Smith Lake Open
I just got back to town from the BASS Open on Smith Lake and saw a lot water that I’ve never seen before. The depth finder reads 200 feet most of the time when you’re running and most of the docks are in a minimum of 50 feet.
I’m used to fishing 3 feet, so Smith Lake took a little getting used to.
I began practicing on Wednesday and recent rains had many of the buckbrush, willows, and laydowns submerged. The water was slightly stained in the backs of the creeks where I concentrated on for largemouth. Within the first hour of practice, I pulled in an 18 inch Kentucky with a spinnerbait and started feeling comfortable.
I began running shallow water and found them in a lot of places with a green pumpkin jig, sexy shad crankbait, a Revenge deep runner spinnerbait in chartreuse shad, and a green pumpkin lizard with the tail dipped in chartreuse JJ’s Magic Dye. It seems like all the fish like a little chartreuse for some reason. My guess is that the panfish actually have a chartreuse tail. I noticed it when one of them tried to eat my spinnerbait and followed it to the boat.
I tried different patterns there every day and caught literally 50 fish a day. The only problem was that most of them were under the 15 inch minimum and the bigger fish came from shallower water. For Smith Lake, shallow means getting into the back of creek where you’re sitting in 10 to 15 feet of water and throwing into about 3 to 4 feet of water.
The fish I was catching were just moving out from spawning and not all the way back in the creek. I had several places where I had caught a limit of 15 inch fish in an half an hour.
The final day of practice, I decided to find some places near the dam where the tournament would come out of to have a place to catch some last minute fish if I needed it. The way practice went, I didn’t think I’d need it but was checking just in case.
I found 3 points near the dam where the fish schooled every morning and caught them on an 1/8 spot remover with green pumpkin Zoom Speed Craw or Finesse Worm tipped with chartreuse JJ’s Magic Dye.
I told my co angler that we were gonna have a limit within the first hour. In the future I’ll keep my mouth shut.
The first day of the tournament I started on one of those points near the ramp and the fish were schooling everywhere. They wouldn’t eat my spook but I managed to catch a 3 pound largemouth on the shaky head. After the first hour, those fish turned off and I figured it was time to go shallow.
I ran to my first spot in a creek and started fishing where I had been catching them before. I should’ve noticed that the water had dropped a foot and a half and started further towards the mouth of the creek. I caught one keeper largemouth and proceeded to my supposedly best spot which was up river.
All the cover that I was fishing was out of the water here and didn’t get a bite. I run to the back of another creek way up river and catch another keeper largemouth. My co angler had a 3 pound largemouth follow his bait back to boat and just turn away. I forgot to tell him that a lot of my bites came from swimming a lizard back to the boat… oh well.
I run back down river and try a few other points for some Kentucky’s but couldn’t get another bite.
I end up with just 5 and a half pounds but it was still good enough for 48th place.
I came up with a game plan for day 2 and decided I wasn’t going to beat anyone fishing like a yankee. I was gonna spend more time flipping and try to beat everyone fishing the way I like to.
I started out on a point near the launch site for day 2 just like I did for the first day and caught another nice keeper on the shaky head. My co angler catches one on a clear Super Spook and I decided they were gonna hit topwater today. I start throwing my Sammy and catch 3 fish but they were all short.
By 9 o’clock, I decided it was time to flippin and proceeded again to my best creek but started more towards the mouth where the water was little deeper. I catch a nice keeper largemouth right away as well as my co angler. At that point, I decided I was gonna finish out the day here.
The only problem was that I started missing fish. I probably got 7 bites and lost all of them. They were just biting the lizard weird and my lizard would come back with the tail missing half the time.
They weren’t small fish neither. I moved a few of the fish on the hookset to see they were keepers. I had a guy named Shawn Strader staying next to us at the Super 8 and he mentioned that the shallow fish get real spooky when they drop the water real fast and I think he was right.
The water had risen 3 feet and stained when I first arrived at Smith Lake but was clear and lower by 3 feet when the tournament started. I need to keep in mind that shallow fish get real spooky when this happens. I do recall spooking a couple of three pounders when I’d pitch that lizard by the laydown. They didn’t want anything to do with it. They would attack that thing earlier in the week.
I probably should’ve made the audible and pitched a weightless white fluke or a green pumpkin senko. May I should’ve thrown parallel to the bank but landing the bait past the target and swam it back. All I can say was that they were spooky.
I had the fish located but things just didn’t pan out. I wasted so much time in Coon Creek that I didn’t have enough time to catch that fish my co angler left behind at the Bear Branch the day before and that probably cost me a check.
This is one case where a fast boat would’ve saved me some money.
The fishing style here is a run and gun style. It’s a lot different here in Florida where you camp out in a spot most of the day.
If I fish another tournament here I’d probably do the same thing. I’d find a point near the launch where I can capitalize on the morning schooling and then go find largemouth. I would however throw a lot more topwater than I did.
The topwater baits that worked the best were spooks and buzzbaits. I don’t know why it never occured to me to throw a buzzbait but I figured the spook was just as good.
Another thing I’d do is burn every moving bait I fished. It seems like they just liked everything fast.
I ran nearly the entire lake, but never did make it to Crooked Creek where Gerald Swindle was fishing for largemouth. He led the tournament for 2 days and says he lost a boat load of fish the last day to lose.
I also checked out the very north end of Ryan Creek the first day I got there but it was downright muddy. I had an inkling to check it out the day before the tournament but never made it back over there. It sounds like that’s where many of the top finishers including eventual winner, Andy Montgomery, fished.
One of the techniques I learned while fishing here is throwing a swimbait under a dock and counting down to 20 before retrieving it back to the boat. I gotta admit I was stumped on fishing docks that were 50 to 100 feet deep. You can’t throw a worm in there… it would take forever to hit the bottom. The fish were actually suspended in 12 to 15 feet of water under these docks and even if you didn’t let it sink enough, the water was clear enough that the bass would follow the bait out.
I also saw some things on my Lowrance that I’ve never seen before. When sonar hits rock, the surface is so hard that you actually see a echo. I’d never seen this before and thought my unit was going all out of whack for a while until I figured it out.
The fish here seem to relate more to long tapering underwater points with rock and this echo thing made it a lot easier to locate the right points.
It also appears that fish get on docks during the post spawn in Alabama. I was just stumped a little with them sitting in 5o to 100 feet. I doubt I’ll ever see it again but I’ll know what to do next time.
Another technique I learned was throwing a wacky worm into fry. It’s a great way to catch bass guarding fry. It worked real well in practice but never did get to utilize this during the tournament.
I really feel I had enough fish located to at least make the top 30 and blew it my making the wrong decisions. It also didn’t help losing all those fish on day 2 but they were just biting weird. I probably could’ve did something a little different to actually catch those fish but really don’t know for sure since they don’t have places where they drop the water a lot in Florida and I don’t have too much experience with it yet.
The only thing about Smith Lake is that I’m paying my dues. I got my butt kicked again but ready for the next event on Seminole.
I also met a lot of neat people.
One of them was my co angler from day 2, JJ Pollack of JJ’s Magic Dye fame. He’s a heck of a nice guy and fun fishing partner with lots of advice. He also gave me a Froggee Buzzer that I’m dying to try out on Toho. Spots love chartreuse tails and I went through quite a bit of JJ’s dye during the week.
There was also a guy fishing the tournament as a co angler who calls himself T-Money who offered to split gas and oil if I took him out when I pulled up to the ramp. I was broke, so I was like heck yeah… just be prepared to go sun up until sun down. He’s a little out there but loves to fish.
I also ran into Capt. Don Lewis who guides on Bienville Plantation which is supposedly some famous phosphate pit in North Florida.
There’s also Shawn Shrader who’s been at this game for a long time and staying next door. Every night we’d shoot the shit and knock down a few cold ones back at the Super 8.
I met a lot of neat people this week and got my butt kicked. I managed a 65th place showing which isn’t good for anything. There’s always next time.
One of these days I’ll show those pro’s who they’re dealing with.