Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Follow my Fish of 2017
Whew. I know a lot of you don't like really long articles and while I do plan on writing a documentary on this weekend and the prefishing that led up to it, I figured I'd write a more streamlined fishing report.
A few months ago, our club president sent out the 2017 schedule. Unlike past years, we wouldn't be starting on Guntersville. We would be starting on Lewis Smith lake due to the decline of Guntersville.
Talk about a change of scenery! Everything about Smith is virtually the opposite of Guntersville from the depth to the type of fish we would be targeting. One thing was for certain: come February, there would be good days and there would be tough days. Could we find fish and would they be active, considering the volatile weather we typically have this time of year.
Since I had fished Smith lake just one other time, back in the fall of 2015, we figured it would be best if we put some serious hours on the lake. So, though Josh and I would be competing against each other in the tournament, it was best if we teamed up, considering we hadn't seen the lake. Therefore, we hit the lake up mid-way through January. You can read the report by clicking on the link below.
It wasn't a great day, but we had a decent little limit though we didn't find any real pattern. We fished within two miles of the Smith Lake Park ramp and all the fish came off of completely different lures, covers, and depths.
Brad and I took a day off two weeks later. This time, we put in at the dam so as to cover more sections of the lake. You can read that report by clicking the link below.
After a morning without a bite, we covered miles of water scanning with our electronics. On a lake where the blue back herring are supposed to school up (along with the spotted bass who feed on them) all we found was miles and miles of gin colored water. Eventually, we did stumble into water with some color. Though it didn't provide any fish, we did make a note of the rarity of the stained water.
A week later we checked back in at the park and made another day of scanning. We covered even more water but a single fish was all we caught. We were beginning to get frustrated.
Fast forward a few weeks. It was Thursday the 16th and it was tournament week. In the three previous trips, we had caught less than 10 fish and none of them over the slot limit.
Brad and I put in at the park again. Thanks to some intel we had received, we were going to spend the entire day looking for exactly one things: shallow cuts, coves, and slews with stained water. We had to cover a lot of water, but eventually we found the first area that matched what we were looking for. In this case, it was actually two shallow cuts, so there were three points. The area was in the shape of a "W."
After days without consistent bites, Brad quickly had two bites and I had one. We didn't hammer on the fish, letting them pick the bait up and run with it before shaking them loose. Both of us were using some sort of bait on a shakey head. In my case, a green pumpkin PTL 5" Sick Stick. Going down the points, I began casting a PTL Swinging Hammer swimbait on wood and picked up a solid largemouth.
We quickly left and pulled up on similar cut. A few casts and we had two fish in the boat. We moved to another slew and I made a single cast with a Strike King 5XD on my new custom AKRods cranking stick. One cast is all it took and we boated our nicest fish of the day.
We spent the afternoon looking for more spots similar but we couldn't find any good stain. We put it on the trailer having only put three fish in the boat, but thinking we might have begun to get on a pattern. After all, we had more bites in 30 minutes in those few spots than on all the other trips combined.
There was only one place that I really hadn't covered yet and that was the Sipsy River, which was on the far end of the lake from the ramp we would be using. Still, I felt like I had to make sure we weren't missing anything so I called up John, who fishes the area a good bit. We agreed to turn it around the next morning and hit it.
24 hours later, I had marked the Sipsy off the list. More importantly, I had now covered virtually every creek and river on Smith and had found exactly one area that seemed to have biting fish.
Now came the hard part: the 12 hours before the first tournament of the year, knowing that I hadn't caught a ton of fish and that I could likely strike out again. Though there was the possibility that we had found fish, there was also the possibility that Smith lake could be Smith lake, as many had said. That is, it could change on us in 24 hours.
That night, I sat in the shower for 45 minutes trying to convince myself that we had a shot. After all, we aren't that bad of fishermen and we had put in some serious work at least eliminating water.
3:30 AM came early and I was off to Brad's. 30 minutes later and we were headed to the park. At 6:15, we were off and running, making a 2 mile run to where we had located water with all the attributes we needed. All we needed was the fish to bite, if they were still there.
We found the water was a good bit clearer than it had been 24 hours before but still had some decent stain. Surprisingly, we saw schooling fish for the fish time in all of our prefishing as the rain began to drizzle. After a few casts with an underspin and a PTL grub, I picked up the AKRods custom cranking stick and began casting it to the center of the pocket.
It took two casts before the rod loaded up. This was no spot under the slot limit. This was a big fish. The fish rolled on its side about 20 yards from the boat and both our hearts began pounding. It was both the quickest and biggest bite we had had in all of our prefishing. With a superb net job, Brad lifted a chunk of a fish into the boat. It wasn't a 5-pounder, but it was a solid 3, which was a perfectly fine start.
A few casts later and I boated another over the slot keeper on the 5XD. Brad missed a fish that had picked up the shakey head and run with it. I had a fish pull off the 5XD before picking up the shakey head with the sick stick and having it also pull off. However, we were relatively certain that both fish would have been in the slot.
The rain stopped and so did the bites. Occasionally, a fish would pick up the shakey heads. These fish weren't thumping it. Instead, the bait would either simply lose contact with the bottom or the line would get heavy.
We moved out to the first point. Brad broke off a fish and as he retied, I took the trolling motor. Sitting in 25 feet of water, I began to mark fish on the depth finder right under the boat. So, I would play the shakey head all the way to the boat. In back to back casts, I would vertically jig the bait and it would get heavy. I would set the hook and swing aboard a nice spot.
We had 4 over the slot fish now and we felt like we were in great shape. The sun got up and we entered a four hour dry period.
That doesn't mean we didn't catch anything because we did. Eventually we did boat a fifth keeper, two unders and two slots. But, we had a 15.25 inch fish we wanted to get rid of.
Around noon, we began to get a lot of bites as we fished both sides of each of the three points. The issue was that the fish were picking the baits up and quickly dropping them. We began catching them after adding a combination of chartreuse dye and PTL Hog Tonic. After catching a few buck bass, we sat down to eat lunch and talk.
We came to the conclusion that we were catching the males. These fish were very pale even though we were catching them shallow. Based upon this, we figured that the spawn was beginning and the males were making beds.
With an hour left, we decided to move off of the points to the first big drop where we thought the females were holding.
After several good thumps, which we hadn't had all day, Brad hooked up with a beautiful spot, culling the smallest fish. This gave us a solid 12 pounds with one more small-ish fish in the livewell.
With 30 minutes to go, a fish thumped my shakey head. I set the hook and slow played a nice largemouth aboard.
We culled the smaller fish and headed to the ramp.
As we put the fish in the bags, we had several people come over and talk to us. Both of us were fairly distracted and when Brad asked me if there were five fish in the bag, I made the assumption he was worried about having too few fish. But, I fished around in the bag and touched five fish, so we were all good.
At the weigh in, we weighed in our big fish which wasn't big enough to take home that check, so we began to toss in the rest of the fish. After we got five fish in the basket, I looked down and saw that there was another fish still in our bag. And, worst of all, it was one of the better fish. So, we were forced to weigh in one of our smaller fish.
Luckily, it didn't really cost us. We weighed in 12.5 pounds with the smaller fish, which was good enough for 2nd place, about two pounds off the 14.5 pounds it took for the win . In all, we caught around 15 fish, which was double the amount of fish we caught in all of our prefishing. It was the prefishing on Thursday that put us on the fish, even though it wasn't much.