TRENTON, Mich. – Jim Liechty of Fort Wayne, Ind., watched intently as Dick Shaffer of Rockford, Ohio, put his fish – one by one – on the scales.
Shaffer needed some 16 pounds to catch Liechty, and as he started piling 3-1/2-pound smallmouths into the weigh basket, Shaffer was right on pace to steal Liechty’s glory.
With his fourth fish, Shaffer pulled to within 12 ounces of Liechty. Now all he needed was just one more keeper-sized bass to take the EverStart Series Northern title.
Liechty’s eyes widened in utter disbelief.
“I just knew he had a fifth one in there,” Liechty exclaimed as he was named the winner. “I’m in total shock.”
For the record, Liechty, who was in third place after day three, weighed in 16 pounds, 1 ounce Saturday for a two-day winning weight of 34 pounds, 14 ounces.
Liechty fished a single shoal in Lake Erie all week for the win – the same area that produced his BFL win here two weeks ago.
“There were key rocks and breaks along the shoal,” Liechty said. “The fish were positioned on the steep sides of the breaks and rocks – on the down-current side. They use those steep places to hide out of the current and ambush bait.”
For his win, Liechty hit a grand slam in contingencies receiving a fully rigged Ranger and $10,000 for the win, another $10,000 for being an original Ranger Owner, $3,000 for being Ranger Cup qualified, $1,500 for having a Yamaha, and $1,000 for using Garmin electronics – a grand total of nearly $65,000.
Shaffer settles for second
Not having a fifth keeper made Shaffer runner-up with a two-day total of 34 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I had the winning fish on twice in the last 15 minutes, but they both came off,” Schaffer lamented.
Schaffer fished isolated rock piles and deep-water breaks in the Pelee Island area of Lake Erie.
His main lure was an ISG Dream Tube, in a “Clapper’s Magic” color, teamed with a 1/2-ounce jighead fished on 8- and 10-pound-test line.
Every day of the tournament Scott Emery of Livonia, Mich., climbed up through the field: On day one he was 34th; on day two he moved to 14th; on day three he jumped to sixth; and today he landed in third with a two-day total of 33 pounds, 9 ounces.
Emery also fished a Poor Boy’s Goby on a drop-shot rig with a 1/2-ounce weight and 12-pound-test Seaguar line.
He fished the Pelee Island area the first two days, but then moved over along the north shore on the final two days to fish humps in 19 to 25 feet of water.
“The bigger fish were a little deeper, and I kept moving out to find them,” Emery commented. “There were some decent keepers in 19 feet of water, but it seemed those really big ones were out in 25 feet of water.”
Ferguson climbs to fourth
Art Ferguson III of St. Clair Shores, Mich., surprised himself with his performance this week.
“I practiced Erie a couple of days and I really didn’t find anything,” Ferguson said. “And since I knew I had to leave Saturday, I decided to take it easy on my body and my mind and just fish for a check and some points close by in the Detroit River.”
But as Ferguson started fishing some of his “old stuff” on St. Clair, he noticed that bigger fish had shown up in certain areas that he liked to fish.
He made the top-20 cut on Thursday, then the top-10 cut on Friday. By Friday night he was changing his airline tickets to stay and fish on Saturday.
He ended up in fourth place with a two-day total of 30 pounds, 9 ounces.
Ferguson caught most of his fish on a Mizmo tube in a “Work of Art” color on a 1/4-ounce Owner jighead tied to 10-pound-test Vanish fluorocarbon.
“I really surprised myself each day,” he added. “I was just aiming for 12 to 13 pounds a day, but I started catching bigger ones. It’s funny how things work out that way.”
David Reault of Livonia, Mich., who was also fishing in St. Clair, finished fifth with 29 pounds, 2 ounces.
Reault fished a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 in depths of 5 feet to catch most of his fish during the week.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros were Patrick Goodman of White Pigeon, Mich., finishing in sixth place with a two-day total of 25 pounds, 3 ounces; Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., finishing in seventh place with a two-day total of 24 pounds; Al Gagliarducci of Agwam, Mass., finishing in eighth place with a two-day total of 20 pounds, 11 ounces; Warren Wyman of Calera, Ala., finishing in ninth place with a two-day total of 19 pounds, 2 ounces; and Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, finishing in 10th place with a two-day total of 17 pounds, 8 ounces