Like most bass tournaments, the Bassmaster Southern Open at Lewis Smith Lake in north Alabama was a mix of good and bad impressions from the anglers who fished it. It kind of reminded me of that old western movie with Clint Eastwood, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Because Smith Lake is predominantly a spotted bass lake, and because it has a 15-inch length limit, catches were low. The 179-angler field managed only 45 limits and 758 fish. This translates to 4.48 man hours per keeper fish. Those keepers averaged about 1.92 pounds each, but when you take the 15-inch minimum into account, that's not very impressive. Elite pro Bobby Lane caught the largest bass of the tournament (4-11).
Of the 179 pro anglers, 20 of those failed to catch a keeper either day; and only one angler, the eventual winner, Andy Montgomery, caught a limit all three days. The weather played a major role in these low numbers, with cloud cover and high winds during practice and clear skies and calm conditions during the actual tournament.
The fishing was good. Almost everyone caught large numbers of fish, though they were small. Anglers reported catching 3 1/2- to 5-pound spots during the cloudy and windy practice days. Smith Lake is beautiful, with a variety of cover to fish, including hundreds of points, thousands of boat docks and many creeks and tributaries.
The town really went all out for this tournament. At the ramp on the tournament mornings, they had volunteers with golf carts to shuttle people back and forth and a large police presence to help direct traffic. It was obvious that the chamber of commerce not only appreciated the anglers being there, but also did everything they could to make the anglers feel welcome and have a good week.
All in all, the good, the bad and the ugly added up to what any good bass tournament should be about: a challenging test to see who can take advantage of the conditions presented and catch the most bass. In this case, BASS, Lewis Smith Lake and Mother Nature conspired to give the anglers all the challenge they could handle and then some.