Lake Guntersville world renowned for bass fishing
Guntersville, Ala., the seat of Marshall County, was founded by humorist Will Rogers' great-grandfather, who married the daughter of a Cherokee chief and gave the tribe salt from his mine in exchange for the land in the early 1800s.
The city is at the Tennessee River's southernmost point on Lake Guntersville, which was formed when the Tennessee Valley Authority built Guntersville Dam. All but a handful of buildings in the town were destroyed by Union troops in January 1865.
Fishing is among the most popular outdoor activities in the nation, and about one out of three anglers fish for bass.
Many wish they could do so on Lake Guntersville, which is renowned for its large bass population and the size of those fish. Other popular species in the lake are sauger, crappie, catfish and bream.
"Other than the two weeks before and after Christmas, there are no less than 10 big tournaments on the lake at any time," guide Mike Gerry said. "Weekend after weekend, a lot of clubs or organizations are bringing their big tournaments down here."
The top two professional series -- BASS and FLW -- have made the lake a regular stop on their various tours, with top prizes ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, depending on the event.
Professional anglers Kevin Hawk and Justin Lucas recently relocated from California to near Lake Guntersville so they could improve their abilities and take advantage of what Field and Stream magazine has called one of the top 10 fishing towns in America.
Gerry has been fishing on the lake for more than 35 years and has been a professional guide for nearly 15.
"It just breeds big tournaments and big money and a lot of people," Gerry said. "The X-factor is the grass. When people in other parts of the country have to fish deep, the grass holds fish up close, which means you can fish [in depths of] 10 feet or less 12 months of the year."
The certified record for a largemouth bass pulled out of Lake Guntersville is 14 pounds, 8 ounces.
AT A GLANCE
• Population: 8,611.
• Best things to do/places to visit: Fishing at Lake Guntersville is world renowned.
• Biggest employers: Pilgrim's Pride and AlaTrade are the top teo employers in Marshall County.
• Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 85.
• Landmarks or geographic features: Lake Guntersville, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Guntersville Museum and Cultural Center.
• Date founded: 1836.
• Historic info: Cherokee Indians settled in the area. The area is named for John Gunter, a Scottish settler who established the town after the American Revolution. The Tennessee Valley Authority created Guntersville Lake in 1939.
• Most-famous resident: John Allen Wyeth, former president of the American Medical Association, was born here in 1845. He was an ancestor of American artist Andrew Wyeth.
• Odd/unique traditions: At sunset, thousands of bats emerge from a cave near Lake Guntersville Lock and Dam that can be accessed only by boat. The annual Fourth of July celebration includes fireworks shot from the dam.
• Best-kept secret and fun fact: Will Rogers' great-grandfather was John Gunter, who was the first white person to settle in what is now Marshall County. Lake Guntersville has about 890 miles of shoreline and 67,900 acres of water surface.