DETROIT, Mich. — Lake St. Clair promises another big smallmouth fest for the field of 99 Bassmaster Elite Series pros at next week’s regular-season finale out of Detroit.
The Aug. 22-25 event, the Plano Championship Chase, will be the pros’ last chance to make headway in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points race. They’re sprinting toward the prestigious Angler of the Year title and the $100,000 that comes with it. They’re also after qualifications for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic and the Sept. 27-29 Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship postseason.
Not to mention the Chase’s Elite Series first-place prize of $100,000 and an instant Classic qualification.
The Elite Series field just came off the smallmouth bass extravaganza of the Aug. 8-11 Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown at St. Lawrence River out of Waddington, N.Y. Many of the anglers hauled their boats straight from New York to the Detroit area to be on deck for three days of practice time beginning Aug. 19.
All eyes will be on the outcome of the AOY race. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., has been the points leader after each of the past five events. But he doesn’t have the crown sewn up.
Just last week at the Showdown, Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., shaved the 50 points Evers had on him down to 30. Martens is now Evers’ biggest threat. Martens won the crown in 2005, and he’s come very close several other times. Evers must turn in a solid Chase finish. Martens will need to do very, very well himself and hope that Evers doesn’t.
Ditto for Kevin VanDam, who also inched closer to Evers at the Showdown. VanDam now sits 39 points behind him. The fishing world is waiting to see if VanDam, already a seven-time AOY, can do it again.
VanDam is in the best position of the three points leaders to do well. From Kalamazoo, Mich., he counts big, shallow Lake St. Clair as home water. He’s also an expert on the connecting fisheries. Those are the Detroit River, which hooks up Lake St. Clair southward to Lake Erie, and the St. Clair River, which links Lake Huron to the north of Lake St. Clair.
Any of those rivers and lakes is fair game. The pros will have a choice of where to fish to earn all-important points and make a run at the Chase title.
Like his uncle Kevin VanDam, Jonathon VanDam was one of the few in range to make a pit stop at home before heading to the Chase. The young pro from Kalamazoo finished the Showdown right behind winner Brandon Palaniuk of Rathdrum, Idaho.
That second-place finish was like a smallmouth refresher course for Jonathon VanDam.
“The St. Lawrence fishes a lot like the Detroit River at home and Lake St. Clair,” Jonathon VanDam said. “I would say Lake St. Clair is my home water more than any of the others (Chase fisheries). I’ve definitely had more time on the lake than most any of the other Elite pros.”
Jonathon VanDam’s success on the St. Lawrence boosted him from 39th to 24th in points.