JASPER, Ala. – As the field of 169 anglers took to the water to start the second Walmart FLW Tour stop of the season on Smith Lake, the question stood as to whether spotted bass or largemouths would take the spotlight. With the lake featuring an abundance of spotted bass, the other question was just how dominant could a Western angler be on Smith?
With little surprise, rising to the top after day one was Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler – aka the Meter Man. Ehrler, who knows a thing or two about catching spotted bass, brought in a 17-pound, 8-ounce limit comprised of all spots – one of only two limits to break the 17-pound mark.
Coming off of a second-place finish at the FLW Tour event on Okeechobee, Ehrler is back on a body of water that is more in his comfort range. And in classic Ehrler style, he continues to learn new things about his pattern during tournament hours.
“I’m fortunate to have what I weighed in today,” said the Redlands, Calif., pro. “My weight doesn’t really reflect just how hard these fish were to come by. I actually caught some of my better fish off a spot I found in practice but never caught one from. I marked fish on my Humminbirds but just couldn’t get one to bite. Today, I was in that same area and figured that spot looked so good I need to stop on it and they started biting. Everything lined up for me and I caught three good ones from there and left them biting.
“I spent the rest of my day practicing and didn’t really find anything else,” Ehrler went on to say. “I didn’t find anything when I ran around the rest of the day, but I did eliminate some things that I think will help me fine-tune what I’m doing.”
Ehrler was reluctant to disclose what tactics put fish in the boat today, but did mention that he thinks one of the keys to getting bites was timing. He feels he pulled up on the right places at the right times today, and hopes this is something he can build on further into the event.
“I had a longer day today which really helps you relax - you just don’t feel as much pressure. Tomorrow, though, I’m going to have a shorter day which worries me because this lake seems to really feel the pressure from anglers. Yesterday was an off day from fishing so the lake had some time to relax and the fish seemed to bite well today. I just don’t know what to expect for tomorrow.
"Tomorrow I just want to catch five, then I can go look for new water."
“I have a good place to catch some spots early and I’d say I had a limit not long after my 10 minute run from takeoff,” said Lefebre. “My main plan is to fish for spots early then try and catch a few largemouths the rest of the day.”
His plan is pretty simple – get big bites. To help aid in this plan, Lefebre is throwing big baits to his spotted bass trying to elicit only big strikes. Making long casts to these fish with the bigger baits helps to get bites.
“I never caught many big spots in practice,” the Erie, Pa., pro said. “I caught some 2 ½- to 3-pounders during practice. I just figured with those kinds of fish in the area there had to be some bigger ones that the bait just wasn’t getting to. That’s why it’s a great feeling to have caught some nice ones on a bigger bait.”
Lefebre is keeping most of his secrets under lock and key when it comes to his spotted bass and largemouths. There have been plenty of remarks about how largemouths can’t hold up to pressure each day of the tournament, but Lefebre is optimistic.
“I definitely think that there are more largemouths in the places I’m fishing. I flew through those areas today. I broke off a 5-pounder and had another 5-pounder jump off. The largemouth thing for me is a pattern. The places I found in practice that produced fish didn’t pan out today so I just went fishing where I thought the fish would be moving to.”
The Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes pro also reinforced the notion that Smith is an excellent pattern-fishing lake. He says that once you are fortunate to get a bite or two you can pattern the fish pretty quick.
The pattern Hauser is fishing was discovered way back in prepractice. On his first official practice day this week Hauser checked the same pattern and within the first hour knew that it was the ticket. Today, that pattern held strong to put him right up where he needs to be for a shot at victory.
Hauser kept to himself with the details, and with good reason, finding something different on a lake that patterns easily is something you don't want others to catch on with.
“I just want to thank my sponsors for all of their support Bass Assassin baits, Weigh-to-Win, Mercury, Power-Pole and Seaguar.”
Randy Haynes of Counce, Tenn., is a master of fishing offshore which may explain why he is so comfortable on Smith Lake. He hauled in 16 pounds, 2 ounces worth of bass today to land him in the fourth spot on the leaderboard.
“I had a good prepractice and a decent practice to where I thought I could catch 9 or 10 pounds,” said Haynes. “Today I found an area that had a few fish in it later in the day and tried to build on that but couldn’t.
“I have two key areas, one is my shallow spot which is in about 20 feet of water and the other is my deep spot which is in 40 feet. I plan to start deep and then go shallow. Hopefully I can build on a pattern tomorrow.”
Haynes said his fish came on a Strike King ½-ounce football jig.
When you are known as one of the top sticks on a lake like Okeechobee, not many people would expect to see your name on the leaderboard on a lake such a Smith. Brandon McMillan – or Big Mac – of Clewiston, Fla., came in to this event with the mindset to fish for the thing he knows best – largemouths. He sits in the fifth spot with 15 pounds, 2 ounces and what makes that more impressive is he did it with only four bass – one of which weighed 6-7 and took home the 3M ScotchBlue Big Bass Award for the day.
McMillan only had eight bites today – he lost three and missed another. There was no shortage of opportunity and in this event every precious largemouth bite can help. Even through his misfortune McMillan showed that he is on the right caliber bites when he can get them in the boat.
“I came here (Smith Lake) with the plan to fish what I know so I am strictly after largemouths,” said McMillan. “I found some areas around 4:30 p.m. on the last day of practice that had some fish. I went in there today and had one bite. After that I ran all new water and burned a ton of gas.”
Big Mac is basically trying to piece together the parts to the largemouth puzzle. He is still working on adding the pattern he found in practice as well as today.
“Tomorrow I think I’ll run new water looking for what I want. I know what I want an area to have but some of the stuff just isn’t right. I’m hoping I can look at a map and figure some places out but this is a big pond right here.”
Rest of the Best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Smith Lake after day one:
6th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., five bass, 15-0
7th: Blake Nick of Adger, Ala., five bass, 14-15
8th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., five bass, 14-11
8th: Spencer Shuffield of Bismark, Ark., five bass, 14-11
10th: John Voyles of Petersburg, Ind., five bass, 14-7
Stines takes co-angler lead
Patrick Stines of Granger, Ind., got off to a fast start in the Walmart FLW Tour event on Smith Lake today by catching a limit that weighed 11 pounds, 1 ounce. Stines now looks to add on to his 10-ounce lead heading into day two.
The day started off nicely for Stines catching a limit early, but the action slowed after 11 a.m. A drop-shot and shaky head made up the presentations of choice for him and he would slowly drag them on the bottom. Stines noted that one key for him was to make casts away from the bank to fish in deeper water.
Stark in second
Rest of the Best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one:
3rd: Rick Bowen of Jackson, Tenn., five bass, 10-6
4th: Mike Hardin Sr. of Robertsdale, Ala., five bass, 10-5
5th: Benjie Seaborn of Guin, Ala., four bass, 9-15
6th: Don Harvey of Franklin, Tenn., four bass, 9-14
7th: Jeff Sprague of Point, Texas, five bass, 8-15
8th: Alan Woodford of Winslow, Ind., five bass, 8-14
9th: Hoyt Tidwell of West Point, Tenn., five bass, 8-7
10th: Glenn Day of Cumming, Ga., five bass, 8-6
Roger Walters of Madisonville, Ky., caught a bass weighing 5 pounds, 13 ounces to earn the 3M Peltor Big Bass Award for the co-anglers on day one.
Day two of the Walmart FLW Tour on Lewis Smith Lake will begin Friday at 7 a.m. from Smith Lake Dam Access located at 7482 Smith Lake Dam Road in Jasper, Ala.