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Top 10 baits from Lake Guntersville - Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats

by Major League Fishing 22 Feb 21:48 UTC
A wide variety of baits worked for the Top 10 pros in the Central Division opener on G-ville © Jody White / Major League Fishing

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Central Division opener came perhaps a little shy of the high expectations, but Lake Guntersville still churned out over 11,200 pounds of bass for the field and 20-pound limits were commonplace.

While the event was won with LiveScope and a minnow on a lead head, wintertime Guntersville standards really did a lot of the damage. So, a lot of pros slinging swimbaits, umbrella rigs, vibrating jigs and lipless baits ended up making hay.

Here's what got the job done.

1. Marbut 'Scopes for the win

Running down the lake and catching most of his fish on LiveScope, Hayden Marbut earned $100,000 with a spinning stick. Targeting some ledges, creek channels and bluffs, he was able to stay super consistent for the win.

For tackle, he used a 3/8-ounce Picasso ball head tipped with a fluke-style bait, tied to 15-pound-test P-Line braid with a 12-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon leader. That was spooled on 3000-size Shimano Sustain reels and a pair of different rods: a 6-foot-10 G. Loomis NRX+ and a 7-foot Hammer rod.

2. Tennessee River classics produce for O'Connell

Finishing second by 2 ounces, Matt O'Connell did his best work fishing old-school staples for current-oriented fish, and added some LiveScope and bridges in to supplement things.

His starting spot didn't account for the 8-pounder on Day 2, but it did let him blitz out to nearly 20 pounds early on the final day.

"That current spot in the morning, the bait would get pushed in there off the channel, every once in a while, and when the bait got pushed in, you'd see the bass start working it," he said. "If the bait wasn't pushed in, you really wouldn't even see them on 'Scope. You might see one crawling along the bottom every once in a while. I started throwing an underspin, and they would pop up, but they wouldn't eat it. That swimbait, I was just crawling it and not even watching the 'Scope."

His swimbaits of choice were True Bass Hollow Body Swimbaits in 5.5- and 4.5-inch sizes, in the citron color with either a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce True Bass True Lock Swimbait Jig Head. They were his primary morning baits, and around current - the 8-6 on Day 2 munched on the 5.5-inch version.

O'Connell also plied a CAST Fishing Co. Echo on a hover rig with a 3/32-ounce Dobyns Nail Weight with a Decoy JIG12F hook and a Shane's Baits Moneyball Umbrella Rig with 1/8-ounce heads and 3.3- and 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimmers in complementary colors. The umbrella rig and hover rig got most of their play around bridges.

3. Beck does it again with the umbrella rig

One of the best in the game with an umbrella rig on the Tennessee River, Mickey Beck might fish the bait closer to its full potential than anyone else. This week on Guntersville, despite dirtier than normal water and high current, he again made it work to great effect.

"I hated the rising water and the color coming in, but I love the high current," Beck said. "It'll push them to the edge, there's fish all over, but I can more or less concentrate on one fish at a time, rather than getting up shallow and banging the bank. Normally there's a stump or tree, on the upper or lower of the drop. It gives them an eddy, when it's pulling so hard. Eddies are what I'm concentrating on, no matter if it is a tree or a rock or a shell bar."

His standard setup was a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr., mostly with 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT Swimbaits on the outside and a 4.3-inch bait in the middle. He used a 1/16-ounce, 4/0 jighead for his middle bait, and 3/16-ounce, 3/0 jigheads for his outer baits, plus screwlocks for his dummies. In shallower water, he went to a 1/16-ounce head for his center bait.

Throwing a light rig, Beck said that sometimes it would take 20 or 30 seconds to get the bait into the right zone. To help him keep the bait out of snags, and feel everything, he went with 40-pound PowerPro braid, which is a departure from the "standard" fluorocarbon.

"When you're dealing with current like that, and such a light umbrella rig, sometimes that little bit of stretch will make a difference," Beck said. "With braid, you're going to feel if they breathe on it."

4. Grass is the way to go for Alcock

Catching right at 22 pounds a day, Travis Alcock did his damage on the main river bars around grass with a lipless bait.

His standard was an Azuma Shaker Z in Aztec, but he also used the Azuma HEAVY Z and Azuma Shaker Z Knock Knock. His standard stick for the week was a Dobyns Champion XP 765CB.

"This year and the last two years, I've made the cut three years in a row, honestly doing pretty much the same thing," Alcock said. "Fishing main river, some ledges, some main river shoreline. The thing I kept honest this trip was putting more focus on eelgrass. Normally I would look for coontail, milfoil, hydrilla - but as years go on, there's more and more eelgrass. I didn't use LiveScope in the tournament, but where it came in handy for me, was seeing eelgrass and being able to tell the difference between it and coontail. On top of that, when I could see fish in general, an area with eelgrass and bait, that was more than likely where I was going to get bit."

5. Wiggins takes the inside line

The defending Central Division Angler of the Year, Jordan Wiggins got off to a good start this year as well. Also eschewing the sonar game, the Alabama angler stuck to the shallows, fishing milfoil in Brown's Creek.

"I tried to stay on the inside edge," he said. "I noticed everybody was way out, and in practice, I got bit shallow, on the inside edge. I don't know if it was pressure or what, but I got bigger bites in the 2- to 5-foot range. So, I just stayed shallow. I was tickled to death, you catch 20 pounds a day for three days, that's hard to do in the South, I was tickled to death, win lose or draw."

For baits, he used a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a matching Reaction Innovations Little Dipper in the morning, and he switched to an XCalibur XR75 in the afternoons. He fished everything on St. Croix rods.

6. Swindle stays on the move

Always a threat on Alabama waters, Austin Swindle knocked out another Top 10 despite having most of his best areas negatively impacted in some way by the dirty water and high current. So, he stayed on the move, fishing his way from South Sauty to the lower end of the lake.

His best bait on the week was a Megabass Vision 110+1 with Berkely Fusion19 trebles. He threw it on a Lost Creek Custom Rods Shadow Series rod.

"When I was seeing fish that I couldn't get to bite anything, it seemed like I could get them to bite a jerkbait," Swindle said. "I could catch a limit with a (umbrella) rig or a swimbait, but it seemed like to upgrade my limit I had to throw a jerkbait."

7. Shell bar buoys Falardeau in the mornings

Dillon Falardeau ran a two-pronged game plan on the week, starting on an offshore spot, and then heading into Alred's to fish grass the rest of the day.

Though he found fish with a lipless bait and a vibrating jig, his best baits were True Bass Hollow Body Swimbaits in 5.5- and 4.5-inch sizes, in the citron color with either a 1/4- or 3/16-ounce True Bass True Lock Swimbait Jig Head.

"I had an amazing starting spot on a shell bar with a little bit of hydrilla off the main river channel," Falardeau said. "Every single day, I was catching between 14 and 16 pounds in my first 20 casts. It was just a really special spot, with that bigger swimbait and an Alabama rig. I would pull up, and it was fish after fish, and I caught my biggest fish there on Day 2."

After the morning flurry, Falardeau ran down to Alred's and fished grass.

"The swimbait was key to getting the fish to the boat," he said. "I was throwing a lipless and a ChatterBait, and I was getting a lot of bites, but they would just nip at the ChatterBait, and I didn't want to be using treble hooks with the size of fish I was catching. So, once I got a bite, I would pick up the (5.5-inch swimbait). I knew if I got a bite on the swimbait, with a big single hook, I knew all those fish would get to the boat."

8. Giant bag on Day 1 puts Knight in contention

A Tennessee River expert, Clint Knight knocked their lights out on Day 1 and struggled to follow it up on subsequent days. Still, he proved that 28 pounds can carry you a long, long way, even with G-ville fishing lights out.

On Day 1, Knight went big, with a 6th Sense Whale on a 1-ounce head with an 8/0 hook and a Tater Hog glide bait he sunk down with 14 SuspenStrips. He threw both big baits on 8-foot Dobyns swimbait rods. As the tournament went on, he added in umbrella rigs, red and ghost-colored lipless baits and a jighead minnow with a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader or a Basstrix Flash Trix.

His big Day 1 was keyed by an offshore ledge spot.

"Day 1, I stuck offshore, and threw the big baits," he said. "I was fishing 10 to 20 foot of water on Day 1, fishing close to the river channel. There were three boats on the shallow side, fishing the grass, when I pulled up. My second cast, I caught a 6 1/2, and all three boats seen it, so I had to burn it down."

From there, with the deep magic never happening again, he mixed grass, bridges and 'Scoping to cobble his bags together.

9. Lipless leads the way for Dyar

Logan Dyar made a key switch midway through Day 2, which shot him into the Top 25 and then some.

"Day 1, I was running more deep stump flats and grass lines with the umbrella rig and the swimbait," he said. "Day 2, I figured out the "trap" bite in the afternoon. Day 3, I ran it all day long, main river hydrilla was the deal."

Fishing an XCalibur XR50 in two colors, he souped his baits up with Thump Gel, a sticky, gel-type fish attractant.

After this event, I'm a believer in it," Dyar said. "They were knocking slack in it, and I started putting that stuff on it, and they were choking it."

10. Umbrella rig and specific depth zone work for Black

Tallying over 60 pounds for the week, Michael Black stuck close to takeoff with an umbrella rig to get the job done.

For the umbrella, he used a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr., which he tipped with 4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimmers. On the dummies, he used 1/16-ounce heads, and he used 1/8-ounce heads with red hooks on his other arms. He also used braid, which allowed him to feel the slightest amount of grass on the rig.

Black thinks he's got the umbrella rig really dialed in on Guntersville, and that the red hooks are important.

"I truly believe that has been the key," he said. "It's presentation too, but I think the heads help a lot. I truly believe the red hook had a lot to do with it because it had a lot of flash to it. When the Keitech waggles back and forth, the red hook waggles back and forth, and it has a lot of flash. My co-anglers, they'd throw the umbrella rig all day and never get a bite."

Unlike some others in the Top 10, Black staked out an area not far from takeoff and fished shallow. Catching fish in his chosen depth range all over the place, he also had one ditch leading into a staging area that played big every day.

"I'm 70 years old, I don't need to run 50, 60, 70 miles one way to find a fish, when there are all kinds of fish all over the lake and a lot of them are near you," Black said. "It was cold, I decided I was just going to put my head down and find those fish locally. A lot of it has to do with the depth, once I got a feel for where the fish were, I would constantly use my depth finder and my LiveScope to keep myself in that zone. When I got deeper than 6 feet they wouldn't hit it, and when I got shallower than 4 feet they wouldn't hit it and I'd get bogged up in the grass. If I could just follow that contour, and just throw in front of me, I was always in the strike zone."

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