Fantasy Fishing: Party on Smith Lake

When I first saw this event on the schedule, I couldn’t help but think of Craig Morgan’s hit song “Redneck Yacht Club.” Unfortunately for the anglers, there will likely be several redneck yacht clubs on Smith this week. This lake is full of spotted bass, but the time of year and boat traffic will make this event more of a mental battle than anything else. I think the guys who can stay focused and not let outside factors rattle them will have a better shot than the guys who let pleasure boaters, heat, and tough fishing bother them.

I think this tournament will be won off the bank fishing deep brush or timber, but with the Alabama heat comes opportunities for big largemouth to be caught up shallow. Smith offers an abundance of shade in the form of docks, laydowns and overhangs. While fishing shallow is much more of a gamble, some guys have to gamble this week to get inside the Classic cutline. I’d bet someone will figure out how to catch consistent largemouth on the bank and have a Top 10 finish.

I based my picks on guys who I think will figure out the deep spotted bass or the shallow largemouth.

Let’s get down to business.


Wesley Gore is plenty familiar to tough fishing. He grew up fishing on the Coosa River and has excelled in tough tournaments on those impoundments. He had a 13th place finish at the 2021 St. Croix Bassmaster Open on a very stingy Smith Lake. As we’ve seen throughout the season, he is also a wizard with forward facing sonar, a skill that will be used this week.

Don’t Forget About: Jordan Lee

Jordan Lee is absolutely the local favorite in this one. After an uncharacteristically tough event at Wheeler Lake, Lee will be looking to win this event on his home lake. I’d be willing to bet he has some sneaky deals going on that will be used to his advantage. The only reason I’m not picking him is because everyone else is.


I can see Greg Hackney being someone who figures out how to catch quality fish up shallow. He had a good finish at Wheeler fishing the way he likes to, and I believe Smith will let him fish the way he likes to as well. The abundance of shallow cover and shade Smith has to offer should set up well for the veteran pro.

Don’t Forget About: Jacob Powroznik

Jacob Powroznik won the Open here in 2021 and loves fishing with a spinning rod. In 2021, he focused on fishing for suspended fish over deep timber, a pattern that we could see prevail this week.


Taku Ito is everyone’s favorite smallmouth angler, but he’s also a spotted bass killer. Ito had a Top 10 finish in the 2019 Open at Smith and another Top 10 in the 2022 Bassmaster Classic on Hartwell. I like Ito’s odds of figuring out the deep game at Smith.

Don’t Forget About: Jeff Gustafson

Similar to Ito, Jeff Gustafson is really good at catching finnicky spotted bass. The Classic Champ has proven he can catch them with his electronics and he has plenty of experience with navigating big water. He also has the right boat to handle all the boat wakes Smith will offer.


An up and down year for Bob Downey puts him in an interesting spot with three tournaments remaining. The Minnesota pro has to gamble a bit to get inside the Classic cutline. With the Elite Series going to New York for the final two events, Downey needs a good week on Smith to get moving in the right direction. I look at Downey as one of the guys who can figure out a both a shallow and a deep bite.

Don’t Forget About: Mike Iaconelli

The veteran pro Mike Iaconelli is no stranger to tough fishing or to spotted bass lakes. He loves to junk fish and has enough experience to keep his head in the game when things get tough. I can see him being a guy to gamble and fish for largemouth in the morning then venture out deep. Ike needs a big week and similarly to Downey, I like his odds for the gamble to pay off.


Bryant Smith is having a tough sophomore season on the Elite Series. His experience with the spotted bass in Northern California will come into play this week and I can see him finding something off the wall. We’ve seen California anglers historically have success on spotted bass fisheries with guys like Brent Ehrler and Justin Lucas.

Don’t Forget About: Joey Cifuentes

Joey Cifuentes is another guy having an uncharacteristically tough season. He went as far as to wear something other than a cowboy hat last week at Wheeler Lake. He’s proven that he can catch them anywhere, and I think he’ll get it together this week and get a little momentum moving up north.

Falcon Rods Bassmaster Drain the Lake Challenge

• Jacob Powroznik
• Chris Zaldain
• Jonathan Kelley
• Scott Canterbury
• Jason Williamson
• Jason Christie
• Matty Wong
• Tyler WIlliams