It’s Sunday afternoon prior to the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at Lake Erie’s western basin. I’m at McDonald’s, my office away from home when I’m camping during an Open tournament, as I am this time.
This McDonald’s is on Catawba Island, a few minutes from Lake Erie. I’m camping at East Harbor State Park, which is a wonderful facility.
Why am I not out searching for Erie’s giant smallmouth bass?
It’s howling out of the north right now at over 20 mph. I don’t care to subject my boat and my body to the huge waves rolling across the big water. Even if I did head out, a stout north wind makes Erie’s best smallmouth habitat practically impossible to fish.
There are a few places where you can tuck out of the wind around the islands, but they’re not where I hope to be fishing when the tournament begins. I doubt that many Open anglers ventured onto Erie today.
I did notice a few bass boats in East Harbor. You can catch plenty of largemouth bass there, but they just don’t have the size that the brown ones in Erie do. If you fish East Harbor during the tournament, you are conceding any chance to win here.
I’ve already put in a few days on Erie. I’ve caught some quality smallmouths, but the bite has been slow for me. However, I’m not discouraged. I watched Mark Davis and Chris Lane a few weeks ago while doing the live blog for the Elite Series tournament at Lake St. Clair.
On the days that I watched the two pros fish, the bite was slow for them, too. They hung tough, kept grinding and brought in sacks of brown bass that weighed over 20 pounds.
Lane fished Lake Huron and won the tournament. Davis fished Erie. He was leading after Day Three, but struggled on the final round and dropped to second place.
Since Lane and Davis had to work for every single bass, I have no reason to be discouraged. If you can find Erie’s heavyweight smallmouths, it should take only seven or eight bites to stuff your livewell with enough weight to make you a contender.
Several Elite Series pros will be fishing the Erie Open. I ran into Jonathon VanDam. He has already qualified for the Bassmaster Classic through the Elite Series, so he’s not up against the wall to get a victory here.
JVD is an addicted smallmouth nut, plus he won a Bassmaster Open here before. He’s looking to have some fun and fatten his bank account.
I’ve also seen Michael Iaconelli on the water. He failed to qualify for the Classic via the Elite Series. His back is against the wall. Winning this tournament is Iaconelli’s last change to earn a berth to the 2014 Classic. He’s putting in long days to make that happen.
Of course, this is my last chance to make the Classic, too. I drove up to Erie a week before the tournament to give it my best shot. Coming early also gave me some leeway for bad weather days, like today.
My goal is to find smallmouths that I can fish for regardless of wind direction. The last time I competed in a Bassmaster Open at Erie’s western basin, I put all my eggs in one area, the west side of Pelee Island.
A steady west wind churned up 3- to 5-foot waves that day, which made it extremely difficult to fish the small humps the bass I had found were relating to. My partner and I eked out our limits, but we couldn’t catch enough bass to cull and upgrade into respectability.
This time I intend to go where the wind lets me fish with a modicum of proficiency. I still have plenty of scouting to do to find the right size bass in the right places to make that happen.