From Shaky Heads to Squarebills: How the Top 10 Caught Their Fish on Smith Lake - Major League Fishing

From Shaky Heads to Squarebills: How the Top 10 Caught Their Fish on Smith Lake

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Dean Rojas and the Top 10 caught fish on Smith Lake with a variety of baits. Photo by Josh Gassmann
May 7, 2019 • Dave Landahl • Bass Pro Tour

Post-spawn bass fishing is never easy, but the MLF Bass Pro Tour anglers put on a show last week at Alabama’s Smith Lake as loads of scorable spotted bass (with the occasional largemouth) showed each day. The Top 10 anglers found that the shad spawn was a key to success early in the day and deeper and submerged cover played major roles as well.

1. Dean Rojas

Rojas made hay while the sun was shining – and the shad spawn was going strong – on Championship Sunday with a series of different baits: a swimbait, a squarebill, a Ned rig, a popper and (of course) a frog.

He threw both a squarebill and a 3/8-ounce swim jig with a Tennessee Shad Big Bite Suicide Shad trailer on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium heavy Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod and two different Duckett 360 Series reels (5.3:1 and 6.3:1 gear ratios). He spooled both of those with 16-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper Fluorocarbon.

His Ned rig was a homemade 1/8-ounce head with a Gamakatsu hook and a green pumpkin purple flake Big Bite King Stick that he cut in half. He fished that rig on a 7-2 medium heavy Duckett Black Ice rod and a size 2500 Daiwa Exist spinning reel spooled with 7-pound FC Sniper.

His swimbait setup started with a 2/0 Gamakatsu bullet head with a Big Bite Finesse Swimmer fished on the same Duckett rod and reel he threw his swim jig on (except spooled with 10-pound SC Sniper instead of 16).

His topwater baits where a Spro Hydro-Pop in Tennessee Shad and a Spro Dean Rojas Bronzeye Spit Shad in Killer Gill. His frog rod was a 7-0 Duckett Dean Rojas Signature Series Frog Rod and a Duckett 360 reel (6.3:1) spooled with 80-pound Sunline FX2 braid.

“When they’re feeding like that, you have to throw a smorgasbord at them,” Rojas said. “You can’t just stick with one bait.”

Dean Rojas rang up SCORETRACKER® during the shad spawn. Photo by Josh Gassmann

2. Brent Chapman

“Stained water was the biggest key for me,” claimed Chapman. “I fished rocky banks, bushes, docks. I didn’t use one spinning rod during the tournament. Because of the stained water area I found, I fished in my comfort zone the entire event. I just changed and adapted with the fish.”

Chapman used a 1.5 squarebill with number 5 Trokar trebles fished with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon and a 1/2-ounce shad-colored bladed jig, fished with 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon during Shotgun Round 2.

During Elimination Round 2 and the Knockout Round, Chapman went with the combination of a Westin Baby Bite DR crankbait in a shad color, Trokar trebles, and 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon, as well as flipping a 4-inch green pumpkin creature bait with a Trokar flipping hook and a 5/16-ounce tungsten weight with 20-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

During the Championship Round, the shad spawn was the ticket early on, and he used a 3/8-ounce white swim jig fished with 40-pound Kast King braid, along with some flipping.

All rods and reels were Kast King.

Brent Chapman made a late charge on Championship Sunday to finish second. Photo by Josh Gassmann

3. Michael Neal

Neal’s main bait was a green pumpkin 5-inch Big Bite Neko Wacky Stick rigged with a 1/16-ounce nail weight, number 1 Gamakatsu G-Finesse Weedless Stinger Hook, and 10-pound Sunline SX1 braid with an 8-pound Sunline Sniper leader, all fished with a Denali 7-foot medium spinning N3 rod and Daiwa Tatula LT 2500 reel.

“On Saturday, I caught a few key fish on an SPRO McStick 95 Cellmate to advance to the Championship Round,” stated Neal. “Throughout the week, I caught some fish out of thicker cover on a Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Finesse Jig where I couldn’t throw the Neko Rig.”

Neal finished the Championship Round in third place. Photo by Phoenix Moore

4. Jason Christie

Christie attacked Smith Lake with the combination of a pearl-colored 3.5 YUM Pulse swimbait rigged on a 3/8-ounce Scottsboro Head with a Trokar hook (prototype), as well as a 3/8-ounce shaky head and a YUM Finesse worm, either in green pumpkin or Mardi Gras.

His rod and reel consisted of a Lew’s Pro Ti 7.5, Falcon Cara Amistad, loaded with 14-pound Sunline Sniper for the swimbait. His shaky head setup was a Lew’s Hypermag 8.3, Falcon Cara Amistad, with 12-pound Sunline Sniper.

Christie also caught some fish on a drop-shot using a Morning Dawn colored YUM Warning Shot, a Trokar Drop Shot Hook, and a 3/8-ounce weight fished on 16-pound FX2 braid with an 8-pound Sunline Sniper leader using a Lew’s Custom Pro spinning reel and a Falcon Buccoo 7-foot rod.

“I was fishing post-spawn, hard spots, in 5 to 15 feet of water while using a Garmin LiveScope,” said Christie.

Christie connected with most of his fish in one location. Photo by Garrick Dixon

5. Todd Faircloth

“During the morning shad spawn, I fished docks with a 3/8-ounce white Strike King swim jig and a white Strike King menace grub trailer,” says Faircloth. “After about 9:30 a.m., I would switch to fishing points and humps with a Strike King 3.25-inch Rage Swimmer rigged with a 3/8-ounce Strike King tungsten swing head jig and a 2/0 Gamakatsu offset round-bend hook”

Faircloth’s swim jig rod and reel was a Denali 7-4 Lithium series heavy action rod and a 7.4:1 gear ratio reel spooled with 18-pound Sunline Shooter. His swimbait setup was a Denali Lithium series medium heavy rod with 10-pound Sunline Sniper line and the same reel used for swim jigs.

Faircloth played the docks of Smith Lake hard during the shad spawn. Photo by Garrick Dixon

6. Mark Rose

Rose used a 3/8-ounce white swim jig with a 3.8-inch white Strike King Rage Swimmer fishing the shad spawn. For the rest of the time, the Arkansas pro used a 3/16-ounce green pumpkin Strike King shaky head with a 7-inch green pumpkin finesse worm and a 3.25 Strike King Rage Swimmer on a 5/16-ounce head. He used the Pro Blue Pearl color for clear water and white for more stained water.

His swim jig rod was a Team Lew’s 7-foot Mag Bass and a Team Lew’s Hyper Mag reel 7.5:1 spooled with Seaguar 17-pound Tatsu line. His spinning setup included Lew’s rods and reels and loaded with 15-pound hi-vis Seaguar Smackdown braid and 8-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader.

“I’d cover water with the swimbait, then slow down and fish the shaky head as a follow-up bait,” Rose said. “That was usually in 25 to 35 feet of water, fishing rocky structures. I focused on docks and bushes for the shad spawn.”

Mark Rose shows off one his Championship Sunday fish. Photo by Garrick Dixon

7. Brent Ehrler

Ehrler fished a weightless wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko and a Neko-rigged Senko for deeper water. Color choices included green pumpkin and natural shad. A walking topwater lure also added into Ehrler’s success.

For the Senkos he used a 7-1 Daiwa Tatula Elite Signature Series drop-shot rod and Tatula LT reel.  Both Senko rigs were fished with his brand new Gamakatsu Weedless Stinger size 1 hook, with 12-pound Sunline braid and an 8-pound Sunline FC Sniper leader. Ehrler fished the topwater with 30-pound Sunline braid and a Daiwa Tatula Elite Seth Feider Signature Series jerkbait rod.

Ehrler dipped into a good supply of Smith Lake spotted bass. Photo by Phoenix Moore

8. Dustin Connell

“I caught all my fish this week on an Owner 1/4-ounce shaky head with a Googan Baits Slim Shake worm in watermelon red color and a prototype swimbait made by Googan Baits,” said Connell.

Connell used a Favorite Rush 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod with Seaguar Smackdown braid and a 10-pound Seaguar Tatsu leader. For the swimbait, Connell chose a 7-1 medium-heavy Favorite Rush rod with 12-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line.

“I fished brush piles in the Rock Creek area that I found with my Lowrance HDS units,” Connell said.  “I also fished a few bridges.”

Dustin Connell relied on a shaky head on his Favorite Fishing setup. Photo by Phoenix Moore

9. Mike Iaconelli

“I had three things going on,” said Iaconelli. “A shad spawn bite, bluegill bite, and a pole bite.”

For the shad spawn, Ike used a 2.8 Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer fished on a 1/4-ounce VMC ballhead jig.

“This wasn’t the usual easy shad spawn fishing,” Iaconelli said. “The shad were really small. That’s why I used such a small bait. I’d fancast the areas and try to target submerged bushes. It would only last an hour or maybe two.”

Iaconelli found that not all of the bass were targeting shad as a food source, so he focused on bluegill as well. He used a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Ike Mini Flip jig with a 3-inch green pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craw trailer. And big bushes were key: “Bigger and bushier laydowns with shade were necessary to find the bass on the bluegill bite. I didn’t catch as many there, but they were bigger, usually 1 3/4-to-3 pounds.”

The “pole” bite was Iaconelli’s go-to on the last two days.

“There are 8 billion docks on Smith Lake, and 7.9 billion of them are floating,” Ike joked. “I went old-school finesse and fished the docks with poles. Metal poles were okay, but the wooden poles really had a lot of life on them. I used a 1/8-ounce VMC wacky jighead and a 4-inch green pumpkin Berkley General. I didn’t figure this deal out until the second day, but it carried me through on the last two days.”

Iaconelli used Abu Garcia Ike Series rods and reels and Berkley lines.

MIke Iaconeli relied on three main patterns to finish ninth. Photo by Josh Gassmann

10. Fred Roumbanis

Roumbanis used a green pumpkin Gene Larew Salt Flick’R and a 4-inch Boom Boom swimbait in the Sexy Minnow color.

“I concentrated on shadows when it was sunny and hit opposite banks when it was cloudy,” said Roumbanis.

Rod and reel setup was a Dobyns 733 Champion Series spinning rod paired with a Sixgill Banshee 3000 reel and Rio 10-pound line for both baits.

Fred Roumbanis earned his first Top 10 of the season. Photo by Phoenix Moore