Making the Bassmaster Team Championship again, was my most important goal going into the season. My partner Shaun and I won angler of the year for the D&R Sports Series in west Michigan. We were going to Lake Guntersville this year, around 700 miles from home.
We were excited, Guntersville is one of the most famous lakes in the whole country. It holds some giant fish, 8 pounders and 30 pound bags are fairly common! Not to mention a Bassmasters classic berth and some big prize money were on the line.
I had actually been there once before, for my senior year of college spring break. So at least we would be familiar with the lay of the land. We knew it was going to be tough to pin something good down in 1.5 days of practice though. We love fishing grass and Guntersville has plenty of it. We were committed to finding a grass patch full of quality bass. By the end of practice we found several areas that seemed to have decent numbers of fish and a few big ones swimming around.
At the banquet/rules meeting we got our boat # for day 1. Not really what we were hoping for at boat 195 out of 197. We were excited to find no one sitting on one of our primary areas, so we went to work. Unfortunately we made 2 passes through it and never got a bite, so we were off to spot 2. We quickly caught a keeper and then went on a flurry of 3 more. After that we were on a dry spell for quite some time. We made a fairly long run up the lake in hopes we could scrounge one or 2 off a particular grass line. No luck there, so we headed back to our main river ledge to bomb square bill crankbaits and swimbaits. We picked up our limit fish, but couldn't make any culls. Then we got the bite we had been waiting all day for all day. The fish was estimated between 6 and 7lbs and would cull out a 2 pounder. Unfortunately it ended up being a tale of the one that got away instead of the kicker we needed. We ended up weighing 13-10 for the day, definitely not what we wanted but certainly not out of it on this fishery.
Boat numbers were reversed on day 2 so we would be the 3rd boat to leave the dock. This would put us in position to make a gamble for a big bite or 2. Guntersville is famous for big fish catches around bridges, so that's where we were headed first. Our plan was to spend 2 hours on a bridge and then go catch whatever we could on our other areas. However day 2 was exceptionally foggy and was postponed. After we loaded the boat back on the trailer we relaxed for the day and checked out some of the tackle shops around the lake.
Day 3 (which was actually day 2) also brought concerns of a fog delay. But fortunately we were able to go about 10 minutes after the scheduled blast off time. We put the hammer down and headed for the bridge we picked. Unfortunately a local boat was already sitting on the place we preferred to be. We picked the other side and started working. All we could produce was 2 short strikes on a Nemesis Baits jig. Lots of other boats were in the area as well and not a single fish was boated. We eventually bailed on the bridge and headed to the place we had a flurry of activity on day 1. The only problem was they weren't pulling any current, that is key for getting fish to bite on Tennessee river lakes. A couple passes with only short fish and we were out. We were either going to live or die on the area we had the big bite on day 1, since we knew the right fished lived there. It started off pretty quickly there as we put 4 keepers in the livewell. Then it just kind of died, a few short strikes was all we could manage. We finally hooked up again and it was a good one, somewhere between 4 and 5 pounds. Our lucky streak continued and it came off right at the boat. We did eventually put our 5th fish in the boat, giving us a small limit at 11-10. That is not what you come to Lake Guntersville for!
When all was said and done we would finish 79th out of 197, and those 2 lost bites would have put us in check range for sure. One saving grace was our buds Chris and Tim won the whole tournament! They also qualified through the D&R Sports Series as the Classic Champions. One of my main goals for 2016 is definitely to get back to this tournament for the 3rd year in a row. I'm looking forward to that challenge!
Jeff Elliott - Team Reel 'n Smoke Member