ERIE, Pa. — Going old school turned out to be the right call for Eric Low of Buxton, Maine, who turned in a three-day total of 48 pounds, 8 ounces to win the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northeast Regional on Lake Erie.
Topping the New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation team, Low caught a limit of 12-12 on Day 1 to place 26th. He added 16-11 on Thursday and moved to fifth. In the final round, Low caught the tournament’s heaviest bag — 19-1 — and edged Day 2 leader Tyler Williams by 1-5.
For his efforts, Low won the $5,000 Skeeter first-place prize and a spot in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., Nov. 3-5.
Making his first trip to this part of Lake Erie, Low found the windy practice conditions made it difficult to search for promising areas. He finally located a spot that produced good quality and fished most of Day 1 there. He spent the last hour of the first day inside Presque Isle Bay.
“The second day, when my primary spot ran out, I went looking for interesting stuff in the other direction — toward New York,” Low said. “I don’t have a lot of fancy electronics on my boat, so I just used my football jig to drag the bottom.
“If it was ‘sticky,’ that was good; if it was sticky, then soft, then sticky, then soft; that was really good. If there were little contours where you got hung up (occasionally), that was good too.”
Anchoring his bag with a 6-3, Low employed his bait as a depthfinder — a technique by which anglers commonly searched before the era of modern electronics. Low used a 3/4-ounce Do-it Molds football head with a 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact trailer.
“I couldn’t use the 3/8-ounce (football head) because the wind was carrying it right off the bottom,” Low said.
In the final round, Low caught one of his keepers on the football head. The other three bit a drop shot with a 1/2-ounce weight and a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm.
“The area I located with the football head was about the size of a football field,” Low said. “We just went round and round and connected the dots. Every time (my nonboater or I) caught a fish, I’d mark a waypoint.
“We caught a fish an hour. That 6-pounder came a half an hour before we had to come in.”
Hailing from Belgrade, Maine, Williams finished second with 47-3. After placing second on Day 1 with 17 pounds, he took over the lead by adding a Day 2 limit of 16-8. On Friday, he finished with a limit that went 13-11.
“Today, I just burned spots; I went from waypoint to waypoint to waypoint and eventually, I’d stumble upon a couple of fish,” Williams said. “I went the wrong way. I worked toward Pennsylvania and the fish went toward New York. Everyone I know who was down by New York had a big bag today.”
Scanning with Garmin Panoptix, Williams caught all of his fish by locating isolated rocks and dragging a Ned rig past the structure. He used a 3/8-ounce Woo Tungsten head and a Z-Man Finesse TRD.
“I’d catch a drum, or a walleye, or a perch and eventually, I’d catch a bass,” Williams said.
Mike Wolfenden of Warwick, R.I., finished third with 43-2. Making the event’s biggest comeback, Wolfenden caught three fish for 10-2 on Day 1 and placed 47th. Adding 14-14 in the second round, he rose to 21st before gaining 18 more spots with a Day 3 limit of 18-2.
In the final round, Wolfenden spent his day on the New York side and caught his fish by dragging a drop shot with a 3/8-ounce weight and a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm over scattered rock and grass in about 25 to 30 feet.
“I fished about a 3-mile stretch; I just kept going back and forth over certain spots that had fish on them,” Wolfenden said. “I’d go through my area and do a sweep with my Garmin Panoptix LiveScope and if I didn’t see a fish, I wouldn’t stay. That technology saves a lot of time.
“A lot of guys were on top of the same spots and I think the fishing pressure moved the fish. I was able to relocate them. Today, I saw more bait than I had any other day, so I think the fish were (fleeing the fishing pressure) and going with the bait.”
Low won the $500 Big Bass award for his 6-3.
Casey Baroffio of Northfield, Vt., won the nonboater division with a tournament total of 33-6. On Friday, he bolstered his first two days’ limits of 9-15 and 10-5 with a final-round limit of 13-2. He earned the $2,500 Yamaha first-place prize.
Baroffio noted that he was fishing his first B.A.S.S. Nation event for the learning experience. The event delivered the lessons he sought and one of them helped him win the trophy.
“One of our teammates took me out in practice and showed me a lot,” Baroffio said. “I was drop shotting a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm, and I adjusted my rig by downsizing my line from a 10-pound leader to an 8-pound leader and decreased my weight from a 1/2-ounce to a 3/8.
“A lot of the guys on the Vermont team gave me grief because, with the week’s windy conditions, they were all throwing a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce. But I kept my back to the wind so it didn’t affect my line and I was able to keep that 3/8- down there and feel every bite.”
Dayton Lilly of Hope Valley, R.I., won the $250 Big Bass award among nonboaters with a 5-13.
The tournament was hosted by the Erie Sports Commission.