Q&A: Ben Hudson talks prepping for the SML fall season and shares some fun stories from this year.
Q: We spoke with you in a video back in the spring about the back-to-back weekends of bass over 8lbs you brought to the scales. Do you think you’ll catch another 8lber in the fall season on SML?
A: I sure hope so! However, I would say that the odds are against it. Fall typically sees the weights drop a touch on SML, and it makes catching a true giant much more difficult. There’s no way to pattern catching a bass over 8lbs on Smith Mountain. You have to be on a good pattern, and then still have all the stars line up for you. That being said, SML has so many talented anglers fishing it, that I do think more likely than not someone will catch a bass over 8lbs in a tournament this fall.
Q: Night tournament weights over the summer have been fantastic. Do you expect those weights to keep up through the fall?
A: I haven’t been able to fish any at night, but from the results I’ve seen, the 3 fish night tournament weights have definitely been extremely impressive!
I’m expecting to see those weights overall come down a little as we transition to 5 fish daytime events in September and October, with 18-20lbs being likely winning weights.
November and December should see the potential for multiple 20lb bags to come in again, as the waters cool down approaching winter. I don’t expect to see 25-28lb bags this fall like we did in the spring. I’m predicting 22-23 being a massive catch for the rest of the year, but honestly, who knows. SML seems to have giant fish in it right now, and anything seems possible there!
Q: Tell us how you think fall fishing differs from springtime on Smith Mountain?
A: Spring time at SML is for the most part wide open. You can catch big fish doing so many different patterns and techniques because the fish are everywhere shallow. The fall is a bit different because it seems like the fish transition from the summer patterns all at different times and it keeps them more scattered.
Some fish stay out on brush still in the 10-15ft range while others move into the ultra shallows earlier to feed up before the upcoming winter or school up chasing shad offshore. In my opinion, the major key for the fall is isolating these areas that bass are seemingly bunched up in, and from there, dialing in a pattern for what they’re feeding on.
Q: What are some of your personal favorite fall lures and techniques?
A: To no one’s surprise, I love fishing a jig in the fall. It’s my favorite way to get a big bite once you isolate an area that has bass bunched up.
On early fall mornings, I also love throwing topwater to get an extra big bite or two. Buzzbaits and poppers are my favorite. A buzzbait is great if you don’t have an area dialed in just yet, because it’s a seek&destroy mentality. You can search an area quickly to see if anything is active. If you find them active and bunched up , that’s when I switch to a popper or jig to pick the area apart.
Q: How late in the fall do you keep throwing topwater?
A: If I’m not on anything or dialed in on an area, I’ll throw the buzzbait all the way into early December some years. Just looking for aggressive fish. I do slow down the retrieve considerably though the later in the year it gets.
Q: Which events are you most excited for this fall?
A: Man, it’s hard to pick just one! The Anglers Choice classic on Buggs Island is gonna be exciting for sure. I’m also looking forward to the Big Bass Tour coming back to SML in late October!
If I had to pick though, it would be The Bass Cast & CATT fall classics falling back to back in December.
Q: You and your dad won the CATT Spring Classic on Smith Mountain with 25.34lbs back on April 3rd. Can you tell us more about how that day went?
A: I can, but it will be a long story!
I remember having low expectations overall on the way to the lake due to a nasty cold front that rolled through that morning (expectations so low that we didn’t pay the side pot! A boneheaded move in hindsight).
We really struggled that morning. We finally caught a small keeper about 11am and added another small keeper and a 3lber by about 12:30. We only had those 3 fish by 2pm, which was frustrating, because we had run a lot of water. A little after 2pm, we finally caught a 5lber to give us 4 fish, and we decided to make a move to our best area to try to salvage the last 2 hours.
We ran up the Blackwater river, and our key area ended up failing us. At 3pm, and one hour roughly remaining, we only had 4 fish in the live well. 2 of which were 14” line burners.
My dad then made a veteran observation while leaving our prime area by reading the weird conditions we had that day. A shift in the wind had pushed colder water into our primary location, and rolled some warmer water back out to another different nearby area. Neither of us had ever fished this new location with the warmer water before.
In this new area, we found two giant staging female bass, and we filled out our limit with a 5.81 lber and then culled up with our kicker 6.71 lbs.
Running out of time, we had to make the long run back to Parkway Marina from the Blackwater river. I remember thinking to myself “well, we got what we got” as we were due in at 4:10pm and it was 4:05pm as we neared the marina.
We decided at the last moment to make one last stop, almost straight across from the marina. My dad stayed at the console with the outboard motor running because all we had time for was one cast.
That one cast hooked another 5lber. We culled that last small keeper and raced back to the Marina with only seconds to spare. We won with 25.34lbs, barely edging out some of the SML hammers. Sometimes, you just have to have some magic happen to win on Smith Mountain.
Q: Oh wow, that’s quite a story! Now that we’ve heard some of your best of the year… let’s hear the worst. Do you have any regrets or near misses?
A: Oh man… there’s a few, and they’re going to bring up old wounds! 3 incidents in particular come to mind.
I broke off my 5th keeper in a BFL at Lake Norman this year that could have potentially been the winning fish. That one will always be a big “what if” for me.
My buddy Chris Brummett and I lost a monster smallmouth in the 5-6lb range at the side of the boat in an Anglers Choice tournament this year, after making it bite 4 different times and finally hooking up with it. It should have easily been the tournaments big smallmouth. That one still stings!
My dad and I actually won and had big fish with a 7.37lb largemouth in a tournament at Leesville Lake back in May, but I lost a 5lber and another one close to 7lbs that day too. Even though we won, I’ll still be sour about not getting those giants in and being able to break the 20lb mark at Leesville.
Ok, sob stories are over 🤣
Q: Alright, no more lost fish tears! Can you tell us some details about your favorite jig setup and some jig fishing tips?
A: My go to jig is a 3/8oz ball head finesse jig by Dave’s Tournament Tackle. I use several different colors, but a good starting place is chameleon purple, it’s one of the best colors still on SML. I’ll sometimes go to a flipping head if I’m in heavy brush, but I usually prefer to flip with a Texas rig than the jig.
The key to a jig is just knowing that you won’t get many bites, but being confident enough to know the ones you do get will be quality.
I’ll sometimes downsize to the Dave’s 1/4oz micro jig with a junior chunk style trailer when targeting spotted bass, I’ve had some success with that on 12lb test at Lake Norman.
I’ve also had some success on a Dave’s 3/4oz football jig on Douglas Lake in Tennessee. It’s a great ledge fishing option. I throw all of them, except the micro jig, on either 17lb or 20lb fluorocarbon.
Q: I think most anglers in the SML community, when they think of Ben Hudson, would say they think of a jig fishermen. Do you have any other confidence baits that would surprise us?
A: Spinnerbait 😁🤫🤫 clear water spinnerbait fishing seems like an oxymoron, but is actually very effective in the fall, especially with some wind!
Q: Thanks for sharing these stories, tips, and memories with us Ben! We look forward to seeing you out on the water this fall!
A: Always a pleasure! Can’t wait for it! Tight lines my friends 🎣🎣