Pirch’s practice

If the goal was to tag along in practice with someone who would likely finish high in this week’s Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet, Cliff Pirch of Payson, Ariz., was a good choice. He finished fourth, 25th and 30th in three previous events out of Waddington, N.Y., and he proved he can catch smallmouth by finishing third in the Elite at Lake Oahe last month.

“I would have bet you $1,000 that I would show you a 5-pound-or-better bass today,” he said at the end of our practice session Wednesday. He didn’t. A 3-pounder topped the string of keepers he boated during our windy, wet day on the St. Lawrence. He had a “picture fish” on at one point, but he had to keep his rod down while another competitor ran by us, and the fish broke his line on a straight pull.

Pirch was confident going into the day because of the big smallies he boated on the first two days of official practice. “The big ones are here,” he said over and over, “but they’re just not biting like they ought to.”

The “Golden Ram,” as he has become known, has two big-bass spots he’ll hit now that competition is beginning, but they’re 70 or 80 miles apart. That’s a heck of a milk run.