Bassmaster Elite Series event at Smith Lake could be ‘mystery’ for anglers


Summertime temperatures, spotted bass will highlight the TNT Fireworks Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake June 27-30.

Photo by Shane Durrance/B.A.S.S.

June 20, 2024

Bassmaster Elite Series event at Smith Lake could be ‘mystery’ for anglers


Elite_eventLogo_2024_SmithLake_Raster.pngCULLMAN, Ala. — Though he won’t be competing in the 2024 TNT Fireworks Bassmaster Elite at Smith LakeDavid Kilgore knows a thing or two when it comes to fishing this central Alabama hotbed.

The 50-year-old Jasper, Ala., resident is known as something of a wizard on the lake, having won a Bassmaster Southern Open tournament here a decade ago — one of four B.A.S.S. victories in his lengthy career, and all coming in his home state. Kilgore is a fierce stick on Smith, and he proved it by winning consecutive one-day derbies on the 21,000-acre fishery last month.


So how does the hometown ace, who’s currently fishing the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens presented by SEVIIN, think his favorite fishery will perform when 99 Elite anglers compete here June 27-30?


“No one knows really,” he said. “It’s a mystery.”


Kilgore’s not being coy or trying to keep the world’s best bass anglers from hitting his Smith Lake honey holes. Not at all. He said he really isn’t sure what the Elite Series crew should expect later this month.


And why?


“This tournament is pretty late in the season and there have already been a lot of tournaments in there this year,” he said. “I won two up there with 15.8 and 17 pounds a month ago. But the 15- and 16-inch spotted bass the place was filled with three or four years ago, those 3 1/2- and 4-pounders, they’ve been much harder to find.


“So, I think you’re gonna see a lot of 9-, 10- (and) 11-pound bags coming in. The bass have been a bit smaller, and while that may be promising for the future, it’s not especially great for right now.”


Kilgore suspects the best bags will come from anglers who locate pockets of herring off points in the lake. He assumes most anglers will be using forward-facing sonar and thinks key offshore bites could play a role, too.


The scalding Alabama heat should also play a role, and likely in more ways than one.


“Thursday and Friday fishing should be OK, but by Saturday, boats are going to be everywhere on the water,” he said. “I took off recently from Cullman about 5 a.m. with no problem, but when I got back at noon, it was absolute chaos over there. The recreational boat traffic on the weekend — the ski boats, the Jet Skis — those boats are throwing big wakes.


“They’re not doing it because they’re mad at us or anything. They just don’t realize how a 4-foot wave can knock you around in a bass boat. They’ll smile and wave as they zip by. It’ll be interesting to see how the LiveScopers handle that, trying to hold a spot on a fish when they’re bouncing around out there.”


Kilgore thinks anglers with early bites will have the best chance. When the summer sun gets overhead, though, he thinks action could slow to a crawl.

“If there’s some chop out there, they could be OK,” he said. “But if it’s slick, it could be a long day for a lot of guys. I’d fish super-shallow early, looking for a largemouth bite on a bluff. You might get a couple hours out of that. Then I’d fish every point I know, LiveScoping with a topwater bait like a Strike King Sexy Dawg. I might try a Fluke-style bait if I need to be under the water a little bit.”


As for a winning weight, Kilgore made a conservative estimate.


“I think 15 pounds a day wins it, unless someone finds the mother lode of big spots out there,” he said. “But if I had 15 pounds a day, I’d be thrilled.”


Only time will tell if competitors will feel the same come tournament time.


The TNT Fireworks Bassmaster Elite at Smith Lake will begin at 6 a.m. CT each day from Smith Lake Park in Cullman. Weigh-ins are scheduled for 2 p.m. The full field will fish for the first two days of the derby with a cut to the Top 50 on Day 3 and to the Top 10 on the final day. Fans can follow the action live on


Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on all four days, and coverage will also be available on FS1 on Saturday at 7:00-10:00 a.m. and Sunday at 7:00-a.m.-12:00 p.m. is hosting the tournament.


2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro ShopsDakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2024 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Lowrance, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC


About B.A.S.S.B.A.S.S., which encompasses the Bassmaster tournament leagues, events and media platforms, is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport, providing cutting-edge content on bass fishing whenever, wherever and however bass fishing fans want to use it. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (, TV show, radio show, social media programs and events. For more than 50 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.