Thursday, October 07, 2004
Bill Cochran's Outdoors: No home-court advantge for Smith Mountain Lake bass contest
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
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- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
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Bill's Field Reports
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- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
No one knows better than Dale Wilson that the clear, deep water of Smith Mountain Lake is a major challenge for bass anglers when the bright, October sun smiled down on the 20,000-acre impoundment.
Wilson has been a fishing guide on the lake for more than 30 years, hanging up his shingle as water from the Roanoke and Blackwater rivers began to swell against the new Smith Mountain Dam.
So you’ve got to figure that he will have a home-court advantage when the Citgo Bassmaster Northern Open comes to town Oct. 14-16. One of his specialties is fishing the deep brush piles with finesse equipment designed to deal with clear water.
Wilson needs a good tournament. He ranks about 70th in the point standings following two previous Northern Open tournaments, both held in New York. Things were looking good for him, with the final tournament of the series coming to his home lake.
Then it rained. And rained. Flood water swept down the Roanoke and Blackwater, pushing boats through the roofs of boathouses and turning the water to the color of coffee with a little cream in it.
This, said Wilson, has leveled the playing field.
“We will have stained water where we normally never have anything but clear water in the fall,” he said. “It should make it a better tournament for everyone, especially for people who have never been here. I look for a lot of quality fish to be caught.”
It will take 32- to 38-pounds of bass to win the three-day tournament, Wilson estimates.
Mike Hicks, a veteran fisherman from Mineral, is even more optimistic. “Fourteen to 16 pounds a day” is what the winner will have to reel in, he believes.
When BASS announced it would be coming to Smith Mountain Hicks said he was skeptical, knowing the lake’s Scrooge-like reputation as a fall fishery. But the recent hurricane rains changed that.
“To be honest with you, it is going to be a little bit better than I expected,” he said.
Hicks ranks eighth in the Northern standings. The top Virginian is Tony Black of Manassas, who ranks fourth. Of the 350 entries expected, 47 boaters and 68 non-boaters are from Virginia.
First in the Northern Division standings is Pete Gluszek of New Jersey, followed by Chris Bielert of Conn., Grant Golbeck of Md. and then Black. Virginians Kurt Dove (Warrenton) and Woo Daves (Spring Grove) are 11th and 12th and Rick Morris of Lanexa is 19th.
Daves, the 2000 Bassmaster Classic winner and winner of the previous Northern tournament on the Hudson River, will draw considerable attention, but he is quick to say that Smith Mountain is not home water for him. “I haven’t fished it in probably 18 years. I don’t have any advantage,” he said.
No one does, thanks to the stained water.
“There’s something for every style of fishing except for grass,” Daves said. “It has tons of boat docks. It’s got a lot of humps and points, a lot of rock. A guy should be able to find anything he likes to fish.”
Wilson agrees. “There will be people catching fish deep and shallow,” he said.
Spinnerbaits and jigs will be the top-producing lures, Wilson predicts. “It all depends upon what the baitfish do,” he said. “If the bait stays deep, jigs. If the bait come up, spinnerbaits, and maybe even Rat-L-Traps and crankbaits will work well.
“Patterns change so much here in the fall that you are not going to catch them in the same pattern every day,” Wilson said. “I don’t care how much you know about this lake. You are going to have to adjust to different conditions and that is a real challenge.”
Contestants won’t just be fishing for the $50,000 win, but for points that can advance them to an Open Championship. The top-five in the championship advance to the prestigious Bassmasters Classic.
IF YOU WANT TO WATCH
Contestants will be launching beginning 7:15 a.m. Oct. 14-16 at Waterwheel Marina on the Bedford County side of Hales Ford Bridge (Virginia 122). The daily weigh-in is scheduled to take place 3:20 p.m. at Bridgewater Plaza, on the Franklin County side of Hales Ford Bridge. Bleachers will be provided, and there is no charge to observe the event.
Look for more comments on the tournament in Cochran’s MailBag.