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Gary Engberg - River Currents - Russ and Jake Smith, Like Father Like Son
"Smity" Inducted into the World Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame
I've been lucky enough to have known Russ Smith for going on twenty five years. For those who don't know Russ "Smity" Smith, he's a licensed Wisconsin guide and
the owner and operator (along with wife Pat and sons Jake and Chris) of Smity Bait and Guide Service in Minocqua, Wisconsin. Russ and Jake are two of the Northwood's
better guides who pride themselves on taking anglers of all skill levels out on the water for their fishing trip of a lifetime. Fishing with Russ or Jake Smith is
something special whether you're after muskies (their specialties), walleye, pike, or bass. Russ or Smity, as most call him, has been guiding Vilas and Oneida
Counties for over thirty- five years fishing most every day from May to November. Jake, who is following in his father's footsteps, is also a full-time guide
also and continuing the Smith name in the fishing world.
This fall, it was announced that Russ "Smity" Smith was honored with his induction into World Freshwater Hall of Fame as a legendary guide. Smith, who is
entering his 35th year guiding, is a "fisherman's guide", doing everything he can to make one's fishing experience a good one no matter what the fishing
skills of the client may be or how many fish you caught with him. Experts or beginners are all treated equally from Smith, who is a pleasure to spend a
day in the boat with no matter the person's skill level. Smity is just one of those people you feel comfortable with whether you've known him for a few
days or for years. Smith is a humble man, but being inducted into the Hall of Fame is something that Russ has deserved for years joining the company of
Tony Rizzo and Buckshot Anderson. But he was still surprised at his induction into an organization which is everyone's who guides lifelong dream and fantasy.
The Smity Bait story is an interesting one with Russ and Pat moving to Minocqua in 1976 to establish his guide service and bait manufacturing business.
Smity caught his first muskie at the young age of 13 and got "hooked" on the idea of catching fish on a lure that he made himself. Russ continued to make
lures for himself and friends and it soon became apparent that Smity knew what he was doing and soon after Smity baits became a proven muskie producer.
He sold baits out of his pick-up truck to sport shops, taverns, and gas stations and soon people all over northern Wisconsin were asking for his custom
baits and lures. Finally, Smith was doing more than paying for his gas and fishing trips up north. He made the big move and established his guide service
and bait business in northern Wisconsin in the middle 1970's.
The first lure made was a jerk bait in two sizes, then came the Ruslur bucktail with its unique hand poured, solid lead body, next came two surface lures,
then the Quick Set Sucker Harness, and finally the large-lipped trolling lures. Smity Bait Company is the only muskie bait manufacturer with a complete
line of lures for all types of muskie fishing. The making of quality muskie lures has always been a family affair with everyone pitching in and helping
this family business prosper. Chris is now a carpenter and doesn't work in the business anymore.
Smity is constantly working to improve his lures with new innovations in paint, hardware, and exterior finishes which are regularly being field tested
by Smity, Jake, and his extensive field staff. Smity Baits are still handmade of wood and assembled with the same care and attention as the first lures
Russ made in 1955. Most baits are now made of plastic and mass produced, but not Smity Baits!
I try to fish with Smity a couple times a year and always just before the season's end in November. Both of the Smith's are excellent guides and great
people to spend a day in the boat with whether you catch muskies or not. Russ is an "old school" guide and does his fishing out of a 17 foot aluminum
boat with a 50 horsepower motor. For all of the fishing Smity does and the lakes that he fishes, there is no need for the 20 foot Ranger's with a 200
horse motor that you see some guides using. The equipment that Smity uses is top-notch and he will provide everything that you need to make fishing with
him a memorable occasion. Most of the clients that Russ and now Jake have are regulars who have been fishing with Russ for years. Jake also is getting
his share of repeat business considering he is only in his twenties.
Teaching and educating people about fishing and new techniques is another thing that Smity prides himself on and that is why so many people keep coming
back to fish and spend a day in the boat with this Hall of Fame guide and angler. I've been a guide for over twenty years and I still and always enjoy
spending a day on the water with Smity as much as when we first met decades ago. He is the kind of guy that anyone can feel comfortable with whether
you catch the big one or not. Smity truly likes people and is willing to share his wealth of knowledge with anyone he meets or fishes with. In all the
years that I've known Smity, I've never seen him get mad or even bad-mouth anyone and in the fishing business it's hard not to get a few enemies. Besides,
Russ Smith is an excellent fisherman no matter the species even though muskies are his forte. How many guides these days will still cook a shore lunch?
It is now a thing of the past, but not for Smity, who will do anything to satisfy his customers. Most guides these days don't even know that a shore lunch
is and how to cook one! But, not Russ Smith, who is the same person and guide I first met almost 25 years ago.
I've known son, Jake, since he was a youngster tagging along with dad to sport shows all over the state and Upper Midwest. Jake started making his own
baits out of left-over pieces of wood from his father's baits. I was over-joyed when I learned that Jake was going to be a guide just like his dad. In
the troubled times we have now and with all the temptations facing young people, it's good to see a young man turn out to be such a good person not to
mention an excellent angler too! I think it must be in the Smith genes.
Book a day fishing with either of the Smith's and tell them what you want to catch and they'll gladly do their best and work their hardest for you. Both
Smith's fish a few tournaments and always do well, but guiding and teaching people to fish is where they find their enjoyment and satisfaction. Spend a
day on the water with Smity or Jake and you'll learn plenty and also have fun listening to Smity and his many stories and fishing tips which is still the
most important thing. Fish with them and I guarantee you'll be back again to fish with Russ or son Jake. The Smith's also guide for ice-fishing and in
the fall you can book a combo day with both duck hunting and fishing. Contact Russ and Jake Smith at (715)-356-5565.
For more fishing articles visit www.garyengbergoutdoors.com
Gary Engberg Outdoors
P.O. Box 92
Sauk City, WI 53583
Host of Outdoor Horizons on 1670-WTDY, Saturday's 8:00am-8:30am