Bass Master Elite Lake Erie 7/30/08 thru 8/3/08Print
When the 08’ Elite schedule was released I gave it a look and instantly knew that if I could have my pick, the Erie event is the one I would fish. Well as luck would have it I got a call from Joe Horvath (my Skeeter rep), telling me of a slot for a co-angler in the Erie Elite about three weeks prior to the event. Joe didn’t get a chance to ask if I’d be interested, I replied, when do I leave. Having fished Erie for the last several years I knew I didn’t need to “think about”.
A three week lead time didn’t give me a lot of time to prepare so I got right to it. First was a call to my good friend and Elite angler Rick Ash. Rick and I would practice together the day before the event. Even as a co-angler practice is important for several reasons. First and foremost it helped get me dialed in to bait choice. Second it let me get the feel for fishing deep (up to 40’) again as most of my fishing is done very shallow in heavy cover. Also it gave me a chance to get my sea legs back. Next on my list was tackle preparation. This event was held out of Buffalo New York which is on the east end of the big lake and at the mouth of the Niagara River. So as a co-angler I had to be prepared for the most obvious, fishing the big lake for smallmouth, as well as smallmouth and largemouth in the river. That meant assembling a lot of tackle. I had fished tournaments out of Buffalo in the past so I had a good idea how I would fish no matter where my pro would take me.
So Tuesday the 28th after a last minute trip to the “shop” it was off to Buffalo. Six hours later I was checking into the Tally Hotel. This is where many of the pros and Bass staff were also staying. After a quick trip to get my New York license it was back to the room to rig rods and pack my tackle bag for my practice day with Rick. I’m ready to fish and it’s late in the day so I make my way over to Ricks’ room to catch up with him and his room mate Jeff Conella. I’ve gotten to know Jeff over the last couple of years thru my brother Mike who has fished as a co in the last two Potomac Elites and has practiced those events with Jeff. The word is that the bite is on! Rick and I are going to focus on smallmouth tomorrow and we make plans to leave at 5:30 in the morning.
Practice day dawned to clear skies and a southwest wind of 5 to 15 knots forecasted. We head for a deep ledge on the Canada side Rick was hoping to add to his rotation. Here we found 3 1/2 to 4lb. smallies stacked on the face of the ledge. The wind was pushing the water into this ledge and it all came together. What impressed me was the effectiveness of the Gulp! Alive Leech. I had never used the Gulp! on Lake Erie smallmouth but had heard how dominant it is. Well let me tell you after four days on the lake it is amazing how they just eat it! The rest of practice day was spent dropshotting various humps and drops with similar results. I had great success fishing 6lb. Gamma Edge fluorocarbon, either a 3/8oz. of 1/2oz. Mojo Pineapple dropshot weight and a 1/0 Gamakatsu Dropshot hook. A couple of notes on my dropshot rig I’d like to share with you. First, after always being frustrated with excessive line twist on my dropshot rig, I decided to use a swivel on this trip and see how it worked. After consulting with Rick Morris on swivel choice, I went with the Spro Power swivel in the #6 size. Well it worked great; I had no appreciable line twist after four days of fishing! Second, if you are not happy with your dropshot hook get yourself a pack of the Gamakatsu drop shot hooks. They are incredible hooks. I’ve used this hook for several years now and it is very rare to loose or miss a fish. We finished practice a little early due to the pre tournament meeting and partner draw. My first day partner is Charlie Hartley of Ohio and he says we will be making a long run. I’m happy as Charlie has a reputation as an excellent Erie stick.
Day 1 is forecasted to be clear with southwest winds of 5 to 15 knots becoming west. We run about 50 miles in about 11/2 hours to Charlie’s’ water. He’s on them and I begin catching fish up to 5lbs. We rotate thru a bunch of Charlie’s’ waypoints and they are eating the Gulp! Alive 5” leech. There are about 10 or so boats around us but as the wind becomes west and the waves builds they begin to thin out. After a while Charlie thinks we need to start working our way back. We do and it is bad with waves up to 8 feet. Charlie is an excellent driver but it is a slow go. It takes us a bout 3 1/2 hours to get back and we had time to stop and fish a few spots along the way. After the weigh in I’m sitting good with three fish for a little over 12lbs. Charlie had a tough day and with some fish care penalties weighs in a little over 11lbs. I meet my day two partner Bernie Schultz and he says to stop by his room to talk about the plan.
Day 2 dawns clear and calm. Bernie says we are going to fish shallow flats for most of the day and then head deep to try and upgrade. We get started with Bernie throwing topwater and with me on a Pointer 100 jerkbait. The bite is slow and after trying both hard and soft jerkbaits with only one small fish I switch up to a Mizmo Big Boy tube in Green Myst (my best Erie color). Bingo good fish are eating it. Only thing is I can’t keep them pegged. I try everything including offsetting the point on my EWG hook; I CAN’T KEEP THEM HOOKED. Bernie’s batteries are going dead after only a short time so we head back for a new set. After getting back to the fishing, the wind is up putting a chop on the water. Shallow flat with a little wind blowing in… time for the spinnerbait. Burning a blade is a great choice under these circumstances and I reach for a War Eagle in spot remover. Big fish are eating it but I’m loosing most of them. I switch up to the golden shiner color and now I’m getting solid hook-ups and working on a decent sack. Bernie’s’ catching them as well and he culls most of the day to around a 16lb. bag. After the weigh-in my weight is a little less than 11lbs. so after 2 days I’m very close to where I wanted to be and make the cut to fish on day three. After the partner pairing meeting I find out I’m fishing with my good friend Jeff Conella. We are going out on the lake to fish humps and drops. I’m real excited about my draw.
Day 3 and my weather radio goes off at 4am with severe thunder storm warnings. For the next 2 hours all I hear are thunderstorms cracking as I try to get some sleep. The good news is the weather clears out while we are on the way to the lake. The day starts off flat and we run several of Jeff’s better waypoints. The smallies are biting and the Gulp! Alive leeches are doing it again. Jeff and I caught both quantity and quality for most of the day. I fished two different rods on this trip. My go to dropshot rod a St. Croix Avid 6’8” extra fast medium and a Shimano Crucial 7’2” medium dropshot rod. I’ve used the Avid for several years and consider it an excellent choice for Erie dropshotting. This was the first time for the Shimano and I was very impressed with the sensitivity the taper and the power of this rod. I ended up using the Shimano more than the St.Croix and highly recommend both. I paired both rods with the Shimano Stradic 2500 FI model. This new version of the Stradic is excellent in all departments. I was impressed with how well it controlled the Gamma Fluorocarbon, with the smoothness of the drag and with how smooth it was. After the day three weigh-in my 12lbs. and change moved me up to a 9th place finish. Jeff had a good bag and also moved up a few places in the standings.
In closing, if you get a chance to fish Erie by all means go. If you have any questions feel free to call. For all of your Lake Erie specialty tackle needs, look no further, we stock it. Thanks for reading; I had fun sharing my experience with you.