It’s a warm, blustery spring day, and professional bass angler Randy Howell is about to set out on Lake Guntersville for some recreational fishing with his two young sons, Laker, 14, and Oakley, 10. He’s fresh in from a tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and grateful to have some rare quality time here at home. “I love Guntersville—it’s my favorite lake,” Howell says. “I think the majority of bass anglers around the country love it, too. Everyone knows about Guntersville; everyone wants to get down here and fish it. I’m just grateful I get to live in this community and raise my kids on the lake.”
Howell won the Bassmaster Classic on Guntersville in 2014, and relocated his family to the area shortly thereafter. (He is, along with Chris Lane and Boyd Duckett, one of three Classic winners to have relocated to Guntersville to live on the lake.) He recalls his Classic win as the ultimate comeback story. “I went into the last day in 11th place,” he says. “But I had a 29-pound catch on day three, for a 67.8 pound total. And that’s an only-on-Guntersville story.”
As he reminisces, his boys cast out from the dock just for fun. Within 15 minutes, they’ve caught five bass—before they even get into the boat. “That’s just amazing,” Howell says. “That’s the Guntersville magic.”
What makes Guntersville the ultimate bass mecca? It’s a combination of factors that include water depth, constant temperatures and plentiful vegetation, explains David Brewster, manager of West Operations for TVA Natural Resource Management.
“The Guntersville Reservoir is 67,900 acres of water, but the average depth is only 15 feet, and that shallow range is very conducive to bass,” explains Brewster. “Unlike a lot of other reservoirs in TVA’s system, Guntersville’s water level only fluctuates about two or three feet—it’s a stable pool, so bass aren’t moving around to get to deeper water. We have fish in residence year-round.”
But what really sets the lake apart is the “grass.” The lake is home to many species of aquatic plants, both native and invasive, which TVA manages to prove maximum benefits to all lake users. (Without management, some aquatic plants—such as hydrilla, Eurasian milfoil and water hyacinth—could make waters impassible to recreational users and even to the most avid anglers.) “These aquatic plants produce a safe haven for the bass and for the baitfish that the bass feed on,” Brewster notes. “And since bass are predators, they’re also a great stalking ground for them.”
With 20 sponsors behind him, Howell is on the road nonstop; he’s fished all over the country. He says the grass makes Guntersville an unusually fertile fishing ground. “There are so many areas for bass to hide and spawn in, “ he explains. “In other lakes, the small fry get eaten up after spawning, but in Guntersville they have a chance to grow. The numbers of bass here are staggering compared to any other lake, period.”
That’s important, because Guntersville is so heavily fished, says Kay Donaldson, project manager for the Alabama Bass Trail, a series of tournaments on Alabama lakes that regularly includes events on TVA’s Guntersville, Wheeler and Pickwick reservoirs. “Guntersville is the crown jewel in the state of Alabama,” she says. “It is extremely good; it’s also extremely heavily fished. It’s the most pressured lake in the country in terms of tournaments and recreation.”
Access ramps to the lake are abundant, and on any given weekend you will find them full, with license plates representing every state in the union, Brewster says. “It will be so crowded on weekends that sometimes you can walk from boat to boat. But despite all the pressure, the lake still produces good fish—you can still get out there and catch a 10-pound bass. “
Howell tips his baseball cap to TVA on that score. “They take care of the lake, keeping it clean and managing water levels and keeping the grass under control,” he says. “We encourage everyone who fishes Lake Guntersville to catch, photograph and release—to help take care of the lake so that it remains one of the best in the country.”
It’s always a good time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters. Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.
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We've got plenty of fish-filled waters in the Tennessee Valley—31 reservoirs' worth, in fact. Find out more about where to point your prow to optimize your chances of landing your desired catch our fishing page.
Like to fish but bass just aren't your thing? No worries. The Tennessee Valley also offers excellent waters for the more meditative art of trout fishing. Find out where to go and what to do with our online guide to Valley trout fishing.
Developed by fishermen for fishermen, this plant-by-plant guide gives you all the information you need to understand when aquatic plants are most productive, where they grow and—most importantly—how to fish them. Click here to learn more about aquatic plants.