Kyle Welcher caught the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River, a legit trophy smallmouth weighing 6 pounds, 12 ounces, also qualifying the catch as the Jack Link’s Hook the Beast of the tournament.
During practice, Welcher intentionally scouted prospective areas holding larger than average smallmouth, the plan being to weigh 20- to 25-pound limits.
“Catching 20 pounds there isn’t enough, you’ve got to be closer to 25 each day to make the cuts,” Welcher said. It took 41 pounds to make the Saturday cut and 71 pounds to fish on Championship Sunday.
Welcher focused his practice searching for rock transition areas with large shelf rock near small boulders or gravel, or anywhere different types and sizes of rock came together.
The plan came together on Day 1. Welcher began running rocky transition areas, while discovering those on windblown points were most promising. He reasoned the smallmouth staged on the downwind side of the windblown-generated waves and current to ambush passing baitfish.
Welcher scanned one particular point with his forward-facing sonar to see a pack of five above-average smallmouth cruising across the structure.
“The 6-12 was one of those fish in that school,” he said.
The spot fit the description of Welcher’s chosen areas. A point in 18-feet-of-water with a mix of shell bars and boulders. He made a cast to the pack of smallmouth, got the bite, set the hook and the fight was on.
Welcher caught the trophy smallmouth on a 4-inch drop-shot worm, rigged on a size 1 Gamakatsu G Finesse Drop Shot Hook, with a 1/4-ounce drop-shot weight. He fished the drop shot rig on a 13 Fishing 7-foot, 4-inch medium/light action Envy Black Rod, and a 2500-series spinning reel, spooled with 12-pound Sunline Braid, with 8-pound Sunline Shooter leader.
Welcher finished the tournament in 24th place, with 67-1.