TRENTON, Mich. – Sometimes, breaking from the norm, taking risks and doing your own thing can pay off big. That’s essentially the tale of Mike Trombly’s victory Saturday at the Stren Series Northern Division tournament on the Detroit River.
At the morning check-out, Trombly headed south from Elizabeth Park Marina while the rest of the top 10 boats went north to Lake St. Clair. Fishing the lower end of the Detroit River and Lake Erie, the Perrysburg, Ohio, angler caught a five-fish limit weighing 20 pounds, 7 ounces to tally a four-day total of 79 pounds.
“I hadn’t put in any practice time on St. Clair,” Trombly said. “I had caught a good bag there two weeks ago, but I wasn’t comfortable that I could go back and do that again. There’s a lot of roaming fish in St. Clair, and I wasn’t comfortable having to cover a lot of water to keep up with them. In Erie, I’m fishing spots and I was more comfortable with that.
“Also, in St. Clair you’re looking at the same kind of cover, but not as much specific structure. Erie has more specific structure, whereas on St. Clair, there are miles and miles of weeds, and it all looks the same.”
Targeting the 7- to 10-foot range of water depth, Trombly started his day by fishing Rat-L-Traps, and when that action waned, he transitioned to snapping a smoke-purple colored tube. Traditionally, green tubes have been the perennial favorite for smallmouth bass, but Trombly chose his color strategically.
“When I got to my first spot this morning, there was a pretty big ball of shad right in front of me, and the fish were busting right on the surface. Big smallmouths were smoking shad. I could only get two on that spot – the fish kept following that ball of shad until it moved out of the area.”
Having finished out his day on Lake Erie, Trombly praised his Ranger 620 for dependable performance in big water. “When it comes to making a big run when it’s rough, whether it’s coming through the river or running across the lake when there are 6-footers, that boat gets me there safely and it’s a dry ride.”
Finishing second, Brian Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich., weighed the day’s heaviest bag, a 21-pound, 2-ounce effort that gave him a four-day total of 78-3. Fishing in 14 feet of water in the northwest section of Lake St. Clair, Hensley started his day using tubes, but ended up catching his heaviest smallmouths on Lucky Craft jerkbaits and drop-shot rigs fitted with Berkley Gulp gobies.
Hensley said that a key discovery during one of his practice days proved invaluable during the tournament. “Just last weekend, I bought a Humminbird side imaging unit, and when I was idling across a flat, I noticed there was one area that had better weeds on it. I marked a GPS coordinate there and fished around that spot most of the week.”
Notably, Hensley’s wife, Renee, took second place on the co-angler side with 66 pounds, 8 ounces. Of their coincidental performances, Brian Hensley said: “It’s unbelievable. The only thing that could have made it better would be if we had (finished in the same spot) yesterday. Then we could have fished together today.” (Pros were paired with co-anglers who finished in the same day-three position.)
Campbell takes third
Mr. Consistency, A.C. Campbell of Mineral Springs, Pa., took third place with 77 pounds, 4 ounces after finishing second on days one and three and topping the pro field on day two. He continued his pattern of targeting rocky bottom with weed patches in Lake St. Clair, but the day’s conditions proved limiting. During the first three days of competition, Campbell modified a drop-shot technique by letting his sit still on the bottom until he got a strike.
“During the week, when the fish quit biting on tubes, I’d go to that dead-sticking (tactic),” he said. “Today, with the high wind and the 3-foot waves, I couldn’t fish the way I wanted to fish. I had waves coming over the bow and hitting me in the knees.”
Campbell ended up cracking tubes on the bottom. “I was using a ½-ounce tube when a lot of guys were using 3/8-ounce. I think the ½-ounce gave me more of a reaction bite. I was popping it violently with braided line and fluorocarbon leader.”
Mike Crisp of Union Grove, Wis., grabbed the fourth-place spot with 76-13. Flipping Berkley Gulp leeches to small weed patches proved most productive for him. “It was like bed-fishing. I’d just ease up to a little patch of weeds and flip 10 feet in front of me. I called my shots on every cast. I said, ‘Here’s a fish.’ My co-angler couldn’t believe it.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series Detroit River event:
5th: Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind., 76-6
6th: Chris Oeser of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., 75-7
7th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., 74-11
8th: Jacob Powroznik of Prince George, Va., 74-11
9th: Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn., 73-4
10th: David Hasty of Toledo, Ohio, 71-1
Hasty’s father, Charles Hasty, won the Co-angler Division with 67-1.
With his Detroit River finish, Campbell moved into sixth place in the Stren Series Northern Division standings. Baksay holds the ninth-place spot and Oeser is 17th.