, The Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Weekend Series, The American 150 Series or the American Couples Series, visit www.americanbassanglers.com.