It’s no secret that this storied fishery is nothing short of a smallmouth factory. Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam knows it, as this is his favorite lake to fun fish. “In my opinion, there is no better place in the world to catch huge numbers of huge smallmouth, especially in the fall,” VanDam states plainly. But to be ranked No. 1 on this list, a lake has to be great year-round.
St. Clair proved it’s a great summertime fishery last July during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open there, and the anglers brought in more than 2 tons of bass, mostly smallmouth. And, 135 of the 147 pros weighed five-fish limits; only four co-anglers didn’t weigh a limit. An angler had to catch almost 18 pounds a day to make the Top 50 and almost 21 pounds to make the Top 12. At least two smallmouth exceeded the 6-pound mark, as a 6-pound, 2-ounce fish won both the pro and nonboater big bass awards. Elite Series pro Jason Christie won the slugfest with a three-day total of 67-4. Had this been a four-day event, he would have scared the century mark with smallmouth!
Although brown bass stand strong enough to make St. Clair No. 1 this year, the emergence of largemouth here puts an exclamation point on its perch at the top.
“St. Clair has a mostly untouched largemouth fishery,” explains Elite Series pro Ish Monroe. “There are more 2- to 4-pounders in this lake than you can shake a stick at, and nobody messes with them because the smallmouth are so fun to catch!”
If you plan a trip here, don’t be too concerned with how you are going to catch fish. All the standard smallmouth tactics work: Drop shots, tubes, jerkbaits and small cranks will all produce. However, don’t be afraid to buzz a spinnerbait, walk big topwaters during the warm months and throw swimbaits and oversized cranks. The smallmouth here get big and are typically willing to bite just about anything. The question is not if you will catch fish here, but can you find the monster bass that call St. Clair home?
There are plenty of places to look, as this fishery encompasses 430 square miles. Most anglers fish out of Detroit or Windsor, Ontario, and look for offshore structure where smallies congregate. However, don’t forget about the green fish that live in the marshy, shallow areas. You can have a banner day of catching and never see a smallmouth.