Smith Lake: Better the second time around?

It’s Wednesday night, the eve of the third and final Bass Pro Shops Southern Bassmaster Open, which happens at Smith Lake, Ala. I’m writing this from the Holiday Inn Express in Jasper. Nice digs.

I won’t be a bass pro when the tournament starts tomorrow morning, but I will have “slept at a Holiday Inn last night.” Will that make me feel like I’m the real deal? Probably not. It’ll take a few chubs in the livewell to make that happen.

I drove south to Smith Lake from Ohio Monday, through steady rainfall during the last half of the trip. My roommate, North Carolinian Lee King, had been prefishing through persistent rainfall for three or four days.

There hasn’t been enough precipitation to impact the fishing on the main lake. However, the rain might have put enough stain in the backs of some of the creeks to make a difference.

I fished with King through a foggy, drizzly Tuesday. King said it was like fishing in a cloud. I told him he was wrong. We were fishing in a cloud. The mist finally burned off late in the day.

We had a fair day of fishing. We caught mainly spotted bass and left the water feeling optimistic about bagging our limits during the tournament. The next morning started chilly and foggy, which gave way to bright, warm sunshine.

We welcomed the change in the weather but struggled to get bites. We pulled King’s boat out at Noon feeling less confident. King is fishing the pro side, I’m a co-angler for this one.

Lee King works a topwater bait in the early morning fog at Smith Lake. Topwater baits will produce many bass at this event.Wednesday got off to a bad start even before we left the Holiday Inn. The coffeemaker in our room brews one cup at a time. You put the little coffee pouch in its holder and pour a cup of water in the top. Then you put the cup under the spout and turn the thing on.

I went through all the steps, or thought I had, and headed off for the shower when I heard King’s excited voice.

“Mark! Where’s the pot?”

“Pot? What pot?”

“The coffee pot!”

“There is no coffee pot. What’re you talking about.”

“The coffee maker is dumping coffee all over the place!”

I had forgotten to put the cup under the spout.

I believe this tournament will produce more fish than the last Bassmaster Southern Open here in May 2010. Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery won that event with 34-9. He was the only angler on the pro side to weigh three five-bass limits.

I caught my only two bass on the co-angler side of that event on the second day. They weighed a meager 4 pounds, but I wasn’t far from making a check. That tournament had a 15-inch minimum size limit.

The abundant floating docks at Smith Lake could produce the winning bass, as they did for Andy Montgomery in 2010.For this tournament only, the minimum size limit has been dropped to 12 inches. That ensures that many limits of bass will be brought to the scales. However, many of those limits will be light. Spotted bass will predominate, but the eventual winner will likely have a mixed bag of spots and largemouths.

There is some schooling bass action happening but it is hit-or-miss. The water clarity is 7 feet or more, so topwater baits and finesse tactics will come into play. Some anglers will key on docks, which is what Montgomery did in 2010. But that was May, and this is October.

It’ll be fun to see how this plays out. I hope to be one of the players on Saturday.

I’ve drawn out with Georgia’s Marty Brown. He says he’s catching a few, but isn’t hammering them. All we can do is fish hard and try not to screw up whatever opportunities come our way.

And have a ball doing it.