Skeet Reese

Skeet Reese delivers a cast during his tournament win.

There are two words that excite any bass angler, Lake Guntersville. Known as the Big G, the lake spreads out over 56,000 surface acres along the Tennessee River. It is also the state’s largest body of water. Lake Guntersville is a bass mecca.

Depending on which bass lake poll you read, Lake Guntersville is at or near the top in every one. The lake is a vacation destination for anglers and families from around the United States. On a recent visit, I spoke with bass anglers from North Carolina and Indiana. Their main purpose for coming to Alabama — to fish Lake Guntersville.

What makes Lake Guntersville the top bass lake? There are several factors, but one of the main reasons is the lake is chocked full of largemouth bass. A three-pound bass on Guntersville is just average. Five and six pounders are common. And you have to catch a bass of eight pounds or more to garner any attention.

High hopes

Last week, the B.A.S.S. Elite Tour dropped anchor in Lake Guntersville for its second season event. Anticipation was high as the prospect of bags of more than 100 pounds was expected for a four-day tournament total. About a month before the Elite event, the FLW Rayovac tournament winner sacked 83 pounds of bass in three days.

“I really expected to see the 100-pound mark topped this week,” said B.A.S.S. pro Chris Lane of Guntersville. ‘This lake has the potential for some really big weights.”

Lane moved to the Big G several years ago from Florida. During that time he has seen his fishing versatility improve. He credits living on the lake and fishing various methods. Lane said there are so many different ways to catch bass on Guntersville.

It was only 14 months prior that Alabama’s own Randy Howell of Springville captured the Bassmaster Classic crown on Guntersville. His come-from-behind victory probably would not have been possible on any other lake during February. Howell bagged almost 68 pounds in three days of competition.

Large numbers

Many Elite anglers reported catching 30, 40 even 50 bass a day during completion. However, in a tournament of this caliber five- and four-pound bass won’t get you to the top of the leaderboard. On day one of competition, a 20-pound stringer of bass would be worth only 26th place.

“I probably caught over 30 bass today,” said Elite pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, referring to Sunday, the final day of the event. “I waited for the big ones to show up, but they never did.”

Vinson said most of his fish were around the three-pound mark. He said it’s fun catching that many fish, but in a tournament you need some big ones. Vinson finished in the eighth place.

Many anglers commented that their hands and fingers were scuffed up from lipping and handling so many bass through the course of the tournament. Some anglers have resorted to wearing gloves or applying tape to their fingers for events like these. They know they will catch large numbers of fish in a single day.

“I caught bunches of bass during the tournament,” said Carl Jocumsen of Australia. “This is really a remarkable lake with so many bass.”

Jocumsen finished in sixth place and is the first Australian angler to fish in the Elite series. He has only been in the U.S. for five years and qualified for the Elite tour last season through the Bassmaster Open tournaments. It was the first time Jocumsen had fished on Guntersville.

The winner is …

In 2010, Skeet Reese of California caught just over 100 pounds of bass to claim the Elite victory on Guntersville. During that event he primarily used a crankbait to haul in is catch.  Even so, in bass fishing just like the weather, things change.

During practice, Reese did not have a good feel for what the bass were doing. While he caught several fish in different areas of the lake, he couldn’t pin down a concrete pattern. The day before competition was to begin, Reese was struggling as what to do.

Reese’s traveling partner, Byron Velvick of Texas, clued in Reese on the lure he should be using. A side note on Velvick, he was the “bachelor” on ABC TV network for the 2004 season. Also, he held the record weight of more than 100 pounds for a WON Bass U.S. Open tournament in California.

Velvick informed Reese he had been catching larger bass on a 7-inch Basstrix swimbait during practice. He gave Reese one to try out. On the first day of the Guntersville event, Reese started the day in Seibold Creek. His first fish was one around three pounds on a drop shot. Reese picked up the big swimbait and hauled in a bass twice the size of his first one. After that he never fished another lure.

New Jersey pro Mike Iaconelli led day one of the event with more than 28 pounds, the heaviest one day bag of the tournament. He led for three straight days of the four-day event. Sunday, the final day, Iaconelli brought only one fish to the scales and dropped to 12th place for the event.

Reese and Iaconelli shared some of the same water in Seibold Creek. Reese made super long casts across spawning flats and retrieved the swimbait slowly across the offshore bedding areas. He quickly caught a limit of three-pounders to start off the final day.

“I knew there were some larger fish in the area, but they had not moved up on the flats,” Reese said. “I remembered I had caught a few larger fish on some wood cover in Town Creek the day before.”

Reese took his swimbait to another area across the river in Town Creek. There he began to target laydowns. These were blown down and fallen trees along the bank. Methodically, Reese picked certain logs along the way culling up his weight. He would cast the swimbait into the cover and slowly retrieve down the log.

After the final weigh-in, Reese stated he didn’t catch high numbers of bass, but the ones he did catch on the Basstrix were better quality fish. He rigged the swimbait with a 7/0 weighted hook. His line was 65-pound test braid with a 25-pound test Fluorocarbon leader.

By the end of the event, Reese had sacked up more than 25 pounds to take the win with a four-day total of 92 pounds. He topped Velvick, who finished second, by four pounds.

From the stage Reese gave credit to his buddy Velvick for the tip, but he said he wasn’t getting any part of his $100,000 check.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoors editor. You can reach Charles at charjohn@cableone.net.

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