From Lake Champlain, the Elite pros will travel across New York to one of the most remarkable smallmouth bass fisheries in the world, Lake Erie, for the Empire Chase. This time, they'll be fishing the eastern portion of the 210-mile-long lake, the deepest and clearest part of Erie.
That shouldn't make any difference, as there is abundant habitat along the shoreline, including rocky points, shoals, old pier pilings, flats and breaklines. This isn't just scattered habitat, either. It continues for miles around the lake. Many feel this area has the most and the largest smallmouth in Erie.
Although there is no shortage of places to fish, the true Erie smallmouth hot spots are well-known and marked on lake maps. Many, including Eighteen Mile Creek, Seneca Shoal, and even the rocks lining Buffalo Harbor itself, produce excellent catches. Slightly further offshore, Waverly Shoal offers good fishing over a series of current-washed rocky humps. Indeed, the Elite pros won't be concerned with catching numbers of smallmouth. Their problem will be finding areas with heavier fish.
Elite pros will have the opportunity to fish the Canadian side of Lake Erie, too. This region is preferred by many anglers due to the abundance of inshore structure and breaklines, but overall most Erie tournament pros feel the U.S. side produces larger fish more consistently.
The resurgence of Lake Erie's smallmouth is usually attributed to the spread of zebra mussels, which have caused the water to become much clearer. That clear water has also changed how anglers fish for smallmouth. Tube jigs are by far the most popular lure choice, followed by jigs, fast spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.
Located just 20 miles north of Buffalo, sightseeing opportunities abound for Niagara Falls on both the U.S. and Canadian (Ontario) sides of the falls. Numerous tours are offered, including the popular Maid of the Mist boat ride that takes visitors to the foot of the falls where everyone gets drenched in the mist. On the Behind the Falls tour, visitors descend in elevators, then walk through a narrow tunnel to within a few feet of the falling water. (www.visitbuffaloniagara.com)