I’ve visited Alabama’s Smith Lake quite a few times over the years and it’s a fishery that I’m very fond of. It reminds me quite a bit of my adopted home lake of Table Rock, with the main difference being that Table Rock has a lot of big smallmouths. The bass in Smith, and especially the magnum spots, have ballooned over the past few years since the introduction of blueback herring and that has made it an incredibly vibrant fishery.
When I was heading to the lake I figured it was setting up to be a bed fishing tournament but the weather changed that in a hurry. Heavy rains muddied it up and raised the water, meaning that even those fish that remained on their beds couldn’t be seen. With that in mind I started targeting pre-spawn areas – behind docks, secondary points and all sorts of transition zones. I never went deeper than about 15 feet, but I had lots of bites and felt good heading into competition.
Unfortunately Day One was canceled due to a heavy line of violent storms that produced a lot more rain. The lake came up about three feet, which didn’t bother me, but I knew it would take some adjustments. My bait choices were pretty simple: In calm areas I threw a 1/8 ounce Lunker Lure shakey head with a green pumpkin Senko on the back. In windier areas I’d throw a ¼ ounce Lunker Lure shakey head with a green pumpkin Zoon Mag Finesse Worm on the back. Both were on 7’ medium-heavy Lew’s Custom Lite spinning rods with matching 3000-sized reels.
Those were the two lures that I’d narrowed it down to during practice and while they had produced 40 to 50 bites a day, I knew that it was going to be a challenge to top 12 pounds. On the first day of competition I had a 10 pound limit by 9:30, which put me right on track to hit that target weight. That gave me the freedom to keep on moving, trying to find a couple of kickers. There were some areas that I’d been keeping my eyes on but hadn’t practiced there because I didn’t want to accidentally sore mouth a fish that I’d need in competition. One of them was out on the main lake and moving there proved to be a good decision. Between 10:30 and 2pm I culled several times. Then I moved out into the 18 to 22 foot range, where I hadn’t practiced at all, and things got even better. My spot was loaded with 3 ½ pound spotted bass and I kept on culling.
The only problem was that before I’d finished out my limit that morning I’d caught a 2 pound largemouth that inexplicably died quickly. You can’t cull a dead fish, so I spent the afternoon throwing back 3 pound plus spotted bass that could’ve helped me quite a bit. On top of that I was assessed a 4 ounce penalty. I should’ve had 19 plus pounds, but instead I ended up with 16-13, which had me in 7th place.
Saturday was supposed to be only the top twelve fishing, but because of the cancellation of Day One the whole field got to go. It was sunny with very high winds. I knew that the deep fish were unlikely to bite under those conditions, but I hoped enough of them would still bite to grind on them all day. I caught a big one right out of the gate, and then struggled until about noon. I had five of those magnum spots hooked but only managed to put that first one in the boat, and I ended up weighing in only a small limit, which dropped me to 39th place.
I had a legitimate opportunity for 16 to 18 pounds that day, but I still don’t know what I did wrong. On Day One, fishing the exact same setup, I didn’t lose any. All I can figure is that the change in weather and pressure made them a little bit more finicky.
My success in this tournament would not have been possible without my Humminbird Onix units. Between the side scan and the down imaging, nothing gets by me anymore. I can locate key subtle spots while I’m fishing. Several of my bigger fish in this event came when I spotted isolated rocks off to the side, made a cast, and immediately looked up. This technology is amazing and it makes me a more efficient angler.
39th Place; 10 fish, 25-11