I went to Lake Erie a week ahead of time to practice for the final Bass Pro Shops Northern Open out of Sandusky Bay. I had wisely purchased BoatUS Angler insurance beforehand. See photos from Lake Erie.
On Monday, the first official practice day for the tournament, my outboard’s fuel pump died while I was in Canadian water 20 miles from Catawba Island State Park where I had launched.
BoatUS reps Cory Schenk and Kevin Holmes soon had the tow line of their Ann Marie hooked to my boat. They towed me back at 20 mph. Without BoatUS insurance, this tow would have cost me well over a thousand dollars. With the insurance, my payment was a sincere thank you.
During practice, I had found some mid-lake reefs west of Sandusky Bay in Canadian water that held quality smallmouth bass.
The bite was slow there but the bass were averaging around 4 pounds. Some of them weighed 5 pounds or more. I knew it would be a grind to pull a limit but these were the size bass needed to win.
It was choppy and windy when my co-angler Destin Demarion of Grove City, Pa., and I pulled up to one of my spots on the tournament’s first morning. I had to run the trolling motor full bore and stand on it constantly to hold against the wind and waves.
Demarion is a good stick and had put in time on Erie refining his drop shot presentation. He was third in the points coming into this event and finished on top after it was over.
While I was struggling to hold over the reef, Demarion boated five bass in less than 30 minutes. Then the fish shut off. Demarion’s three best smallmouth bass weighed over 13 pounds. He had one that would go 5 pounds, another that would go 4 pounds and a smaller fish.
After the flurry ended, I checked out Demarion’s drop shot rig. He was using a short leader, maybe 14 inches. My leader was closer to 3 feet. The long leader had worked well in practice, but it wasn’t what the bass wanted that day.
I shortened my leader, fished a sweet spot on a different reef and boated a brown one that was pushing 5 pounds. We hit a few other places and returned to where Demarion had caught his fish. No bites.
The plan was to hang in and scratch out a limit. However, after less than 3 hours of fishing, my batteries were dying. The boat has a 24-volt system and the batteries are 2 years old.
The batteries had held up through several long practice days, but I had never had to run the electric motor constantly on high speed as on this day. We had to abandon the fish and look for protected water.
We boated to the lee side of an island where I had caught smallies up to 3 pounds on a spinnerbait. By that time, my batteries were so dead that they could barely move the boat. They eventually gave out completely.