Daily Limit: EQ nuts and bolts of St. Clair Open

Matt Adams has a good idea what he needs to do in this week’s 2024 Tackle Warehouse Bassmaster Elite Qualifier.

The 40-year-old from Oxford, Ala., stands fifth in the season-long EQ race with 850 points after five events. The top nine after the nine EQs advance to the 2025 Bassmaster Elite Series, and Adams is adamant about being one of them.

Between battling waves and swatting biting black flies, he laid out his mission to stay in the hunt before Thursday’s Day 1 blastoff of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake St. Clair presented by SEVIIN.

“You’ve got to catch 4-pounders,” he said. “You got to catch 20 pounds a day to be competitive. Try to keep our standing in the top nine.

“I would like to be in the top 25 if possible. I think we’ve got the fish to do that. But they’ve got to cooperate. We’ve got a storm coming in — who knows what we’ve got after that storm.”

The remnants of Hurricane Beryl began hitting the Detroit area Tuesday and will continue Wednesday. Adams said he’s taking off the final practice day. Instead of fighting more rough water, Adams will be retying baits and battening down the hatches. He’ll also put added thought into his plan to locate more than the two game changers he caught in practice.

Matt Adams hopes to cross paths with some 5-pound smallmouth to stay in the EQ hunt.

“Maybe we get lucky and catch a couple of those 5-pounders,” he said.

That’s the hope of all trying to stay in the hunt at stop No. 6.

It’s getting down to crunch time

A month after St. Clair, the EQ heads to first-time B.A.S.S. venue in Minnesota’s Leech Lake. The Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., closes Division 3 in September before October’s season finale at South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.

Along with a check close to $50,000, a victory earns an automatic berth into the 2025 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors. Elite qualification comes through accumulating points.

Like the first EQ season last year, there’s a handful of anglers breaking away from the pack. Easton Fothergill, who finished 16th in this year’s Grand Lake Classic as the College Series representative, moved into the point lead after winning the most recent event on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula.

The victory’s 200 points gave Fothergill 878 on the year, putting him nine ahead of Texas’ Dakota Ebare. Previous leader Evan Kung of Canada holds third with 853, the same total as Idaho’s Cody Meyer in fourth.

Fothergill has the next three events in his region, with the mostly unknown Leech Lake about an hour from his home in Grand Rapids, Minn. The 22-year-old is on a roll after recovering from emergency surgery to remove a brain abscess in time to fish the College Bracket.

There will be number crunching

Last year, JT Thompkins won the EQ points race with 1,659 points. He earned an incredible 184.3 points per event, an average finish just under 17th. Right behind him were John Garrett (1,644 points) and Trey McKinney (1,594), both rookie Elite champions this year.

All three finished with better totals than Fothergill’s projected 1,580 points, which averages to 175.5 per event or around 26th place.

More importantly was where final qualifier Kyle Patrick finished. He made the Elites with 1,436 points. After five events, he had 834 points, 35 more than ninth-place Texan Jack York has through five this year. However, York is on pace for 1,438 after making climbs up the leaderboard at each tournament.

After Adams’ 850, there’s a dip to sixth-place Ty Faber of Colorado with 821 points. Alabamans Tucker Smith and Andrew Loberg each have 808 points.

There is a maximum of 800 points left on the table. Extrapolating the furthest back someone could reach 1,438, Bailey Bleser in 39th place (639 points) has a mathematical chance, but he’d almost need to win all four.

Of course, it might not take that much, depending on how those ahead of him perform. The season’s end should again provide an interesting battle of leapfrog for the final spots, just like in 2023.

Thompkins, Garrett and McKinney, and Robert Gee, were virtually assured their berths before the season finale, but Wesley Gore and Ben Milliken knocked out Kyle Austin and Jamie Bruce in the finale on the Harris Chain.  

Ish Monroe leads the field of former Elites trying the requalify.

Ish needs to get on fish

Ish Monroe holds the best chance to requalify among the 19 former Elites fishing the EQs. The Oakdale, Calif., pro stands 21st with 742 points. He needs an average finish of about 25th in the next four to get to 1,440 points. It must be noted that the most recent of Monroe’s five B.A.S.S. titles was at La Crosse.

Clark Reehm of Elm Grove, La., is 20 points back of Monroe in 23rd, and 2013 Classic champ Cliff Pace of Ovett, Miss., has 681 points to stand 28th. Four spots back is Garrett Paquette of Canton, Mich., with 664 points, and he has the luxury of fishing the next three in his region.

Three Classic champs in event

Pace leads a trio of Classic champs in the St. Clair field. Randy Howell, who won the 2014 Guntersville Classic, and Casey Ashley, the 2015 champ at Lake Hartwell, make it a straight flush at St. Clair.

Current Elites fishing this week include St. Clair winners Seth Feider and Chad Pipkens. They will be joined by Jay Przekurat, Alex Redwine, Austin Felix and Bill Lowen.

Other entries of note include two-time Classic qualifier Whitney Stephens, the 2019 Harris Open winner who held the heaviest one-day bag in that circuit at 32 pounds, 12 ounces. James Watson, another Classic qualifier, has entered and could have boat docks mostly to himself.

Rewriting Opens records in 2024

Scott Martin started the big hit parade at home, winning on Lake Okeechobee in record-setting fashion. Martin’s 33-2 knocked Stephens off the top spot as heaviest limit in Opens competition. Martin added the fifth-overall best daily weight of 31-7 in totaling 90-3, which blew away the Opens mark as well as the three-day Bassmaster record.

At Santee Cooper Lakes, Kyle Austin topped three who put their names in the record book there. Austin posted the fourth-largest Open weight at 31-8, and his winning total of 83-7 stands second to Martin. Gerald Swindle’s 80-13 at Toho in 2011 fell to third, and Laker Howell’s 80-9 — yeah, that’s Randy’s son — and Martin’s 80-3 at Santee took over fourth and fifth, respectively.

Easton Fothergill won at Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula behind this lunker.

Bigs keep biting

When Fothergill reeled in an 8-12 in June, the Phoenix Boats Big Bass was the winning bite at Eufaula. A month earlier, Josh Butler won behind a 7-13, the biggest at Logan Martin.

The first three events all had double-digit fish take Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors. Randall Tharp opened the season with a 10-3 at Okeechobee, the same weight Mark Hutson brought in to take the bonus at Santee.

At Lake Ouachita, Evan Kung thought he had the biggest bass in the lake with Day 1’s 9-14, but Zack Goutremout came in the next day with a 10-14.

Big field, big dreams

There are 224 boaters registered for St. Clair, with a regional influx not competing in all nine EQ events. Minnesota, which has five EQ anglers, has 25 fishing St. Clair, many of whom are shooting for the Classic’s win-and-in provision by fishing the three Division 3 events.

There are 18 anglers entered from Wisconsin, of which seven are in the EQs. There are three EQ anglers among the 15 entries from Michigan and the 11 from Ohio.

It’s even more regional on the co-angler side, with 60% from the surrounding states. Of the 178 non-boaters, 56 are from Michigan. Illinois is next with 14, Ohio and Indiana have 13 and 11 are from Wisconsin.

Good luck this week.