Grass will almost always be his top preference, but absent the vegetation, the river’s accumulation of logs and laydowns offer tempting targets.
Tactics vary based on cover and seasonality, of course, but Cook said his strong preference is flipping. Give him a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama escorted by a big weight and he’s a happy camper.
“Twelve months of the year, you can flip up there,” he said.
He’s also keen to throwing swimbaits, lipless baits, squarebills like the Spro Fat Papa and spinnerbaits. For the latter, Cook likes a 1/2-ounce double willow (gold/silver) bait with a chartreuse/white skirt. This setup does the job, but he keeps a couple of options handy to best fit the day’s deliverance.
“That’s as old as bass fishing, but a spinnerbait still catches them,” Cook said. “I don’t think you need to get super specific with a spinnerbait. I think the blades do most of the work.”
“If I’m fishing in an area without a lot of wood, I’ll put a Big Bite Baits 2.8 Pro Swimmer and a trailer hook on there,” he said. “A lot of times, if I’m getting tight up in the cover and throwing underneath overhanging branches, I won’t put a trailer hook on there because it will end up costing you too much time.
“Also, if you feel like you need to be throwing a spinnerbait, you don’t need a trailer hook; they’re going to eat it. If they don’t, you might want to throw a bladed jig or a crankbait.”
So, does Cook believe his preferred upriver haunts hold the juice? Can you win a major event — even a Classic — in that necked-down current?
“Hundred percent,” Cook said. “It definitely does hold enough fish to win a big tournament. On Day 2 of the Classic, I lost a 9-pounder and a 7-pounder. Both bit a Spro Aruku Shad (lipless bait). I saw both of those fish; I was reaching down to grab them when they got off. They just weren’t eating the bait well.”
Summarizing his motivation to keep running upriver in Guntersville tournaments, Cook makes this key point: It’s all about the probability.
“On Guntersville, the population of fish up there is not what it is down lake, but the lighter fishing pressure is what makes it easier. You have fewer fish upriver, but two thirds of them will bite vs. maybe one third down the lake.”