Detroit’s aquarium

It’s the Monday evening before the second Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open at the Detroit River, and I’m writing this from a Motel 8 in Sterling Heights, Mich. I came off the water early today to finish this blog.

It should have been written two days ago. My brain has been in tournament mode since I arrived here last Thursday. When that happens, my obligations to the rest of the world fade into some foggy world hidden in the back of my skull.

I have no idea how the top Bassmaster Elite Series pros balance tournament fishing with life in general.

Today I fished an area of Lake St. Clair that could have been an aquarium. I could clearly see the bottom and the smallmouth bass that inspected and engulfed my baits. There was no need to set the hook. I could judge the size of the bass by looking at them. Some were definitely fish I hope to weigh in during the tournament.

The first two days I was here, I fished with Brian Schram, a Lake St. Clair fishing guide who fishes the Bassmaster Opens. Schram is also a talented singer and guitarist. He performs, among other places, at Bassmaster Open final weigh-ins that take place at Bass Pro Shops.

We teamed up so I could get photos and story material for articles on smallmouth bass, walleye and muskie. Schram guides for all of these species at Lake St. Clair. Sometimes his clients boat all three in one day.

My daughter Valerie drove up from Ohio and fished with us on the second day of our photo shoot. We needed a good bass for morning photos, but were having trouble boating one. Schram was fishing in his boat; Valerie and I were in my Phoenix.

We were fishing tubes, jigs and crankbaits and catching a few 2- to 3-pound bass at a community hole. After an hour had passed with no good fish for the camera, I rigged a rod for drop shotting, which is Valerie’s favorite fishing method.

She caught our camera fish on the first drop, a 4-pound smallie. She caught two more bass in less than 10 minutes. Schram and I dubbed here the “Drop Shot Queen.”

I also caught a muskie that morning on a jig. It was one of three muskies I’ve caught on bass lures since I’ve been here. The biggest weighed about 12 pounds.

I saw one today in the aquarium that looked to be about 40 inches long. Some real monsters swim in these waters.

Schram gave me some tips on how to catch St. Clair’s smallmouth bass. We caught some good ones, up to 6 pounds. I can’t reveal where he will be fishing, but he said I could tell you which baits he will be using: a tube, a drop shot and a crankbait.

After fishing with Schram, I began my official pre-tournament practice. Valerie fished with me one more day, and we boated a good number of bass that weighed 2 to 3 pounds. I’ll need bigger ones than that to get a check here.

The best bass I’ve found are more than 10 miles away from the places that I fished with Schram. I don’t want to infringe on his water. The stuff I’m fishing is totally different than Schram’s water.

I decided to stay on St. Clair from the get-go. I got burned by running to Lake Erie the last time we fished here. I think I’ve made the right decision.