Crews Says Smith Mountain Lake BBT Promises Pre-Spawn Bonanza

Monday, April 2, 2018

Crews Says Smith Mountain Lake BBT Promises Pre-Spawn Bonanza

By Pete Robbins

A seemingly endless string of brutal cold fronts has kept southwest Virginia’s bass in a state of flux throughout the late winter and into the spring. That has forced local anglers to take advantage of limited feeding windows, and Elite Series pro John Crews believes that the best of those windows is about to open wide, just in time for the Big Bass Tour’s event on April 14 and 15 at Smith Mountain Lake.

“It is subject to be en fuego,” he said. “It warmed up kind of early this year, but then we’ve had a funky month and a half of cold front after cold front. It has been taking good weights to win, but it’s about to break loose and they’re going to flood the banks.”

While the fish are no doubt anxious to start their reproductive duties, Crews believes that “it may be just a smidge early for sight fishing,” so the best way to catch a monster – or a limit of monsters – is to focus on pre-spawn tactics.

“My two best big fish baits there are a jig and a swimbait,” he said. “I might sprinkle in a jerkbait like a SPRO McStick for both largemouths and smallmouths, too.”

His jig of choice is the Missile Baits Ike Mini Flip in Green Pumpkin or Bamer Craw (a combination of green pumpkin and orange), tipped with a matching Missile Baits Baby D Bomb. This combination excels around both rocks and docks.

He’s not a dedicated swimbait chucker, but he believes that someone throwing a boot tail, a glide bait or a double jointed hard bait “could get their arm ripped off, either by a monster striper or it could be a 7 or 8 pound largemouth. That’s the wild card factor.”

Indeed, he won’t be surprised if someone weighs in an 8 or 9 pounder, and he’s confident that there will be “a lot of 5 and 6 pounders.” History bears the latter part of this prediction out. Last year it took 6.11 pounds to creep into the top 10 for the event, and there were two over 7 weighed in, including a 7.81 pound sow. The lowest top fish for any given hour was 5.20 pounds. In 2016, no one topped the 6 pound mark – a 5.99 was the top dog – and in 2015 three anglers topped it, and it took a stout 5.61 to creep into the top ten overall.

Overall, Crews expects that the lake will “fish big,” with competitors having opportunities to catch fish in various sections without the need to pile on top of one another. “One of my favorite things about Smith Mountain Lake is that you can catch good fish from the dam all the way up the rivers,” he said. While the tournament weigh-in site at Crazy Horse Marina provides easy access to the Blackwater River and the lower end of the lake, anglers may also venture up the Roanoke River in search of seclusion and the fish of a lifetime.

As in all Big Bass Tour events, a generous slate of prizes, including a 2018 Nitro Z19 powered by a Mercury 150HP ProXS outboard, valued at $36,000 as the overall grand prize. On top of that, there are $53,900 in guaranteed total hourly paybacks and $16,000 in merchandise such as Lew’s Mach Speed Stick baitcasting rods.

PRO TIP: Don’t discount your smaller fish. On a fishery like Conroe or the Harris Chain, it typical takes a quality fish to claim even the final check in an hourly distribution, but on a venue like Smith Mountain, where there aren’t quite as many monsters, sometimes the opportunity presents itself to win big with an average keeper. Last year, three hourly sessions paid out prize money to anglers whose fish weighed less than 2 pounds. In 2015 and 2016 there were even more sub-2 pound prize winners. Don’t throw back a fish just because it won’t win an hourly top prize, but be strategic about when you weigh in your smaller fish. If the bite’s about to turn on, and you’re 20 miles away from weigh-in, it may or may not be a wise use of time to head back in just to claim a lesser cash prize.