CLAYTON, N.Y. – How do you jump 60 places in two days at a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the St. Lawrence River? The answer is simple, not easy, but simple: Catch the two biggest smallmouth bass limits of your life. That’s what Shane LeHew did Friday and Saturday in the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence.
“I had a blast today,” said LeHew after topping his previous best five-smallmouth limit of 25 pounds, 9 ounces on Friday with 27-6 on Saturday. That’s after finishing Day 1 in 69th place with 18-13.
His big bag Saturday was anchored by the biggest bass of the day – 6 pounds, 11 ounces. It was a story in itself.
“I’m targeting bigger rocks inside of rocks,” said LeHew, 33, from Catawba, N.C. “There are other rocks around, but the fish are sitting on these specific ones that are much bigger than the other ones. I was panning around. I had a rock where I’d lost a six-pounder on the first day. I was going to it, and I just happened to kick the trolling motor left. I saw another little bit bigger rock with a giant dot on it. I’m 100 feet away.”
LeHew had a 2 ¾-inch Berkley Maxscent Lil’ General worm on a quarter-ounce Berkley Half Head jig head – a Ned rig – on a 6-pound test leader, and he “bombed it as far as I could.”
“I saw my jig splash the water,” he said. “That new (Garmin) LiveScope transducer is incredible. I saw my bait fall about four feet. She went a hundred-miles-an-hour out of 20 (feet) and caught it in four feet of water. I set the hook. She went down for just a second and caught some momentum, then jumped out of the water at eye level with me – 100 feet away. I’m like, ‘Oh, my goodness. I think it’s a six-pounder.’”
LeHew’s 6-11 matched Stetson Blaylock’s 6-11 big bass of the day on Friday. Kyle Welcher still has big bass of the tournament with a 6-12 he caught on Day 1.
Fish care is crucial in this tournament. LeHew is working hard at it, fizzing swim bladders and using fin clips to keep his fish alive. However, that huge bag he weighed Saturday included a 4-pounder that died, so he couldn’t cull it when he caught bigger fish later. With the four-ounce penalty, he had 3-12 in his 27-6 bag. In other words, LeHew’s other four fish averaged 5-14 ½. That’s why he and several other anglers think a 30-pound bag is possible here.
“Absolutely,” LeHew said. “That’s a six-pounder and four heavy fives. It’s doable with only one six-pounder because there are a lot of 5.80- and 5.90-size fish in this lake. It’s pretty incredible that we’re on a place where you can catch 30 pounds of smallmouth bass.”
LeHew will begin Championship Sunday 5 pounds, 5 ounces behind leader Jay Przekurat. It’s going to take another monster bag for LeHew to catch Przekurat, something like topping the biggest smallmouth bag of his life for the third day in a row. And he’s “only” 28-4 away from a 100-pound B.A.S.S. Century Belt. It feels like anything is possible on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario this week.
“This is probably the best fishery that we continue to come to, and it’s getting better, which is absolutely incredible,” LeHew said.