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

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

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 

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