April 25, 2013 by Kyle Wood
HUDDLESTON, Va. - After what has seemed like a series of winter-like starts to the FLW tournament season, spring has finally decided to make an appearance. With blooming flowers, pollen filling the air and bass laying on beds there is no better way to start the EverStart Series Northern Division season on Smith Mountain Lake.
Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains is where you will find Smith Mountain - an impoundment created by damming the Roanoke and Blackwater rivers. While relatively small in size - around 20,000 acres - it features plenty of little coves and creeks that make up the 500-plus miles of shoreline on Smith Mountain. It is in these coves where anglers will set their sights this week in hopes of finding some big bass on bed.
The spawn this year has been delayed due to several cold snaps that have hit the area. But with the recent warm, sunny days, the full moon occurring tonight and the gin clear water of Smith Mountain it has set the stage for a sight-fishing bonanza.
"This is about what you could ask for in a sight-fishing tournament," said FLW Tour pro Brandon Coulter. "This lake is full of fish. I have never been here before and I am amazed at how many 2 1/2-pound fish you see swimming around. With us sitting on the right moon and the last three days of sun it seems like more and more fish are moving to the bank every day.
"A lot of the fish I have seen shallow are the bucks (males). There are still prespawn fish to catch and I think that is where you might see the A-rig come into play, especially this morning with the clouds and wind."
Day one of any tournament when sight-fishing plays a roll tends to bring the best weights. However, each day after that tends to get harder and harder because a lot of the known bedded fish have already been plucked off. That is when an angler needs to have something in their back pocket to take advantage of.
Having grown up just down the road from Smith Mountain, Castrol pro Philip Jarabeck knows he will need to do something different to have a chance to win.
"There are fish spawning everywhere you go out here," said Jarabeck, who is fishing his rookie season on the FLW Tour. "Without a doubt sight-fishing will play a big role but I think whoever wins is going to catch them doing something other than just sight-fishing.
"A few weeks ago there were cruising fish all over, but now most of them are on beds. You can find some cruisers sitting under docks and I think getting some of those fish to eat will be key. It's not a problem to find those fish, but getting them to eat is a different story. There are shad spawning all over the place right now as well and those prespawn fish will be targeting that pattern. Getting a big bite other than sight-fishing will go a long way this week."
It seemed apparent that most anglers plan to work the bank in search of spawning bass on the first day of competition. But with a good number of fish waiting to move up to the bank and shad spawning does this mean the Alabama rig will make an appearance?
"There is no doubt guys will throw the rig this week and will probably catch them good on it," said Coulter, who utilized the A-rig to finish in the top 10 at the last FLW Tour stop on Beaver Lake. "I'm going sight-fishing this week so I'm thankful I don't have to throw the A-rig. I'm worn out from tossing that thing around."
Smith Mountain boasts a great population of largemouth and even a fair amount of smallmouth as well. And with plenty of bass in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range there should be some good bags of fish brought to the scales this week.
"I think 15 to 16 pounds a day will be about right to get in the top 10," said Jarabeck. "There is definitely potential for a big stringer though, all winter there were 20- to 23-pound bags brought in during local tournaments. Again, it comes back to getting that extra big bite from those prespawn fish."
Anglers will take off from Parkway Marina located at 16817 Smith Mountain Lake Parkway in Huddleston, Va., at 7 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 1126 E. Lynchburg Salem Turnpike in Bedford, Va., beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
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.
Sunrise: 6:30 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 42 degrees
Expected high temperature: 65 degrees
Water temperature: 56-66 degrees
Wind: NW 5-10 mph
Maximum humidity: 46 percent
Day's outlook: Partly cloudy then clearing off