Beatin' the Bank with Bernie Schultz - 2019 Lake Guntersville BASS Elite

Beatin' the Bank with Bernie Schultz - 2019 Lake Guntersville BASS Elite

My record on Lake Guntersville is solid. I’ve had a number of high finishes there that included some 25-plus pound stringers, and I’ve caught them in a variety of ways.

The one thing that factored into nearly all those catches was vegetation.

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Texas Fest B.A.S.S. Elite

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Texas Fest B.A.S.S. Elite

When B.A.S.S. announced Lake Fork as site of this year’s Texas Fest, every angler in the field immediately thought of big bass. Because of good management and strict catch-and-release regulations, trophy bass are abundant on Lake Fork, and this year’s event certainly proved it.

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Winyah Bay BASS Elite

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Winyah Bay BASS Elite

Of all the events slated on this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, none was more concerning than Winyah Bay. Serving as the confluence to numerous rivers, this South Carolina tidal system can be unpredictable and stingy … even when the conditions seem right.

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Lake Hartwell BASS Elite

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Lake Hartwell BASS Elite

Of all the events listed on this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, I was most optimistic about this one.

That may come as a shock to some of you since my favorite fishery — the St. Lawrence River — is also on the schedule. And you know how much I like that place.

The reason I wanted Hartwell was the timing. It fell dead on the spawn, and I love to sight fish. And with more than 56,000 surface acres, I knew I’d find somewhere to fish by myself.

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Lake Lanier BASS Elite

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 Lake Lanier BASS Elite

At nearly 40,000 surface acres, Lake Lanier is spacious and welcoming. Its beautifully sculpted shorelines feature countless points, pockets and coves — all comprised of rock, sand or clay.

The main body of the lake is deep and clear but to the north, the rivers feeding Lanier flow with a chalky stain.

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 St. Johns River BASS Elite

Beatin' the Bank: 2019 St. Johns River BASS Elite

Fishing in February on the St. Johns River can mean feast or famine, rarely anything in between. It’s all dependent on the weather. If a severe cold front moves in, forget about it. But if temperatures are on the rise, you better make sure your tackle is up to the task.

Beatin’ The Bank with Bernie Schultz: Lessons Learned 2018

Beatin’ The Bank with Bernie Schultz: Lessons Learned 2018

When B.A.S.S. first released the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule, I saw plenty of opportunity. Most of the venues seemed perfectly suited to my style of fishing, and I was anxious to get things rolling.

Unfortunately, with each passing event that optimism faded. In the end, I was left with the worst season of my 30-plus-year career.