SCENERY, SPOTS & STRIPERS AWAIT AT SMITH LAKE, ALABAMA
Black Warrior River. It's a great name that conjures images of the deep south in another time. This lake was tamed by the building of the Lewis Smith Lake reservoir in north Alabama. The impoundment covers over 21,000 acres and over 500 miles of shoreline. With a maximum depth at the dam of 264 feet, it is the deepest lake in Alabama. The lake was created by Alabama Power with the construction of the Lewis Smith (president of Alabama Power in the 1950's) Dam- one of the largest earthen dams in the eastern United States. The lake is the home lake of the Lee brothers, Jordan and Matt, and it will soon be the site of the next Bassmaster Open October
Due to the demand for coal along the Black Warrior River in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a series of locks and dams were added north of the city of Tuscaloosa. To better regulate the water levels in these locks and dams, local business leaders pressured the federal government to build a dam on the upper Sipsey Fork, a tributary of the Black Warrior . Opened in 1961, its first 20 years saw little development. During the 1980s and 90s the lake saw a rapid growth in recreation due to its proximity to Birmingham and Huntsville.
Smith Lake is one of the most beautiful of any regular B.A.S.S tournament stop- a deep, clear, blue diamond- and it is not typical Alabama shallow, stained bass water. For the first time visitor, Smith Lake can be frustrating, especially when you read 200 feet on your depth finder. However, like most lakes, the majority of bass and crappie fishing is done by casting to the numerous large rocks and fallen trees along the extensive shoreline.
For the recreational angler, Smith Lake can produce trophy striped bass in the 40+ pound range. The Black Bass angler will find quality Spotted and Largemouth bass. The big difficulty at Smith is the clear water, which makes the spotted bass seem a whole lot smarter- you can see bottom in 20 feet in some areas, making it very difficult to fool fish with artificial lures. Anglers who get out early and find fish schooled on shad or bluebacks will be the lucky ones. In the low light morning feeding frenzy they'll hit just about anything. Start with a topwater walking bait or a smaller popping bait. On Smith you need to think small. Spots can act like smallmouth- hard to fool in clear water. Lighter line not heavier than 8 pound test and spinning tackle is ideal. Jigs no heavier than 1/8 with small worms or creature baits are a favorites. A wacky-rigged 4-inch stick worm works well. Bass often hang around baitballs so as you move along, keep an eye on your
screen for bait and have a deep-diviing crankbait blueback imitator at the ready. Your chosen bait needs to be able to get down to 15 to 25 feet and stay there. This tactic also works on the stripers. You can work the creek arms especially in the fall.
There are numerous excellent ramps around the lake- for a listing, check out http://www.smithlake.info/POI/Boat-Ramps. Lakeshore Marina and Resort, www.lakeshoreinnandmarina.com is one of the better places to stay right on the Sipsey River. A lot of lakefront homes are available for rent at www.vrbo.com