March 11, 2013 by Dave Lefebre
(Editor's note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2013 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his second installment of the season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lewis Smith Lake event in 15th place with a three-day total of 31 pounds, 3 ounces and walked away with $12,500 in winnings.)
Our second FLW Tour event was on Lewis Smith Lake near Jasper, Ala., and I must say it was a tough one. The weather during our three-day practice period was horrible. Temperatures were in the 20s in the mornings and 30s during the day. It was cloudy, windy, it rained and even snowed one day. I'd be lying if I said I didn't like the cold weather, but it does make finding fish harder for sure. The weather gradually got better each day and even reached the mid-70s by Sunday afternoon. But overall the conditions were difficult because you not only have to find some fish, but you also have to try and predict where they are going to move to as the water temperatures warm. It was tough for sure, but that is one of t+he challenges and strategies of the game that I love.
In a nutshell, my practice period was not very good. I figured out how to catch tons of smaller spots out deep, but as far as the bigger fish were concerned, all I had were some theories.
I wound up riding a strong first day to eventually finish 15th. I was in second place after day one with 17 pounds and very easily could've had 23 pounds if everything would've worked out perfectly ... but it didn't. I started the morning on day one on a deep point and caught a bunch of spots on a 4-inch Storm Pro Paddle Tail Swimbait. I actually caught a limit in 15 minutes, including two 3-pound spotted bass. The swimbait was one of those theories I was talking about because up until that point I had only drop-shotted those deep fish.
After catching a good limit early, I was able to relax a little and spend the rest of the day trying to catch a kicker largemouth. I had found a few in practice on the ends of the last bluff or two in a couple creeks. But after hitting two of my best places without a bite and noticing the water had cleared quite a bit since practice, I decided to wash my slate clean and tie on some baits I hadn't had success with at all in practice ... in an attempt to take advantage of another one of those theories.
I love jig fishing, and though I was unable to make it work in practice, I had a feeling that, as the water warmed in the afternoons, it might work. I started flipping around noon and caught a 4-1/2 pounder off of a shallow log right away, then another 4-pounder down the bank under a dock. Then I flipped under the same dock again and broke my line on a 6-pounder. I quickly retied and flipped back under the dock and hooked another giant, which got off. I couldn't believe it! I was happy to get what I did, but replacing a 2- and 3-pounder with a 5- and 6-pounder would have been awesome to say the least. I fished that area and dock several times over the next two days without any luck, only to find out the locals were cleaning it out every evening after work. On Saturday (day 3), a lady on the dock told me that they had taken a dozen big bass over 4 pounds during the week, including an 8-pounder, all caught using minnows and all filleted ... sickening.
Smith Lake is huge. It is a perfect place for a pro tournament because there are so many ways to catch fish and there are also the two species - largemouths and spots - which makes it rather unique. Ehrler won with all spotted bass, which I would have thought impossible. I had a photoshoot at the take-off ramp on Sunday morning and got to watch Brent catch his first five bass of the day on a drop-shot, including one that looked to be in the 3-pound range. There were several of us standing on the dock watching him so it was pretty cool.
Fish were literally caught everywhere on the lake, but the typical popular creeks did not disappoint. I was in Rock Creek as was Jay Yelas, David Fritts and several others in the top 20. A few guys were in Brushy Creek and the rest went into Ryans and Simpsons or stayed on the main lake between the dam and Duncan Bridge. There were tournament boats on steep bluffs, shallower inside bends, out in the middle and way back in the backs of skinny creeks and pockets. I saw a bunch of guys out deep fishing drop-shots on deeper points around the lake, which is how most of the 9- to 12-pound bags were caught each day. Fishing 20 to 40 feet deep with 4-inch green-pumpkin finesse worms and Shad Shape worms was popular with the guys I know. Umbrella rigs worked big time of course, and as far as I know everyone in the top 10 utilized one (or 5 depending on how you look at it) during the week. Small jigs and Shakey Head worms played big roles and so did Rapala Shad Raps, jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, and Wiggle Warts. I fished close to a competitor on day one who caught a bunch on a jigging spoon in 50 feet too.
Like I said, fish were caught literally everywhere and with a ton of different techniques - which is why I like places like Smith Lake and hope we go back again soon. The people are great and the folks helping with takeoff and the weigh-ins worked like a well-oiled machine. I just wish they could just follow us all around the country. We were all impressed with how smoothly the event was run and I didn't hear anyone complain about the golf cart rides to the weigh-in stage either!
Our next event is on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark., and I've got some practicing to do before then. Not fishing, but drumming, lol. I may have the opportunity to sit in with Dylan Scott and his band on Sunday afternoon at the Expo if I don't make the top 10. I'll keep you all posted on that through my Facebook page as that event approaches.
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