A Breakdown of Smith Mountain Lake
Cranking it up with my VA brothers at SML!
I joke around a lot that I hate Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. It’s a beautiful body of water with huge fish, but there are really specific times of year when the lake fishes well, and the fall just happens to be one of them. So with that in mind, I took a little trip to see my buddies The Brothers Meadows (Zach and Tyler) to see if we could have one of those legendary days.
My first ever trip to Smith Mountain was in the fall for a regional qualifier. While I didn’t do nearly was well as I had hoped, I learned a lot about that lake that would set me up for a top 40 finish at the Everstart there the following spring. It’s similar in many ways to other bodies of water I’ve fished, kind of like a Frankenstein of lakes (for better or worse). To begin with, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I don’t know of a place where you will see more million dollar homes on one body of water to match the undeniable landscape. It’s an impressive sight to see every time I go there. The lower end of the lake is particularly striking, and you can see why in the photo below. No other place have I ever seen such a high mountain rise from the edge of a lake like that. It’s a sight everyone should behold at least once.
So why do I call it Frankenstein? Well, for one, it has current, so right away it reminds me of the TVA lakes. There are lots of creeks, which is probably the first thing you notice when you look at the map. However, unlike the TVA lakes, the current doesn’t vary as much, so you don’t need to watch it and rely on it like you would at Douglas or Pickwick. The lake is broken down into three areas: Main lake, The Roanoke, and The Blackwater. Main Lake is the smallest section of the lake that covers the area where the two rivers converge. The Roanoke is the larger of the two and is typically targeted with greater frequency. State Park, and Betty’s Creek, are two places that get the most attention from visiting anglers. The Blackwater, while not as heavily pressured, still holds some amazing fishing, especially if you’re targeting smallmouth!
Those smallmouth are what remind me of Oneida Lake when I’m here. The forage is very similar, and the places where you find the smallmouth just look like places you’d find them at Oneida. But don’t expect the same kind of fight. Anyone who’s ever caught one of our northern smallies knows first hand how ferocious they are. The size and abundance of smallmouth at Smith is nothing compared to Oneida, but the numbers are growing and the lake can certainly support them. That is if the Stripers don’t push them all out! Oh, and there are no toothy critters. That’s not a misprint. No pike, no pickerel, no gar. The water is very clear and the fish are very finicky, so you need to use extra lite line. I highly recommend 6 pound test MAX. While the sound of that can be intimidating, the lack of chompy predators should ease that a little.
Sounds amazing, huh? Largemouth, smallmouth, stripers. So what isn’t to love about Smith? There’s no grass. And I don’t mean that in an exaggerated “there’s not as much as I’m used to” kinda way. I mean there is no grass. The lake is treated, and you have to travel miles up both rivers to find any grass at all. A local marine owner told me “If we’d let the grass grow, this would be the greatest fishery in the U.S.” That’s a pretty lofty statement, but it’s not impossible. The absence of vegetation is disturbing, and can really get in your head at first if you let it. However, it can also create a dynamite place to throw cranks, jerkbaits, tubes, jigs, and dropshot worms.
So what do I throw when I’m here? All depends. Skeet Reese made big swimbait fishing the focus of many when he dominated here with a J Rago back in 2010. Since then, lots of people come with their huds, ospreys, and other giant baits. Personally, I’ve seen bass pushing 7 pounds caught here on smaller baits that won’t have you missing out on the 4 pounders like a 12 inch bull shad imitation might. My picks for this lake are an Oxblood Roboworm, a Strike King 10XD (pictured below), a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, a Black and Blue 3/4 oz football jig with a paca chunk trailer, and a 3/4oz tandem blade spinnerbait (one willow, one colorado) that was hand made for me by my dear friend Randy Watson. I leave my braided line at home, and throw nothing over 6 pound test here. In fact, my drop shot line is usually 4 pound Seagaur InvizX.
So if you’re not quite ready to pack it in for the rest of the year, make the trip to Smith. Be sure to click here to get your weather forecast from Weather Underground so you know what to expect. You’ll be glad that you did!