Steve Bowman and I just caught up with Josh Bertrand. That's him fishing in the middle of the big, blue St. Lawrence. I'm still amazed at the size of this body of water. Even though I knew it was big. In person it's bigger.
Bertrand is fishing in the same area as JVD, Pipkens and Hawk. There's plenty of room for all four guys. And we think Ott DeFoe is not far away.
Bertrand just landed his 5th keeper. We're estimating that gives him around 18 pounds so far.
With a bassing average of 4.89 and an average bass of 3.42 pounds, the St. Lawrence River ranks right up there among Elite Series venues over the years.
This year, in particular, the St. Lawrence stands out. Only Falcon Lake produced a bigger average fish (4.11 pounds) and a bigger average catch (19.03 pounds), and Falcon is one of the world's great largemouth fisheries.
None of the Elite venues this year match the St. Lawrence when it comes to bassing average. The closest was Bull Shoals at 4.82, and that venue was a mixed bag of largemouth and spotted bass.
When I compared this week at the St. Lawrence with what I believe was the greatest smallmouth bass tournament in Elite history — maybe even bass tournament history — I was surprised. In 2008, the Elites had an event on Lake Erie that was won by Kotaro Kiriyama. He totaled 93-6 in smallmouth bass! Can you imagine? His average smallmouth weighed 4-11.
Now that's not going to be equaled this week, but the St. Lawrence is definitely churning out big bronzebacks. In fact, the average smallmouth here is going to outweigh the average smallmouth on Erie back in 2008, and that's impressive. The average Erie smallmouth that year weighed 3.12 — nearly five ounces less than what we're seeing from the St. Lawrence.
Jonathon VanDam has culled twice in the last 30 minutes, and they were big time culls. He just took a few minutes to weigh his fish, so he would know which ones to cull next.
The total on his scales: 18-12.
"That's probably a little light," he said "My scales have been around two ounces off per fish this week. I've got somewhere around 18 or 19 pounds.
"Now I need to catch a couple of 5-pounders to give Brandon a run for his money."
Spot number two did not pay off for Palaniuk. He doesn't stay long, and moves to another spot a few miles away. He fishes there for maybe 5 minutes and hooks another good fish. This bass takes forever to come to the boat. Finally, Palaniuk lands a 4-pound bass. That will rid him of his smallest bass, a 3-pounder.
You can tell that Palaniuk is getting antsy. He probably has enough bass in the box to wrap this thing up. However, it's more than 100 miles back to Waddington.
You can never take anything for granted in a bass tournament.
Aaron Martens' prediction from before the launch this morning appears to be coming true. He figured he would have a hard time finding many more big smallmouth to climb above seventh place, where he sat with 59 pounds at the end of Saturday's weigh-in. "My spots have been hit hard, by me and others," he said. "Two of my best spots had two boats on them at times." He knew he could catch an easy limit of just-keepers, but the 4- and 5-pounders he needs to make it the top have been depleted. Too, the way he's fishing -- drop shotting Roboworms in deep water along the main river channel -- make it hard to locate new schools of big bass. They're not schools, really. He's never found a hole containing more than two or three big bass, and it takes seemingly forever to pinpoint the right locations. "It can take me anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to get on the right place," he said. "These spots are big, and they have several 'spots-within-spots,'" so he has to keep looking and fishing until he finds them. He's inching up the BassTrakk standings with a decent limit weighing 15 pounds, but he's still 12 pounds and six places away from first.
It's a good question. The fishing here has been nothing short of spectacular. Whereas some other venues this year have disappointed or the field has really struggled, the St. Lawrence has exceeded all expectations.
After three days, a total of 1,213 bass had been brought to the scales over the course of 248 angler days. That gives this tournament an overall bassing average of 4.89 (the average angler brought 4.89 bass to the scales each day out of a possible 5).
The bass have weighed a total of 4,149 pounds, 1 ounce, so the average fish weighed 3.42 pounds (about 3-7).
The average angler coming to the scales at the St. Lawrence is carrying a bag of fish weighing 16.75 pounds … of mostly smallmouth bass. That's impressive!
Palaniuk moves. It looks like he went to the place where he started yesterday morning. He stops to check on his bass and it looks like he is fizzing one. Now he's back fishing again.
As fast as Palaniuk was catching them first thing this morning, I'm surprised about this lull in the action. I suspect he is too.
Aaron Martens just culled 2-pounder in the livewell. He already caught more than two limits of keepers. He has just backed most 2-pounders into the river without balancing. "No time, no time! I need more pounds, not ounces. No time to cull for ounces."
The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race loosened up a little for Edwin Evers yesterday. With Kevin VanDam and Aaron Martens running third and fourth, respectively, after Day 2, and Evers in 25th place, KVD and the Natural had closed the gap to less than 30 points.
But on Day 3, Evers held onto 25th while VanDam and Martens slipped. KVD fell all the way to 14th and Martens dropped three places to seventh. The result? Evers now leads AOY by 32 points, and only Martens can change that today. If Martens rises in the standings, he could cut Evers lead to as little as 26 points. If he falls to the bottom of the Top 12 today, Evers' lead will be 37 points. Either way, Evers is in the driver's seat going into the final event on Lake St. Clair.