On the Big G, its upper end “fishes like a different lake,” a contrast with stereotypical bass fishing.
Lake Guntersville offers a veritable bucket list of bass-producing destinations. Browns Creek, Seibold, South Sauty, North Sauty, Mink, Roseberry (among many others) all figure into the equation when tournament anglers and fun-fishing visitors create their game plan for a day’s fishing.
Many anglers focus their efforts on the mid-lake region, roughly from the Town Creek/Seibold Creek area to the B.B. Comer (Highway 35) Bridge. The lower lake, highlighted by Browns and Honeycomb creeks, attracts plenty of tournament and fun-fishing participants as well.
Moving upstream, Mud Creek, a popular early-season destination, is usually the last point tournament anglers consider when fishing Lake Guntersville, largely because of the distance involved in boating from launch sites.
What about the rest of the lake, the point from Mud Creek to Nickajack Dam in Tennessee? Roughly 30 miles long, the stretch of the Big G offers a contrast to the lower and mid portions of the lake; not only in terms of geography but also in diversity of the black bass population.
Call it the “Other” Guntersville
Unlike visitors and tournament competitors, locals know its fish-producing capabilities well. Anglers will find a less-crowded lake and also the opportunity to catch all three primary species of black bass: largemouth, smallmouth, and spots.
In fact, spots and smallmouth tend to dominate on certain stretches of the upper end of the reservoir.
Mike Carter, longtime guide on the lake, loves the different possibilities on the upper end of the lake close to his home in the Flat Rock area. Especially when fall rolls around, this avid angler (www.anglingadventures.info or 423-802-1362) is as likely to be found chasing spots and smallmouth on the upper end as fishing the “classic” Guntersville farther downstream.
“Carter catches 75 percent more spots and smallmouth than largemouth in the upper lake.”
“I do most of my fishing from the Stevenson area north,” Carter says. “From about the Highway 117 Bridge up to the Bridgeport area, around the old Bridgeport Ferry, and the railroad bridge at the Tennessee state line.”
The Highway 117 Bridge is roughly 12 miles north of Mud Creek, meaning Carter focuses his efforts on the upper end in the final 18 miles of the lake below Nickajack Dam. Instead of a sprawling lake highlighted by grass and ledge fishing, expect to find a riverine environment dominated by current and rock structure with a sprinkling of grass fishing in the mix.
“There’s a lot more current there than on the main lake,” Carter says. In general, he suggests that anglers identify rock piles that transition into bluffs. Specifically, Carter mentions three or four go-to locations that regularly produce fish: the old dam at Widows Creek, the old Bridgeport Ferry, and the railroad bridge at the state line.
The north (in Tennessee waters) and south points of Long Island—plus the thin grass beds along the island—offer another alternative.
The concrete pilings of the old dam rest 12 to 14 feet below the surface. The old ferry area offers similar type water. Both locations are fantastic areas to catch spots and smallmouth, he says.
Carter confides there is an excellent reason he targets the rock and concrete structure: bigger fish hold there. He catches quality bass, both spots and smallmouth, up to about five pounds.
“I do catch some largemouth up there, but it’s more of a spot and smallmouth area,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons that we fish it, something different to get some of those spots and smallmouth.”
Carter catches 75 percent more spots and smallmouth than largemouth in the upper lake. By comparison, the lower portions of the lake produce almost exclusively largemouth with the rare smallmouth or small spotted bass in the mix.
He targets the hard structure with two baits, an Aaron Martens Scrounger head tipped with an albino Zoom Super Fluke or a Strike King 5XD crankbait (green gizzard shad is a fall favorite).
“If they get a little finicky on the crankbait, like they’re slapping at it, I will pick up the Scrounger and I don’t have that problem,” Carter says. “They will eat the Scrounger.”
Normally, Carter throws either a ½-ounce or ¾-ounce Scrounger, depending on the volume of current.
“When I’m fishing the Scrounger, it’s just a cast-and-reel situation,” he says. “I try to feel the structure and reel it as slow as I can reel it. Of course, it goes back to current. I might have to reel faster with a little more constancy, a faster retrieve if the current is heavy. When I feel something, I’ll slow down; a little bit of hesitation.”
Carter fishes both lures on the same tackle setup. He favors 7- or 7½-foot Deep South rods, U.S. Reel 6.3:1 baitcasters, and 12-pound Vicious fluorocarbon.
In addition to fishing the Scrounger and crankbait, he also catches numbers of fish on top-water and squarebill crankbaits. For surface action, he throws an XCalibur Jimmy walking bait in chrome/blue or chrome/black. He shallow-cranks a 1.5 or 2.5 Strike King squarebill in green gizzard shad or regular gizzard shad.
“The difference is I catch a better quality of fish around the rocks,” Carter says. “Top-water is a good way to catch a mixed bag of spots and smallmouth. When the grass begins to die, you can take the squarebill and parallel the grass line and have a blast. You can catch a tremendous number of fish either way; they are just not as big as fishing around the rock piles and concrete pilings.”
Carter suggests the grass lines are skinny—three to five yards wide—compared to the massive beds found farther downstream. He also focuses almost entirely on hydrilla. While eel grass is particularly prevalent on the upper end of the lake, and is expanding its range all over the lake, it doesn’t appear to boast the fish-holding capacity of hydrilla or milfoil.
Carter fishes the upper end of the lake at night earlier in the year, but the daytime bite ignites at some point in September. When the water temperature drops to 70 degrees, the fishing gets really good. When it hits 65 degrees, it can be magical.
“That’s when the fun really begins, probably at some point in October or November,” Carter says.
Carter cautions us not to be fooled by the relative obscurity of the upper end of Guntersville and acknowledges the upper end “fishes like a different lake.”
His summary is succinct. “In its own way, it can be every bit as good and sometimes better of how people generally think of Lake Guntersville.”