HUDDLESTON, Va. — With bass on beds across Smith Mountain Lake, but not necessarily easy to catch, every advantage an angler can get makes a big difference at the end of the day.
James Niggemeyer spent countless hours guiding on Lake Fork and his checks depended on putting clients on big fish, especially around the spawn. The skills he honed on the water then, have helped him on the tournament trail and he scored a win earlier in the year on Toledo Bend by looking at the fish.
"One of the reasons I like sight fishing and consider it a strength is because I spent day after day after day on Lake Fork putting my clients on fish," Niggemeyer said. "During the spawn, that place is a madhouse and everyone wants to catch a giant. Being a good sight fisherman takes time. You can really train your eyes over time and it makes a difference."
Spring is in the air for most of the country and bass either are or soon will be on beds. For those anglers about to head out and try a little sight fishing trickery, Niggemeyer has a little advice to offer up and it starts with boat positioning.
"People get too close," Niggemeyer said. "The further you can keep your boat away and still make an effective presentation, the better off you are. One thing that guys want to do is see everything happen. If you can stay off and fish like it was a jig or worm, you can catch the fish easier."
When he finds a fish near a bed, Niggemeyer always pays attention to how the bass responds, both to his presence and his lure's.
"Try to assess whether the fish is a catchable fish," Niggemeyer said. "When you make a presentation, if it shoots out off the bed, keep moving on. Otherwise, the fish will make a circle and you need to pay attention to how tight that circle is. The tighter the circle, the more aggressive the fish is. That will give you a good gauge for how catchable the fish is."
For Niggemeyer, every fish has its own personality and he approaches bed fishing with a bunch of rods ready to go.
"I always bed fish with a variety of baits, basically, your standard stuff," Niggemeyer said. "Craws, tubes and stuff with a lot of action that move more water work best. The new Strike King Rage Tail Craw looks more menacing and helps aggravate the fish faster."
One difficulty anglers might have bed fishing is judging the size of a bass and Niggemeyer is no exception.
"Today, I thought I saw a fish that was the size of the little ones I had in the boat," Niggemeyer said. "It turned out to be one of my biggest fish."
After landing 16-11 on Day One and following up with 11 pounds even on Friday, Niggemeyer sits squarely in the cut heading into Saturday in 35th place. With some claiming the bed fishing bite is dwindling, it will be time for Niggemeyer to pull out all the stops to make a charge at the top-12 cut.