Smith Mountain Lake: Contributed by local guide Captain Travis Patsell of Cats N' Stripers Fishing Charters. (540) 580-3487, www.catsnstripers.com. The water temperature is around 83 degrees. Looks like the dog days of summer is starting to settle in. It's hot, but I'd rather have this than cold. You can always go for a swim! Even with the warm temps, the fishing can still be good, fishing early and/or late is your best tactics to practice for a successful trip and here is what to look for!
Stripers: It appears that a thermocline is starting to establish in the lake. Which is actually a noticeable line on your sonar. To sum it up, below the thermocline is poor oxygen and colder water than above it. Some fish can tolerate it more than others. Baitfish cannot tolerate it. While bait fishing, if your notice you bait is not living long at all, due to the depths your are fishing them, you are probably fishing below the thermocline. Try fishing a shallower depth. Normally at our lake, you can notice a thermocline in the upper reaches around 18 to 25 ft. And as further as you go down lake, you will find the thermocline slightly deeper and deeper, if visible at all. This is one reason why the stripers will continue to push back down lake as the summer months roll on. Downlines, and light lines behind planers and the floats are going to be your best method as the dog days get started. Locating the fish on your sonar, be it schools or scattered fish before you start putting out lines, will help you to not be fishing over dead water. Alewives are going to be your bait of choice. Look for the fish to be in the 20 to 35 ft. range, even over deep water in the mouths and inside creeks and large coves.
Artificial: The jigging bite should pick up soon. We are seeing good schools of fish showing up for the summer. It's really hard to beat the ole' reliable of a jighead and a fluke. Using a 1/2 or 3/4 ounce jighead matched with a white, shad, albino, chartreuse, and other natural shad looking colors if you best choice. You can also match the jig with a grub or sassy shad of the same color. Spoons and heavy bucktails will also work! Jigging in an up and down motion, with a pop or three as you jig upwards. The more erratic in your jig motion the better, but just the standard up and down motion will also work. Roughly your rod tip should movie 3 to 5ft in a jig. You don't want to look like your trying to whip the tar out of the water, that's too erratic. Simple and easy with a slight pop is your best method.
Catfish: Look for the cats to be on the prowl, as spawning is about to wrap up. But still remember to release those large flatheads over 10 lbs! Live and fresh cut bait will be your best methods. Fishing along 5 to 15 ft. of water for flatheads and 10 to 20 ft. for channel cats. Focus on structured areas right now with the spawn ending. The fish nest in crevices of logs and rocks.
Crappie: Look for crappie in 12 to 20 ft of water around docks and deep brush. Night fishing can also be good under lights. I have heard mid creeks towards the main channel are best, rather than in the backs of the creeks.
Smith Mountain Lake: Lt. Burnette of SML bass masters reports for us on the bass bite. The bass have definitely fallen into their summer patterns. Deep brushpiles and rocky points in the 15 to 20 foot water depth continue to be productive during the day or night. Deep diving crankbaits such as shad colored Strike King 6XD or the Norman DD22s and big plastic worms such as the Zoom Ol Monster Texas or Carolina Rigged will be effective in these situations. I would go with a natural color worm during the day such as watermelon or green pumpkin and then switch to black or grape at night. Jigs, dropshots, and shakey heads are also effective for catching the deeper fish as well. It is important to try a couple of different techniques at a spot before moving to another one just to give the fish a different look. Stay safe, good luck and good fishing!