KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Going into the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes, it was predicted by locals that any angler who could tap into a solid smallmouth bite would take an early lead.
Bingo. That angler would be BFGoodrich Tires pro Chad Grigsby of Maple Grove, Minn., who weighed in five smallmouths for 19 pounds, 6 ounces to take the day-one lead of the FLW Tour event.
Keeper smallmouths on Loudoun-Tellico have to be at least 18 inches, making them a real bonus.
“I’m sight-fishing, but I’m not looking at the fish,” Grigsby said.
If that sounds like a bit of a contradiction, it’s because Grigsby is using visual clues in his area to detect deeper smallmouth beds and then backing off to make repeated casts to where he thinks the fish are setting up on bed.
“The water is about 5 feet deep, and it’s a bit of a guessing game,” he clarified. “I can see dark spots on the bottom – a stump or a rock – something that a fish would bed around, and I just keep making casts until one bites.”
Several times today, big smallmouths gave away their location by chasing intruding bream out of their beds and up onto the bank.
“When I saw that activity, I would fish the closest thing that looked like it would be a bed,” he said. “If I really thought there was a fish there, I would back way off and just keep casting. Sometimes I’d make the same cast for 15 minutes before I could get the fish to bite.”
Grigsby had his catch by 10:30 a.m. and spent the rest of the day looking for similar banks.
“There is a particular type of bank that seems to be the key,” he said. “I found two other stretches just like my best one this afternoon, and I think they’re holding fish, but we’ll find out more tomorrow.”
“I’m sight-fishing, and I just happened to get two bigger females to bite,” Le said. “One I caught blind-casting: I knew where the bed was, and I made a long cast to it and she bit. The other big female I had to work for about 45 minutes before getting her to bite. The rest of my limit was bucks.”
Le also noted that he worked another female close to 6 pounds for about 45 minutes, but lost her twice before she gave up her defensive position.
“There are a lot of boats in the area,” he added, “probably about 15 boats. But I’m just being real patient and letting boats fish through the area before going back behind them to see if they missed anything.”
“I just had one of those awesome fishing days, where everything goes right on the water,” Davis said. “It’s been a long time since I had a day like that, so it feels pretty good.”
Davis spent the day sight-fishing and ran into two nearly 6-pound females that anchored his catch.
“While I was looking along the bank, I was pitching a Berkley hand-poured finesse worm out in front of the boat, and that’s how I caught the two big ones,” he said. “I never saw them before they bit, but I know they were set up outside the beds, waiting to pair up with the males.
“I’ve got some males I can catch tomorrow, but I’m going to have to happen upon big ones like that again to have another catch like that.”
Like Grigsby, Sappington cannot see the smallmouths, he just knows they are on beds in one small area, and he is making repeated casts with a Berkley hand-poured finesse worm.
“I found them in practice with a crankbait,” Sappington said. “I had one area where I caught a wad of smallmouth cranking, and I figured they were getting ready to spawn. I went back into that area today, found the closest shallow point and started fishing slow.”
Sappington is also using a Zoom Fluke and a Redfin as search baits to get the fish to show themselves.
“The smallmouths will come up and investigate the lures and then go back down,” he said. “Once they show themselves, I go back to fishing that particular area with the worm.”
“I’m pretty sick and feel terrible, so the key for me is to stay focused,” he said. “I’m fishing an area with a lot of beds, but I’m not sight-fishing per se. I’m fishing out deeper. My hope is that with the continued warm weather, the fish will keep moving up and replenishing.”
Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, caught the day-one Snickers Big Bass in the Pro Division that weighed 6 pounds, 1 ounce.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros competing on Loudoun-Tellico:
6th: Chris Baumgardner of Gastonia, N.C., five bass, 17-2
7th: Derek Jones of Chicago, five bass, 17-0
8th: Jay Yelas of Tyler, Texas, five bass, 16-6
9th: Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., five bass, 16-5
10th: Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla., five bass, 16-3
McManaway leads co-anglers
McManaway’s four-bass catch included two big smallmouths, one weighing 4 pounds, 9 ounces and another weighing 4 pounds.
“I had a great partner – Rob Kilby – and we had a blast today,” McManaway said. “He was just around a lot of fish, and the funny part is I caught every fish on something different. I caught one on a Rat-L-Trap, one on a crankbait, one on a Senko and one on a shaky head. It got to the point where Rob was even laughing at my multiple-bait pattern.”
Chad Hicks of Rockville, Va., boated a five-bass limit weighing 9 pounds, 10 ounces for second place.
Thomas Helton of Charleston, Tenn., is in third place with a five-bass limit weighing 9 pounds, 9 ounces.
Beecher Strunk of Somerset, Ky., is in fourth place with three bass for 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
And J.B. Young of Deer Park, Texas, holds the fifth position in the Co-angler Division with four bass for 9 pounds even.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers competing on Loudoun-Tellico:
6th: David Hudson of Jasper, Ala., five bass, 8-8
7th: Johnny Taylor of Kodak, Tenn., four bass, 8-7
8th: Todd Lowe of Greensboro, Ga., three bass, 8-5
8th: Drew Montgomery of Concord, N.C., four bass, 8-5
10th: Diane Delagarza of Garland, Texas, two bass, 7-10
10th: Mike Orbell of Silver Spring, Md., three bass, 7-10
Charles Ward of Greer, S.C., caught the Snickers Big Bass in the Co-angler Division weighing 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
Day two of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event in Knoxville begins Friday at 7 a.m. at the Tellico Recreation Ramp.