The first thing I noticed about Casey Smith is that he catches fish, a lot of fish. The next thing I noticed was that he has been quite successful as a tournament angler on the Costa FLW Series. Finally what made him a must interview for me is his success catching big smallmouth bass on Lake Ontario during the Costa FLW 1000 Islands tournament.
In this interview, we focus on Casey’s 1000 Islands fishing and specifically his use of Keitech baits to catch big St Lawrence River bass.
You have had a lot of success fishing the FLW Costa Northern Division including a tour win on the Potomac last year. One of the keys to your success has been Keitech lures. What do you love about fishing their baits?
The most important thing to me about Keitech is that I have 100% confidence in the baits. I keep my bait and tackle selection pretty simple, and the baits I use I know will get bites.
I used Keitech baits long before I was ever sponsored by them or had a relationship with them. The first pack I got was from a buddy’s grandpa who got a free sample pack at a fishing and hunting expo in 2007. We were in college at the time at SUNY Geneseo and living on Conesus Lake. It was right around the time when Byron Velvick won an Elite Series event on Clear Lake on a swimbait. So we were starting to experiment with them. We had been using other brands of hollow belly baits and ran out one day so we decided to try the sample pack of Keitech’s and crushed them that day.
We noticed right away how slow you could reel the bait and still keep it swimming and upright. To me, one of the best features of all Keitech baits is their quality and uniformity. You never get a bait that doesn’t swim or act right and every bait in the pack is poured the same.
Lets talk specifically about your recent 7th place finish at the 1000 Islands. Drop shots almost always play big in tournament success. You fished a 3″ Keitech Shad Impact. How important was this bait for you?
The 3” Shad Impact is a great little bait that is still being tweaked. It actually isn’t available in the United States yet and the Lake Champlain Costa Series in June was the first event I fished with it. The bed fish ate it extremely well up there so I kept it tied on for the St Lawrence.
It is just a perfect little bait that can imitate a goby, small baitfish, or perch. I got some this spring at a Keitech VIP event where the guys from Japan came to the US, and we all fished together. I knew it would work well in the US so I asked them to send some over in a few colors and they did.
It has worked so well that I have talked to Mike, who is the Keitech USA President, about trying to get them into the US market and adding a few other sizes and colors to it. Hopefully that works out and we can get them over here soon.
Are there any things you do specifically to enhance your presentation of the bait?
I don’t do anything too special for a drop shot. I make sure when I drop it down I don’t shake the bait too much. I think a lot of guys overwork the bait. My set up at the St Lawrence was a 1/0 drop shot hook, about an 18” drop leader, and a 5/8oz weight. I rigged it on a 7’2” Medium Duckett White Ice rod with 20lb Seaguar Kanzen braid and a 8lb Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon leader.
I mostly used the 3” Shad Impact in the AYU color mostly because it does a good job of imitating everything. It looks a little like a perch, little like a goby, and little like a small baitfish. In cloudy/darker conditions or if I could see a fish on the graph and it wouldn’t bite I would switch to a lighter shad color.
You also went shallower with a similar size Keitech Swing Impact Fat Swimbait. How did you decide when to dropshot versus throw the swimbait?
The shallower fish were more set up on small feeding areas and a reaction bait was the best way to get them to bite, which is why I went with the swimbait in those situations. The dropshot probably would have gotten some bites in those areas but I was trying to cover more water and find actively feeding fish when I went shallower. I know with the swimbait if there is a fish there, it is most likely going to eat it.
How were you fishing the swimbait?
The key to that presentation was just covering water and keeping myself around areas with fish that were actively feeding. I didn’t sit in any one area for too long. If I didn’t get a bite, I would move on. Sometimes I would make 5 to 10 stops before I got a bite but usually when I got one bite I would get 2 to 3 more and find a little school. I didn’t do anything too crazy for presentation, just kept a slow and steady retrieve. It is important when you are covering water and moving the boat fast to keep your retrieve under control.
I was a bit surprised to read that you also threw an umbrella rig with Keitech Swing Impacts and Swing Impact Fats. When and where did you pick up the umbrella rig to throw?
I rotated the umbrella rig in when I got around an active feeding group of fish. It was the same type of areas that I used the swimbait. I would make 5 to 10 throws with the swimbait and 5 to 10 throws with the umbrella rig. If I didn’t get bit I would move on.
What rod and reel do you throw the umbrella rig on and what are the keys to an effective presentation?
I used a 7’11” Heavy action Duckett White Ice rod, a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel, and 25lb Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon. The umbrella rig was just like the swimbait, it was just all about keeping myself around actively feeding fish. I knew if I got around some active fish they were going to eat the umbrella rig or swimbait.
I was fishing shallow enough to pretty much just cast it out and reel it back in. I just had to make sure I kept a slow and steady pace with my retrieve and didn’t fish it too fast since I was covering so much water.
For competitive and recreational anglers, do you view these baits a season specific approaches or baits that will work all year around at the 1000 Islands?
These baits absolutely work all year at the 1000 Islands and Lake Ontario. The fish up there eat gobies, perch, and bait fish all year, and a swimbait and drop shot are the best way to imitate that.
You can pretty much use the same set ups I used just change the weight around based on season. In the early season when fish get shallow I switch the swimbait jig head to a 3/16oz or 1/8oz and the drop shot to a 1/4oz weight and fish 5 to 10 feet of water.
When fish are on beds, I will use the swimbait to search for them. If they don’t bite it, I follow up with the drop shot. After the spawn when the fish get deeper in the 20 to 40 feet range, I stick to a 1/4oz or 3/8oz jighead for the swimbait and 3/8oz or 5/8oz weight for the drop shot depending on depth and wind. I stick with those set ups in the summer and right through the fall time and into early winter.
My favorite colors for the swimbait are Bluegill Flash and AYU. I really like the new Perch and Goby colors that just came out. The Goby color is going to really take off in the Northeast I think.
Beyond Keitech, who are your other sponsors?
My other sponsors are Thayer’s Marine, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Duckett Fishing, and Artistix Clothing. Thayer’s/Ranger/Evinrude are new sponsors for me this season, I have always had a Ranger boat but sure was glad to have a new z521c and Evinrude g2 for this event. It was one of the most exhausting events I have ever fished. Every day I made long runs to Lake Ontario, Chaumont Bay, and Henderson Harbor with big wind and waves and I couldn’t have done it with older equipment. I know I can depend on my equipment and be safe which is a big relief mentally.
Thayer’s is located in the Hartford, CT area and is a top 15 Ranger Boats Dealer and top Evinrude Dealer as well. They understand the fishing market and how demanding we are on our equipment.
I have used Duckett Rods for a handful of years now and have been very happy with them. The 7’2” drop shot rod I used at the 1000 islands is the best drop shot rod I have ever used. It has a real soft tip to absorb the shock of the big smallmouth but a good backbone to control the fish.
I also really like that 7’11” umbrella rig rod because it is lightweight and I can use it all day for several days in a row and not get fatigued. Everything Duckett makes is super light weight and sensitive, especially for the price range. It is the only rod I have ever used that you can actually feel the tail kick of a Keitech swimbait.
Artistix is a local company in the Rochester, NY area that has supported me for a few years now. The owner, Greg Polisseni, is a big time fisherman and that is how we got connected. They make some very comfortable jeans and clothing. Greg is an artist and painter and has come up with some really cool boat wrap designs for me the last few seasons. My wrap is always based on one of his paintings.
Without these companies supporting me, there is no way I could be fishing at this level. I really want to extend a special thank you to all of them.
Next up on the tour is a return to the place of your victory, the Potomac. What are you expecting as you approach that tournament and the chance to defend your title?
I am expecting this year’s stop at the Potomac to be a very tough tournament. It will be quite a bit different than it was last year. We are going to be facing some really hot weather, a tough mid summer bite, and a ton of grass that has grown in the river this year which will make covering water difficult.
This year will most likely be a frogging and flipping bite and those aren’t really my strengths. The Potomac is an excellent fishery with a ton of productive water though, and I am really excited to get down there and see how things shake out.
Thank you Casey. Good luck on the Potomac!
Follow Casey’s success on Instagram @caseysmitty.
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