UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Last Time at Lewis Smith

Tournament leader Brent Ehrler fights a magnum spot to the boat on day two.

It’s been two seasons since the Walmart FLW Tour visited Lewis Smith Lake in Jasper, Ala. Now that the Tour has rolled back into town for the start of official practice on “Smith,” as most pros prefer to call this deep, clear reservoir, there’s an important change that could have a real impact on the tournament’s outcome: The umbrella rig is no longer allowed in Tour competition. Last time, a number of top pros relied on the multi-lure rig for the bulk of their catches, and winner Brent Ehrler caught a key kicker with one on the final day.

This year’s event will be held a couple of weeks later in the month, which could mean the fish will be a little farther along in their prespawn-to-spawn transition and shallower patterns could be in play (possibly bed-fishing among them; see 2008: Spawners and Spots below).

Still, the 2013 event is the best, most current preview of what we can expect to see this week, so we dug a little deeper into the most productive patterns from the last bout on Smith.

Andy Morgan caught a 12-pound, 13-ounce limit to make the top-10 cut in seventh place.

Spots Versus Largemouths

The top 10 was split into three groups: pros targeting spotted bass nearly exclusively, pros targeting largemouths nearly exclusively and pros targeting a mix. Spotted bass were easier to catch, but finding the quality bites needed to win was a puzzle that only Ehrler and Jacob Powroznik seemed to figure out. Largemouths produced heavier individual fish, but they were reluctant to bite in the cooler morning hours prevalent then.

Here’s the breakdown of the top five pros’ preferred species.

Spotted bass – Naturally, most anglers caught both species at least by “accident,” but Ehrler caught the bulk of his winning bag by targeting deep spotted bass on a few key areas. He was dropping a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko straight down to fish that were suspended above or positioned within brush piles placed 15 to 30 feet deep. The action literally played out on the depth-finder screen in front of him. Ehrler ended up catching 60 pounds, 9 ounces to win by more than 7 pounds.

Second-place finisher Jacob Powroznik was also in on the deep-water spotted bass game and had a few key areas, but his best spot was a 47- to 50-foot-deep point that was loaded with a school of bass not unlike the kind anglers find on ledges during the postspawn season. He did damage with a lightweight drop-shot rig, but also fished an umbrella rig.

Largemouths – Day one of the 2013 tournament opened with a wintry air temperature in the upper 20s, but weather forecasts called for a gradual warming trend over the next few days. The weatherman got it right, and Oklahoma pro Jason Christie, who finished fourth, capitalized in the afternoons once the sun had had a chance to warm the shallows. Christie targeted docks and shallow bushes in main-lake pockets and drains with a BOOYAH jig and a Texas rig. A runner-and-gunner, Christie bounced around frequently throughout the day, making just a few casts at each target.

Spot-largemouth mix – Third-place pro Andy Morgan targeted spotted bass early in the morning with an umbrella rig, then transitioned to catching largemouths with a jig later in the day – though largemouths were really the key to Morgan’s success. He started off catching fish some 20 feet deep on day one, but by the third day was catching largemouths in less than 2 feet of water. 

Koby Kreiger was also in the mixed-bag camp. He finished fifth by tossing an umbrella rig around a mix of shoreline cover.

A closer look at second-place finisher Jacob Powroznik's umbrella rig, the Swim N' Frenzy.

Key Baits

Traditional “spotted bass” tackle dominated the event, resulting in spinning rods in the hands of many pros. Here are some of the more productive lures from 2013.

Umbrella rigs – As noted, umbrella rigs are now outlawed in Tour competition, but single swimbaits and perhaps jerkbaits could catch spots and largemouths in the multi-lure rig’s absence.

Jigs – Jigs were the preferred weaponry of the largemouth crowd, though they also produced spotted bass for some pros. Compact “ball-head” jigs in natural colors with chunk trailers are classic spotted bass tools.

Drop-shots – No matter where bass are in their seasonal progression this time around, drop-shots should still produce for many pros, just as they did in 2013. They work deep or shallow in the clear water.

Wacky rigs – Ditto above. Wacky rigs are killer for clear-water bass. And keep an eye out for pros tossing nail-weighted wacky-rigged Senkos in deep water. It’s a technique that’s growing in popularity, but that hasn’t received a whole lot of press yet.

Other possible options – Jerkbaits, cranbkaits, Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, shaky heads, wake baits and even topwaters could be in play this time around. The most important critical factor will be the water temperature. This year’s event is later than the 2013 derby, but this winter also dragged on in Alabama. If largemouths are spawning, a sight-fishing battle might break out.

In that case, the 2008 Tour event on Smith might be a good indicator of what to expect.

Most of the top-10 pros in the Lewis Smith Lake FLW Tour event targeted largemouths during the week. Michael Bennett, however, won the tournament with chunky spotted bass like this one.

2008: Spawners and Spots

When the Tour visited Lewis Smith back in 2008, the tournament was held in early April. Largemouths were on the beds, and many anglers were fighting over the best sight-fishing areas.

Tournament winner Michael Bennett relied on spawning largemouths to make it into the top 10. Yet, it was a unique prespawn spotted bass technique that locked up the win.

Bennett skipped a weightless, wacky-rigged Berkley Gulp! Sinking Minnow under main-lake docks and let the rig sink for 20 to 30 seconds. The slow-falling worm fluttered down to spotted bass that were positioned anywhere from 8 feet deep down to 30 feet deep. The fish cooperated, and Bennett won by 1 1/2 pounds over Scott Canterbury in second place.

Canterbury and third-place pro Koby Kreiger caught largemouths by throwing buzzbaits, waking a Bomber Long A (Kreiger) and sight-fishing, proving that the largemouth pattern was certainly a player, but, as was the case in 2013, the spotted bass reigned supreme on Smith.

Tags: lewis-smith  flw-tour  march  curtis-niedermier  pre-tournament  2015-03-26-lewis-smith-lake 


How to Fish Power Plant Lakes in Winter

Some of the power-plant lakes throughout the Midwest are borderline legendary. If you live near one or are willing to travel to keep your open-water season alive, Colby Schrumpf’s system could work on just about any of them that have grass. READ MORE »


Top 10 Patterns from Lake Toho

While the Lake Toho FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats fell basically right on top of a wave of spawning bass piling into the shallows, many of the top finishers targeted bass that were staging out or transitioning to or from their beds. READ MORE »


Top 10 Baits from Toho

The second stop of the 2019 FLW Tour landed right on the spawn on Lake Toho and the other lakes on the Kissimmee Chain. Top finishers caught bass in all phases of the spawn. Collectively, they used just about every bait you’ll ever need if you want to catch a bass this time of year in the Sunshine State. READ MORE »


Marshal Program a Big Hit for Hughes

Retired minister Dan Hughes made the most money he’s ever banked in a fishing tournament, and he did it without even picking up a rod. The 70-year-old Fitzgerald, Ga., resident was the winner of FLW’s marshal contest at the Tour’s second stop of the season at Lake Toho, presented by Ranger Boats. Paired with John Cox on day one and Chris Neau on day two, Hughes’ pros combined for 41 pounds, 10 ounces during his two days on the water to take home the $2,500 top prize. READ MORE »


Georgia’s Gross Wins FLW Tour at Lake Toho Presented by Ranger Boats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Pro Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Georgia, brought a five-bass limit weighing 23 pounds, 12 ounces, to the scale Sunday... READ MORE »


Toho Day 4 Coverage

Complete coverage of the 2019 Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla. READ MORE »


Gross Wins Second Tour Title

Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Ga., won the 2019 FLW Tour event presented by Ranger Boats at Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla., with a four-day total of 20 bass that weighed 85 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »


Gross Grabs Toho Lead

Day three of the FLW Tour presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho was tough on the leaders, but Buddy Gross stayed steady, rising to first from fifth with 19 pounds, 12 ounces. In total, Gross has amassed 62 pounds even through three days, which is just about a pound ahead of Darrell Davis, who caught 25-12 for a 60-15 total and rocketed up to second from 13th. Going into the final day, everyone in the top six is within 5 pounds of the lead, and the way the Kissimmee Chain is pumping out big ones, that counts as the slimmest of margins. READ MORE »


Chickamauga’s Gross Out Front at FLW Tour at Lake Toho Presented by Ranger Boats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – After an exciting day of movement atop the leaderboard, FLW Tour pro Buddy Gross of Chickamauga, Georgia, took the lead Saturday... READ MORE »


Toho Day 3 Coverage

Complete coverage of the 2019 Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla. READ MORE »


Cox Stays Ahead on Toho

Day two of the FLW Tour presented by Ranger on Lake Toho featured not one, but TWO 10-pounders, one caught by Casey Scanlon and the other by Jamie Horton. READ MORE »


Cox Holds Lead after Day Two of FLW Tour at Lake Toho Presented by Ranger Boats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, brought five bass to the scale weighing 17 pounds, 4 ounces, to hold the lead after day two of the FLW Tour at Lake Toho presented by Ranger Boats. Cox’s two day total of 10 bass weighing 48-13 will give him... READ MORE »


Toho Day 2 Coverage

Complete coverage of the 2019 Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla. READ MORE »


Cox Leads Toho Slugfest

Day one of the FLW Tour presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho was the slugfest many expected. Leading the way is sight-fishing extraordinaire John Cox, who caught 31 pounds, 9 ounces and the day one big bass – a giant that went 10-9.  In second, John Voyles wrangled up 24-15, and Scott Martin is close behind him with 24-12. READ MORE »


Cox Catches 31-Pound Limit, Leads Day One of FLW Tour at Lake Toho Presented by Ranger Boats

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Pro John Cox of DeBary, Florida, hauled in a massive five-bass limit weighing 31 pounds, 9 ounces – the largest limit ever weighed in FLW... READ MORE »


Toho Day 1 Coverage

Complete coverage of the 2019 Tour event presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla. READ MORE »


Roaming Kissimmee with Douglas

Hailing from Minnesota, Josh Douglas is in his third year on the FLW Tour and looking for his first FLW Cup qualification. Were it not for a disqualification in the final event of the year at St. Clair in 2018, Douglas would have sailed into the Cup. After a tough start to the year at Rayburn, he’s planning to get back on track at the FLW Tour event presented by Ranger on Lake Toho. READ MORE »


Burghoff Checks Out Toho on Day 2

FLW Tour rookie Miles “Sonar” Burghoff kicked off his freshman season with a strong performance on Sam Rayburn, where he just missed fishing the final day with a 12th-place finish. Now, the Tour is on a system he is more than familiar with, having spent countless hours on Lakes Toho and Kissimmee while attending college at the University of Central Florida. READ MORE »


A Look at Lake Toho

Stop No. 2 of the 2019 FLW Tour takes us to Lake Toho and the several other lakes strung along the Kissimmee River. Presented by Ranger Boats, the tournament will take off from Big Toho Marina on the north end of the namesake lake, but competitors will be able to spread out down the Kissimmee River into Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha (Hatch), Lake Kissimmee, and perhaps even Tiger Lake and Lake Rosalie if they’re feeling adventurous. READ MORE »


Spawn on the Horizon at Okeechobee

Florida is a familiar place for FLW competition, and Lake Okeechobee is probably the best-known fishery the Sunshine State has to offer. So there shouldn’t be many surprises when the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division kicks off the season Jan. 31–Feb. 2 on the Big O with an event presented by Power-Pole. READ MORE »