Smith Mountain Lake, known as The Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains, will be home to the fourth Elite Series event of the 2009 season. The lake spans a little over 20,000 surface acres with more than 500 miles of shoreline, most of it characterized by coves, docks and boathouses.
This Roanoke and Blackwater river impoundment is deep. It averages 55 feet, with many spots in the 100 foot range. The deepest spot, close to the dam, is reported to be 250 feet. Seasonal water fluctuations are negligible, but daily fluctuations of 1 to 2 feet caused by electricity production are considered normal.
April is considered one of the best months to bass fish on Smith Mountain Lake.
"The fishing's pretty good right now, and the weather is supposed to warm so I'd say it'll get even better as the week goes along," said Elite Series competitor, John Crews. "My guess is it'll take 26 pounds or so to make the Friday night cut and fish with the Top 50 on Saturday. And it'll probably take somewhere around 48 pounds to launch Sunday morning with the final 12.
"The winning weight will be between 70 and 75 pounds. I know that sounds heavy, but this is a good fishery and the conditions are right for big sacks. Along with all that, I'll say the biggest bass of the tournament will weigh around 8 1/2 pounds."
The Salem, Va., pro justified his weights by detailing conditions on the lake. He reported water temperatures between 57 and 61 degrees with excellent water clarity. There's visibility to 5-6 feet in many places. Almost nowhere is it less than 3 feet.
"There'll be a lot of swimbaits thrown here this week. Conditions are right for them. They'll be good almost anywhere in the lake. Guys who develop solid patterns with them will load their boats.
"Remember, there are lots of docks and boathouses around the lake. They'll play a role — a very important role — in this tournament. Those bass can be caught with lots of different lures. Guys will be able to fish to their strengths. That always increases the weights.
"At the same time, I'm not seeing any bass that are finished with their spawn. Everything I've seen this week is either heading towards the beds or getting ready to go on them. With the weather forecast what it is I'd say there'll be some bed fishing. How much and what role it plays in the final result, is yet to be determined."
Crews also mentioned the cool nights, and their possible impact on the tournament.
"The nights are cool at this time of year. That usually means a good early morning bite. That could turn out to be an important factor in the final results depending on who launches when and where their fish are located."
Taking everything he's seen this week plus years of fishing Smith Mountain Lake into consideration, Crews said savvy fans should be watching Ish Monroe and Russ Lane as the tournament unfolds.
"Ish is really good with swimbaits, and he can definitely bed fish. He's a no-brainer pick here. And I saw Russ Lane earlier. I think he's got the right attitude. His head is definitely in the right place for this tournament. I'd watch both those guys. They could spell serious trouble for the rest of us."