By all accounts, the leaders shouldn’t expect their area to hold up. While there is good history on their side, including their own the past two days, conditions seem to be deteriorating. Plus if it isn’t experiencing too much pressure, it will.
The top four of the Plano Bassmaster Elite at Lake St. Clair are finding qualify fish at the mouth of Lake Huron, but sharing water might prove troublesome if they pound it all the way through Sunday.
Alton Jones held the Day 1 lead with the big bag of 23 pounds, 10 ounces, with Brandon Palaniuk and James Elam within six ounces. They flipped around on Friday, with Palaniuk (44-5) nabbing the lead, Elam (43-12) second and Jones (41-8) third. Also in the area is fourth-place Casey Scanlon, who has 41-4.
So far, it’s been the money spot. Lake Huron funnels through the area, bringing easy meals to the stout smallmouth bass.
“The meat is out there,” Mark Zona said. “There’s just no small ones in the area. There can be a 5-pounder on any drop.”
However, the Bassmaster LIVE host doesn’t see how the area could produce all the way through Sunday, not with them cannibalizing one another.
“They are eating each other alive,” he said. “The guys in Lake Erie, Koby Krieger, Chad Pipkens, they need to sustain the blows these guys will give them, because I do not think this will hold up.”
Chris Lane won the 2013 event from mouth of Lake Huron, but he reported way less pressure. And each of the leaders found conditions were starting to deteriorate there. All left it Friday to find fish elsewhere.
“Unless more fish move in from Lake Huron, it’s going to be very, very hard for this to hold out the rest of the tournament,” Zona said.
Steve Bowman, shooting photographs of the anglers, would have confidence in the spot if there was only one angler there. He said it’s worrisome that it takes Jones about 10 drifts for every one fish catch, as well as more than a handful of Elites and 12 to 15 walleye boats nearby.
“It tells me there are not huge wads of fish to go around,” Bowman said. “And it’s pressure. If Alton had it to himself, no doubt, but that’s not the case. They’re basically fishing on the interstate.”
That interstate is expected to be jam-packed Sunday, when a 60- to 80-boat bass tournament leaves out of nearby Sarnia.
Two in the well
Seems the viewers on LIVE, as well as Zona, have it in for Dave Mercer. First, Mercer was coerced into eating a bug, still among the viewer’s most commented videos.
For his latest trick, Mercer answered the call to go jump in a lake. Reporting from the middle of Lake St. Clair, Zona took the viewer’s cues of “cannonball, cannonball,” to coax Mercer off the front deck.
“I think that will be very unprofessional,” Mercer said even while emptying his pockets.
That prompted the line of the day from Tommy Sanders, something only close friends could pull off.
“When has that ever stopped you?” Sanders asked.
As Mercer pleaded for his $188 for chomping on Chukkers the Cicada, Zona promised it’d be at his home when Mercer visited next week.
And then, plop. It was immediately feared Mercer took the mic in with him, but in midflight he lifted it to his lips and, in quite an acrobatic move, tossed it back on the deck before he submersed in the cold, clear water.
Mercer’s Mustang PFD popped open, and after much laughter and screaming, he continued his report. “I want everybody to know how important it is to wear your life jacket,” he said.
Once again, Sanders, Zona and the viewers lauded Mercer, with accolades like the Tabasco Hot Spice Bold Player of the Day and the EOY (Emcee of the Year) awarded by viewer Matt Parker.
Aaron Martens hasn’t quite buttoned down the Toyota Angler of the Year, but he’s almost done sewing.
By standing 16th in the St. Clair event, he has built a 93-point lead over Justin Lucas and 96 over Dean Rojas. Lucas (40th) and Rojas (39th) made the Top 50 cut, but would need some unimaginable occurrences – like Martens falling to 50th and one of them climbing into the Top 12 -- to keep any hopes alive.
If Martens holds a 50-point lead going into the AOY Championship, he could coast to his third title.
Four on the floor
Elam had high hopes on his claim in Huron mouth. He caught 23-7 there on Day 1 and wished no one would join him.
“All his fish were in caught in the first hour and half, and he stopped fishing,” Zona said. “He tried to block that area, but Brandon Palaniuk came in and caught the bulk of his weight there. They are now sharing that spot.
“He was so terrified somebody would come in. You could tell he was crushed.”
Elam still has a shot to win, but the points for second place should be appreciated as they not only took him off the bubble to reach the AOY Championship, but he’s sitting well inside the Classic cut.
Elam jumped from 50th to 28th on Thursday and moved up one spot Friday. The top 39 are slated to qualify for Grand Lake next March.
That’s a limit
For about half of the Elites, Friday was the final day of the season. Zona was asked what had to be going through their minds as they grinded for fish that might put them in the top 50 cut, allowing them to fish one more day.
“There’s a lot of guys out there who know they’re not going to make the Classic, not going to make the 50 cut,” Zona said. “Guys in the most hollow, lost, talking-to-yourself place that they’ve never been in their life. It happens every year on the Bassmasters. You are in the most alone place on earth.”
- Photo of the Day goes to Ronnie Moore for this shot of Brandon Palaniuk wrangling in a feisty smallmouth. Palaniuk was lifting the fish out of the water when it decided to jump one last time. Palaniuk did corral the fish as he climbed from third to grab the Day 2 lead. See all the photos from the event here.
- Viewer Tyler Pearson asked if Bill Lowen could win with largemouth. “100 million percent no,” Zona responded. “You may get lucky and have two 20-pound days of largemouth , but never three days.”
- Hank Cherry’s season has been marred by missed fish, and Mercer updated LIVE about a lost 4-pounder Thursday. He said Cherry told him, “I need to deal with some demons in the offseason, (see) a witch doctor or something.”
- Mercer reported on the prevailing pattern of the day in the large, shallow lake. “It is the standard Lake St. Clair bass boat pattern. Go miles with nothing then a smattering of boats.”
- Sanders asked Mercer how anglers know where the fish are on the big expanses? “Most of them, I think, watch Zona’s show,” he quipped.
- The bite could have been hampered by Friday’s cloud cover, Zona reported, because of the nature of smallmouth. “He is just like a piranha. He’s a sight feeder. When you turn the lights on, you give him 20/20 vision. When you give him great eyesight, he bites better.”
- Zona said the smallmouth will soon group up for fall slugfests at funnels. “Any river system that dumps into the Great Lakes, for some reason, load up with giant schools of smallmouth. It starts in August and they will be there all the way to October. Massive schools congregate for a month and a half. I guarantee these bass weren’t here a month ago.”
- Martens changed plans Friday morning, he said on LIVE, mostly for the benefit of his wife, Lesley. “I told her I was going to fish St. Clair and be safe. I changed my mind,” he said from Huron. “I did get a 4 and 4 ½ , so it makes the trip worth it.”