TRENTON, Mich. – Heath Wagner received everything he asked for on day two of EverStart Series Central Division finale. Calm winds once again allowed him to reach his best spots on Lake Erie with relative ease. And once he was there, the big smallmouths bit. But his execution was lacking, so instead of a 4-pound lead, he’ll head into the final day in front by just 9 ounces.
Wagner wasn’t happy with his performance, yet is pleased that he still has the opportunity to rectify the situation. He knows he’s around the right fish after winning the BFL event two weeks ago and catching 24 pounds yesterday. All those fish have come off of two spots.
“I had 24 pounds on the line again today,” said a visibly frustrated Wagner. “To start the day my co-angler caught three 4-pounders and I caught three 2-pounders. Finally I got a little rhythm going but then I couldn’t get them in the boat. I lost a 6-pounder and two 5-pounders. They all came to the surface and just shook their heads and the hook popped out.”
While he received several bites in the morning, it got tough in the afternoon and that has the Angola, Ind., pro worried. He does have a spot he’s been purposely saving for the final day – hoping it can be that afternoon savior.
“I caught 19 pounds there in one hour on Wednesday, but I haven’t been back since. I’ve been visiting about 10 spots a day, but all of my weigh fish have come off those two spots.”
Wagner’s deep spot is approximately 27 to 29 feet and he targets those fish with a Poor Boy’s tube in smoke purple flash color and a 3/8-ounce weight. Today, he mixed in an unnamed Strike King soft plastic that accounted for some fish. Before he came back to Elizabeth Park this afternoon, he caught a good one on a Strike King 5XD crankbait in about 8 feet of water.
He finished the day with a total weight of 19 pounds, 9 ounces – a great catch, but Wagner can’t help but think about what could have been. With a two-day total of 43 pounds, 9 ounces, he’ll start the final day with very little cushion.
Right behind Wagner is West Olive, Mich., pro Rick Taylor, the winner of the Wheeler Lake EverStart that took place in May. Erie and Wheeler couldn’t be any more different, but the way Taylor explains it, he’s just fishing hard and letting the chips fall where they may.
“I went back to the 4:06 spot and I had limit in 45 minutes,” said Taylor, referencing his best area that he found late in the afternoon on the final day of practice. “I culled twice and then I went back to it again with about five minutes left in the day and culled another time. Man, that was fun, what a wonderful day.”
Taylor described the fishing as chaotic at times. The bite was so strong in the morning he could almost call his shot. But when he’d bring the fish in, the entire school of smallmouths would follow the struggling hooked fish to the boat. This allowed his co-angler to catch several, but it also required Taylor to wait approximately 10 minutes for the school to return to a specific rock pile.
“I think we had three doubles and it was crazy trying to clear the net of crankbaits, jerkbaits and tubes.”
All those lures were Taylor’s co-anglers. He’s catching his good fish on one specific bait, a bait reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Cliff Pace clued Taylor in on. Because the Elite Series makes a stop here in about a month, Taylor wants to keep the bait quiet out of respect for Pace, his good friend.
Taylor would talk openly about his best spot – a spot he’s hammered for two straight days.
“It’s a 20-acre area of rock and the big fish are all on one pile. They are suspending and chasing bait, which is why I’m catching them in as shallow as 6 feet and as deep as 30 feet. What I don’t know is if the school has enough left for one more day.”
The only thing working against Taylor is tomorrow’s forecast, which calls for a south wind and doesn’t jive well with Taylor’s aforementioned spot.
Greenwood rises to third
Gary Greenwood started the day tied for fifth and worked his way up to third on the strength of a 20-pound, 9-ounce limit. His opening-round total was 42 pounds, 2 ounces.
“I was on pretty big fish in the St. Clair River, so I almost didn’t go to this spot,” said Greenwood, who finished ninth in the BFL Wagner won two weeks ago. “But I didn’t feel like I fished all that cleanly in the BFL; I thought there was more potential there than what I showed. So Thursday morning I ran about 35 miles out on Erie.”
Greenwood described the first day as phenomenal. Both he and his co-angler caught big limits and left early. Today he returned to the 20-yard by 20-yard spot first thing and the fish were more spread out. Greenwood still caught all his weight within 90 minutes and then left.
“I caught one that came up on a crankbait, but most are coming drop-shotting goby baits or a 4-inch Senko. It’s a great spot, but I really have all my eggs in one basket.”
The Irwin, Pa., pro believes there’s enough left to make a run at the title tomorrow.
“If it was a one-day tournament, I think I could’ve caught 25 pounds the first day. I was kind of kicking myself for not fishing it harder when they were grouped so tightly, but I’m not even 2 pounds behind.”
“I pulled into my first spot and there was more company and I eventually left with only about 9 pounds,” explained Said. “Then I went to a shallower crankbait spot and caught two 3-pounders, which gave me about a 15-pound limit. Then I went to another crankbait spot, caught a 7-pound walleye and then a 4 1/2-pound smallmouth. I went to yet another crankbait spot, caught a walleye and then another 4 1/2-pound smallmouth.”
Said’s crankbait of choice is a Lucky Craft CB D-20 and occasionally he fishes shallow enough for a CB D-10. His preferred color is shad to match the hatch.
“I don’t know why, but they bit the crankbait better today. They didn’t bite it great, but hopefully that bite keeps building. I caught them this morning on a drop-shot with a Poor Boy’s Darter DS (green pumpkin) and a tube (smoke purple flash), but that just wasn’t working real well. To be honest, I don’t feel real confident in any one thing right now.”
Jancasz slips to fifth
Trevor Jancasz got to fish an entire day without mechanical problems, but ironically his weight fell from 22-1 to 19-1. With a total weight of 41 pounds, 2 ounces, he sits in fifth.
“I started on the spot along the North Shore where I finished up yesterday,” said the White Pigeon, Mich., native. “I caught a small limit, but something was different. It’s like they moved off; I caught four catfish there.”
Jancasz bounced around a bit and managed four upgrades on four different spots. Like Said, he mixed in a crankbait heavily today. Bites weren’t the problem, but the quality wasn’t quite what he wanted.
“I actually caught a lot more fish today then yesterday, just not as many big ones. That’s why I like the crankbait. You don’t get as many bites, but those typically make it to weigh-in. But I was definitely hoping for better quality on my first spot.”
Jancasz is using a Strike King Series 5 crankbait and a 5XD (both in sexy shad) when he’s fishing water approximately 10 feet deep. When he’s in 25 feet, he’ll drop-shot with either a 1/2- or 3/8-ounce weight and a 4-inch Strike King Super Finesse Worm.
“Cranking is what I really like to do up here. And the water is just getting clear enough where it should get good.
“I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Every day I go out there I feel like I have the potential for 25 pounds.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros after day two:
6th: Jared Rhode of Port Clinton, Ohio, 41-0
7th: Michael Sitko of Farmington Hills, Mich., 40-9
8th: Jeff Vizachero of Grosse Ile, Mich., 39-13
9th: Skip Johnson of Goodells, Mich., 38-0
10th: Matt Belletini of Birmingham, Mich., 37-14
Hippensteel grabs co-angler lead
Jim Hippensteel has had the chance to sample both Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair this week. On day one, he caught 19-7 fishing deep on Erie and today he caught 17-7 fishing shallow on St. Clair.
“I like them both,” said the Rochester, Ind., co-angler. “The first day I used a drop-shot with either a Poor Boy’s Erie Darter or a Zoom Fluke. I also mixed in a Carolina rig with a Yamamoto Hula Grub. Today, once we got that school ignited, you could’ve thrown anything and they would’ve eaten it.”
Hippensteel said a swimbait probably accounted for the most fish, but the Darter triggered the bigger bites. In total, he caught roughly 30 keepers Friday. His total weight with one day remaining is 36 pounds, 14 ounces.
Tomorrow, he’ll likely head back to Erie as he’s paired with Wagner, the pro leader.
“It’s been a great week. I’ve never won one of these; I’ve had my chances though. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Consistent Doyle second
Behind Hippensteel is Holland, Ohio, co-angler Bryan Doyle. Doyle caught 17-13 on day one and 17-15 today for an opening-round total of 35 pounds, 12 ounces.
Shannon, Borsa, Raider round out top five
Ed Shannon of Milford, Ohio, caught limits of 18-1 and 16-13 for a total weight of 34-14 and third place among the co-anglers.
Philip Borsa of Redford, Mich., has a total weight of 34 pounds 12 ounces for fourth. His daily limits weighed 17-7 and 17-5.
Derek Raider of Lexington, Ky., rounds out the top five with 34 pounds, 9 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day two:
6th: Donald Sibley of Strasburg, Ohio, 34-2
7th: Steve Sorrell of Beavercreek, Ohio, 34-2
8th: Tony Grindstaff of Toledo, Ohio, 33-15
9th: Zac Zernec of Ortonville, Mich., 33-13
10th: Chad Wright of Clarklake, Mich., 33-9
The final day of the EverStart Series event will begin Saturday at 6 a.m. from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Ile Parkway in Trenton.