The best smallmouth tournament ever

WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Imagine catching 15 smallmouth bass over three days that weighed 72 pounds, 5 ounces, and having only a 3-ounce lead going into the final day. That’s where David Walker finds himself, locked in a duel with Josh Bertrand in the HUK Bassmaster Elite at the St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet. 

Kevin VanDam won this tournament a year ago with 90 pounds, 3 ounces. The greatest tournament bass angler of all time will not be fishing in the 12-man final Sunday. He finished 36th. But the man who has won 25 B.A.S.S. tournaments, 4 Bassmaster Classics and 7 Angler of the Year titles knows a special event when he sees one.

“This doesn’t happen very often,” VanDam said on-stage Saturday. “This is a historic event. This is the best smallmouth tournament ever in the history of man here in Waddington this week.”

In a good smallmouth bass fishery, a five-bass limit of 20 pounds will put you near the top of the leaderboard. In three days on the St. Lawrence River, there were 107 bags weighing at least 20 pounds, topped by Matt Lee’s 27-12 on Thursday.

The weigh-in scales took a beating. Almost 2 ½ tons of mostly smallmouth bass have been weighed over three days – 4,883 pounds, 8 ounces, to be exact. The 1,275 bass weighed averaged 3.83 pounds.

It took 19-pounds-plus over the first two days to make the Top 50 cut. It took almost 22 pounds a day to make the Top 12 cut. That doesn’t happen often on a good largemouth fishery. As VanDam noted, it’s history-making on a smallmouth fishery.

How about a 30-pound limit and a 100-pound winning weight on Sunday? That’s about the only feats left unaccomplished on the St. Lawrence River this week. And neither is outside the realm of possibility.