Ike's dual fishery

The St. Lawrence River is one of many fisheries visited by the Bassmaster Elite Series that sports a viable largemouth and smallmouth fishery.

In very few places can you find an equally balanced largemouth and smallmouth success ration like you can here. So what makes the St. Lawrence River stand out above the rest?

Some anglers say the stronger current. That’s a fact. Others believe it’s because largemouth are rarely targeted, making that fish grow bigger than other like fisheries.

“I call it a dual fishery, one of those special places in the Northeast where you can put together a mixed bag and win a tournament.”

Yesterday, Michael Iaconelli explained that theory to me when posed the question.

Whether or not Ike has a mixed bag is unknown. What is known is the New Jersey pro has the unofficial lead according to BASSTrakk.

“If largemouth are in your wheelhouse then it’s one of the few places where you can really leverage that angling strength,” he explained.

“These largemouth aren’t pressured, and we are here at a great time for catching both.”

Further explained, that equates to the late spring. Surface water temperatures are in the low 70s, the water is higher than normal and the pool of anglers whose strength is catching largemouth will certainly hone in on them.

“For me, it will be smallmouth all the way,” he continued. “They are just more consistent.”

Mercer's Leaderboard Lowdown No. 1

Dave Mercer breaks down the leaderboard early on Day 1 of the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence presented by Go RVing.

Keep an eye on the frog men

Big, strong smallmouth bass - that's what the St. Lawerence River is famous for, wolfpacks of brown bass built tough from a life fighting current. But don't be surprised to see a multitude of largemouth bass weighed-in over the next four days. The last time the Elite Series was here in 2015, the third and fourth place finishers - Greg Hackney and Brandon Card, respectively - got on an increasingly good largemouth bass bite. Both were using a topwater frog. And the word after practice was the frog bite is on again - big time.

Cliff Crochet, a noted frog man, didn't target largemouth bass here in 2015. He finished in 91st place after concentrating on smallmouths.

"I tried to play by the rules, and it burned me," Crochet said. "So this time I've decided to fish for largemouths, no matter what. The good thing is that every time we've come here, I've caught largemouth in the same places. I didn't scout all of those places in practice this week. I checked a couple of them, just to see if they were there. I left some of them alone because once you catch 'em, they're gone."

KVD in familiar territory

Kevin VanDam holds the all-time record for B.A.S.S. wins with 23, two of which were early in his career on the St. Lawrence River system (1995, 1999).

18 years, later KVD is in contention again, according to BASSTrakk. Early on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Elite Series at the St. Lawrence River VanDam has an estimated 19-pound, 5-ounce limit.

Let’s take a look in his livewell:

7:12 a.m.: 4-0
7:34 a.m.: 3-5
7:53 a.m.: 3-0
8:44 a.m.: 4-0
9:03 a.m.: 5-0

Unofficial weight: 19-5

In the last two Elite Series events on the St. Lawrence, VanDam has placed 41st (2015), and 14th (2013).

Following Hartman pays off

We've been hard headed when it comes to following Jamie Hartman and it's paid off.

After a run of a few miles up river on his first cast he sticks the first fish we've seen him catch and it was a good one: a solid 5-pound smallmouth.

He now has four in the well. We have no idea of total weight. But we have to guess that it's at least 11 pounds, probably more. A couple more like the last and he's right in the mix. The next few minutes will tell if there are more like the last in this area.

Watching Hartman

We've been sitting on Jamie Hartman for awhile and we've yet to see him hook up. We have seen him set the hook but not catch one.

We are on him because we expect him to be a factor in this event. He's been strong all year and this is basically his home water. But it's not being very accommodating at the moment.

BassTrakk says he has zero. But we understand he has three. They aren't very big, which means at this point he's struggling a bit.

Our topic of conversation in the boat is how tough it must be to fish your own water in a high-pressure event. Whether it's having an impact on Hartman or not remains to be seen. It's still early. And we are certain he knows this place well enough to make things happen. But with all the catching taking place around us and it not happening in his boat, it does create a moment of pause.

Bubble boys on the St. Lawrence

Going into the Huk Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River presented by GO RVing, the seventh event of the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series, the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race is at a pivotal point, so is the battle for the 35 coveted spots for the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.

Taking a further look in the AOY standings, there are four Elite anglers that have already qualified for the Classic:

1. Jordan Lee (2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic Champion)
2. Brandon Palaniuk (2017 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest Champion)
3. Jesse Wiggins (Bass Pro Shops S. Open Champion)
4. Mike McClelland (Bass Pro Shops C. Open Champion)

All four of these anglers fall within the top 35 AOY spots guaranteed a Classic birth, therefore creating four more openings for the Classic, as of now these spots are claimed by Seth Feider (381), Keith Poche (379), Scott Rook (376), and Dean Rojas (375).

The first 10 anglers out of the Classic as of Day 1 on the St. Lawrence are:

40. Josh Bertrand (375)
41. Cliff Pirch (370)
42. Matt Lee (367)
43. Bradley Roy (365)
44. Brent Chapman (360)
45. Alton Jones (357)
46. Brandon Coulter (356)
47. Jacob Powroznik (354)
48. Bill Lowen (352)
49. Aaron Martens (352)

Of the first ten anglers on the bubble, half of them have Top 10 finishes in the last two Elite Series tournaments on the St. Lawrence River. Those are Bertrand, 8th (2013), Pirch, 4th (2013), Jones, 2nd (2015), Powroznik, 7th (2015), and Martens, 5th (2013).

DeFoe looking to cull

After a 40-mile run, current Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year leader has a solid start with a limit cresting the 11-pound mark. But on a fishery that will likely require north of 20 pounds per day, that's only a start for DeFoe.

He said he's doing his best to not think too much about the AOY race because there is plenty of fishing still to be had, and a lot can happen between now and the end of the year. But rest assured he smells the title and will be doing his best to stay on point.

This is a game of ounces, and at this point in the season dropped fish can cost big time. He is likely fishing as well as, if not better than, any point in his career, and momentum is on his side.

Look for DeFoe to stay strong and do well here.

It's early and the bite is good

We've camped on a couple different anglers in seemingly the same area. And they all appear to be doing something different.

One is casting and jerking, another is drifting and one has his Ultrex nailed to a spot and casting to a target.

All of them are catching fish. That's the thing about the St. Lawrence River that you love: So many things will work well here and they all seem to produce hefty brown fish.

One of our targets is Marty "The Party" Robinson and at the minute he's the life of this party of anglers. He has five in the boat for about 16 pounds. At least that's what we gather from what we've seen and BASSTrakk.

I'm not so sure they aren't a little heavier than that. But it doesn't matter at this point.

What does matter is it's early and the bite is good, with expectations of it staying the same for some time. That means a spectacular weigh in this afternoon.