When the Bassmaster Elite Series pros arrive at Smith Mountain Lake for the April 23-26 Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl out of Moneta, Va., they will find markedly different conditions than those presented to them in 2007, when the Elite Series first visited. The anglers can expect pre-spawn and possibly spawning conditions on the crystal clear waters of the scenic 20,600-acre lake nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.Smith Mountain, with more than 500 miles of shoreline, has been featured in four previous BASS events, the last of which was the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series event won by then-rookie Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C. Ashley made history as the youngest pro — he was 23 at the time — to win an Elite Series event. With less than an hour remaining in the final day of competition, Ashley boated two keepers on back-to-back casts. The weight of those two fish was enough to bring him victory with a four-day total of 57 pounds, 3 ounces, beating veteran Elite pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., by 2 pounds.Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Blue Ridge Brawl on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, May 9, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The daily weigh-ins for all regular-season Elite events and the two postseason events will air live on ESPN360.com, while tournament coverage will also be available at Bassmaster.com.The Blue Ridge Brawl includes a top prize of $100,000 and awards valuable points in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. With 813 points, 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones of Waco, Texas, leads the AOY standings after the April 2-5 Evan Williams Bourbon Dixie Duel on Alabama's Wheeler Lake. Trailing him are Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., in second with 774 points, and Diamond Drive winner Mark Menendez of Paducah, Ky., in third with 761 points.In the 2009 Rookie of the Year standings, Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., is in the lead with 626 points and an overall standing of 22nd in the AOY race. Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala., is second with 565 points. He's tied for 39th in the AOY standings.Scroggins, who was successful in the 2007 event — a June competition in spawn and post-spawn conditions — with topwater fishing and shaky head rigs, figures to take a similar approach this time while acknowledging that the conditions will be different."There'll be more sight-fishing, with the fish up shallow," said Scroggins, who also worked a drop-shot to short structure in 2007. "And last time was the first time for most everyone. Now they've seen the lake, they're more familiar with it. I'm looking forward to it; that lake offers a lot of fish but there's a lot of pressure as well. I don't think we'll see 25-pound stringers."Scroggins said he thinks it will take 17 to 20 pounds a day to win the Blue Ridge Brawl. He expects swimbaits to play a big role in the competition, as well as finesse fishing, shaky head rigs and drop-shotting."This time we'll fish closer to the bank, so the topwater deal might still be good," he added. "It's kind of a deep, clear lake and that kind of stuff excels, but I think finesse fishing's going to be the way to go there. I'm sure there'll be some who try going deep, but the guys who fish shallow I think will have more success."Ashley's winning strategy in 2007 included working a Zoom Finesse worm in watermelon candy color to docks early in the day and later, a jig on rocky points on the main lake. His win and the season-opening victory that year by rookie Derek Remitz of Grant, Ala., marked the only two times in BASS history in which a rookie has won an Elite Series event.Fans are encouraged to attend the Blue Ridge Brawl's daily launches (7:15 a.m. ET) and weigh-ins (4 p.m.) Thursday through Sunday at Parkway Marina, 16918 Smith Mountain Lake Parkway, Huddleston, Va. After Day Two's competition Friday, the field will be cut to the top 50 anglers for Day Three. Only the top 12 will go on to compete in Day Four.Other activities Saturday and Sunday at the Blue Ridge Brawl will begin at 1 p.m. ET at Parkway Marina, featuring the popular Dog Training & Retriever Demonstrations Brought To You By SportDog. The fun also includes a Saturday performance by local band Jordan Road, from 1:30-3 p.m.; a Bassmaster CastingKids event Saturday, hosted by the Virginia BASS Federation Nation; Skeeter boat demos; cooking demonstrations; and a beer garden from 1-4:15 p.m. both days.At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, fans are invited to experience Bassmaster University, which includes the "Ask the Experts" session with Elite pros at 3 p.m.Sunday's activities include the live taping of Hooked Up, hosted by ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders. The show, which will air live at 3:30 p.m. ET on Bassmaster.com, will preview Sunday's final weigh-in.All events at the Advance Auto Parts Blue Ridge Brawl are free and open to the public. Up next in the Elite Series is the May 7-10 Marine Formula STA-BIL Southern Challenge on Lake Guntersville out of Guntersville, Ala.Local sponsors of the Blue Ridge Brawl are Franklin and Bedford counties.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine.