Live now : Sam Rayburn Reservoir - FLW Live Coverage

Learning Table Rock with Smith

Learning Table Rock with Smith

Finishing second to Roy Hawk in the Western Division, Bryant Smith of Castro Valley, Calif., chalked up a pair of Costa FLW Series top 10s on the season along the way to what was by far the best season of his young career at the front of the boat. On Table Rock for the first time ever, I joined Smith and co-angler Casey Dunn of North Highlands, Calif., on the final morning of practice for the Costa FLW Series Championship.

 

Launching near the dam at Table Rock State Park, the pair quickly readied the boat before Dunn backed it down and Smith met him at the ramp (busy with morning traffic) to start the day. Having already pulled the running light and a few rods out, Smith was on plane and running up the lake in just moments.

 

Smith begins the day a bit up the lake at a fairly flat point studded with small rock. After a few casts with a Wiggle Wart, he picks up a small swimbait and starts firing it around.

Pretty quickly, he hooks up and boats a “gigantic” smallmouth bass.

“I’m sure that’s the biggest you’ve seen all week,” says Smith as he releases the overeager bass.

 

Moving around the point, Smith notes a brush pile on his graph and doubles back for a few casts. Along the way, he speculates about the disposition of the bass.

“They have to be suspended,” says Smith. “I see more suspended than I mark on the bottom. They must be chasing bait, because they are full of shad when you catch one.”

 

Still working methodically from his starting spot, Smith pauses to tie up a wacky rig with a nail weight (a rig that’s basically an institution out west on lakes like Shasta) and breakdown his strategy. Because of the distance, the Western Division tends to be sparsely represented at the Championship, and that means that the bar is often lower to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup.

“It’s the Championship, you always want to go for the win,” says Smith. But, with the Cup incentive for just beating the western guys, I’d be real happy to scratch up a limit each day.”

After a few casts with the fresh rig, it’s time to make a move.

 

Smith’s next move is to a shallow point that sprawls out into the main lake. Tossing a walking topwater around, he notes a few birds sitting on the surface but no bass.

“We need to find some brush or something,” says Smith. “I don’t think they’ll be out just cruising around.”

With that, it’s time to roll.

 

After a short move, Smith pauses on a boat ramp near a dock and gets to fishing. Smith works down almost all of the dock before he hooks up and barely battles a smallmouth to the boat. The fish took him over the crossbar of the dock, and forces an extensive re-tie. For Smith, that smallie could hardly be more welcome because to this point he says practice has been a real grind.

“We found one spot that we caught three keepers off of,” says Smith. “But, it’s been tough to duplicate it.”

Smith’s view of the fishing is one shared by many and backed up by recent tournament results. Perhaps because of the exceptionally warm weather, the usually outstanding fishing on Table Rock has turned tough for many. 

 

Picking up the trolling motor after finishing off the next dock, Smith moves across the pocket and begins idling around a few docks to look for brush. Along the way, he reveals that he does, in fact, have a little bit of a pattern, and is has at least a few

After going over a brush pile stuffed with fish (likely crappie), Smith stops to fish some more.

 

After breaking off in the brush pile, Smith works his way around to the other side of the dock and hooks up.

“They do live here! That’s the biggest we’ve caught all week,” exclaims Smith after landing a hefty largemouth.

With that, Smith goes through the time-honored tradition of cutting his hook off and really going practicing. At least on docks, it’s time to stop hooking bass.

 

Moving to another pocket, Dunn accepts Smith’s offer of a pack of Donut Sticks (the so-called breakfast of champions) to nosh on during the run. When he set’s back down, he briefly hits a point with a Wiggle Wart before shifting his attention to another dock.

 

On purpose or by instinct, Smith keeps his rod selection pretty slim through the day. He opts for Dobyns rods and is happy to roll with a few moving baits and a few finesse baits divided by rod type.

 

After a little more time in the same general area, Smith cranks up and takes off into a freshening breeze, continuing to work up the lake. This next stop is a little pocket with a windblown point and a few docks in the back. Breaking out the Wart for the point, Smith picks his spinning rod back up for the dock and quickly gets a bite.

“Well, I’ve got a little confidence in something if it slicks off,” says Smith.

This bite doesn’t really fit Smith’s pattern, but there’s no such thing as a bad fish, and every little bit of knowledge helps him piece together the puzzle. Not only is Table Rock pretty different from California, it’s far bigger and more daunting than Clear Lake or Berryessa.

 

Heading out of the pocket and into the wind, Smith pulls out a spinnerbait and gets to firing, shooting casts parallel to the bank and around bits of standing timber as a warm wind pushes him quickly along the shoreline.

“It’s sure a good looking lake,” says Smith. “It could just use some grass. Then maybe a ChatterBait. That’d be more my speed.”

 

Rustling no bites with the spinnerbait, Smith moves into another pocket with a couple docks.

“Oh, there’s one,” says Smith, as he bows up with the hookless bait. “That one felt a little heavier.”

With yet another dock bite in his pocket, Smith is feeling all right. He’s getting about a bite an hour, which is just fine by him.  Unfortunately for me, it’s getting on toward 11:30 and about time that I get off the water.

 

Dropping me back at the ramp, Smith backs off into the choppy water to finish off the last few hours of practice. Come Thursday morning, it’ll be time for him to apply all his practice knowledge to the problem of catching Table Rock bass and gunning for a spot in the 2017 Forrest Wood Cup. 

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2016-11-03-championship-table-rock-lake 

FLW Live Schedule for Sam Rayburn

FLW Live Schedule for Sam Rayburn

The 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit kicks off this week in Brookeland, Texas, at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, which means it’s also time for another season of FLW Live with hosts Travis Moran and Todd Hollowell. Here's how and when to watch. READ MORE »

The Weather Factor: Rayburn

The Weather Factor: Rayburn

Weather is a storyline in almost every tournament throughout the course of the year, but from winter through spring it can often be the biggest influencing factor in a tournament. Warming trends and cold snaps can send fish flooding to the bank or retreating to the safety of deeper water in no time. READ MORE »

Wrapping up Practice with Osborne

Wrapping up Practice with Osborne

Last season, Jordan Osborne made the top 10 in the season opener on Sam Rayburn, and he’s got the chance to kick things off in a similar style this week. READ MORE »

Day 2 of Practice with Miller

Day 2 of Practice with Miller

At just 20 years old, Colby Miller is pretty young to be a rookie on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. However, the Elmer, La., native isn’t lacking in accolades, as he’s now finished 24th or better in points in the Southwestern Division of the FLW Series two years in a row. Additionally, he’s starting the season close to home – Miller guides for bass and crappie on nearby Toledo Bend, and he’s got a lot of tournament time in on Sam Rayburn. READ MORE »

Riding Rayburn with Tutt

Riding Rayburn with Tutt

One of the nicest and most experienced pros on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit, Jim Tutt has fished about everywhere, but he calls Texas home. Last year, Tutt finished fifth in the season-opener on Sam Rayburn, and it’s also where he earned one of his three FLW Series-level wins. READ MORE »

How to Prep Like a Pro

How to Prep Like a Pro

When it comes to getting ready for a season of tournaments, there are plenty of ways to do it. But, there’s no denying that for most people, being prepared will lead to better performance on the water. READ MORE »

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

Built in the 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Cherokee Lake is nestled in the hills of east Tennessee. The Holston River impoundment lies roughly between Norris Lake to the northwest and Douglas Lake to the southeast. The clear waters of Cherokee can fluctuate about 30 feet between winter pool and spring flooding, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t out of the ordinary for the average east Tennessee reservoir. So, depending on the water level, Cherokee has about 400 miles of shoreline and 28,780 surface acres. READ MORE »

2020 Harris Chain Preview

2020 Harris Chain Preview

One of the most fun places FLW visits, the Harris Chain is a collection of lakes in central Florida that includes Lake Harris, Lake Apopka, Lake Griffin, Lake Eustis, Lake Dora, Lake Carlton, Horseshoe Lake, Little Lake Harris, Lake Denham and Lake Beauclair. In all, the pros have the run of 10 lakes, plus the myriad residential canals, rivers and backwaters that spread out off of them. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Hartwell Preview

2020 Lake Hartwell Preview

Built on the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers on the border of South Carolina and Georgia, Lake Hartwell is a fairly typical example of a Southeastern spotted bass and largemouth fishery. Though there are shad and bream, the primary forage is blueback herring. Hartwell has very little vegetation outside of flooded dog fennel, and the primary cover types are docks, rock, shoreline wood, brush and cane piles. READ MORE »

2020 Detroit River Preview

2020 Detroit River Preview

Though the Pro Circuit finale takes off from the Detroit River, that’s hardly the only place the pros will be fishing. Takeoff is near the southern mouth of the river, giving pros easy access to the west end of Lake Erie. At the other end of the river is Lake St. Clair, which has been home to some of the most epic smallmouth beatdowns on record in recent years. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

2020 Lake Dardanelle Preview

Situated between the Ozark National Forest to the north and the Ouachita National Forest to the south, Lake Dardanelle in Northwest Arkansas is a roughly 34,000-acre impoundment on the Arkansas River that offers a multitude of unique and varied opportunities to catch quality bass. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Martin Preview

2020 Lake Martin Preview

Lake Martin was created back in 1926 when the Martin Dam was completed on the Tallapoosa River. At the time, the 44,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made body of water in the world, though it obviously no longer holds that distinction. READ MORE »

Bulldog Division Kicks off at Lake Lanier

Bulldog Division Kicks off at Lake Lanier

Perhaps the hottest spotted bass lake in the East, Lanier should be rocking for the Bulldog Division opener. With lots of plump wintertime spotted bass coming to the scale, along with some largemouths, it would be no surprise to see a winning weight in excess of 20 pounds.   READ MORE »

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Big Prespawn Potential at Toledo Bend

Toledo Bend is a legendary reservoir that straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. It spans some 65 miles along the impounded Sabine River, which runs north to south, and sprawls across about 185,000 acres at full pool. Though Toledo Bend has a number of major tributaries along its length, the bulk of the reservoir is its straight, wide-open main-lake span. READ MORE »

Choo Choo Division Kicks off at Lake Guntersville

Choo Choo Division Kicks off at Lake Guntersville

According to pro Casey Martin, who once won a BFL on Guntersville with a whopping 40 pounds, 11 ounces, it’s not unreasonable to expect a mid- or upper 20s bag to win this time. READ MORE »

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

Sam Rayburn has a reputation as a phenomenal bass fishery and a giant in the tournament world. At more than 114,000 acres, it’s the largest reservoir contained entirely within the borders of the Lone Star State. READ MORE »

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

From time to time, FLW checks in with its anglers to find out what they’ve been up to, what they’re listening to, who they’re following and where they’re heading while out on the tournament trail. This week, we caught up with Matt Becker.  READ MORE »

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

Gator Division Kicking off at St. Johns River

The Phoenix Bass Fishing League’s popular Gator Division, which is presented by A.R.E., kicks off its 2020 season on Saturday, Jan. 11 at the St. Johns River near Palatka, Fla. READ MORE »

The Top 19 Stories of 2019

The Top 19 Stories of 2019

From the beginning, 2019 was a good year of fishing. The FLW Tour got off to a rollicking start on Sam Rayburn, and it really stayed pretty great from there, with a lot of good fishing and a killer Angler of the Year race. Beyond the Tour, all the other circuits had plenty of highlights, too. We saw impressive feats accomplished at all levels and some very exciting individual events. READ MORE »

The Top 50 Stories of the Decade - Part 2

The Top 50 Stories of the Decade - Part 2

From start to finish, the last decade was a wild ride for fishing. The top stories are amazingly diverse, with huge business changes, some incredible tournament feats, and entirely new techniques and lures taking center stage. READ MORE »