The home lake curse

Fishing your home lake can be a double-edge sword.

When conditions get really tough it can be an advantage because you know places that typically hold fish and you know what the fish do when you have a big weather change.

It’s really an advantage on lakes where blueback herring is a major forage or even smallmouth lakes where you kinda know what smallmouth do with different weather changes.

But St. Clair is a different animal because it has a vast playing field. You not only have Lake St. Clair, but there’s Lake Erie, Huron, the Detroit River and St. Clair River. Each one is different in many ways, plus the large area makes them hard to practice thoroughly during the three-day practice period.

The forage base is diversified, too. You have perch, bluegills, alewives, gobies, emerald shiners and crayfish so you really have to dial into the specific forage the base are targeting at that time. On Southern lakes, you’ve pretty much got shad, some bluegill and crawfish.

So, yes, I felt pretty good about my chances coming into this event. I figured my knowledge and experience would help me out.

I was here with my boys prior to the practice cut-off, and we caught them well on St. Clair. We had doubles and triples on, and the fish were fat and healthy.

I knew St. Clair was the place to fish. Making long runs into Erie and Huron can be risky and you can win at St. Clair.

But a lot has changed in a month and perhaps my history here has hurt me.

The St. Clair fish are in poor shape and that amazes me. Something is wrong with the forage. The lake is producing 20-inch fish with sucked in bellies. They’re running a pound less in many instances.

I’ve never seen this before and I’m completely blown away by how the condition of these fish has deteriorated in five weeks.

This tournament serves as another example of why keeping an open mind is so critical and how the so-called home lake advantage can hurt you.

It gets harder and harder for me to not think about the past and fish from memories. That’s not only the case here but at the other lakes we fish on the Elite Series.

Elite pros unfamiliar with this fishery went online before the cut-off and saw that most of the local and regional tournaments were being won on Erie fish. That led them to the decision to run there, and they’re being rewarded for it.

Erie and the rivers are producing healthier, fatter fish, but I have to stay with St. Clair. I haven’t fished Erie for five years and didn’t even bring those waypoints with me. I know places down there, but it wouldn’t be right for me to go there and fish in the area of one of the leaders.

So, I will stay with my plan on St. Clair and hope for the best. One positive note is the weather could change and that might affect the guys running elsewhere. I know what to do on St. Clair, but to have a chance, I’ve got to find and catch bigger fish. I found some in practice but they didn’t bite yesterday. Can I catch 22-plus pounds? No, but if the leaders slip up I can be in the hunt.

My goal is to gain ground each day, make the cuts and hope that the anglers fishing other waters stumble. It’s going to be a tough uphill climb but I’m up for the challenge!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.