Lake St. Clair - B.A.S.S. Elite Series Event #8
After some disappointment at the St. Lawrence my wife Rhonda and I had a week break between events… we spent that time at my in-laws in Pittsburgh, PA. It is very nice to have a place like that to wind down from the event and get some work accomplished prior to the next one. Besides, my mother in-law is a great cook and I really feel relaxed when I am with my wife’s family. It’s almost as good as going home to Texas or being with my family in Virginia. The Saturday 2 days before the Detroit Elite event was to begin we made the short 5 hour drive to Detroit. I am rested and looking forward to the final Elite Event of 2013.
Aug. 22– Aug. 25 Lake St. Clair - B.A.S.S. Elite Series Event #8
I have fished Lake St. Clair one time previously and it was in 2012. I finished fairly well - a 14th place standing in the second Northern Open event on my way to re-qualifying for the Elite Series last year. I fished St. Clair the entire tournament and became familiar with how the bigger fish like to relate to the grass and particular areas that were historically productive.
The first practice day I decided to check out some of those old productive locales as I began my search for a winning pattern. Immediately I caught a decent 3 lb. 8 oz. smallmouth on a spinnerbait and a few other 2+lbers. I figured it was going to take 17 lbs. a day to get a good finish in this event so I was worried about the quality of the fish I was catching.
After a few hours I decided to begin looking deeper in the grassy areas of the lake and found the bite to be very tough. I was also noticing that the health of the fish seemed a little off… they were skinny and not weighing what they typically would comparative to the length of the fish. I then moved shallow around midday and found there to be a lot of fish up in that depth zone… but again just not the right quality.
At the conclusion of the first day of practice I found myself second guessing if St. Clair was the right place to be. Should I go to Erie or Huron, or did I just not find the right areas that first day of practice. St. Clair is after all the No. 1 ranked lake in the country, so I decided to get back out there on day 2 of practice and find the right group of heavy bass.
Immediately the 2nd day of practice I caught a 4.5+lb smallmouth and felt I had made the right decision. After having a better day with 15+lbs of fish I felt I had some things to build on for the event and with another day of practice… I could dial it in and make a good showing in the event.
I know that 15 lbs a day will probably get paid but I still needed to crack that 19 lb a day range to make the top 12 cut on Day 3 of the tournament. I also realized I had made a mistake by not spending some time in Lake Erie as I hear through the grapevine that the bigger fish are being caught in that area. I learned that kind of late in the game
Event Day 1: 5 Bass / 11bs 4oz – 91st place of 99
I head for the shallows in the morning to target some smallmouth that I found that 2nd day of practice to be chasing bait around isolated grass patches at the mouth of the river current. I try to locate them for about 45 min. with only several white bass to show for my efforts. I gotta move. I run immediately to my secondary big fish area with a spinnerbait and never had a sniff. I was having to adjust often and early on the first day of the tournament. I slowed down my presentation switching to a drop shot at my 3rd area and began boating non-keepers but that wasn’t going to help.
Finally at 10:30 and on my 4th stop I land 2 keepers that weigh about 2.5 lbs each. I was on the board. I then run to a small rock patch I knew I could fill my limit on and it works out beautifully. I leave there at about 1pm with 5 fish for 11 lbs and now it’s time to find a couple of key 3-4 lb bites to salvage a fair day. I try several new areas and some from practice and was only able to cull up 1 time for a pound or so and I am frustrated with my Day 1 results.
Event Day 2: 5 Bass / 16lbs 1oz – 71st place of 99
The final stop on Day 1 was a point near the take off location and I had a few fish swirl on my spinnerbait so I decided to start there on Day 2 and run some new water. I didn’t really feel the need to revisit much I had fished on Day 1.
I got off to a quick start and had a 12 lb limit in the boat by 8:30 am around that point. I moved off toward several waypoints I had not pre-practiced and began catching several nice fish on an iMA Flit 120 jerkbait. It was slow but steady, catching a fish about every 15 min. I rode that jerkbait until around noon and had about 15 lbs in the livewell.
I was relieved to know I was having a much better day. I knew I had to figure out how to make it great and get into that high teens to 20 lb mark. It was proving to be tough to do on Lake St. Clair. All the bigger bags continued coming in from Eire. I didn’t practice out there and it was a solid 2 hours run so it was out of the question for me as a strategy.
I visited several new areas on the lake trying to locate some bigger bites but with little success. I returned to the area I caught the jerkbait fish on for the last hour or so of the day and culled 1 more time with a nice 3 lb, 11oz bass. Maybe I should have never left. Hindsight is always 20/20. Day 2 proved to be much tougher for the field overall and I weighed the 31st best bag that day and it was enough to move me up exactly 20 spots in the overall standings.
Event Total - 10 Bass / 27lbs 5oz / 71st place of 99.
I was really surprised how bad St. Clair fished. All of the top 12 were fishing in either Lake Erie or Lake Huron. Looking back, it’s a strategy decision that really hurt me the most by deciding to fish St. Clair. I also feel like I didn’t tap into a solid area in the practice period that I could count on to consistently provide decent quality fish.
I have one more chance to make the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and that will be on Lake Erie. I am going to hit it hard and fish from my soul… nothing will be left on the water.
Next blog… Bassmaster Northern Open #3, Lake Erie, Sandusky, OH - Sept. 12-14
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