'Bama Bass Exciting Winter Option

By Ted Peck - February 9, 2015
Every man has limitations which can not be exceeded without suffering profound mental distress. My personal panic stage for not seeing bare ground and open water is about six weeks.

January in November had most voices in my head screaming "drive south". These voices grew louder as the whispers to hunt deer faded with every doe hanging in the pole barn.

A brief respite from winter's brutality around Christmas resulted in return of perpetual tinnitus, the aural test pattern which plays when the voices go away. But the die was already cast.

Mike Carter with a Guntersville bass
Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama has been on my bass fishing bucket list for years. This 75 mile long impoundment of the Tennessee River has been rated in the top five by Bassmaster Magazine since it started keeping score.

This 69,000 acre fishery is better than other TVA lakes like Nickajack and Wheeler because the pool level is maintained at a consistent level year round for navigational purposes.

The result is perpetual gardens of milfoil, coontail and hydrilla weeds that provide ideal habitat for growing big bass.

Guide Mike Carter has been fishing these waters for over 30 years. When not guiding Carter makes a substantial living from fishing bass tournaments. Guntersville is his favorite lake.

He won a major tournament here last year with over 18 pounds of bass. A jaw dropping accomplishment with a tournament bag of just three fish.

"In a tourney with a five fish limit there is no point in even weighing in if you don't have 30 pounds in the sack," Carter grins. "Guntersville is home to some giants."

Carter's personal best from this water is 12 pounds. It now swims in the hawg trough in the Bass Pro Shop in Prattville. The lake record is an amazing 14 pounds.

We didn't catch anything close to double digits on an outing here in early January. A monster cold front which dropped the ambient temperature into the high 40's put most fish in a lockjaw state.

But any bass is a good bass when you don't have to chop a hole to launch the boat. Water temperature was also in the upper 40's. A Rat-L-Trap is the obvious choice in a lake where bass relate to weeds and water temperatures are 42-48 degrees.

Carter smiled when I tied a gold 'Trap on the line. He pulled a rod with a Trap of a different color out of the rod box and went to work. " I've been having better luck with the chartreuse shiner pattern lately," he chuckled when setting the hook on a fat 16 incher minutes later.

The chartreuse shiner pattern Rat-L-Trap put every fish we caught in the boat that day. Every cast held the potential for sticking a pig of dreams. But this day all the bass were cookie-cutter 16 inchers.

The best pain in the world is a sore thumb scuffed up by bass lips. It is especially sweet when weather back home is winter weather advisory with a windchill warning.

Guntersville is just beyond day trip driving range from the upper Midwest. If the weather is reasonable you might want to stop on the way down and frog around on Lake of Egypt in southern Illinois or try Kentucky Lake.

A couple of the voices wanted to stick around and fish Guntersville for another day or two. Unfortunately, this source of mental torment is a democracy. Reports that big bull redfish are on a feeding rip along the Florida gulf coast whispered a need to push another six hours south.

Compromise is a key to peace and harmony. The steady din of tinnitus returned as a plan to fish Lake Guntersville or Lake Weiss on the Georgia border on the return trip to the Land of Ice and Cheese emerged.

This ringing in the ears is different than the norm. It sounds like surf and breeze wafting through Royal palm trees. Open windows bring quick, sweet sleep.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.