Lake St. Clair fishing as good as ever

The smallmouth bass fishing at Lake St. Clair might not be as good now as it was at
the Elite Series Angler of the Year Championship last fall. But you couldn’t tell that
from the Day 1 results of the YETI Bassmaster Elite. There were 14 five-bass limits
weighing 20 pounds or more at the AOY Championship last Sept. 29; there were 18
Thursday.

“I didn’t expect them to bite this good,” said David Mullins, who had one of the two
24-pound bags weighed Thursday. “I figured 16, 17 pounds a day would get you in
the top 40. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now.”
No, it certainly doesn’t. Steve Kennedy’s limit weighing 17-15 was good for 43 rd
place on Day 1. Atop the leaderboard, with 10 more ounces than Mullins, is John Cox,
who weighed 24-12.

“When I caught about 20 pounds today, I went practicing (for tomorrow),” Cox said.

“I ended up catching two five-pounders. That’s the biggest bag of smallmouth I’ve
ever caught.”

So, yeah, at least for one day, Lake St. Clair is fishing every bit as good as it did last
fall. Even a little bit better, in fact.

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Lake St. Clair fishing as good as ever

The smallmouth bass fishing at Lake St. Clair might not be as good now as it was at
the Elite Series Angler of the Year Championship last fall. But you couldn’t tell that
from the Day 1 results of the YETI Bassmaster Elite. There were 14 five-bass limits
weighing 20 pounds or more at the AOY Championship last Sept. 29; there were 18
Thursday.

“I didn’t expect them to bite this good,” said David Mullins, who had one of the two
24-pound bags weighed Thursday. “I figured 16, 17 pounds a day would get you in
the top 40. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now.”
No, it certainly doesn’t. Steve Kennedy’s limit weighing 17-15 was good for 43 rd
place on Day 1. Atop the leaderboard, with 10 more ounces than Mullins, is John Cox,
who weighed 24-12.

“When I caught about 20 pounds today, I went practicing (for tomorrow),” Cox said.

“I ended up catching two five-pounders. That’s the biggest bag of smallmouth I’ve
ever caught.”

So, yeah, at least for one day, Lake St. Clair is fishing every bit as good as it did last
fall. Even a little bit better, in fact.

Page views
1

Cox: ‘I’m practicing now’

John Cox has been wailing on the bass in the Detroit River, and he said he’s pretty much just looking for fish that can help him the next three days. His livewell held about 22 pounds of bass when we left him, with the smallest weighing in at 4-9.

“I’m practicing now,” he said.

Actually, he explained that’s what he’s been doing since about 10 a.m. — and he’s added some heft to the 20-pound bag he already had

“I’ve been practicing since 10, and I’m catching bigger fish,” Cox explained.

The angler has been working the river all day, but his pattern evolved.

“I was catching them out deep this morning,” Cox said. “Now I’m catching up shallow.”

So what’s he going to do tomorrow?

“I’m pretty much going to do the same thing tomorrow,” Cox said. “The fish just move from out (deep) to up shallow, and I just follow them.”

With two 5-pounders and three smallmouth in the upper 4-pounds, Cox could feasibly continue culling up right now. And, while he’s looking to expand his understanding of his pattern, the angler isn’t taking his foot off the gas today.

“I’m just trying to catch as many fish as I can,” he said.Cox: ‘I’m practicing now’

Culling by pounds

Palaniuk culling by pounds!! After a move from his primary spot he made a small move and rewarded with a 4.5 and making a 3 lb cull.

Comparing Day 1 2019 vs today

I just looked at the 2019 Day 1 leaderboard to find out how it compared with today, keeping in mind that two hours remain.

Most obvious are weights. BASSTrakk current leader Jay Yelas has 20 pounds, 7 ounces, which would put him in 13th place last year. Leader Seth Feider had 26-12, and there were 14 anglers surpassing the 20-pound mark. As of now, only four anglers are listed with 20-pound limits.

So why is that? There could be lots of reasons, and of course, we can blame COVID-19 for some of them. Canadian waters are off limits due to the border closure. That accounts for roughly 60 percent of Lake St. Clair. Squeeze the fishing area down to 40 percent and the likelihood of fishing pressure being a cause is real.

More people are fishing and the statistics prove it. License sales in Michigan are up 18 percent over this time last year. On the industry side, Mercury Marine is seeing a 40 percent increase in sales of new outboards (which could mean boats too, since those are sold in packages these days). Finally, the sheer popularity of Lake St. Clair's perennial listing in the Bassmaster Top 100 Lakes has the spotlight on the lake for tournaments. There are just about weekly tournaments here during the bass season.

And then this thought. Matt Arey, a former FLW Tour pro with years of experience, came up with this theory.

"Last year we came here the last week of September," he said. "It makes me wonder if individual smallmouth were heavier from bulking up for the winter dormant period."

Could be. But there are still three more days remaining for the guys to dial into one of the country's best smallmouth fisheries.

Cox’s dilemma

We pulled up to John Cox to see him wrestling with a bass.

He soon hoisted what turned out to be his second 5-pounder.

The catch has the angler in a bit of a quandary.

“I don’t know if I should keep fishing not what,” Cox said. “ I have two 5’s and three over 4.”

That would put him at 22 pounds and firmly in the lead, according to BASSTrakk. He says his smallest bass is 4-9. 

There are a lot of anglers who would love to have his problem. 

Horne sharing with the locals

As if Harvey Horne doesn’t have enough to worry about such as high winds and weather; but today he’s dealing with the locals sitting on some of the juice.

Exactly where this local boat is sitting is where two of his biggest fish came from this morning. Literally he would have to be fishing under their boat. The good thing is that Harvey asked them if he could fish with them; and they gladly said of course.

Palaniuk's day is slowly gaining momentum.

He hasn't landed on the giants St. Clair is known for but with the encouragement of a few spectator boats cheering Palaniuk has settled down and is making several culls.

DeMarion fired up after 5 1/2-lber

Elite Series rookie Destin DeMarion was understandably excited after landing a 5 1/2-pound smallmouth at 11:34. It's the biggest fish of the day so far, and gave DeMarion 15-4 on only four fish. He's got a chance to have a big day.

"You talk about getting jacked up!" DeMarion said. "Oh my gosh. Can you believe the size of the fish out here? That's why I love tournament fishing."

DeMarion is coming off a 44th-place finish at Lake Champlain. He's 62nd in Angler of the Year points after four events.

Versatile Cox having a huge day

If you equate the name John Cox with aluminum boats, shallow water and largemouth bass, you would not be wrong.

Just don’t try to pigeonhole the accomplished Florida pro, who took the unofficial lead in the YETI Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair with the day’s first reported 20-pound bag.

Reports indicate that Cox has spent most of his morning near the mouth of the St. Clair River, but at this writing, we have no verified details on how he's fishing. While smallmouth bass dominate the St. Clair game, this lake also holds largemouth.

It’ll be interesting to find out what species make up his bag, but one thing’s for sure: John Cox possesses the versatility to catch fish just about anywhere.

Qualifying through the 2019 Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens, the first-year Elite won the Eastern Open event on Lake Chickamauga, took second at the Central Open on Smith Lake and placed 11th at the Central Open on Florida’s Harris Chain.

Last year, Cox finished second in the Central Opens and fourth in the Eastern Opens.

Cox brings a ton of credibility from his years as an FLW pro, during which he amassed seven wins, including the 2016 Forrest Wood Cup on Wheeler Lake and a 2019 Pro Series victory on Lake Chickamauga.

One thing Cox may have going for him is seclusion. He’s known for taking his XPress aluminum boat into areas unfriendly to fiberglass hulls. We’ll have to see whether or not that strategy plays in this event, but you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on this versatile angler.

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