TRENTON, Mich. – Jim Hippensteel has been around the block enough to know how hard it is to win a tournament from the back of the boat. Numerous things have to go right, including several that are out of your control. That’s why when Hippensteel’s pro partner Heath Wagner turned around and retreated from a rough Lake Erie this morning, Hippensteel was convinced another opportunity at victory had slipped away.
As it turned out, only one boat was able to successfully navigate Erie, that being pro Michael Sitko and co-angler Steve Sorrell, who fished out of a Ranger 621VS. While Sitko had a banner day and completed the comeback win, Sorrell’s stomach couldn’t handle the 5- and 6-foot waves. That meant Hippensteel was essentially on even ground with the other nine co-anglers. He did his part by catching a 13-pound, 1-ounce stringer from the Detroit River.
“We went 35 miles out on the North Shore, but only fished for about a half hour and then came back to the river,” said Hippensteel. “I was fortunate enough to catch a good one out on Erie right away within the first five minutes on a tube.”
“I only caught five keepers and I needed every one of them. I haven’t missed a fish all week and that was the key for me. I have been close in other BFLs and I finished sixth last year at the FLW Tour event but I always lost a fish or two. That and this week I had good boaters who were around fish.”
On days one and two, Hippensteel’s key baits were a drop-shot with a Poor Boy’s Erie Darter or a Zoom Fluke and a big Yamamoto swimbait. He also mixed in a Carolina rig with a Yamamoto Hula Grub.
“They were eating so good yesterday I just picked up the biggest thing I had and that was a Yamamoto saltwater swimbait.”
Hippensteel got to sample all the Detroit area has to offer in terms of bass fishing. On day one he probed the depths of Lake Erie. Day two he went north to St. Clair and today he fished both Erie and the Detroit River.
“When we were coming back to fish for green fish this morning I thought it was over. But even on a bad day like today, this place is better than anything I got back home.”
Hippensteel’s total weight was 49 pounds, 15 ounces. For winning the final Central Division event of the year the Rochester, Ind., co-angler claimed a fully-equipped Ranger Z117 with a 90-horsepower outboard engine.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m happy though; it’s been a great week.”
Doyle retains second
Behind Hippensteel was Holland, Ohio, co-angler Bryan Doyle. Doyle caught 17-13 on day one and 17-15 on day two. Today he boated the only other limit among the co-anglers, his weighing 13 pounds, 2 ounces.
“Today it all changed; I caught them all on a drop-shot,” said Doyle. “I was catching them more on jerkbaits, crankbaits and swimbaits the first two days. It was so good it didn’t really matter what you threw.”
Doyle fished with Rick Taylor Saturday and the two tried Erie before running all the way back to Trenton and eventually up to Lake St. Clair.
“It was an awesome week. I probably caught 50 keepers in the three tournament days. This fishery is just incredible.”
Doyle finished with a cumulative weight of 48 pounds, 14 ounces. He earned $4,309 for second place.
Sibley, Shannon, Wright round out top five
Donald Sibley of Strasburg, Ohio, caught only two keepers Saturday that weighed 7 pounds but still rose from sixth to third place. He finished the week with a three-day total of 41 pounds, 2 ounces, earning $3,447.
This was Sibley’s 10th top-10 finish of his FLW career.
Ed Shannon of Milford, Ohio, caught limits of 18-1 and 16-13 the first two days before catching only two bass weighing 4 pounds, 14 ounces today. He finished fourth with a total weight of 39-12.
“I mainly used a drop-shot and a tube,” said Shannon, who earned $3,016. “If you had a bait that resembled a goby or a perch, you were probably going to get bit.”
Chad Wright finished fifth with 37 pounds, 12 ounces over three days. After catching 18-7 and 15-2, the Clarklake, Mich., angler managed two keepers Saturday weighing 4 pounds, 3 ounces. Wright earned $2,585.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers at the EverStart Series Detroit River event:
6th: Tony Grindstaff of Toledo, Ohio, 37-9
7th: Philip Borsa of Redford, Mich., 37-0
8th: Derek Raider of Lexington, Ky., 36-5
9th: Steve Sorrell of Beavercreek, Ohio, 34-2
10th: Zac Zernec of Ortonville, Mich., 33-13
The next EverStart Series event is slated for Sept. 12 on Chesapeake Bay in Perryville, Md.