For most of its 40-year history, Smith Mountain Lake's reputation has been linked to its striped bass fishery, which produces fish in the 30- to 40-pound class. Today, however, largemouth bass are the lake's favorite fish, and this 20,600-acre Roanoke River reservoir has become one of Virginia's most popular lakes.
One of the most scenic impoundments the Elite pros will visit this season, Smith Mountain offers 500 miles of winding shoreline along its 40-mile length. That means it's full of coves, cuts and drainages along both the Roanoke and Blackwater river arms, and along with the coves are laydowns, stumps and other shallow cover largemouth love.
What most pros will end up fishing during the Blue Ridge Brawl, however, will be boathouses. There is no shortage of them, which isn't surprising, given the area's natural beauty. There has only been one previous Bassmaster event on Smith Mountain Lake, the October 2004 Northern Division Open, which was won with 33 pounds, 14 ounces, all taken from the boathouses. In June the bass may be using them even more.
Although boathouses will get the most attention, the different types of cover along the rivers or in tributaries like Craddock Creek will also let anglers use crankbaits, spinnerbaits and even topwaters. Some anglers will also likely fish jigs near the Smith Mountain Dam and its rocky riprap.
The National D-Day Memorial near Bedford honors the 35 Bedford soldiers who went ashore at Omaha Beach on Normandy as part of the Allied invasion, and the 21 who were killed that day, the highest proportional loss for D-Day of any city in America. The memorial includes bronze statues, a plaza, reflecting pool, story wall and museum.
Other attractions include the Booker T. Washington National Monument, as well as half a dozen area wineries open for tours and wine tasting. (www.franklincountyva.org; www.visitbedford.com)