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


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 


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