Guntersville Outstanding Winter Bass Destination

By Ted Peck - February 27, 2017
When Bill Lewis Lures CEO Wes Higgins found out I was planning an extended fishing tour of the American southeast a couple of months ago he asked if I could participate in the Lake Guntersville Rat-L-Trap Classic bass tourney on Feb. 12.

This meant I would have to extend the planned month long fishing adventure through southern Illinois, Mississippi and Florida from a month to 36 days. Since Higgins is a good friend and I've been a Rat-L-Trap evangelist for almost four decades, this was a fishin' mission I simply could not refuse.

I confess a fair amount of angst at the challenge of representing Bill Lewis Lures in a bass tourney of this caliber. I am NOT a tournament fishing angler. I am a fishing guide, specializing in walleyes, panfish and cats more than bass on Pool 9 of the Upper Mississippi River. Bass fishing on my home water doesn't require much expertise or deep thought.

Guntersville is a largemouth bass mecca covering 69,000 scenic acres spanning 75 miles with over 900 acres of gorgeous shoreline in the Tennessee River Valley of northern Alabama-where the skies are so blue.

This water has been rated #1 by BASS magazine in years past and is still considered in the top 10 of all American largemouth fisheries-even though local anglers and guides maintain the bass population here is in bad shape.

They blame the Alabama DNR for poor management practices which include a daily bass bag limit of 10 fish, with no possession limit and a general lack of law enforcement presence.

Politics also plays a role. Voices along the Alabama gulf coast are louder, capturing most of the Alabama DNR's disposable income. As a result the Lake Guntersville resource is pretty much on its own.

But all things are relative. Guntersville is still one of our nation's top bass destinations-perhaps a lesser heaven than in days gone by, but heaven nonetheless.

Guide Mike Carter agreed to partner with me for the Rat-L-Trap Classic event.

Carter and a pair of huge bass is the cover photo on the North Alabama Fishing Guide brochure. Several years ago Carter put the Alabama governor on a raging pig beast of a bass on Guntersville. This lake is his oyster.

We discovered there would be over 400 anglers competing in the exclusive Bill Lewis lures tourney at the pre-event meeting on Saturday night. Carter and I drew #201.

This meant our flight would not get first crack at the better spots.

This didn't seem to bother Mike Carter. We ordered up a couple of egg sandwiches at the Goose Pond Tackle Shop & Grill and shot the breeze with owner Jamie Shay as boat after boat launched and went flying down the lake.

When we finally launched it was just a short boat ride to Carter's first spot-and eel grass bed far from the shoreline only visible on electronics. He had me tie on a ¾ oz. 'Trap in Royal Shad pattern while he cast his personal favorite chartreuse shiner pattern lure.

I hooked up first with a fat 16" fish. Carter caught one a few casts later which looked like an identical twin.

We tried several locations and colors before a long, skinny bass which would still weigh over six pounds ate Carter's red craw Echo 1.75. This fish wasn't even close to qualifying for one of the three "big bass" prizes offered in this event.

Catching fish wasn't a problem. Catching the right fish proved more difficult for us.

Carter missed two fish, either of which would have put us in first place. As things turned out we finished 14th and cashed a check. With just a few more ounces we would have cashed a really nice check.

Money is a major reason I don't fish tournaments. My focus has always been on competing with the fish, not other fishermen. When viewed from this perspective Lake Guntersville is a laugh-out-loud good time.

The Rat-L-Trap is always a good choice on this lake. But it is especially good during February and March.

Guntersville is a long-but easy-day's drive from any point in southern Wisconsin where bass season doesn't open for more than two months.

It is open in Illinois and Iowa year-round. The Rat-L-Trap is my bait of choice when ice comes off and water temperatures warm to 43 degrees in these states-targeting bays on the north side of lakes which have a dark bottom.

In a month or so bass will be turning on in southern Illinois. But if your need to rip big bass lips is severe you can be scratching this itch on Lake Guntersville by this time tomorrow.

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.