ERIE, Pa. — Retired West Virginia State Trooper Bill Pioch relied on his patrolling skills to uncover schools of Lake Erie smallmouth and seize the lead at the Mid-Atlantic Divisional.
The 45-year-old Pioch caught a four-fish limit of smallmouth bass weighing 15 pounds, 5 ounces to take over the lead in the tournament. By finishing the day in first place with 24-13, Pioch won the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250.
“Basically I drove around until I found the schools of fish and then we would start fishing,” said Pioch, who owns a security installation business. “It was just like playing video games.” When he would see fish on the screen Pioch would lower his drop shot rig straight down into the school. He found fish 20 to 25 feet deep in the morning, but by afternoon the schools had dropped into the 30- to 35-foot range.
The New River Bassmasters club member noticed some of the fish were suspended and others were hugging the bottom. “The suspended fish were the ones we had to drop our lures right on their heads to get them to bite,” said Pioch, who estimated he caught about 20 keepers throughout the day. “Once we caught one or two good fish off the school the fish would spook and move off. So we had to keep hunting. “
Catching smallmouth in deep water is a tactic Pioch frequently does at home on Summersville Lake. “We catch bass there up to 60 to 65 feet deep,” he said.
Since the Mid-Atlantic contenders were restricted to Presque Isle Bay the first day of the tournament due to strong winds, Pioch targeted largemouth bass and put together a 9-8 limit to settle into ninth place. He caught all of his green fish flipping Brush Hogs and jigs to grass and rocks in the shallows.
If Pioch finishes as the top angler on his West Virginia team he will qualify for the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC). Other state leaders hoping to make the BNC are Jason Vaughn of Delaware with 24 pounds; John Duarte, Maryland, 18-3; Jim Groome, New Jersey, 24-3; Mike Moran, Pennsylvania, 24-1; and Bryant Copley, Virginia, 20-1.
Delaware has taken over the lead in the team competition with 223 pounds, 15 ounces, followed by the host Pennsylvania squad with 206-3.
The Mid-Atlantic Divisional contenders will launch for the final competition day at about 5:45 a.m. tomorrow at the Presque Isle State Park. The final weigh-in will begin at 2 p.m. at the same location.