JASPER, Ala. – When it comes to Alabama fisheries, nothing gets the attention quite like Lake Guntersville and Wheeler Lake. But in the shadows of those two big-fish factories lies the 21,000-acre impoundment known as Lewis Smith – the site of the second Walmart FLW Tour stop of the season.
Temperatures in the upper 20s greeted anglers as they launched their boats this morning. The cooler weather put a damper on the spirits of some anglers - mainly the ones who plan to search out largemouths. On the other hand, spotted bass anglers seem to have a brighter outlook on the day. With murmers of anglers having a less than perfect practice, the general consensus is that spotted bass are the more willing species to bite. With that said, a warming trend in the weather will settle in as the week moves ahead - meaning chances are the bite will only get better. It also leaves open the question as to just how big of an impact the largemouths will have on this event, if they get to chomping.
Lewis Smith Lake – or Smith Lake – has long been known for its ability to produce magnum-sized spotted bass. In fact, several world record spots came out of Smith in the 1970s and 80s and the current lake record sits at just under 9 pounds. In contrast to other impoundments within Alabama that have stained water and are shallower, Smith is ideal for growing big spots due to its deep, clear water.
Back in 2008 - which was the last time the FLW Tour made a visit to Smith - spotted bass dominated the tournament. There have always been largemouths to catch but they just never received much attention. However, this time having a few largemouths in your bag just may help lift anglers to the top of the standings.
“It’s a heck of a lot easier to catch spots in here than largemouths,” chuckled Straight Talk pro Scott Canterbury. “But I do really think that you need some largemouths in your bag to do well. I’m going to fish my strengths this week and go for spots and try to mix in a few largemouths too.
“I’m not going to fish in any particular area, from what I saw I am just going to keep moving,” the Springville, Ala., pro added. “I didn’t find a school of fish that I really thought I could sit on. Now, guys like Ehrler or Hite might be able to do that, but not me. I do think that we will see the best fishing this week will come on Saturday and Sunday with the weather warming up – hopefully I’ll still be fishing to find out.”
With a healthier fish population, weights on Smith have been steadily rising. Bigger spots and more abundant largemouths make it tough for a guy to figure out what to do. Though Smith is small in size, with over 500 miles of shoreline it makes the lake fish bigger and offers more opportunities to the anglers. This may be the reason most anglers attack this lake with a run-and-gun style of covering water to maximize their odds of finding good fish.
“This lake is normally a pretty good pattern lake,” said Blake Nick, who captured two third-places finishes last year on tour. “The weather has been fairly stable around here until a few weeks ago which made the fishing a little tougher. Practice was brutal for me – the colder weather put the fish in a funk. Luckily, it looks like the weather is going to warm up as the week goes on so it should make fishing better.
“I live about an hour from here and have fished this lake a few times, but it’s hard to come here (Smith) with Guntersville just down the road,” said the Adger, Ala., native. “Rumor has it that there are some blueback herring in here and it seems like they have helped make these fish bigger, and bigger bags have been coming out of Smith because of it. There’s a good chance we could see some 5- or 6-pound spots this week.
“I will definitely run all the gas out of my boat today. On this lake you don’t need to get nailed down to doing one thing.”
To aid the anglers in covering water, a variety of baits are expected to play this week. Jerkbaits, umbrella rigs, crankbaits and even jigs will receive plenty of attention from anglers trying to coax strikes from either laregmouths or spots. For the pros targeting spots though, drop-shots and shaky heads will be the weapons of choice to hunt down the magnum spots that live deep.
One thing that will surely make life easier for the anglers is that the slot limit that has been lifted for the event. Normally on Smith any bass that measures between 13 and 15 inches must be released. For this event however, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has allowed a 12-inch minimum length rule.
Despite promising prospects of bigger fish, Canterbury still believes the weights won’t be as high as some think.
“I’d say 12 to 13 pounds a day will get you in the top 20. It may be more, but from what I’ve seen that sounds right. There are enough good fishermen in this field that there could be a big sack pulled in this week – somewhere between 18 or 20 pounds.”
Anglers will take off from Smith Lake Dam Access located at 7482 Smith Lake Dam Road in Jasper, Ala., at 7 a.m. the first two days of competition. On the last two days takeoff will be at Smith Lake Dam Access at 7:30 a.m. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at Smith Lake Dam Access beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 1801 Highway 78 E. in Jasper beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers. The full field competes in the two-day opening round. After day two the field is pared to the top 20 pros and co-anglers. The co-angler competition concludes at Saturday’s weigh-in and the top-10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
On the Web
For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
In addition to FLW Live, FLWOutdoors.com is offering real-time updates from the water throughout each day of the Lewis Smith Lake event. Simply click on the “On the Water Coverage” banner from either the FLW or FLW Tour home pages.
Sunrise: 6:09 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 28 degrees
Expected high temperature: 54 degrees
Water temperature: 46-50 degrees
Wind: N 8 mph
Maximum humidity: 49 percent
Day’s outlook: partly cloudy early, sunny in the afternoon