Outdoors: It's all about the grass on Lake Guntersville
by Charles Johnson
May 11, 2013 | 2893 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Big bass are one of the main attractions to Lake Guntersville. (Photo by Charles Johnson)
Big bass are one of the main attractions to Lake Guntersville. (Photo by Charles Johnson)
Attraction can come in many different forms. It can be visual in the form of beauty, pleasing to the eyes and soul. Flavors in foods, security in comfort and a sense of adventure can be an attraction. Differences in our emotions and our psyche cause our attractions to vary from person to person.

Sometimes attraction is a stair-step from one set of criteria to another. One thing grabs our attention, and once we focus in, we can see deeper into the attraction. Also, attractions are progressive. At first glance, the desire is only a spark, but later the spark ignites in us a greater attraction.

As youngsters, we are attracted to the mysteries of fishing. At first simple gear and bait, small hooks and a can of red-wigglers are enough. Then later we graduate to more complex tackle and lures. But, we never forget the attraction, the allure of fishing. We think every body of water we cross over harbors fish. We yearn to wet a hook, to cast a lure. As anglers, you and me, are attracted to water and fishing.

The Big G

Lake Guntersville, in the town by the same name, is known among bass anglers simply as the Big G. The newly formed TVA began construction on Guntersville dam in 1935 with impoundment four years later. At full pool elevation, the lake covers some 69,000 surface acres along with 900 miles of shoreline.

Fishing, boating and swimming are popular along the banks of the Big G. In the mid-1970s an invasion of Eurasian milfoil and hydrilla grasses began growing in the lake. At first it was thought these weeds would take over the entire lake. Some thought the “weeds” would be the end of the lake. But, would it?

“The grass is what makes the lake,” says Matt Herren pro angler from Trussville. “Without the grass in Guntersville it would not hold the amount of bass that it does.”

Many anglers are in the same boat about the grass in Guntersville. Some shoreline property owners may disagree, but it is the grass that helps them retain property values. How can non-native plants growing from the bottom of the lake improve property values? It has to do with attraction.

The grasses provide oxygen and improved water quality by filtering out impurities. When young fry are hatched they have plenty of places to hide from predator fish and birds. The bass and other fish species thrive in the clear, clean waters. Anglers from afar flock to the lake for fishing vacations and upscale tournaments. Thus begins the economic wheels turning.

“It was the quality of the fishing that attracted me to Guntersville,” said Chris Lane, 2012 Bassmaster Classic champ.

Lane was so intrigued by Lake Guntersville that in 2010 he moved his family from Lakeland, Fla. He purchased a home, established a guide service and started a tackle shop on the shores of the Big G. Lane gives back to the community by sponsoring the Reeling in Future Pros Fishing Camp for kids. This year’s event is July 20th.

Numbers are attractive

While there are other industries in and around Guntersville, it is the lake that is the largest industry of all. Anglers from across the U.S. bring their families to vacation on Lake Guntersville. The biggest reason for folks choosing the Big G: bass and bass fishing.

A 2012 study by Auburn University on the impact of the fishing industry around Guntersville found in the first 10 months, more than 200,000 angler fishing days were recorded. That number of days translated into $13.4 million in related expenditures. Of the 700 anglers interviewed, 66 percent were fishing for bass. Thirty-nine percent of the bass anglers were from out-of-state.

“The Guntersville area benefits greatly from the tourism industry, particularly bass fishing,” said Morri Yancy, President of the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce. “We are blessed to have several pro anglers that are promoters of our lake.”

Yancy said that is some of the best advertising they could receive. She is always thrilled to hear anglers from the weigh-in stage rave about Lake Guntersville. After Lane moved to the lake and won the Classic, Yancy said there have been a surge of requests for information.

While fishing is a major part of visiting Guntersville, there are plenty of other attractions and family friendly activities. Three state parks around the lake offer golf, tennis and other activities. At almost any time, our national symbol — the bald eagle — can be circling overhead around the lake. However, the eagles are more prevalent during the winter months.

Camping, hiking, bike riding and other outdoor sports are available in the area. The small-town atmosphere makes visiting the area shops fun and enjoyable.

It’s just that good

Each year there are hundreds of bass tournaments conducted on Lake Guntersville. Some are club events with around 20 or 30 boats each. Others are major derbies with anglers numbering 200 or more. Yet year after year the lake continues to produce heavy limits of bass.

A recent FLW Bass Fishing League tournament during the last weekend of April saw the winner bring in 30 pounds of bass with a five-fish limit. The angler with 20 pounds was only in 14th spot. Guntersville is the top lake in the region to catch a bass over the five pound mark.

In 2009, the B.A.S.S. Elite anglers fished the Big G. Four pros broke the 100-pound mark with a 20 fish limit over four days of competition. That is a per fish average of over five pounds each. And it’s not only the pros. Weekend anglers also share in the bounty of the lake. Reports this season have one angler catching two bass over 10 pounds each on separate outings.

“Grass is the life support system of any lake,” says B.A.S.S. pro Gerald Swindle. “If the grass is healthy, the fish will be in good shape,”

Bass may be the main species of attraction on Guntersville, but other fish types are also popular. Crappie, bream, catfish and sauger can also be part of angler’s creel. Any of these species, as well as bass, can be caught year round from the lake.

In February, the Big G will once again get to flaunt her bass fishing exploits when the Bassmaster Classic drops anchor. The top pro bass anglers will be casting for cash and a championship title. The world’s eyes will be attracted and focused on Lake Guntersville. I am sure she won’t disappoint.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. He can be reached at ChrJohn7@aol.com
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