Changing with conditions key at Smith Lake

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Seigo Saito

Over the past several days, the entire state of Alabama has received heavy amounts of rain. Not quite the amount of rain that postponed the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Lewis Smith Lake originally back in April, but still enough to change the way anglers will approach this vast fishery. In five days, the water has risen over a foot and will continue to rise until the event begins.

The potential for slightly higher water and runoff water might have anglers more spread out than they would have been if the rain held off.

“I feel like the shallow bite is going to get better,” said Joey Nania when asked how the rain will affect the fishing. “With that being said, when people say that all the fish are doing one thing in a body of water, that’s just never the case. 

“Guys are going to have to adjust to the conditions and adjusting to the bite windows to have success in this event.”

Nania, who’s coming fresh off of a second-place finish at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Lake Norman, believes the anglers who have the most success on Smith Lake will have to mix in multiple patterns.

“I think combining patterns is going to be the deal,” said the Alabama native. “I feel like being able to adjust, roll with different patterns and pick up key bites here and there will be the ticket to doing really well and having a shot to win.”

Naturally, fishing in the early fall can be a difficult task, but adding pressure from a recent, larger scale local tournament is making these bass even more difficult to catch, says Elite Series pro Justin Atkins.

“When you get a lot of boats running around on this lake, these fish get harder and harder to catch,” said Atkins. “Being that it is a clear water fishery, these fish are already really smart.

“If you see a group of them and are able to catch one then that’s all you’re going to get. The rest of them are not going to bite.”

The North Alabama native believes that there is going to be three major patterns that will play on Smith Lake – running points, fishing for suspended spotted bass over deep water or running the bank and fishing shallow water for largemouth. Much like Nania, Atkins believes to have success, an angler will have to mix in at least two of those patterns.

“I feel like for someone to do well here, they’re going to have to know when to do what and mix in all three of those patterns,” he said. “I think whoever plays the conditions game the best is going to win this tournament.” 

Both anglers mentioned that this tournament could have been completely different if the weather had cooled down leading up to the tournament. The water temperatures are still in the upper 70s and low 80s which is delaying the traditional fall transition.

Another angler who echoed the same thoughts was Central Alabama native Jacob Walker.

“This is not a fall fishing tournament to me,” said Walker “This is setting up more like an August or September tournament.

“The fall topwater deal is just not happening like it should be yet, like it has in past years.”

Nania and Walker both believe it will take roughly 12 to 13 pounds a day to make the final day and 14 pounds a day to win the event. Atkins believes it will take 10 to 11 pounds a day to make the final day and 12 1/2 pounds per day to win the event.

With heavy amounts of rain the night before Day 1, anglers will have to continue adjusting to changing conditions. Check into Bassmaster.com to see which anglers make the proper adjustments on Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Lewis Smith Lake.