Bill Weidler with two 4lbers early
John Cox, who has led the event for two days, spent half of Day 1 and all of Day 2 in the St. Clair River because he said it felt “comfortable.” Listening to his gut has obviously served him well.
Texas pro Frank Talley’s fishing Lake St. Clair, but he’s following a similar strategy of doing what feels right.
Favoring Anchor Bay on the lake’s northwest section, Talley’s fishing fast in less than 10 feet. Most of his main lake competitors are fishing about 15 or more, but the man they call “Frank the Tank” is confident with his game plan.
“I’m not getting a lot of bites — only 7-8 a day — but when I get bit, it’s a good one,” Talley said. “Coming from California (originally), I can fish deep with any of them, but I feel comfortable power fishing shallow.”
Talley notes that his shallow areas don’t get beat up as bad as the deeper spots. His strategy got him to Semifinal Saturday in 10th place with bags of 19-10 and 22-10.
Talley’s morning has started slowly, but when the wind picks up, his reaction bite should improve.
Jay Yelas is inching away. He’s been steadily catching keepers. Each one adding a few ounces to his total.
It’s interesting to see how they seem to be growing not by leaps and bounds but slowly and gradually building.
I’ve been with Ryan Said, a guide on the lake, all week and he’s commented more than once that if you keep wading through them the bigger ones will show up.
That seems to be the case. But with the rate of growth it’s good he’s wading through so many right now.
He knows he has to have the 4-pound class fish to be here tomorrow and certainly walk away with a trophy.
John Cox is on stop number five in the St. Clair River, and he’s only got two fish for less than 5 pounds to show for it.
He doesn’t seem too worried yet, but he’s still formulating a plan of attack.
He’s pitching a drop shot against sea walls, which was the tactic that gave him the lead the first two days of competition. But he’s working out where on the river he needs to be.
“I’m not sure what I’m gonna do yet,” Cox said.
He said he’s going to head back to his starting spot in hopes that his timing is perfect.
“It’s just a matter of pulling up to them when they’ve pulled up the the sea walls,” Cox said.
One thing is certain: He doesn’t want to go into Lake St. Clair.
“I’d rather catch them like this than go into the lake,” Cox said.
Time will tell if that’s a wise decision.
"I guarantee you that I'm having more fun than the other guys throwing a drop shot,"
Jay Yelas shared those words with me this morning. He is fishing a shallow grassy flat, where the fish are biting his bladed jig and a spinnerbait.
Even better for Yelas, he's got the entire area all to himself, unlike other top anglers in full view of other anglers.
He is off to his best start of the season. Yelas, fishing his 216th B.A.S.S. event, is currently just outside the Bassmaster Classic cut in 42nd place.
Day 2 leader John Cox hasn’t set the world on fire this morning.
He’s caught four fish, but only two have been keepers. And they weren’t the big smallmouth he needs to maintain his lead.
The largest of the two weighed about 2 1/2 pounds, to give him a total of only about 4 to 4 1/2 pounds in the livewell.
He’s already been on the move, hunting for willing bass. He just left spot No. 4, heading progressive.
All week my boat driver has been warning me about this pesky little bug that crawls up inside your pants leg. The good thing is it doesn’t bite or sting; but it is quite annoying. Early this morning we had the dreaded hatch. Our boat deck and everything was covered with them.
I look over just in time to see Zona doing a crazy dance. I knew exactly the dance was about, the removal of what the locals call the Lake St. Clair bug.
The smallmouth waters of this Elite Series northern swing have been remarkably consistent, as you can see in the chart below which compares the Day 2 results from the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and Lake St. Clair.
Lake St. Clair is trending up. From 10th place through 40th, the weights are higher at St. Clair than the two previous stops. Also of note is the average size of all the bass weighed each day, where the St. Clair average on Day 2 was 3.58 pounds.
Through two days, it appears that it will take an average of 21 pounds a day to make the top 10 for Sunday’s final. That’s further evidence warranting “Bassmaster” magazine’s ranking of St. Clair as the fourth best lake in the U.S. over the last decade.
|Day 2 ||St. Law’nce||Champlain||St. Clair|
Tournament leader John Cox told me the same thing yesterday and this morning about his game plan. It's all about the current breaks. What else is key is the presence of sunshine.
"The smallmouth bite happens under the bright sun, because it creates shade lines for ambush points," he said. "The smallmouth are just following the current where it hits breaks."
The current is strong enough in the St. Clair River for those current breaks to create slack water for the smallmouth to stage and use as ambush points. The sunshine does the same thing. The magic equation is a current break in the shade. Put that combination together and it means success for Cox.
While we sit here and watch Jay Yelas boat flip 2-pounders, I can’t help but think back to the previous event on Lake Champlain.
Like that one this derby is pretty tight. And the reality is the big fish are the ones that move the needle. It’s not necessarily a big bass derby. But it will likely shape up that way by the end of this thing.
In an event where 20 pounds doesn’t even get an “atta boy” it’s the guy who slips out of that bubble into the not so far away 22-pounds or more that turns heads.
The difference in all of those head turners is the presence of one or more fish that approaches 5-pounds.
We assume Yelas will start boating 4-pounders at some point, just like the rest of the contenders, but the game changers will be those bigger, even slightly bigger bass.
And with that Yelas has finished his limit with another 2-pounder.