Recent storms, high water, could play role at Open on Lewis Smith

Editor's Note: This event was rescheduled to October 7-9, 2021 due to flooding.

JASPER, Ala. — The state of Alabama has endured severe storms and heavy rainfall during the past week, causing water levels to soar. 

With more severe weather and rain in the forecast ahead of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open at Lewis Smith Lake April 1-3, anglers will find a different landscape at the historic fishery than in years past, according to Bassmaster Opens competitor and Jasper native David Kilgore

Anglers will take off each day from Smith Lake Public Boat Ramp at 6:30 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins on Days 1 and 2 will be held at the boat ramp starting at 2:30 p.m., and the final-day weigh-in will move to Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Ala., at 4 p.m. 

“What we are facing now is, the lake is superhigh. Depending on how much rain we get, I don’t know how low they are going to be able to get this thing before the tournament starts,” said Kilgore, a four-time B.A.S.S. winner and two-time qualifier for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. “You are going to have flooded trees and bushes. It is going to be a whole different lake. 

“When it’s normal, I know right where to go, but this time I’m not sure. Right now, the lake is up several feet over full pool.”

Lewis Smith Lake, a 21,000-acre reservoir located just north of Birmingham, is a generally rocky reservoir with plenty of creek arms and fishable docks during normal conditions. The presence of blueback herring controls the attitude of the bass — and while there is a healthy largemouth population, spots are the predominant species.

Historically, Kilgore said the beginning of April is when the spawn begins, and he normally focuses on the spotted bass spawn rather than the largemouth.    

“I don’t fool with the largemouth much just because of the population. They are harder to find,” he said. “Spots spawn all over the lake. They will spawn in the back of a pocket in a foot of water and sometimes they will spawn in the middle of the lake on a point.

“With the herring, they are there one day and gone the next. They will come to the bank and spawn and then they’ll go back to eating herring.”

Depending on the air and water temperatures, the 2014 Bassmaster Open champion at Smith Lake thinks this tournament could be more of a prespawn event than a spawning situation.

“This is usually the week the spawning starts and I doubt it will be much different,” Kilgore said. “It is still cool here now and the water is still cool. 

“By the tournament, if they get the water down to a reasonable level, it’s not difficult to catch 10 or 11 pounds, but it is more difficult to catch 13 or 14. If you catch that for multiple days, you are doing really well.”

Kilgore added that he doesn’t believe the high-water conditions will affect the spawn; the bass will just be spawning in deeper water. 

Although the 2020 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series event on Smith was won with largemouth bass in high water by Ethan Jones and Andrew Althoff from McKendree University, with their Day 1 bag weighing just under 20 pounds, Kilgore doesn’t anticipate that happening during the Open. 

“It’s going to scatter the largemouth and, in my opinion, it will make them harder to catch,” he said. “What they had there was the perfect storm. I’ve caught over 20 pounds there with largemouth multiple times, but during the spawn, no. I’ve done it when it’s cold.”

Crankbaits, spinnerbaits and worms are a few of the baits Kilgore expects to play. If the bass are chasing herring, he said a topwater bait could come into play as well. 

The full field will compete the first two days before the boater side is cut to the Top 10 anglers for Championship Saturday. The co-angler champion will be crowned after the Day 2 weigh-in.

The Chamber of Commerce of Walker County is hosting the event.