Crews Says SML is Pumping Out Big Bass

Published on 04-25-2024

By Pete Robbins 
“Right now, Smith Mountain Lake is pumping out as many big fish as ever,” said Virginia Elite Series pro John Crews, “It’s going to take at least a 7-pounder to win the upcoming Big Bass Tour event.” 
That stands to reason, as the lake has clearly been on the upswing in recent years, and just keeps getting better. After years of 5- and 6-pounders dominating big fish leaderboards, it hasn’t taken less than a 7-pounder to claim the BBT top prize in a spring event there since 2019 – and the year before that the champ was a series-best 8.32. Last year, in fact, there were four fish over 7 pounds, and a 6.95, which previously might have contended for top honors, barely snuck into the top five. The last 8-pounder was weighed in 2021, but Crews wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more show up this year. The lake is fishing that well. 
“It’s a combination of a few different things,” he explained. “Part of it is the stocking of Florida-strain bass. There are also a few more blueback herring. And the locals do a really good job of taking care of the resource.” 
While he’s been gone in Florida in recent weeks, he spent substantial time on Smith Mountain immediately before that trip, and has been in touch with many of the top local tournament anglers since then. He said there could still be some spawning going on, and he’d look for big girls to pull up, but noted that “the really big ones move up and do the deal in one single day, so you have to cover a lot of water to find some that just moved up.” 
He said that his biggest Smith Mountain bedding fish tend to come on larger creature baits, but it’s also possible to catch them on small finesse techniques including a dropshot and a Ned Rig. For anglers who don’t know how to bed fish, or who don’t like to do it, it’s possible to win the whole shooting match just by blind casting a wacky-rigged watermelon or green pumpkin worm in likely areas. They’ll be in areas that are protected from wind and wave action, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the backs of pockets. Indeed, he said he’ll find them all the way out to protected points. 
The bite that he expects to be in full swing by the time the tournament starts is the shad spawn. It’s something that typically happens for the first 30 minutes of the day, or maybe an hour if there are overcast conditions. He’d key in on riprap banks, bluff walls and dock floats with lures including topwaters, spinnerbaits and swim jigs. He does expect the lower lake to be a bit behind the river sections of Smith Mountain, so factor that into your tournament plan, depending on how you prefer to fish. 
He also noted it’s extremely possible this time of year to get big ones to chase an oversized swimbait, whether that be a jointed glide bait or a ribbed soft lure. Even if they don’t commit, they’ll often show themselves and you can come back later and catch them with another lure. 
Just remember to watch the live leaderboard diligently. Because the weights at the top are often packed tightly together, it’s easy to “waste” a fish in the wrong hour. At the same time, it’s possible to punch above your weight some hours by claiming a check with a relatively small bass. 

Best Berkley Baits for Smith Mountain Lake in May 
Shad Spawn Option 1 
·       Berkley Choppo 
Shad Spawn Option 2 
Covering Water 
Late Spawners 
Blind Casting 
Big Swimbait