Extra gear for St. Clair Elite

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Seigo Saito

Whenever we head to a fishery that’s exclusively smallmouth, like this week’s Bassmaster Elite Series event, we talk about removing all the largemouth tackle from our boats. Well, I want to tell you about some of the things I’ve added to my boat for the tournament on St. Clair.

Bait selection is pretty simple and I’ve talked about that before — it’s basically the same stuff I’ve always used up here. But my additions for St. Clair are things that’ll help me handle the operational side of this fishery.

1. Butt Seat: Throughout the year, I never fish with this, but when you’re dealing with big waves, you need something to lean against; not necessarily sitting down, but just something to bear your weight and prevent you from falling down or falling out.

2. Extra Bilge Pump: I have two in my boat, but for this event, I carry an extra one that wires up for use in the cockpit. This is just a safety precaution to make sure I never have a problem getting water out of the boat if I take a big wave over the bow. 

3. 4-Blade Prop: The advantages in slick water are better hole shot and bow lift, but in the big water, it’s about your ability to get on top of the waves and react quickly. The longer it takes you to get up, the more water you’re going to have coming over the side. 

When you’re in those waves, the way that 4-blade prop reacts quicker to your throttle movement, it lets you drive with better control. When you see those waves coming, you’re anticipating whether you need to speed up or slow down to get the spacing right without getting wet.

I’ve run the new Fury 4-blade prop all year, because we’ve been on a lot of rough water this year. At first, I wasn’t really convinced about the advantages other anglers were claiming, but once I started using this prop, my boat’s performance in rough water was like night and day. Now, it would be really hard for me to go to big water and get around like I need to. 

4. Power-Pole Drift Paddles: These are important for controlled presentations. A mile and a half an hour is about the maximum speed you want for a drift, but a mile an hour is where I want to be when I’m looking. Without Power-Poles, you’re going to drift 3-3.5 mph in those big waves but with them, you can drop down to 2, maybe 1.7 mph. With the Drift Paddles, you can get down below 1 mph.

Here’s a tip that’ll help you make the most of your opportunities: Most people like to drift with the waves, but I like to drift crossways. If I was going with the waves and I pass over a fish on my trolling motor, he’s under the boat and then he’s under my engine. So, if I see one, he’s underneath the boat.

I don’t like that, so I want to drift at an angle or sideways. That way, if I go over a fish it lets me fish in open water. I do that by using one Power-Pole Drift Paddle, which makes the boat turn so I drift sideways and anything under the trolling motor is fresh.

I’m hoping that all of these advantages will come together and help me dial in some key areas that I can leverage during the tournament. The good thing is I can fish a lot more relaxed because I have my Classic spot secured. Of course I want to do well in this event so I can advance as high as possible in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, and if the opportunity arises, I definitely want to put myself in position to take over the lead.

I’ll have to see how it all unfolds on St. Clair, but you can bet I’ve done all I can do to give myself the right tools to get the job done.