The hot fish factor

Last year on LIVE we were treated to some exhilarating footage as the anglers played big smallmouth near the boat. Like Davy Hite just said, the fight is only half-way over when the fish appears in the clear water. The dynamic going on here is the light line used by the anglers to fish for smallmouth—shallow or deep. On top of that, the smallmouth here are much stronger. They live in a strong current for their entire lives.

More than once last year, we watched as big smallmouth came to the boat, only to make a hard charge back into deep water. Or clear the surface and make acrobatic leaps. And break off. That’s fun to watch but at that moment it’s when the moment of victory—or defeat—happens.

Call it the hot fish factor. When these smallmouth charging toward the boat, the added strategy to a pattern becomes how the angler handles them.

“When you are using six-pound test it adds another dynamic to the pattern,” said Chris Zaldain, who knows all about the hot fish chapter after four trips to the St. Lawrence River.

Zaldain said he’s had two “awesome” tournaments and two really bad tournaments. For the latter, it came down to lost fish at the boat.

“You just cannot lose a fish here, because if you come in with 15 or 18 pounds you cannot go back out there and make up the difference,” he continued. “You’ll need an eight pounder to catch back up.”

The secret to success is challenging for these guys who are used to boat flipping largemouth all season long. There is little play to the match and the angler always wins. Here, not so much.

Yelas starts his day in a big way

It won't take big bass honors at the end of the day, but Jay Yelas is off to a good start. Yelas boated a 4 1/2-pound smallmouth bass at 9:28. Nothing special, right? Just another typical big ol' smallie from the St. Lawrence. (Ha!)

A look back at previous Waddington events

It was 49 degrees at 6 a.m. in Waddington, N.Y., this morning, just another reminder of how much everyone loves coming here in late July and August. But the main attraction, of course, is the smallmouth bass fishing.

This marks the fifth time in the last seven years that the Bassmaster Elite Series has come to the St. Lawrence River. The following is a look a glance at the winners and their winning totals from the previous four tournaments:

2018 Aug. 23-26  95 lbs., 3 oz. Josh Bertrand
2017   July 20-2390 lbs., 3 oz. Kevin VanDam
2015 July 30-Aug. 2 77 lbs., 10 oz. Edwin Evers
2013  Aug. 8-11 88 lbs., 12 oz. Brandon Palaniuk

St. Lawrence forecast

A very nice and comfortable day on the St. Lawrence River as there will be plenty of sun with mild temperatures throughout the day. We'll start off in the mid-60s at 9:00 am for takeoffs and will climb into the upper 70s by the end of the fishing day. Winds will be out of the northeast at 5-10 MPH with dewpoints hanging out in the mid-50s throughout the day.

It will be a much different day on Friday as there will be more clouds than sun throughout the day on the river with a small chance of a few showers throughout the fishing day. Temperatures will start off in the mid-60s at takeoffs and rise into the upper 70s by the end of the fishing day. Winds will be out of the northeast at 2-5 MPH. The chance of rain will be around 30% while dewpoints will be rising from the upper 50s to the lower 60s.

While we'll continue to have a chance of showers and maybe a few claps of thunder for Saturday, temperatures will be warmer. Skies will be mostly cloudy throughout the day and temperatures will start off in the mid-60s at takeoffs. Those temperatures will climb into the lower 80s by the mid-afternoon hours. Winds will start off out of the south at 3-7 MPH but will shift out of the southwest by the early afternoon. The chance of rain will be around 50% while dewpoints will be in the mid-60s.

The final day of the St. Lawrence tournament will feature a chance of showers and a few claps of thunder throughout the day on Sunday, but latest model guidance is showing that most of that may hold off until the fishing has completed. Skies will once again be mostly cloudy with temperatures starting in the lower 70s and rising into the lower 80s by late afternoon. The chance of rain is around 30% to start but rises to 50% by the early afternoon hours. It will feel a little muggy as dewpoints will be in the upper 60s to near 70 degrees.

Thursday: Moonset (5:48 am) / Moonrise (8:28 pm) / Illumination (99.9%)
Friday: Moonset (6:49 am) / Moonrise (8:55 pm) / Illumination (99.4%)
Saturday: Moonset (7:49 am) / Moonrise (9:20 pm) / Illumination (97.2%)
Sunday: Moonset (8:49 am) / Moonrise (9:43 pm) / Illumination (93.1%)

Blaylock seeks to unlock St. Lawrence

Stetson Blaylock is having a bang-up season on the Elite Series tour. He posted a first-place finish at Winyah Bay and a second-place finish at Lake Hartwell. He's ranked sixth in Toyota Angler of the Year points entering this tournament.

The Benton, Arkansas, pro loves the St. Lawrence River. But he's yet to solve the puzzle here in his previous two trips, when he finished 77th in 2017 and 59th last year.

"Like everybody else, I absolutely love this place," Blaylock said Wednesday. "I think it's the best fishery I've ever been to, as far as catching quality fish every day. But I can't figure this place out in a tournament. I've had decent practices every time. It's like those big ones refuse to bite for me.

"There are so many 15- to 18-pound bags in the river that you've got to get over that, and I can't do it. Last year I had 18 pounds the first day and 19 pounds the second and still got sent home."

Fifty-two bags topping 20 pounds were weighed on Day 1 last year at the St. Lawrence River. That set a previously unthinkable standard for a smallmouth bass fishery. The river might not be so generous this year. But even if that's the case, it's going to take a 20-pounds-plus average per day to win this four-day event.

"I'm due some 20-pound stringers from this river, as good as it is," Blaylock said.