By Jonathan Manteuffel
Special to BassFan
No fog, more sun and a lot more wind greeted the top 10 anglers at the Smith Lake FLW Tour on Sunday as nine of them set out to try to catch leader David Williams. They didn’t succeed.
Williams dominated the tournament from start to finish and left the dock this morning with a huge 6-12 lead. Though some of his competition had their best days yet, it wasn’t enough, and with a 13-13 final-day sack he bested the field by 4-13 to claim his first tour-level win.
Williams’ 4-day total of 64-09 was by far the highest winning weight of the FLW Tour’s four events held here over the circuit’s history. His mastery of skipping jigs under floating docks around a shad spawn was on full display on the deep, clear, rocky impoundment. He caught both spotted bass and largemouths during his roll to victory.
“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” he said on stage as his family celebrated the win with him. “The Good Lord blessed me to be able to do this, and all this stuff doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have Him.”
With the win, Williams moved up to 4th in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings, 27 points behind new leader Mark Rose. Former leader and two-time past AOY Bryan Thrift dropped to 3rd after finishing 54th at Smith Lake.
John Cox continued his charge up the leaderboard, rising from 14th on day 1 to finish 2nd today with 59-12. His 16-00 effort was his best stringer of the event.
Cody Meyer regained 3rd place on day 4 after weighing 15-06 to finish up with 59-02. Matt Arey, who like Meyer resided in the top 5 all four days, settled into 4th place with 57-06 after sacking 13-07 Sunday.
Completing the top 5 was Jordan Osborne, whose final bag weighed 10-08, giving him 54-10 for the tournament.
Here's a look at how the balance of the Top 10 ended up:
6. Jason Reyes: 54-08
7. Clent Davis: 52-02
8. Matt Becker: 51-12
9. Todd Auten: 50-09
10. Jimmy Reese: 50-05
The wind on day 4 exceeded the forecast, blowing from the north at 12-15 mph with gusts to 20.
Williams had a slow morning, but his action heated up as the day wore on.
The Tour will take a two-week break before resuming competition at Kentucky Lake May 17-20 and then finishing up at Lake St. Clair June 28-July 1.
Williams Rode Shad Spawn
> Day 4: 5, 13-13 (20, 64-09)
“It feels pretty awesome,” Williams said of his triumph. “I knew I had a pretty good lead, but I was a little tight to start with today. When I got to my area, the water was cooler and I didn’t see any shad. I was a little concerned.
“It took longer to get five (keepers), and they were only 5-6 pounds (combined),” he added. “Later, as it got warmer, the big fish started biting and I culled all the small ones. I had my weight by 10 a.m. again and it slowed down after that.
“I knew I had a good shot when I caught a 3-something on a spinnerbait and had almost 14 pounds. Somebody would have to have over 20 to beat me and it didn’t seem real likely.”
John Cox caught his entire day-4 bag from one locale.
Williams caught almost all the fish he weighed by skipping two different jigs under and around floating docks where a shad spawn had materialized on the first day of the tournament. He repeated his daily routine Sunday, except for mixing in a spinnerbait late in the day that accounted for his last upgrade.
Details about Williams’ pattern and those of the rest of the top-5 finishers will be published in the coming days.
2nd: Cox Fished in a Forest
> Day 4: 5, 16-00 (20, 59-12)
Cox had been waiting for this. The water finally came down enough to pull the fish out of the acres of flooded woods and into places where he could cast to them. He ran way up Ryan Creek and maneuvered his lightweight Crestliner aluminum boat in and among the still-flooded brush, and came out with his best sack of the tournament.
“I finally got in a groove and caught them all in one spot,” he said. “I’d been waiting for the water to get right and finally settled out. They really sucked it back down to where only about 100 yards from the bank was flooded. Before, it was way up, like football fields I couldn’t get to.”
He was still fishing what normally is dry land, but the fish were accessible.
“I just kept the jig in my hand and you can usually get at least five (keepers) and they’re normally better than average. You can do everything with it, too, just cover all the water depths. You can swim it or pitch it, whatever.
“Today they wouldn’t eat it flipping so I just swam it right under the surface and they’d come out and smoke it,” he added. “It didn’t last long but it was exciting.”
He caught six keepers, and called it a tough day.
“I had to work at it,” he added. “Second (place) is okay, but I really wanted to win here.”
3rd: Meyer Ran Bridges
> Day 4: 5, 15-06 (20, 59-02)
Meyer was a pre-tournament favorite, having grown up fishing for spotted bass in California. Ironically, he was catching the descendants of bass relocated from Smith Lake decades ago.
“Going into today, first, you want to win,” he said. “But every one of us was so far behind (the leader) that it seemed impossible to catch him. So, overall, I’m really happy with my tournament. I enjoyed getting a lot of bites every day.”
The fish he caught on day 4 were smaller, but this afternoon they really bit well and he caught enough to put together a good stringer. He had been fishing the main highway bridges in all three arms of the lake every day, rotating between them, despite the substantial distance he had to run.
He needed a big weight on day 4 to even have a shot at winning, so he switched from spotted bass to largemouth territory.
Cody Meyer fished bridges in all three creek arms at Smith.
“I started the morning with a frog and after 1 1/2 hours of no luck, I went back to the bridges,” he noted. “In the last hour or two I went back near the launch to see if I could catch some released fish. There is a massive population of fish down there, and they’ve got to eat sometime.
“There’s one secondary point down there that’s really good and I weighed a fish off it every day.”
4th: Arey Alright with 4th
> Day 4: 5, 13-07 (20, 57-06)
Arey was another contender who was never lower than 5th place for the entire event.
“It’s good when you make the final day,” he said. “Of course, I’d rather win. I have won at the tour level before, and once you taste victory you want to win again.”
He is a past two-time champion at Beaver Lake in FLW Tour competition.
“I got some good points, which I needed,” he added. “I’ve made the (Forrest Wood) Cup the last seven years and I don’t want to miss one.”
He's 41st in the AOY standings after this event.
“I went out today and targeted largemouths. I figured winning was a real long shot and a limit of spots wasn’t going to be enough. A great day of largemouths might have been 18-20 pounds.
“There were definitely more largemouths up shallow today,” he noted. “I caught more and had more bites. The water had come down some and was fairly stable, but there was still enough stuff out in 3-4 feet for them to stay in. The water temperature got up into the upper 60s.
“I had an opportunity at a big bag today,” he added. “I lost some big ones but it happens with a swimbait. It’s a soft plastic and I use a big hook, and I was throwing it up in flooded bushes and stuff. When you hook one you have to keep them coming. Sometimes they get hung up and get loose or just jump off. That’s just fishing.”
He also caught one on a frog and one on a wacky worm after it chased the swimbait but turned back
5th: Osborne’s Fish Got Smaller
> Day 4: 5, 10-08 (20, 54-10)
Osborne weighed his smallest bag of the tournament on day 4 and dropped from 2nd to finish 5th. He caught fish, but size was lacking.
“I started at my main spot again, dragging that Ned rig around,” he said. “I think it had just played out. The numbers were still there but the size was down. I left around 11 o'clock to find something else.
“I went to the back of another creek I found in practice that set up similar, but I didn’t fish it in practice. As soon as I pulled in there, like 20 giants blew up in maybe 5-7 feet of water, chasing bait. I threw in and hooked a 3-pounder – or maybe bigger – and it jumped off.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really going to wreck them’. I hooked and lost another one, and caught a dink. Then I caught one 2-pounder that culled for ounces, and they quit schooling.
“I kept casting a while hoping they’d start up again,” he noted. “When they didn’t, I actually ran the boat around to see if I could stir them up. That didn’t work, either.”
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 10 limits.
> Mark Rose took over the AOY lead with two events (Kentucky Lake and St. Clair) to go.
Day 4 (Final) Standings
1. David Williams -- Maiden, NC -- 18-11 (5) -- 15-5 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 64-9 (20) -- $102,700
2. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 14-2 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 15-12 (5) -- 16-0 (5) -- 59-12 (20) -- $30,000
3. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 15-13 (5) -- 14-7 (5) -- 13-8 (5) -- 15-6 (5) -- 59-2 (20) -- $25,000
4. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 15-9 (5) -- 14-9 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 13-7 (5) -- 57-6 (20) -- $20,100
5. Jordan Osborne -- Longview, Tx -- 13-3 (5) -- 15-13 (5) -- 15-2 (5) -- 10-8 (5) -- 54-10 (20) -- $19,000
6. Jason Reyes -- Huffman, Tx -- 15-0 (5) -- 11-5 (5) -- 15-5 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 54-8 (20) -- $18,000
7. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, Al -- 15-13 (5) -- 10-7 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 13-0 (5) -- 52-2 (20) -- $17,000
8. Matt Becker -- Finleyville, Pa -- 13-11 (5) -- 15-4 (5) -- 10-13 (5) -- 12-0 (5) -- 51-12 (20) -- $16,000
9. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 13-9 (5) -- 14-11 (5) -- 11-8 (5) -- 10-13 (5) -- 50-9 (20) -- $15,000
10. Jimmy Reese -- Witter Springs, Ca -- 13-10 (5) -- 11-3 (5) -- 15-4 (5) -- 10-4 (5) -- 50-5 (20) -- $14,000