Editor’s Note: On a fishing trip with Scott Jernigan and Phillip Criss on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama, we caught plenty of fish. Scott has been a crappie/bass fishing guide for 15 years and has fished for crappie on Guntersville for all his life. Phillip Criss has been a bass-fishing guide for 43 years, and we’ve fished together for the last 30 years. I learned a new technique from them for fishing for crappie and bass. An interesting part of my education while at Lake Guntersville is that I saw and had an opportunity to fish with a Lowrance ActiveTarget Live Sonar (https://www.lowrance.com/activetarget/). Much of what I learned on this trip can be applied throughout the U.S. to catch crappie and bass. Also many of these same patterns will work on other lakes throughout the country, year-round.
John E. Phillips: Phillip Chris bass fishes all year long on Lake Guntersville – sometimes five days a week during the spring and until the air temperature reaches 90 degrees. Then he usually fishes three days a week. I asked if he fished every season of the year.
Phillip Criss: I start bass fishing generally in August, which is when the best schooling-bass action begins. Schooling action goes from August to mid-October, and then the bass start moving back into the creeks. I have found schools of bass at that time of the year where the bass will weigh from 5-6 pounds and some even more. Many of the schooling bass we catch then will be 3-pounders, which produce plenty of bites for anglers. A few places on the lake you’ll discover 5-6 pounders schooled together. When we get into the bigger bass, we’ll fish a big jig or a big swimbait. We’ll fish all three depths of schooling bass when they’re on top of the water, once they drop down to the middle depth and suspend and when they move to the bottom. I’ll be fishing a popping bait or a Zara Spook (https://www.lurenet.com/heddon-zara-spook) when the bass are on top. When the school quits feeding on top, I’ll generally throw a hair jig. In the fall of the year, I’ll use a search bait or a crankbait. During the fall, the bass will be roaming. Wherever you find bait, is where you’ll locate bass in the fall. Chatterbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits and spinner baits are the primary lures I fish in the fall. In December, January and February, many of the guides and myself will be fishing a Rat-L-Trap (https://rat-l-trap.com/product-category/rat-l-trap/) and sometimes a chatterbait. But putting down the Rat-L-Trap during the winter is tough. One of the best winter bassing techniques is to swim the Rat-L-Trap over the underwater grass. At whichever depth the bass attack the Rat-L-Trap, that’s where most of your bass will be holding.
Phillips: I fish with Phillip Criss for bass throughout the year, and I’ve never been disappointed. Believe it or not, from December to the end of February, you can have an unbelievable day of catching big wintertime bass that are prespawn. At that time of the year, catching and releasing 30-100 bass in a day isn’t uncommon. You may catch your biggest bass of the year then. However, during late spring and summer, on some days we may catch 20-30 weighing up to 5 or 6 pounds, with the average being 3-4 pounds. Let’s face it, Lake Guntersville is one of the best bass lakes in the country, and Phillip Criss is one of the top bassing guides on Lake Guntersville. Too, many of these same patterns will work on other lakes throughout the country.
You can reach Phillip Criss at firstname.lastname@example.org; 205-461-5549. To contact Jernigan, you can call Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle (http://waterfrontbaygrocery.com/, 256-582-6060); or at: 706-575-7239. You also can email him at email@example.com or go to his Facebook page: Scott Jernigan (https://www.facebook.com/scott.jernigan.31).
To learn more about bass fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008BVVO8M/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p4_i6. You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free. On the right side of the Audible page for this book and below the offer for free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible with one click.