Last week's event on Smith Mountain was a mixture of aggressive bass heading toward the beds and those that had already arrived. The top finisher took advantage of both, as did the anglers who tied for big fish honors.
Here's how they tell the story:
(1st place — 78 pounds, 1 ounce)
I put together a two-technique approach — swimbait bass and bedding bass. On the first couple of days, I caught two bass each day with a 6-inch Rago SKT Swimmer — previously known as the Super G — in light hitch. The rest of my bass came off the beds. They were all caught with Berkley plastics.
Saturday was windy, so I concentrated all day on the swimbait bite. Sunday was another day of mixing it up. Three of the bass I brought to the scales bit the Rago swimbait. The other two were bed fish.
If there's a lesson here, it's to never get stuck on what you think the fish should be doing. You have to fish the prevailing conditions. I did that all week. When conditions called for a swimbait, I threw one. When I had a good fish on a bed I'd take the time to catch her. This wasn't a swimbait tournament, nor was it a bed tournament. It was a fishing tournament.
I fished the Rago swimbait on a Skeet Reese Signature Series 7 foot, 6 inch medium-heavy swimbait/Carolina rig rod and an Abu Garcia Revo Skeet Reese Series reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
The bed fish were caught with Berkley plastics, my Signature Series Shaky Head/Senko rod (6 foot, 11 inches — spinning), an Abu Garcia spinning reel and 8-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
(2nd place — 63 pounds, 8 ounces)
Basically, I sight fished all four days. It was really a matter of running from one bed to another until it was time to go in. Toward the end of the tournament I was struggling, but with all the good anglers out there I was surprised they held up as long as they did.
My primary bait was a Buckeye Lures 3/16-ounce Spot Remover Jig Head with a Zoom Trick Worm (green pumpkin) as a trailer. My rod was a 6 foot, 6 inch Duckett Fishing Micro Magic spinning model (medium action) and my reel was a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Signature Series open-faced spinning model spooled with 6-pound-test McCoy line.
I anchored off the beds with my Power-Pole and pitched to the beds with my light line. It's one of the reasons I did so well. It didn't worry the fish in the clear water conditions.
A lot of guys have asked about the difficulty of landing bigger bass on 6-pound line. They always want to know about break-offs. My response is, what difficulty? What break-offs?
If you set your drag correctly and don't get overly aggressive you won't have any problem. They put drags on reels for a reason. If you set it correctly and then use it, you won't have break-off problems.
(3rd place — 61 pounds, 8 ounces)
I marked a ton of beds in practice. The biggest problem was trying to manage them for all four days. The fish come and go, but sometimes you can tell what's going on with them if you look around carefully.
If the bed is clean, they just got there and are likely to stay for awhile. But, if the bed is dark — like the surrounding bottom — it means they've been there for a long time and will probably move off shortly.
It's always a gamble to pass one by and save it for another day. It's also a gamble to catch them all and hope to find replacements the next day. Sometimes you have to take a chance.
Most of my fish were caught on creature baits. I used a 7-foot, medium-heavy Quantum Tour Edition PT rod, a Quantum Tour Edition PT reel (6.3:1 gear ratio) and 17- and 20-pound-test Izorline monofilament.
Guy Eaker & Marty Robinson
(Big bass — 6 pounds, 12 ounces)
Marty Robinson: I caught her the first day. She was a bed fish. She bit a Zoom Critter Craw on a 3/8-ounce Picasso Shake-E-Football Head. My rod was a 7-foot CastAway heavy action model with an Abu Garcia Revo Premiere reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
Guy Eaker: I got mine the first day with a white/blue/chartreuse Diamond Head Spinnerbait — No. 3 silver Colorado in front and a 3 1/2 gold willow-leaf in the rear — with a 3-inch Berkley grub trailer. I put a stinger hook on the grub. My rod was a 7-foot Fenwick Elite Tech with an Abu Garcia Revo Premiere Reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.