The 2010 Southern Open presented by Bass Pro Shops on Smith Lake was a mixed bag. For the winner, Andy Montgomery, it was a dream come true. For Gerald Swindle, the second place finisher, it was a nightmare. And, for the man who claimed the third slot, local angler Brian Morris, it was a lesson learned.
Here's how they tell the story:
(1st place — 34 pounds, 9 ounces)
The first two days my pattern consisted of fishing docks in stained water. I didn't care how deep the water was around them. If they were deeper, I caught spotted bass. If they were shallow, I caught largemouth.
The key was to keep the baits moving fast. Most of my bass came off Shooter Lures spinnerbaits and jigs. My primary color was white. I'd run from one dock to the next cranking as fast as I could. I made three casts to every dock — one on each side and another down the middle.
On the final day the dock pattern went south on me. I finally found a few keepers by fishing a white Shooter buzzbait under a string of overhanging trees. Basically, it was a classic topwater bite at that point.
If there was something special about what I was doing it was that I fished darker water than most of the other guys. The fish seemed to be more active in it and that made a big difference. It let me move from dock to dock quicker and make a faster retrieve so I could cover more water in a day. I was able to fish upwards of 150 docks a day the first two days. That made all the difference in the world.
I used a bunch of different rods — all Team Daiwa Zillion models — along with high-speed (7.1:1 gear ratio) Team Daiwa Zillion reels. For everything other than my buzzbait, I spooled with 20-pound-test P-Line fluorocarbon. For my buzzbaits I used 20-pound-test Izorline monofilament.
(2nd place — 33 pounds)
I've never had a day like Saturday. It was a living hell. Everything I did went wrong. I lost two fish over 4 pounds and two more over 3 pounds. I just couldn't get them in the boat. It was especially frustrating after leading for the first two days.
On Thursday and Friday I had a really good bite going with a Lucky Craft G-Splash. It was big and they were all over it. To be fair, I also caught a few on a buzzbait, but my primary lure was that big G-Splash.
Then, on Saturday, they started blowing up on it but not taking it. I decided to throw a smaller model. That worked. They were taking it in their mouths and I was able to get a hook set.
The problem was that the smaller G-Splash comes with No. 6 hooks. They just weren't big enough. I was fishing tight areas of brush, trees and along cracks in bluff walls. Every time I got one hooked she'd straighten out the hooks.
Once I got frustrated, I started making mistakes, which only made the situation worse. When all was said and done I lost the tournament. You only get so many chances to win one of these things. I blew this one. What else can I say?
My rods, reels and line didn't have anything to do with my meltdown, nor did the bait. I should have made other adjustments and kept my cool. I guess you can call that a lesson.
(3rd place — 31 pounds, 11 ounces)
I usually fish this lake every morning in May. It's my favorite time to be out there. I had an early morning bite over creek points, which put a couple of keepers in the livewell Thursday and Friday. After that I moved to deep docks. Later in the afternoon I targeted laydowns on bluff walls.
My primary lure was a Super Spook — yellow belly, white sides, black back — alternated with a chartreuse shad Pointer 100 jerkbait. I fished both lures with a 7-foot Dobyns rod (medium-heavy action) and a Revo high-speed reel (7.1:1 gear ratio). I threw the Spook on 20-pound-test P-Line monofilament and the jerkbait on 12-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
I might have won this one if I'd had my insurance papers in order. When they checked me on Saturday morning, my card didn't show my limits of liability. I called my dad at our La-Z-Boy offices to get the policy and fax it to BASS. By the time I got that straightened out, I'd lost my early bite. It was a lesson learned. Pay attention to everything, not just the fishing.