Prespawn bonanza could be in the works at Smith Lake - Major League Fishing

Prespawn bonanza could be in the works at Smith Lake

Image for Prespawn bonanza could be in the works at Smith Lake
This morning 228 pros and Strike King co-anglers took off on to Smith Lake. Photo by Cobi Pellerito.
March 21, 2023 • Jody White • Toyota Series

CULLMAN, Ala. – Sometimes, things just feel right for a tournament, and this week’s Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on Lewis Smith Lake seems to be one of them. Nestled in late March, a tick after some notable prespawn events from recent years and before some spawn-time events, the calendar dates seem ideal. The weather is also shaping up to be good, with a warming trend in the works after a cold snap.

More to the point, the Central Division anglers are excited as well – Alabama pro Joseph Webster is clear on one thing – “It’s gonna be a good one.”

Smith is mostly deep and clear, with lots of big docks that bass love to hang around.

About the fishery

Lewis Smith Lake, or Smith Lake as it’s generally called, is a 21,000-acre impoundment nestled in northern Alabama and fed by the Black Warrior River. It is a relatively small lake, but because it’s lined with hundreds of pockets and a few major creek arms, the lake fishes very big. Smith is a highland-type reservoir, meaning it’s deep and clear with rock and wood being the primary cover. There are docks on the lake, though limited in number. Both spotted bass and largemouth reach impressive sizes in Smith, though spots are the predominant species. That being said, a chunky largemouth or two can make a big difference in the final standings.

Big spotted bass will feature in a lot of limits.

Setting up the event

Tackle Warehouse Invitationals pro Kyle Cortiana has been on the lake for 17 days, and he’s looking forward to the event.

“It’s fishing better than it ever has the two previous times we were here, it’s hands-down fishing better than it has,” said Cortiana, who did well on Smith in 2018 and 2021 in FLW Tour and Pro Circuit events. “It’s not hard to catch keepers, I’ve been averaging over 100 fish a day, and I’m going to new water every time. It’s outrageously fun.”

According to Cortiana, the only downside is that real kickers are still a bit scarce.

“You’ve just got to get them bigger ones,” he said. “The biggest one I’ve caught here is a 5.98, so, almost a 6-pounder is the biggest spot I saw. But, my next biggest ones have been right at 4. So, I haven’t seen a lot of the 4-plus size at all.”

With pretty much a full-on prespawn event expected, water temps are in the upper 50s and the water isn’t doing anything funky.

“It’s come up about 4 feet in the last two weeks, it’s coming up from the winter drawdown,” Cortiana said. “It’s going to keep coming up, and the fish are used to that. So, water level isn’t going to screw with the fishing, they’re used to it. I don’t think big rains or muddy water is going to be a deal.

“I think there might be a few fish on beds, but for the most part, these fish have not spawned yet,” detailed the Oklahoma pro. “Some of the spotted bass will probably start spawning this afternoon. But for the most part, they’re chasing herring, they’re fat, they’re really healthy.”

Critical factors

  • Largemouth bites – On Smith, a big largemouth can really carry an angler. Maybe someone finds a spawning fish, or perhaps a big prespawn fish under a dock. But, there are legitimately 7-pound largemouth in Smith, and spotted bass that size are rare to nonexistent.
  • The big swimbait bite – This one may be a reach, but it sounds like a big glide bait has played well in practice. So, fingers are crossed for some excitement on that front.
  • Forward-facing sonar – It’s no secret that spotted bass are nearly the perfect target when it comes to forward-facing sonar. Expect the ‘Scopers to do some work this week.
The fishing should be pretty good for the full field this week.

Dock talk

Basically everyone thinks the fishing will be really good this week. Webster expects it to take 13 pounds a day to make the Top 25. Jack Daniel Williams thinks about the same, going with 45 pounds to win and 12 ½ pounds a day to make the cut.

Cortiana is also optimistic.

“I think to get paid you’re going to need over 12 pounds a day,” he said. “That 15- to 17-pound range is still pretty much gold, but it’s a lot easier to get to the 12-pound range.”

As far as a species mix, he thinks some local knowledge could go a long way with the green fish.

“I’ve had two events here and had success targeting spots, and both events, I’ve come across a big largemouth at some point, just accidentally,” he said. “So, I’ve never targeted largemouth. I spent some time looking around for them, but to me, they’re still really hard to target. But, I’m sure the locals fishing know a lot of cool places largemouth get, and with the warming trend and water rising and new bushes coming into play every day, I’m sure there will be guys that do well with largemouth.”

Green or spotted, it should be fun either way.

“I went out (yesterday) morning in 23-degree weather, and they were munchin’,” Cortiana said. “I’ve been here when it was hot, and when it’s cold, windy, raining, they’re just eating. It’s going to be a fun event for anyone fishing it.”