By Zell Rowland

Bass fans and pros like to reminisce about the greatest fishing performances of all time. When they ask me about the best I’ve ever seen, I tell them, “Hell, it was me!”

Of course, I don’t mention that the performances I witness usually take place on my own boat. Still, two of my Bassmaster wins on Lake Guntersville would have to rank high on anyone’s list of amazing performances.

47 over five: Bassmaster 2005 Tour Event #3
Those who have followed my career most likely remember my Bassmaster win on Guntersville on 2005. It “wowed” the crowd. It “wowed” my cameraman. Heck, it even “wowed” me.

I found a wad of 5-pounders schooled up like shad around a dock. Four flippin’ sticks lay on my deck that day. I made four consecutive flips with those four different rods and had 20 pounds of bass in the boat.

I didn’t make a fifth flip at that dock. My cameraman and I started running to areas where I knew I could repeat the scenario. When we pulled into new water, I could tell you which dock I would catch them on before I made a single flip.

I’ve never shared the secret to my success that day, and I don’t intend to do it now, either. I even put the cameraman on a dock and had him shoot his footage from there so no one could see the docks I was fishing.

That pattern led to a catch of 47 bass weighing more than 5-pounds. The cameraman said, “That’s the most incredible thing I have ever seen in my life!”

Buoyed hopes: Bassmaster 1991 Invitational (April 10-12, 1991)
But believe it or not, even that performance takes a back seat to what happened during my second career win, a three-day Bassmaster event on Lake Guntersville in 1991.

That was back in the day when a pro drew another pro partner, and for Day One at the Alabama Invitational, I drew a fellow from Mexico named Raoul.

Day One
I had experience on Guntersville and I pretty much knew it would take 20 pounds a day to be in the running. Raoul and I flipped a coin to see whose boat we would use.  I lost. Then we tossed again for whose spot we would fish first, and Raoul won that flip, too!.

I was off to a bad start before we had even launched. He wanted to fish a worm on a Carolina rig on a spot that I knew had no fish on it. I was right, and we didn’t have a fish in the boat at 9:30.

“We are getting our brains beat here,” I said. “We need to do something.”

But pride or some thought other than catching fish was stewing in him. Raoul insisted that he had the right to fish this stretch for his half day, but by 11:30 a.m. even he was licked. He said that he was ready to try my fish on my spot.

But by this time, he had made me so mad that I refused to take him to my fishing hole. We stayed at Raoul’s spot and I weighed in two fish for about 3 pounds. Raoul didn’t weigh in a fish.

Day Two
The next day, I drew a schoolteacher who lived near Guntersville. I wasn’t going to work myself into a lather again. I told him that we would fish whatever and wherever he wanted to fish – and out of his boat, too.

To my surprise, he said, “No, I will ride with you.”

He had weighed in about 12 pounds the day before, so when he said that he knew a place where we could catch a quick limit, I agreed. Yeah, we caught fish – a couple of 12-inchers.

While we were fishing, however, my eye kept drifting to a white buoy floating in the middle of the bay. I asked several times what the structure was around that buoy. He finally told me that it indicated a high spot, a hump that topped out at 6 or 8 feet, but on the front side dropped off to 30 feet. I asked him if he ever caught fish off that deep side, but he ignored me and said we should fish a point off the island on the other side of the buoy. “We can catch a limit of 3-pounders there,” he said.

Well, we hadn’t caught the limit he had promised from his first spot, but I agreed and we headed toward the point. As we neared the buoy, though, I stopped dead on the drop-off and said, “Let’s just try a few casts here.”

I kept drilling him with questions about the spot while we fished. He said it held an old dead submerged log. That prompted me to move onto the flat. I cast the Carolina rig, felt the log and promptly caught a 5-pounder that I was glad to drop into the livewell.

Moments later, I set the hook on a second fish. I felt the line wrap around him as he rolled over. He started swimming, stripping drag. I couldn’t turn him and, like an idiot, thumbed the spool too tightly and broke him off.

After I re-rigged, I caught five more bass over 5 pounds. Then I caught a 10-pounder!

All this time, the schoolteacher didn’t get a single bite. He fished the spot side-by-side with me as I caught each fish that followed, too. Yet he caught not a one.

He wanted to know if I was kissing or spitting on that lizard or pulling off some sort of black magic. But all I can say is that it was my turn, my day.

I weighed in more than 30 pounds that second day. Even more important, I went from almost last place up to first. The schoolteacher was gracious, and he told me to go back to the same spot the next day, the final day of the tournament. “That’s your spot,” I said. “I can’t do that.”

But he insisted, I accepted…and another thought began to take hold in me: “I can win $35,000 if I go back there.”

Day Three
Unfortunately, the schoolteacher must have told every friend he had about what I had done. When I rounded the turn to our spot on Day Three, three boats were already beating it to death.

I just made a U-turn and left. We headed to a spot where I was confident that I could catch a 5-pounder, and after about 30 minutes of fishing, I did.

Still, I couldn’t get my mind off the white buoy and the spot I had fished the day before. I wondered what brought the fish there and kept analyzing everything I could remember about the spot.

The one thing that stood out was that a T-channel swung up against that 6- to 8-foot hump. Suddenly I remembered another spot just like it, and when we rolled up, it was just like I had remembered.

After eight or 10 casts I had more than 25 pounds in the boat, and won the tournament. Like I always say, when it’s your time, it’s your time.