ERIE, Pa. — Confident with his practice findings, Keith Poulin of Lisbon, Maine, took on a wind-whipped Lake Erie and caught a four-bass limit of 18 pounds to lead Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northeast Regional.
“I knew I was on them,” Poulin said. “I was kind of limited on Monday and Tuesday because of the wind, but the co-angler who was practicing with me on Sunday kind of figured out the pattern and we caught a few good ones. I was able to catch some good ones in the same general area today.”
Anchoring his bag with a 5-6, Poulin worked between 12 to 15 miles from takeoff — on the lake’s New York end. He fished in 20 to 35 feet and found the fish showed a preference based on time of day.
“It seemed the deep water was better in the morning, but as the (sunlight increased), it seemed to push the fish a little shallower,” he said. “I haven’t been on the fishery enough to know why they move up and why they move back, but I try to stay with them as long as I can.”
For his overall site selection, Poulin said he followed tried-and-true strategies.
“There’s not a whole lot of secrets out there; find the seams, find the breaks, find the rock and, usually, you can find the smallmouth,” he said. “I didn’t notice any schools of bait; it was more bottom-oriented (forage) like gobies. Because I was limited in practice, I broke it down in that scenario and went with it.”
Poulin caught all of his fish on a drop shot. He kept his bait selection confidential but said he showed the fish a variety of looks.
“I didn’t see any clear preference for one vs. the other,” Poulin said. “I threw three different baits in different colors.
“If I went an hour or so without a bite, I switched up. Sometimes, I fished the same area twice. Sometimes, I could get another bite on a different bait.”
Despite Erie’s big rolling waves, Poulin said he stayed with a 1/4-ounce drop-shot weight. In his view, the lighter weight created a more natural presentation.
Tyler Williams of Belgrade, Maine, is in second place with 17 pounds. Noting that he had one 2 1/2-pounder in his four-fish limit, Williams lamented losing a big fish that likely would have given him the lead.
Targeting postspawners roaming in the 40-foot range, Williams said he fished for individual bass that he spotted on his Garmin LiveScope. Dropping a tube and a drop shot yielded 12 bites.
“I was just alternating and sorting through drum (a common bycatch species),” Williams said. “I used a 1/2-ounce drop-shot weight with a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm in green pumpkin color — anything that looks like a goby. The tube was the same color with a 1/2-ounce head.”
Michael Comeau of Alburgh, Vt., is in third place with 16-7. Despite the big waves, Comeau was able to reach all of the waypoints he had marked in practice.
“I had a limit by 8:30, and I had all of my weight by 9:30,” Comeau said. “I caught a couple more 4-pounders, but they didn’t help me.”
Fishing a drop shot with a 3/8-ounce weight, Comeau said that his most important decision was moving deeper.
“The fish I had found in practice are about 5 feet deeper now,” he said. “In practice, I was catching them in 16 to 20 feet, but they weren’t there, so I just edged out a little bit and they were there.
“I think they’re on their way out. They were probably spawning the last couple of weeks, then they moved out to that 10 to 12 feet of water and now they’re in 20. By next week, I think they’ll be out in 35.”
Randy Lamanche of Marcellus, N.Y., is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 5-9.
Johann Vanwoerden of East Haddam, Conn., leads the co-angler division with 14-2. Noting that he had practiced several days with a single bait, Vanwoerden said he was pleased to see that game plan deliver Wednesday.
“It was just a tube in green pumpkin gold flake,” he said. “I was catching them in 26 to 32 feet. I was just drifting.
“I play with it; when I feel (bottom structure), I bounce it around a little bit to give it a little action instead of just dragging it through the mud.”
Chris Newton of Whitesboro, N.Y., holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5-4.
The Massachusetts B.A.S.S. Nation leads the team competition with a combined weight of 176-14. The Maine B.A.S.S. Nation follows in second with 171-9, and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation is third with 168-12.
Thursday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. ET from Presque Isle State Park, Perry Monument. The weigh-in will be held back at the monument at 1:30 p.m. Per Pennsylvania state regulations, boaters will bring in a limit of four bass each day.
The tournament is being hosted by the Erie Sports Commission.