DETROIT – The weather changed for all of the competitors at the Northern Open on Lake St. Clair today, but the sun continued to shine the brightest on local angler Brian Metry. Many pros complained that the emerging sun and fierce winds didn’t have their expected effect, but Metry added 22 pounds to his 23-05 catch from Day One and has a 14 ounce lead over Oklahoman Jason Christie.
“They were really crunching it today,” Metry said, referring to his Jack-It Products crankbait. “I’m fishing a deep spot where the water is cool, and the current is helping to replenish the area.” He intends to make the same rotation tomorrow, starting in a place where he can virtually will a 15-pound limit to the boat, then going to his big fish spot to upgrade. Starting with an early limit helps him to relax, he explained. “I have all kinds of temptation to do it differently, but if I stick to my game plan instead of following temptation I might win this thing.”
Despite adding 21-07 to his 23 pound Day One catch, Christie said the fishing was tougher. He only landed 10 keepers and caught the last good one with 10 minutes left to fish.
“The fish just moved a little bit, a hundred yards or so,” he explained. “It took me a while to find them. I’m going to go back to the same place tomorrow and grind them out. I could come in with 12 pounds or I could have 25.”
The third angler to weigh more than 20 pounds each day is another local, Brian Ward. Of the top three, all of whom had more than 20 pounds both days, he was the only one to improve his weight on Day Two, adding 22-01 to his 21-14 first day weight. As a result, he sits just half a pound behind Christie and less than a pound and a half out of the lead.
“I’m not going to change my plan,” Ward said. “I have a particular spot and a particular lure that I’m using.” He’s keying on areas with abundant baitfish, particularly perch, trying to “match the hatch.” Despite claims to the contrary from the vast majority of pros, Ward was resolute that “the sun helps.”
Rounding out the Top 5 are two anglers in their early 20s, but despite their youth they both bring strong credentials to the final day of competition. Andrew Upshaw of Texas (4th, 42-03), competed in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. While the win would give him a second consecutive Classic berth, he said he’s “a lot more worried about making the Elites than the Classic.”
Despite hailing from the heart of East Texas big bass country, Upshaw declared himself a finesse fisherman at heart. “The Northern Opens fit my style of fishing really well,” he said. “Every day it’s been different, everything from a tube to a drop shot to a crankbait, and I’m just figuring out how to catch the big ones.”
His fellow twenty-something Jonathon VanDam (5th, 41-04) won the most recent Elite Series event on Green Bay, so his place at the upcoming Grand Lake Classic is already assured. He’s fishing the same lure he fished in Green Bay, a drop shotted Strike King Dream Shot worm, and hopes it will produce the same results. Unlike Upshaw, whose catch today was nearly 4 pounds better than what he weighed in yesterday, VanDam saw his weight fall off by 2 pounds. He said he’ll “swing for the fences” tomorrow.
Jon Swartz of Three Rivers, Mich., leads all co-anglers with a two-day total of 27-03, an average of over 4 1/2 pounds per fish. Today he weighed in a tournament-best three-fish co-angler limit of 15-09 behind 2000 Bassmaster Classic winner Woo Daves.
“He’s a legend,” Swartz said of Daves. “I couldn’t have asked for a better pro partner. I caught most of my fish on soft plastics, everything from purple to orange, working them slowly through the weeds.” Swartz has a lead of nearly 2 1/2 pounds more than his nearest competitor.
Despite the claims of many that the sunshine didn’t make the fish as aggressive as usual, it was still a banner day, with the vast majority of both the pro and co-angler fields bringing limits to the scales. It took a two-day total of 38-06 to make the twelve man cut on the pro side, and 34-12 to squeak into 40th place, the last money spot. On the co-angler ledger, six fish for 23-03 earned the last spot to fish on Saturday and it took 21-01 to get a check.