Phillip Criss is a guide on Lake Guntersville, Alabama where the 2014 Bassmaster Classic is being held February 21 to 23. He fishes the lake every week of the year, sometimes as often as five or six days each week.

Bass and crappie fishermen know Phillip Criss of Scottsboro, Alabama, as one of the top guides in the Southeast. When OutdoorHub asked Criss how he thought the 2014 Classic would be won, he answered, “I believe the Classic will be won using one of two lures, either a swimbait or a jig.”

Criss said if he was fishing in the Classic, he’d fish the riprap on the Brown’s Creek Causeway. “Since I’ve been guiding up here, the biggest catches of bass have been caught on the inside bank of the Brown’s Creek Causeway, at this time of the year,” Criss explains. “Bass tend to move vertically up and down rock structure in February, because the sun heats up the rocks. Some of the warmest water in the lake will be where the sun is heating up the rocks, and the rocks transfer that heat into the water. The water on the Causeway drops off about 20 feet deep. So, the bass can move up and down on these Causeway rocks, depending on the depth where they find the warmest water.”

Many anglers consider the Alabama rig (an umbrella-type device with five swimbaits in a cluster) the hottest lure on the lake since its invention. However, anglers can’t fish multiple-lure rigs like the Alabama during the 2014 Classic.

According to Criss, “I believe a big swimbait on a 3/4-ounce jig head will win the tournament.” The hottest color swimbait on Guntersville Lake has been royal shad, a consistent producer ever since the swimbait has been introduced. But most fishermen are convinced that any color that resembles a shad will be a bass-catching swimbait during the Classic. Anglers will probably be fishing the swimbait fairly fast to try and get a reaction strike from the bass in the warmer water.

“If the weather is really cold, hopping a jig down the riprap at Brown’s Creek also will be a deadly bass-catching tactic,” Criss reports. “The bass, the shad, and the crawfish all will be holding on those rocks. If the bass don’t want a fast moving bait like a large swimbait, they’ll probably eat a smaller slow moving bait like the jig. I’m convinced that in the 2014 Classic, at least one of the contestants fishing those rocks should at least be in the top 10, if he doesn’t win the Classic.”

Watch a video with 2014 Bassmaster Classic contender David Kilgore on the one bait he’s betting will be successful during the tournament in the video below:

Register to win one of 10 copies to be given away of John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBook, How to Win a Bass Tournament: Personal Lessons from 8 Pro Bass FishermenClick here (will open a new email in your default email software) to submit your choice for who will win the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. Those who answer correctly will have their names put together and a random drawing made for the winners.

Image courtesy John Phillips

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