A ton of fun at Lake St. Clair

DETROIT — It will be remembered as the day when anglers fishing the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open quite literally had a ton of fun. Make that nearly two tons of fun.

A collective weight of 3,818 pounds of bass crossed the scales during the three-hour weigh-in on July 19, 2012. The fun ended on a good note after 135 of the 147 pros weighed 5-bass limits. The co-anglers weren’t left out. All but four of them brought 3-bass limits to the scales. As an added bonus smallmouth accounted for most of the fish caught on the memorable day.

The setup is best described as a perfect storm for smallmouth bass fishing with just the right mix of steady rain and moderate wind.

Here’s a breakdown of the fun by the numbers:

3,818 pounds of bass weighed
1,146 fish caught
20 pounds, 7 ounces needed to make the top 12
17 pounds, 10 ounces needed to make the top 50

Fish care was top-of-mind. Credit B.A.S.S. for upholding its long-standing track record of practicing catch-and-release from start to finish. Typically, two release boats can handle the job. This time would be different.

“We knew beforehand that with the quality of the fishery here that we’d need more resources,” said Chris Bowes, tournament manager. “This is such a phenomenal fishery and we wanted to be prepared for a catch like this.”

That meant adding a third release boat to the fleet of customized pontoon vessels specially equipped for safely releasing live bass. It was a wise decision. The B.A.S.S. crews staffing those boats made a collective 7 trips from the weigh-in site to distribute the catch evenly in the lake. All of that occurred between the 3 p.m. start and 6 p.m. conclusion of the marathon weigh-in.

Eric Nichols was captain of the fleet of release boats. It was his job to be sure at least one boat was at the dock to receive the fish just delivered from the weigh-in scales.

“It was different than most situations because in order to reach the basin we had to idle for 10 minutes coming and going, through a canal with boat docks and homes,” he said. “But the benefit was the return trip, because it allowed us to completely refill the tanks with fresh water.”

The support staff included members of the Michigan B.A.S.S. Federation Nation. Professional assistance was provided by Scott Moody, the aquarist for the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Auburn, site of the final weigh-in.

“It was my first time on a release boat of this nature and I was really impressed with how organized everything was under the circumstances,” said Moody, an animal scientist.

In the end, the fun was recycled and is back in the lake, ready for another round of fun.