Northern Open about to rock Detroit

When asked, Brian Schram will usually say he loves making music as much as he loves catching fish.

Not now. The pro musician/angler’s energy is directed only at competing in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open when it returns July 19-21 to Detroit, Mich. So if he has time to sing on July 21 — the tournament’s final day — he’ll be singing the blues. That’s because he’d be out of the competition, on stage not to weigh fish but to play music for the crowd as he has at Opens for more than a year.


But, if he’s fishing on the third day, that would mean he was one of 12 finalists vying for a 2013 Bassmaster Classic entry, a purse of about $50,000 in cash and prizes, and points that count toward an invitation to move up into the Bassmaster Elite Series.


“Right now, all I am ready to sing is the National Anthem in the morning,” Schram said. “This time, I’m hoping I won’t be performing instead of fishing.”


The 31-year-old has been juggling his music and fishing careers for years. He’s a guitarist first and singer second. He’s toured with big names like Uncle Kracker and Motley Crue. He performed at the 2012 Bassmaster Classic and records under the Goomba Music label in a style he describes as “pop-Southern-rock.”


When he’s not playing or singing, he guides on Lake St. Clair, just two miles from his home on St. Clair Shores, Mich. He got the bass tournament bug a few years ago; he now can claim experience in 11 Opens beginning in 2011. Most were as a co-angler. He turned pro this year in the Bassmaster Northern Open trail, a decision in no small part based on the Northern’s scheduled stop on his home water.


Besides the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, the Open’s tournament waters extend to Lake Erie. That’s a lot of water to sort through to find fish. Local knowledge helps, Schram said.


“If you’re not from the area, you can go nuts trying to find stuff (spots that hold bass),” he said. “As a guide, I’ve seen how about 50 percent of my clients have already tried to go out there on their own, but didn’t know where to start.”


Schram, who started practicing for the Open about a week ago and who has been on the water recently as a guide, said he’s seeing healthy, big bass. “The river fish are just starting up, and the lake fish are 5 to 6 pounds. That’s really good for the lake,” he said.


Largemouth bass live in Lake St. Clair, but they just don’t compare in size to the smallmouth, he said. That’s why few tournament anglers target largemouth, and smallies will make up most of the five-fish limits brought to the scales at the Open.


It’s on his home water, but in no way is the tournament his for the taking. At least 10 other local “sticks” are entered in the event, he said. Also, the defending Detroit Open champion from 2010, Todd Schmitz of Goshen, Ind., is in this one, and out to duplicate his 61-pound catch to win again.


Elite Series pros are in the Open, too. One — David Walker — grew up in Detroit. Another is Stephen Browning, a known river expert who is bent on winning a Classic berth. Yet another, Jonathon VanDam, is hot off his July 1 Elite win in Green Bay, Wis. Handy with the smallmouth, VanDam owns a Lake Erie title from a Bassmaster Open in 2009.


At least, Schram said, the Detroit event has to start out better for him than did his debut as a pro in June on the James River in Virginia. His practice was encouraging, and he got a good draw: boat No. 23. Raring to go on the first morning, he flung open his hotel door and saw that his vehicle and boat were blocked by what appeared to be construction workers’ trucks.


“It took me about 20 to 30 minutes of honking the horn and knocking on doors to find the guys,” he said. “They finally moved it. Then, I was so rushed, I forgot to change my GPS, and I headed back to the registration location instead of to the takeoff. I ended up being 90 minutes late. That put a hole in my balloon.”


He finished 88th. From such tales of woe come hit songs.


Fishing fans are invited to watch the pros (and, perhaps, hear Schram sing) at the Detroit event. The 7 a.m. CT takeoffs will be from Lake St. Clair Park, 31300 Metro Parkway, Harrison Township, MI 48045. Weigh-ins are set to begin at 3 p.m. CT at the park on Thursday and Friday. The finale weigh-in on Saturday will be at the Bass Pro Shops location at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills, Mich. The first fish will be weighed about 4 p.m. CT. If Schram isn’t a finalist, he’ll perform on the Bassmaster stage Saturday prior to the weigh-in. will provide full coverage, including streaming video of the weigh-ins and real-time leaderboards. All access to online features is free, as is admission to on-site Bassmaster events.


The local host of the event is the Detroit Sports Commission