Elite qualifiers from Northern Open

SANDUSKY, Ohio — The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens presented by Allstate season is beginning to wind down, with the final Northern series event concluding today. That means the first round of eligible anglers will be determined for the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series.

The invitations go out after final points are validated by B.A.S.S. Meanwhile, at least three takers appear lined up for the opportunity to fish at bass fishing’s highest level from the Northern series.

The unofficial standings have Adrian Avena leading the race with 561 points. That makes him the point leader for the season. Qualifying for the Elites was a personal goal for 2016. For the past three seasons Avena, from Vineland, N.J., competed on the FLW Tour.

“That was my focus this year and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “I had a great ride with FLW and B.A.S.S. seems like a logical next step for me.”

Next in the standings with 550 points is Dave Lefebre, another FLW pro desiring to compete on the B.A.S.S. tour. Lefebre, of Erie, Pa., is a veteran angler who would be a formidable competitor on the Elite Series.

Third place in the standings with 545 points is Shane Lineberger, a pro from Lincolnton, N.C. Like those ahead of him, qualifying for the Elite Series was a goal. Should he accept the invitation next season is his first on the Elite Series.

Matt Vermilyea of Perrysburg, Ohio, and John Hunter, Jr. of Shelbyville, Ky., hold the remaining two positions in the Top 5.

Here are more notes from the week on Lake Erie.

Amazingly Erie

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley said it best about his home state waters.

“Lake Erie is the greatest fishing treasure of this state and a world-class smallmouth fishery.”

The evidence is in the box score for the first two days on Erie, fourth largest of the Great Lakes. Here are some tournament stats.

838: Bass caught by pros and co-anglers on Day 1

2,784: Weight in pounds of the above fish

692: Bass caught on Day 2

2,370: Cumulative weight

Keep in mind that three bass is the daily co-angler limit. More remarkable is despite the rough boating conditions the total poundage each day exceeds one ton.

Especially notable is most of the bass caught were smallmouth. The few largemouth caught were intentionally targeted by anglers choosing to avoid the risky offshore boat run to the smallmouth flats.

On Day 1 the 20-pound weight mark was met by 19 pros. Ten pros did it again on Day 2. Another 10 pros hit the 19-pound mark on Day 1.

The 6-pound weight is widely accepted as trophy status for smallmouth. Two were caught in as many days.

Co-angler Bob Snyder of Marion, Ind., caught a 6-7 smallmouth on Day 1. The next day, pro Rick Nitkiewicz of Hamilton, Mich., caught a 6-4.

Numerous 4-pounders got caught, obviously, when you calculate the average fish size of a 20-pound catch.

Vomit comet goes down

On Day 1 it was blogged that co-angler Lance Baker suffered a serious case of seasickness. He can’t be singled out as the Dramamine pills and patch failed for others, as well.

Baker, of Huxley, Iowa, fished on that day with pro angler Destin Demarion, also a guide on the eastern side of Lake Erie. Baker insisted that Demarion finish his limit, which he did, prior to taking the ailing partner ashore. The 19-3 limit easily gets credit for his Top 12 fishing day.

Baker said he puked about 30 times, doing most of it while lying belly down on the back deck with his head aimed at the water.

On Friday the bad karma haunted Demarion. This time he was the victim.

The rolling, pounding waves took their toll on his boat, which began to fill with water and suffer mechanical failure from the wave impacts. Demarion raised the surrender flag and got rescued by Derek Remitz, who happened to be within view.

“It was a class act for him to do that, although under those conditions anyone of us would do the same thing,” said Demarion.

Demarion’s boat wasn’t the only to get banged up. The service support yard near the weigh-in was backed up all week, as anglers sought assistance with repairs caused by the rough water.

Bad practice, no problem

Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Carl Jocumsen added smallmouth savvy as the reason why he chose to fish the Northern season.

“The way smallmouth behave is much like the barramundi in Australia,” he said. “They are more difficult, though, to predict and that’s why I fished here.”

The lesson was brief but effective and he’ll apply the experience to his resume.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned this season in the Elites is that practice isn’t the end of the tournament,” he said. “Before now, with a bad practice, I’d carry that negative attitude into the tournament and suffer.”

Jocumsen credited scrapping what didn’t work and beginning over as a new, proven tactic.

“It only took me one bite on the first day to figure out what to do next.”

At Lake Erie the Australian finished 21st place with 38 pounds. He plans to apply his earnings toward entry fees for the final Central Open on Table Rock.