Lake Guntersville heaven for largemouth anglers

The area also offers plenty of attractions for vacationers


Guide Troy Jens shows off a Lake Guntersville bass to 7-year-old Cross Creek twins Rachel and Kyle Tucker.

TIM TUCKER/Special to The Sun
Published: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 7, 2005 at 1:10 a.m.
After a bitterly cold run of 10 miles or so, our first stop on the famed bass factory known as Lake Guntersville put me in a situation that few North Central Florida fishermen have ever encountered.
First, few local anglers have ever fished in water as cold as 43 degrees. In addition, our guide, Troy Jens, selected the kind of spot that is not found in the Sunshine State - a bluff bank in the swing of a channel where the depth was 30 feet of more.
It is winter on this flooded impoundment of the Tennessee River not far from the Tennessee border. And Jens, the acknowledged top lake on one of America's premier bass fisheries, selected a logical place to fish. But as it so often happens with bass, logic was not the ticket.
"I don't know what the deal is. This is usually one of my best spots this time of year," he said after an hour or so with just a tiny striped bass and a freshwater drum to show for our efforts. "They should be here. And they should bite."
Surprisingly, the largemouth living in the huge reservoir did bite on this sunny day last week. But it was those holding in shallow water that proved to be most cooperative.
Spotting some feeding seagulls, Jens stopped on a field of submerged milfoil located on a sloping point in the mouth of a creek. He quickly made contact with a 3-pound largemouth using a Cordell Spot lipless crankbait (in a royal shad pattern, which he invented) that skirted across the top of the grass in about 5 feet of water.
"The water temperature as it gets down to about 45, they will start to slow down," he said. "And the fish will feed less frequently.
"It doesn't drive them deep. We still catch them shallow, obviously. But they will slow down and they won't feed quite as much during the day. Typically when the water temperature is in the 40s, 5 to 8 feet is a good zone to catch those fish that are still staged on the grass drops."
This was a family vacation, so Jens was guiding a boatload of Tuckers. The adults began casting Spots, while 7-year-old twins Rachel and Kyle were flinging small Booyah spinnerbaits using spincast tackle. Instead of methodically dragging a soft-plastic creature along the bottom, these cold-water bass began smacking these fast-moving lures.
Jens was not surprised. "I've caught fish in creeks on this lake that have been iced over in the back," he said. "The water temperature was in the mid-30s and I still caught them pretty well with lipless crankbaits and a spinnerbait. A lot of times a small spinnerbait will catch fish in 3 to 5 feet of water even when the water is in the upper 30s. There will still be fish that shallow.
"It's important to remember that although the bigger fish feed less often this time of the year, when they are feeding they will be very aggressive. They'll hit the baits as hard as they do in the warm water temperatures. They will knock slack in the line with these lipless crankbaits when the water is 42 or 43 degrees."
The twins had warmed up for our fishing trip with Jens by catching more than a dozen bluegill using nightcrawlers in the boathouse behind the Fish Inn Hole, lakeside rental that was our home for five days. The action in the boat stalls was practically non-stop during our entire stay - though more panfish got with easy meals than were caught.
Lake Guntersville is an excellent family vacation destination, even in the winter. Nestled at the base of the Appalachian Mountain range, the 69,000-acre reservoir is billed as "The South's Most Beautiful Lake". The lake has 949 miles of shoreline and stretches 30 miles from Scottsboro south to the city of Guntersville.
The area around Lake Guntersville offers plenty of attractions for vacationers. Within easy driving distance lies an abundance of natural sites that include parks, caverns, falls and botanical gardens. Historic attractions abound. And for the less nature-minded among us, nearby Boaz is a shopper's paradise with more than 145 factory outlet stores. With 150,000 square feet of merchandizing space, Boaz has been named one of the top 10 discount retail markets in the country.
One of the most impressive attractions is the Lake Guntersville State Park, which is situated on a 500-foot bluff overlooking the reservoir. The park has a 94-room hotel, cabins, chalets, campground and launch ramp.
Although the surrounding area has a rich history that traces back to the exploration of DeSoto in 1540, fishing is the main attraction here. The bass action on Lake Guntersville revolves around its nonnative aquatic vegetation, notably milfoil. When the grass is most plentiful, its resident bass population grows big, fast and abundant.
In recent years, the fishing community has helped enlighten government officials about the value of water plants for sheltering a vibrant fishery. As a result, the lake isn't deluged with herbicide spraying (another difference from some parts of Florida).
That is one reason why the 65-year-old reservoir still holds a place in the BASS tournament record book and continues to provide a fabulous playground for serious bass anglers and family vacationers alike.
Tim Tucker is an award-winning outdoors writer who lives in Cross Creek.
IF YOU GO
  • RECOMMENDED GUIDE: Troy Jens, 256-534-8657, www.anglingalabama.com.
  • RECOMMENDED LODGING: Fish In Hole, 256-228-3334, www.fishinnhole.com .
  • INFORMATION: North Alabama Tourism Association, 800-648-5381, www.northalabama.org.
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