Old man on the river
While seemingly the rest of the world was sight fishing on beds during the first day of the Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake, 70-year-old Guy Eaker was sticking with what he knew.
"I'm up in the river, fishing the way I like to," said Eaker, who is in eighth place after weighing in a stringer 18 pounds, 1 ounce. "I'm really not doing much bed fishing. I'm just chucking the line and covering a lot of water."
Eaker started the day working for bedded smallmouth, which Kevin VanDam did in winning last year's event here. But Eaker quickly thought better of it.
"I had been catching some good smallmouth on dirt beds during practice," said Eaker, who entered the weekend third in the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings. "But I had cloud cover early in this morning and decided it wasn't a good day for them. I really spent too long on them. I didn't catch but one. It was a decent fish, but I had been catching some 4- and 5-pounders."
Eaker said while he had no plans to look to the beds today either, he had a couple scoped out just in case.
"I saw some fish on the beds today that I didn't even try to catch because I might need them tomorrow if things get tough," he said.
Still bedded down
Opinions varied among anglers on Thursday concerning the state of the spawn on Smith Mountain Lake.
Some said with Wednesday night's cool temperatures, there are some bass still heading to the beds. Others suggest that warmer days last week and on Thursday, plus heavy fishing this week, may mark the end of the period.
Almost everyone agrees that a cold front forecast for Saturday and Sunday will likely drive the remaining fish off the beds.
But Mike Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., said he believes the spawn is fine.
"I think the fish are still moving up," said Iaconelli, the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion. "New ones are coming up and will sit down this afternoon and tonight. Then you'll pull up and see a 5- or 6-pounder sitting there, and that makes all the difference in the world."
Still, he said the winner will likely be the angler who best adapts to whatever the bass decide to do.
"There's new ones moving up, but the beds are also getting beat up," he said. "You can't just keep going to the same places. The guy who can stay versatile, he will win this thing."
Bobby Lane's daughter gave him a marble for good luck during the most recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Clear Lake in Lakeport, Calif., and he caught an 11-pound, 1-ounce lunker, good enough for largest fish on Day Two.
She gave him another one before this week's event, and he is second place with a 21-7 stringer.
"This is a white one," he said. "I'm sticking with her."
Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., said the finicky bass on Smith Mountain Lake remind him of some he's seen back home in Arkansas.
"There's a lot fish in this lake," Davis said Thursday. "It reminds me of a White River lake. They're fickle, a lot like Lake Norfork. When the fish are in this mode, it's hard to go out here and just go fishing and catch them. You just about have to sight fish."
Davis, who is in 45th place after Thursday's 13-11 stringer, said it may get more difficult.
"Before today, you saw a lot of fish floating up and getting ready to go on the beds," he said. "I didn't see that today and a lot of the beds are empty. They've left. It may get tougher."
On the board
Trolling through a shallow area of bedded bass on Thursday was like looking at that pocket's scoreboard, according to Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., who is in 20th place at 15-15.
"You can go down the bank and there's a little one, a little one, a little one and then there's an empty bed. That''s where the good one was," he said.
"Everybody keeps telling me who I'm fishing against, I just go out there and fish." — Elite Series rookie Bradley Roy
"The easy fish probably got caught today and it will get tougher as the week moves along." — Davy Hite
"It took me an hour to run where I was going this morning in that fog. It was nerve racking. — J. Todd Tucker
"Some of them were so easy to catch, I think you could throw a hot dog weenie in there and catch them." — Jeremy Starks
"I wish you could catch them by just fishing, but it's no secret, you've got to be looking at them." — Derek Remitz
"I broke off so many jigs trying to catch this one fish, it looked like Christmas in there. I finally caught that 14-inch sucker and threw him back, just to show him who's boss." — Gerald Swindle
"Some of us are sight fishermen, others like me are just idiots looking at them." — Clark Reehm
"The potential for a 25-pound sack is out there, it's amazing how many 4 and 5-pounders you see on this lake." — Skeet Reese
"The day went okay, I caught a few and didn't fall in." — Kenyon Hill
"Somebody's going to win this thing doing nothing they did in practice." — Timmy Horton
"A 4-pounder's like gold out there right now." — Todd Faircloth
"I had about a hundred fish marked on my GPS before the tournament started. I caught what I needed today by 10:30, put down my rods and went looking for some more." — Terry Scroggins
"I'm just a 60-year old student when it comes to sight fishing." — Rick Clunn