The high point of my Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open adventure at Smith Lake happened Friday. As I stood in line at the holding tanks to weigh my bass, three gorgeous females approached me with smiling faces and introduced themselves.
I had met all three of them online, and we exchange emails regularly. This was our first face-to-face encounter.
The triad of lovelies included Jennifer Dome, assistant editor at Bassmaster Magazine, Tyler Reed, social media editor for B.A.S.S., and Helen Northcutt, editorial assistant for B.A.S.S. Publications.
They are Bassmaster’s Angels. They fix errors in my articles, let me know when checks are coming and do their best to keep me from screwing up. And they do it all with good humor.
Unfortunately, even Bassmaster’s Angels couldn’t improve my catch. My bag held one largemouth and one spot, the only two bass I brought to the scales during the Smith Lake Open.
As tough as the bite was for me, I enjoyed the fishing. Smith is a beautiful, clear mountain lake that supports largemouth and spotted bass. The spots are abundant, and there was a good bit of surface feeding activity happening.
I competed as a co-angler and learned a great deal about Smith from the two anglers I drew that were fishing the pro side.
My first day partner, Georgia’s Marty Brown, didn’t stray far from the official launch site near the dam. We fished mainly red clay points.
There was some sporadic surface feeding activity that morning, but I saw only one brief spat of aggressive schooling action early on. That happened on a flat point on the opposite side of the creek we were fishing. Another tournament boat was working those fish
Brown caught one bass on a Sebile Swimmer right off, reeling it at a medium retrieve over deep water near one of the few steep, rocky banks we fished that day. He caught three more bass on a drop shot worm at depths to 25 feet.
Brown’s final bass came on a Heddon Super at 10:30 a.m. He was sluicing the big dog-walking stickbait slowly back and forth on flat water when the bass nailed it. That was our last fish of the day.
His five bass limit weighed a little over 6 pounds. Brown caught another small limit the next day for a total of 11 1/2 pounds. He said at least 15 spotted bass followed his Sebile Swimmer to the boat on Day Two, but only a few nabbed it.
We were fishing under cloudless, bluebird skies after several days of rainy weather, which made the bass less inclined to attack.
Mark Powell, my Day Two partner, lives 20 miles from Smith Lake and fishes it often. He had long dreamed of competing in a professional Bassmaster tournament and couldn’t resist the opportunity to do so on his home water.
Although Powell had walloped bass on practice days under a canopy of clouds, he managed only 9 pounds, 10 ounces for the tournament. Powell knows Smith well. We ran far up the lake and jumped from one point to the next.
Dog walking stickbaits were Powell’s primary weapons. Strike King’s KVD Sexy Dawg and the smaller Sexy Dawg Jr. are his workhorses at Smith.
“You can cast those baits a mile,” he said. And he did.
The surface feeding activity on Friday morning wasn’t as strong as it had been Thursday morning, Powell claimed. He caught one small keeper on a Sexy Dawg early. Then we struggled to get more bites.
The surface bite picked up around midday, when a breeze chopped the water. Powell put three more bass in his livewell after switching to a large stickbait that had a feathered tail hook. He walked the bait slowly.
I caught my spotted bass under a dock on a drop shot rig. My largemouth went for a Strike King Caffeine Shad in open water. Even though Powell was casting over expansive points, it was hard to get a bite on a topwater lure fishing behind him.
The water was so clear that the first cast with a surface bait would get the bite. Whenever I netted one of Powell’s fish, I could see other bass that had followed it in. However, once they had seen the boat, we couldn’t muster another strike and had to move.