Cochran Says Punching Will be Key at Guntersville

Published on 10-06-2023

By Pete Robbins
Educated anglers know that it’s going to take at least a 7-pounder to win at the upcoming Big Bass Tour event on Lake Guntersville, as it has every fall. The main question is how much heavier a fish will need to be to claim the top prize. Last year there was a 9.39, an 8.52, and three more over 7, while 2021 featured just two bass over 7-pounds. This is a tournament where the next cast can produce glory.
Veteran Guntersville angler Lonnie Cochran said that “next cast” should probably be a flip. 
“The winner will probably flip or frog and the frog bite is hit or miss,” he said. “You can catch some if you put it in your hand and stick with it all day, but punching is probably more consistent, and right now you can do it all over the lake.”
The areas he’d target would be were there was a mix of milfoil, hydrilla and coontail and the season’s rapidly changing conditions could affect which mats come into play.
“They’ve already pulled the lake down,” he explained. “I think it’s a little early for that, but it’s possible they’ve sucked it down to where they’re going to leave it. If we get rain and it beats the mats down, it could change which ones you can flip. That might move the fish to where you can catch them on swimbaits like the Berkley Nessie in scattered grass, or maybe even some topwater.”
As fall approaches, “those fish want to go shallow,” he said. “They want to leave the river channel and get into the creeks, but there should still be some fish out deep, too. I’ve been catching some fish on an Alabama Rig using a small Berkley The Champ Swimmer on plain ballhead jigs.”
If looking for one bite, though, he’d put the big stick in his hand and go to work. He likes the Berkley Pit Boss and the Crash Craw to penetrate the heavy canopies, typically in Black and Blue or Blue Craw. “Color doesn’t make a huge difference,” he stated. “They’re in there where nothing else is getting to them, so they react. At times, if there are shad in there with them, you can even punch with a white bait.” He’ll usually start with a 1 or 1.5 ounce tungsten punching weight, but won’t hesitate to upsize to a 2-ounce model if the mats are too thick.
One place where he often differs from other anglers is his line choice. He’ll use Berkley 50 pound test X5 braid when fish are aggressive, because it cuts the grass better than X9, but when fish are skittish or otherwise highly pressured, he prefers 20 pound test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon.
“I’ve fished in the boat with some really good fishermen when they were using braid and I was using fluorocarbon, punching the same bait, and the fluoro got more bites. The grass filters the water and it’s clearer underneath there than away from it, but it’s not just the visibility. In addition to seeing it, they hear it, and that turns them off. I’ve thrown that same fluorocarbon in thick hyacinths at Eufaula and never had a problem with it.”
While this can be a tough time of year anywhere in the south, but Cochran noted that Guntersville has “been really good this year, with lots of 6- to 8-pounders there. If the frog bite turns on, we could even see a 9- or 10-pounder.” He’d expect the top three to five fish to weigh around 8 pounds. 
The other challenge, of course, is figuring out a way to get paid on the hour, with judiciously weighed 4- and 5-pound bass likely to earn checks. Pay attention to the live leaderboard to make sure you maximize our payouts.