HUDDLESTON, Va. – Throughout the first day of competition in the EverStart Northern Division on Smith Mountain Lake, the sun came out and the wind laid down - making for near perfect sight-fishing conditions. Although many of the anglers in the first flight struggled, the latter flights took full advantage of their longer days, including the current leader Joseph Wood of Westport, Mass., who caught 18 pounds, 13 ounces today.
Wood planned to do some sight-fishing and wasn’t pleased with the gusty wind that stuck around from a mild cold front that passed through last night. But he persevered.
“My day started off terribly,” said Wood. “The first fish I started on was so locked on the bed that it was practically turned over on its back. When I hooked her, my line broke and I couldn’t get it to bite again. The next fish I went to I broke off too. It took me a while to find some other fish because of the wind, but around 11 o’clock I caught my first fish.”
Getting a big bite on this lake is crucial, and that is exactly what Wood did.
“I found my big one (5-10) and (had to work on) her for over an hour,” Wood continued. “She bumped a drop-shot after about 20 minutes of working her, but then she got spooky. I switched up baits and finally got her to eat.”
Wood is sight-fishing but not necessarily for fish on beds. He has been targeting some of the cruising bass as well, making repeated casts in front of the fish until they bite.
The one thing Wood noticed was the amount of pressure his prime fishing locations received today.
“There were guys on everything today. I really think that pressure is going to get to these fish in the clear water. I might switch it up and try to fish some of the dirtier water tomorrow; I’ll see how I feel in the morning. It’s just tough to leave areas where you can see good fish swimming in front of you.”
Johnston, Sheffey Jr. tied for second
Johnston figured that this lake could get beat up pretty quickly so he decided to practice in a way that would help him avoid that.
“I spent a lot of time in practice trying to find areas that were out of the way,” said Johnston. “I really put my time in and it seemed to pay off today.”
Johnston also did some sight-fishing, but took a different approach for his key bites.
“I did a bit of sight-fishing today to catch the two smallmouth I weighed,” Johnston went on to say. “I have a couple spots that are loaded with prespawn bass, but they are hard to get to bite. I just kept covering water. I hit probably 80 spots and have no gas left in my boat.
“I have a deck full of rods and most of them are for sight-fishing, only two of them are for prespawners," Johnston continued. "If they don’t eat of those two baits then they can starve because I don’t want any more rods on my deck.”
Most of the fish that Johnston has on bed are smallies. He says they are more of a filler fish for him as he wants to spend more time on the bigger, fatter prespawn largemouth.
Donald Sheffey Jr. of Concord, Va., sits locked in a tie with Johnston after bringing 18-4 across the stage today. He is playing the sight-fishing game this week as well.
Sheffey Jr. started his day by catching a 4-pounder off of a wind-blown point on a spinnerbait. After that he went to work catching his next four keepers off of beds – including two nice smallmouth. By 11 a.m. he had the weight he brought in for the day.
“I had my limit pretty early and then decided to try and look for another pattern,” said Sheffey Jr. “I threw a swimbait around and a shaky head by some docks but never got any bites. I only caught five spawners from my areas and I didn’t have much boat traffic near me, so there should be some more fish left.”
Johnston's brother in fourth
In similar fashion to his brother, Johnston also spent the majority of his time going after prespawn bass.
“I went bed fishing early. A few of the ones I wanted I got beat to. I think I only kept one fish from sight-fishing," said Johnston. "I spent the rest of the day catching prespawners. I ran a ton of water, maybe 70 places, and I knew that most of them had a good fish or two around the area. I even think that a few of the fish I caught today were post-spawn because of how skinny and beat up they looked.”
Like many of the anglers chasing cruising fish, Johnston says that they are hard to catch and that he can only get them to bite in certain places on the lake.
“Tomorrow I may try to pick one or two off beds, but I want to spend the majority of my time going after those prespawners.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros after day one of the EverStart Series event on Smith Mountain Lake:
6th: Philip Jarabeck of Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 17-5
7th: John Vanore of Mullica Hill, N.J., 17-1
8th: Ron Nelson of Berrien Springs, Mich., five bass, 16-15
9th: Trevis Towe of Daleville, Va., five bass, 16-13
10th: Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., five bass, 16-5
Burdette in co-angler top spot
“I was fortunate enough to get paired with Brandon Coulter who was on some fish,” said Burdette. “He was fishing the way I like to by covering water looking for prespawn fish.”
Burdette did catch some smallmouth today, but culled them out of his bag before the end of the day.
Having experience on Smith Mountain and being able to fish here often, Burdette noticed that he could catch them the same way he has for the past week. So what might that be?
“I’ll tell you how I ‘m catching them maybe tomorrow or Saturday,” laughed Burdette. “Tomorrow should be a lot like today weather wise so I’m excited to get back out there.”
He spent most of his day blind casting to the bank because his pro was trying to sight-fish. He does think that some of the fish he weighed may have been on bed because when he got a bite, the fish simply was swimming off with the bait in its mouth.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers after day one:
3rd: Scott Howard of Evington, Va., five bass, 11-1
4th: Jerry Gray of Glen Allen, Va., five bass, 10-4
5th: Manuel Cruz of Clifton, N.J., four bass, 10-0
6th: Wil Dieffenbauch of Hundred, W.V., five bass, 9-9
7th: Thomas Hassler of Strasburg, Va., five bass, 9-4
8th: Justin Hicks of Roanoke, Va., three bass, 9-0
9th: Chris Schomaker of Pineville, W.V., five bass, 8-12
10th: Andy Dick of Wilmington, Del., three bass, 8-9
Day two of the EverStart Northern Division on Smith Mountain Lake will begin Friday at 7 a.m. from Parkway Marina, located at 16817 Smith Mountain Lake Parkway in Huddleston, Va.