JASPER, Ala. — Dealing with changing weather and the postspawn are givens during spring tournaments, and those conditions will be in play at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open coming up on Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama.
The tournament will be held April 25-27, with daily takeoffs at 6 a.m. CT from Smith Lake Dam Access, where the daily weigh-ins begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday the final weigh-in begins at 3:30 p.m. CT at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Leeds, a suburb of Birmingham. A field of 190 boats will compete on the first two days with only the Top 12 pros and co-anglers advancing to the final round.
“There is a lot going on, from the rising and falling water, to the postspawn funk with the largemouth and some of the spotted bass,” explained David Kilgore, a longtime Opens pro and Bassmaster Classic qualifier from Jasper.
Kilgore said the north Alabama lake remained above full pool for three weeks, and then returned to near normal in recent days. Heavy rainfall going into Easter weekend raised the level again. The lake will be falling through practice until the tournament begins.
Falling water and sluggish postspawn bass. Tournament anglers cringe at the thought of having to deal with both challenges, and that is how Smith Lake is setting up.
Kilgore lives and works just minutes from the 21,000-acre lake, and he won the 2014 tournament on Smith and placed 10th in the 2017 Open. Based on the current conditions, Kilgore predicts a winning weight of 45 pounds. Catching 15 pounds each day will be a tall order. Daily limits of 11 pounds will be more common.
“Those same five-bass limits weighed 15 pounds before the spawn, and it will take going through a lot of fish to get above that 10- or 11-pound mark,” he said. “The fish are just really skinny right now after coming off the spawn.”
Choosing between largemouth and spotted bass is always a decision to be made here. The lake is loaded with spotted bass, and Kilgore sees those fish as the most reliable for the tournament.
“The largemouth will be hard to pattern in that high water, depending on where it is by the tournament, and you will have to run a lot of areas to fill out a decent limit,” Kilgore said. “They will be spread out and it’ll be a bonus if you can catch a decent largemouth.”
Not surprisingly, you can expect to find Kilgore offshore.
“The spots will be in their usual places and it can be easily won on them,” he said. “What it’ll come down to is finding a reliable concentration of spots that can hold up for three days of the tournament.”
Kilgore said the herring bite that makes the lake such a spotted bass powerhouse has not materialized yet.
“It normally begins in late April or early May but we have already had a really wet spring and with everything else you can’t count on it to be in play,” he said.
Local host is the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.