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Captain Phillip Criss Tells Why Lake Guntersville Holds So Many Big Bass

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Editor’s Note: Captain Phillip Criss of Scottsboro, Alabama, has been a more than two decade fishing buddy of mine for both bass and crappie – first at Miller’s Ferry and now at Lake Guntersville ( on the Tennessee River in north Alabama. Anglers across the South know of Criss’s bass-fishing expertise, and since he retired from his day job to Guntersville to guide and fish, I’ve wanted to go fishing with him. In mid-July, I finally had the chance.

Captain Phillip Criss Tells Why Lake Guntersville Holds So Many Big Bass - 4Guntersville Lake has a tremendous amount of back water areas that were created when the lake was backed up.

There are a lot of underwater creeks here at Guntersville, which is an extremely fertile lake. That fertility results in a tremendous number of shad being produced every year, and the bass feed on the shad.

Another major reason that Guntersville is such a great lake is we have a major abundance of grass, including milfoil and hydrilla. This grass provides hiding places for young bait fish and ambush points for predator fish like bass. To a casual observer, every place on the lake looks like it should be holding bass. But the real key to fishing Guntersville is learning to use your depth finder and fishing underwater structure.

The banks attract inexperienced bass fishermen.

However, the underwater structure in the lake is where most of the big bass are caught. I know a lot of people think that bass move into deep water in the summertime, because the water is hot, and there’s cooler water down deep. But I’m convinced bass also go deep in the summer months to get the sun out of their eyes, so they can see and attack bait fish better. I’ve heard and read that the optimum temperature for bass is 92 degrees. I believe this is true, because that’s when I see the most bass chasing shad on the surface, and that’s the temperature at which the bass seem to bite best.

Captain Phillip Criss Tells Why Lake Guntersville Holds So Many Big Bass - 3When the grass gets really high in the lake, the bass will pull up and hold in the grass in 6 to 8 feet of water. That’s when punching holes in the grass with a heavy jig or fishing a frog across the top of the grass can really be productive. Another element of structure in the lake that many anglers never consider is the springs in the bottom of the lake. They produce cool water in the summertime and warm water in the wintertime.

Usually, there’s a ditch associated with the springs. When the springs were above water, the water running from the springs created trenches and ditches. In many sections of the lake, the ditches associated with the springs will be in the deepest water in an area. So, this is one of the reasons that ditches and underwater creeks seem to pay off best in the wintertime and the summertime. At this time of the year, I’ll use my side scanning depth finder to look for structure. Often, I’ll fish that structure well away from the grass and the bank.

To contact Captain Phillip Criss about fishing Lake Guntersville, call him at 205-461-5549, or email him atCaptain Phillip Criss Tells Why Lake Guntersville Holds So Many Big Bass - 1 [email protected].

To learn more about bass fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and print books, “How to Bass Fish Like a Pro,” “How to Win a Bass Tournament,” “Catch the Most and Biggest Bass in Any Lake: 18 Pro Fishermen’s Best Tactics, “Hot Weather Bass Tactics” and “How to Become A Tournament Bass Fisherman.” Click here to get these books.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors.

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