Spooning Spotted Bass on Smith Lake
Yesterday afternoon October 12, 2011, my brother-in-law and I fished Smith Lake for about four hours and landed 18 spotted bass. The bass were caught on Hopkins spoons in about 20 to 30 feet of water on the inside of rocky points. September and October are two of the best months for vertical jigging a spoon for catching spotted bass. The spoon mimics the actions of shad minnows that school in the cool water at depths from 15 feet to over 30 feet deep.
Beginning on Labor Day of each year and lasting until late Fall, you can catch the spotted bass that are chasing the schools of minnows on Hopkins spoons. Jigging spoons are some of the most enjoyable days I spend on the water fishing. I love to catch those fighting fish in the deep clear waters of Smith Lake, and I even enjoy eating those delicious fish which I did when I got home. Every once in a while, you are surprised and delighted to see a mature bald eagle like we saw yesterday cruising the shoreline.
My favorite place to pursue the Smith Lake's famous spotted bass is in the area between Yellow Creek and the Houston Recreational Area on the northwest side of the lake. I have landed two spots in excess of six pounds and have one of them on my wall. Smith Lake, at one time, held the world's record spotted bass. Smith Lake spots stocked in California lakes now lay claim to the world record.
When my dad was alive, he and I enjoyed many days fishing for the fighting spots of the forest lake and at the same time enjoyed the beauty and serenity the lake has to offer. This time of the year, especially during the week, the lake is totally free of much of the boat traffic. Yesterday, only two other fishermen were seen on the water. During one of our days on the water, I caught 77 spots and my dad caught 43 spots while we were jigging spoons. Of course that was one of the best and memorable days of spooning for the spots of Smith Lake.
Nearly all the fish I catch are on the 5/8 and 3/4 ounce Hopkins spoons vertically jigged around 20 feet deep. The spots travel in large schools chasing the shad and are constantly on the move. A good depth finder is a must to watch the schools some 20 feet deep and to try to stay on top of the fish. Many times I will catch four or five as quick as I can drop the spoon back in the water; therefore, it is extremely important to get the spoon back in the water as quickly as possible. One time within a minute or so, I caught nine spots as fast as the spoon could be dropped and the bass lifted into the boat. When on a hot school, it is important to act as quickly as possible.
I jig the 3/4 ounce spoon on 30 pound test line and a seven foot, nine inch heavy rod with a long handle to prevent wearing out my wrists and arms. The 5/8 ounce spoon is usually jigged on 20 pound test line with a seven foot heavy rod. The advantage of the heavy line is being able to save a snagged spoon that costs four to five dollars each. Another advantage of the heavy line is a salt water striper or flathead catfish that may weigh over 50 pounds.
Using the long seven foot rods, I pull off about 18 to 20 feet of line and never wind, but grab my line and lift the rod to swing the fish in the boat. I can then drop the spoon back to the same depth and go to jigging again within a few seconds. Also by pulling of a set length of line, you can spoon at various depths by pulling line between the first eye and the reel making the spoon jig shallow. Then by releasing the line in your hand, the spoon can return to the deeper depths. This method easily allows you to fish at different depths in order to catch fish at various levels.
You must add a large barrel swivel attached with a split ring to the spoon, since they do not come with the swivel attached. The swivel prevents the line from becoming twisted and allows the spoon much more freedom of movement as it flutters toward the bottom. Most strikes come as the spoon flashes downward imitating an injured shad minnow. If while dropping the spoon the line stops moving downward, you need to jerk upward because a bass has caught the spoon on the way down.
The best areas on Smith Lake seem to be large open flats some 20 to 30 feet deep with drop offs into much deeper water. Fish these deep edges far from the bank and look for schools of fish on your depth finders and graphs. As soon as you find a school of fish, drop your spoon to about 18 feet deep and begin jigging your spoon making strokes seven to ten feet by letting your rod tip to the water and moving the rod tip up over your head. Remember while fishing a spoon, make quick upward jerks and quickly lower your rod to let the spoon flutter freely back down. Never allow the spoon to sit still but always keep it in motion.
Spooning is hard but enjoyable work which pays great dividends after pulling your chair up to the table for a fish dinner. Who knows, you may be lucky enough to haul in the next world record spotted bass from the beautiful waters of Lewis Smith Lake of north Alabama.