Smithfield, VA? Here in the state of Virginia, most people have primarily because of Smithfield Hams. Country ham is a staple of life for many folks in this area, including myself. I love country ham for breakfast and order it whenever I can. What I didn't realize was that Smithfield, VA also has some exceptional fishing waters. Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to assist in the scouting of some private property for future Tidewater Heroes On the Water events.
The private location was a series of 25 acre ponds separated by access roads and trails completely off the beaten path. The depths of the water ranged from 6" exposed flats to deeper holes that reached up to 15' in some areas. This variation creates exceptional transitions and ambush points for predatory fish. From discussions with the owner, the ponds are stocked with catfish, but also has a thriving bass and bluegill population. After a brief introduction, overview of the rules and where we were permitted to explore, we launched our kayaks and began to assess the location for fishability and opportunities for veterans to catch some fish.
As we were preparing to launch, a nice 20" largemouth swam right in front of the main launch........a promising indicator wouldn't you say? The members of TKAA split up to attack both of the main ponds simultaneously - Bill Ragulsky, Mark & Kris Lozier, Wayne Bradby and Lars Antoniszczak attacked the left pond while Chip, his son Drew and myself attacked the righthand pond. Drew launched first and proceeded out to the island in the middle and quickly landed a spunky little 12-14" largemouth. I made my way down the lefthand side and quickly landed one myself just under the 14" mark.
I was using my favorite spinning combo for soft plastics, and I had rigged up a 5" finesse worm paired to my favorite soft plastic jig head, the Confidence Baits Draggin' Head. I kept working my way down the bank working every nook and cranny that provided any form of cover. As I made my way back into a cove, I noticed the water was still crystal clear even after a recent storm had hit the area the day before. I typically try and avoid crystal clear water in such confined quaters such as this cove. Stealth and precision are keys to landing fish in areas like this but distance is a key factor to increase your odds of not spooking any fish. Also, the slightest noise or improperly placed cast can spook a fish as well.
I was about to bail on this cove and move on when I spotted one of my favorite target areas when hunting for bass. It was a slight change in the bank shoreline creating a deeper "pocket" that was sheltered by an overhanging tree. I made a slingshot cast right against the bank and let it sit for a few seconds. A subtle twitch was greeted immediately by a hungry bass. It zigged and zagged trying to throw the hook, but the Draggin' Head held true......that is until the bass made a very tactical and unexpected move. Just as I was about to lift her into the kayak, she made a 90 degree turn and raced under the kayak creating a sudden leverage advantage and snapped the line before I had a chance to free bail her. She was easily over 17" and was not the ending to the fight I had envisioned.
When I released this one, I was preparing for where my next cast would end up when I noticed a torpedo-like shape out of the corner of my eye. I waited briefly until I noticed the shape move slightly and continues moving slowly along the bank. I slowly opened the bail and made a subtle wrist cast to my left close to the bank about 20' ahead of the fish' current track. My worm made a subtle 'plop', and the shape launched at my tasty offering creating a noticeable wake as it pounced on my lure. At first I didn't think she had it or took any interest in it when she swam away slowly.........until the slack in the line started to move behind her. I quickly set the hook and was greeted immediately by the fury of a perturbed bass. A short fight later, and a chunky 17.5" largemouth made it's way into the kayak.
Tidewater HOW events. We met some amazing like-minded individuals and hopefully can align our schedules in the future to share in this wonderful location and all it has to offer.
Tight lines, be safe and take a kid fishing!