Crews Says Fish Your Strengths for Smith Mountain Big Bass

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The past two years’ Big Bass Tour events at Virginia’s Smith Mountain Lake have defied expectations, pumping out both big fish and numbers of big fish. Forget any previously-held conceptions of a “finesse” lake – this is a fishery that continues to improve as a trophy destination despite already becoming a premier tournament venue. More importantly, said Virginia pro John Crews, it doesn’t necessarily cater to a narrow skill set.

“One year it might be won throwing a spinnerbait in dirty water,” he said. “The next year it could be won on a bed fish in the clear water. Whatever you want to do, you should do it. If there’s something you’re not as good at, you don’t need to try that.”

Furthermore, he said that even with a large field of competitors the big reservoir shouldn’t seem crowded. “The great things about Smith Mountain is that all parts of the lake produce good numbers of fish and big fish,” he explained. “You can catch them down by the dam, far up either of the rivers, or anywhere in between. Sometimes it’s just a numbers game. Once you establish a key area or types of places, keep with it and after catching some 2- or 3-pounders eventually you’ll run into an occasional 4- or 5- or better.” The biggest smallmouths, he added, will likely be in the lower third of the lake, but oversized largemouths could be anywhere. Stake a claim on an area or pattern and get to work.

As the result of a harsh, wet and lengthy winter, both species should enter the spawn later than usual. It’s possible to look for them and then sight fish up a tournament winner, but Crews noted that this year even late in April “there will still be a lot of the better fish staging.” His tournament strategy would likely depend on the weather.

If it’s calmer and sunny, he might sight fish or pursue heavy bass that haven’t fully moved up – the latter group might be on points, secondary points or key docks. If it was raining or windy, he might push all of his chips to the center of the table go hunting for a big one with a swimbait. While smaller ribbed swimbaits are increasingly popular with just about every serious tournament angler, Crews would likely go bigger – with a jointed line-through boot tail, a triple jointed hard bait, or a large glide bait. That might not entice many bites, but it’ll get the right ones to bite.

Going big makes sense because recent Big Bass Tour results on Smith Mountain have pushed the necessary weights to win higher. Last year Randy Fairbanks weighed in an incredible 8.32 pound bruiser to claim top honors and was followed up by five fish over 6 pounds and four more over 5 to round out the top ten overall. In 2017, no one hit the 8-pound mark, but two fish over 7 pounds reached the scales and it took 6.11 to crack the top ten. It has become exceedingly rare for a fish under 5 pounds to claim the hourly top prize. Last year two anglers snuck in with 4.93 and 4.72 pound bass, but those are exceptions rather than the rule. This is a tournament where it pays to figure out what you do best, put the blinders on and get to work searching for a fish that breaks the mold.