Lessons learned at Lake Guntersville
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
BMO Fishing some "Frog Water" on Lake Guntersville
This year I qualified to fish the KBF Challenge Series Championship at lake Guntersville, Alabama. Although I am new to Kayak tournament fishing, I figured I would make the trip to learn what it is all about, and to gain experience and knowledge for next year.
It is a 36 hour drive from my house to Lake Guntersville. I planned on taking 3 days to get there which would leave me one day to pre-fish before the two day tournament. I left on Saturday morning and as expected, I arrived in Guntersville around 5:00pm on Monday.
I had some daylight left when I arrived, so I decided to drive 40 miles up the lake to checkout the ramp I was planning on using for my pre-fish day. I walked down to the ramp to see what the lake looked like and I learned my first lesson. As I was standing on the dock, an angler pulled up in his kayak powered by an electric trolling motor. He hopped out, put the motor on spot lock while he got his truck and then eased it onto his trailer. I had never seen a setup like this. It was awesome, but I realized that I was outmatched without an electric trolling motor. Turns out that most of the competitors have some sort of electric trolling motor. Lesson #1: If I want to compete, I will need an electric trolling motor.
I launched before daylight, only to discover a thick fog has set in. I could only see about 75 yards so I slowly peddled up river to my predetermined destination that I thought would hold fish. I was surprised by the water flow on this "river" section of the lake. It was not overwhelming, but it was stronger than I had anticipated. As I eased my way up river, I fished what I could see that looked good. The Fog finally lifted around 10:00am, and I could actually see the landmark I was looking for...it was still a long way away. Finally, around 11:00am I arrived at my destination.....only too find two other kayaks anglers already fishing the area. Both of them had trolling motors and had probably been there for at least an hour before I got there. lesson learned. I fished that spot and then made the turn and fished my way back down to the launch with the current, just as I had planned. I had one huge blow up on my topwater, and caught one small fish...that was it. My pre-fish day was not a total bust, I figured out where I did not want to fish, and I found out that there was definitely a top-water bite going on.
My first Lake Guntersville Bass
Tourney Day One.
I picked a my second best spot that I had determined by looking at maps for day one. it was a mid-lake area, with some docks and rip rap bridges, but my ultimate goal was a series of islands in the main lake that were about two to three miles from the launch. The fog was again thick in the morning. At 6:00am my fellow competitors took off using their trolling motors and electronics, leaving me behind to navigate by peddle and eyesight. Lesson number two: Fish finder/navigation electronics are critical to competing in these events. The ability to navigate in the dark and fog is a huge advantage.
I started off on a rip rap bank and literally missed a fish on my first cast. It chased my jerk bait right up to my kayak and turned away at the last minute. Because of that fish, I stayed and fished that bank much longer than anticipated and never saw another fish.
Finally on the board on day one!
I started to work my way out to the islands, but because of the fog, it was slow going. I fished various docks and points along the way, and was basically going from one visible point to the next visible point along the shoreline. There were several instances where I got caught on a weedy shallow flat and had to pull my drive and paddle. Because of the fog and the dark I simply could not see these areas before it was too late.
I finally arrived at my first planned location around 9:00am. As the fog was lifting and I could see more clearly, I spotted four other kayak anglers fishing the spot I wanted to be in. Painful lessons are the best. These guys with their motors and electronics were able to get to this spot at least 2 hours before me. Undeterred, I went further to another spot that I had identified.
Recap of the first tourney day.
Finally, I found some fishable water and was able to put two small fish on the board by noon. I thought I had figured out a top water pattern fishing clear "ponds" surrounded by huge weed flats, but I think I just caught the tail end of the bite. Had I been there two hours earlier I think I would have caught more fish. I spent the next 2-3 hours fishing the area, but was not able to put any more fish on the board. I was the last car in the lot when I got back to the ramp. It took me over an hour and a half of not stop peddling to get back - a motor would have helped!
Tourney Day Two
Since I did not have much success the previous day, I decided to try a new location for day two. I had identified a location in the lower lake that looked promising and decided to give it a try. Without anytime to pre-fish, I would be starting from scratch again today.
Dark and foggy again on day 2.
Same scenario for day two, while the other anglers took off with their motors and electronics to locations they had already fished, I had to feel my way along the shoreline, learning as I went. I fished a series of docks and was able to get my first legal fish by 8:00am...things were looking up. I caught a "Dink" on a drop shot rig, and then one more keeper by 10:30am. I was feeling much better about today, but still had not really found an area that I knew held a lot of fish. after fishing the back cove, I went out into the main lake to see what I could find. I did not like what I found out there so I headed back in the cove and headed down the other arm. By now it was getting close to 12:30.
I found a 100 yard stretch that looked very promising so I decided to give it a shot. I had one bass follow my Sinko to the kayak, and saw some fish schooling, so I knew there were fish here. I wanted to fish one more spot about a mile away so I headed that direction. That spot turns out to be no good, so with the limited time remaining I decided to finish off the tourney at the last spot I had found.
My best fish, and best location was found late on the last day of the tournament.
I caught a nice 16" fish on my first drift through the section and lost one other. I was just figuring out how to fish it, but I ran out of time. This spot would have been my starting point had I had more time to pre-fish. Lesson 3: I need at least three good days of pre-fishing to figure out the lake.
Thanks to KBF for doing and amazing job!
Back at the ramp I talked to some other competitors and everyone was great. This is an awesome crowd of people and KBF does an outstanding job with their tournaments. I absolutely loved fishing in this tournament and although I finished 180 out of 230, I got what I came for: I fished with the best and learned what I need to do to compete with them. Thanks KBF for putting on such an awesome event, I will be back next year and you can guarantee I will have a trolling motor, electronics and will give myself at least three days to pre-fish. See you next year!!!!
With this tourney in my rear view mirror, I am excited for 2021!