TRENTON, Mich. – Late July is supposed to mark the dog days of summer, complete with uncomfortable heat and humidity, even in the Upper Midwest. But it feels more like late September this week in the Detroit area with highs only reaching the mid 70s. And unlike Florida largemouths, northern smallmouths still bite (and bite ferociously) during cold fronts – providing the perfect venue to close the EverStart Series Central Division season.
When FLW visits Motown, all four fisheries are in play – Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. History suggests that Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie provide the best opportunity to catch tournament-winning stringers – with Erie possessing fewer, but bigger bass while St. Clair is a safer option stuffed full of 3-pounders. At last year’s FLW Tour Open, five of the top six finishers opted for St. Clair and fished within sight of one another. But with a forecast calling for light and variable winds during the opening round, Erie looks primed to take back smallmouth superiority.
Leading the points race in the Central Division is veteran pro Dan Morehead. While Morehead calls Kentucky Lake home, he’s spent enough time in Detroit to know the pros and cons of the two major fisheries. Given his experience and the current conditions, he plans to point his Ranger/Evinrude east to Erie today.
“I spent four days practicing on St. Clair and I could catch 14 or 15 pounds, pretty conservatively, and quite honestly that should be enough to accomplish my goal of winning Strike King Angler of the Year,” said Morehead, who carries a 33-point lead into the final event. “But after the practice I had today, catching two 5-pounders, two 4-pounders and a 3-pounder, my goal is to catch 20-plus today and win this tournament. I remember fishing an FLW Tour event years ago and there were some huge rollers on Erie and I vowed never to go back. But here I am going back again.”
Morehead said he realizes St. Clair is the conservative approach. But he simply can’t ignore what he saw in practice.
“I’m not a smallmouth expert or anything; I’m a flat-land country boy. To me, St. Clair is always more predictable and you just weed through a bunch of keepers. The problem was that I only saw one 4-poudner the whole time I was there and not as many 3-pounders as I’m used to seeing. On Erie, just about every time I got a bite it was a 3-pound plus fish.”
If Morehead can clinch AOY, he’ll punch his ticket to the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup a year in advance, a luxury rarely afforded to a tour-level pro.
“I’ve won AOY before in both the EverStart and on the Tour and I can tell you I put the award on the highest pedestal. It’s a big deal to me. It looks good on a résumé and it’s a minimum $10,000 from the 2014 Cup. I figure if I catch 15 pounds a day, they can’t touch me. But I’m not going to stop fishing at 15, believe me. I’m truly blessed to have fished as well as I have this year with some of the problems I’ve had with my shoulder.”
Casey Martin, the star of the Youtube reality series “Circuit Breaker” is also competing this week. Fresh off a breakthrough FLW Tour victory on Lake Chickamauga, the La Salle, Ontario, native recently returned home to relax, see family and friends and escape Alabama’s suffocating July heat. While he’s here, he figured he’d throw his hat in the smallmouth ring, although he was mainly a walleye fisherman back when he lived in the area.
“To me, it’s standard northern smallmouth fishing – lots of tubes, drop-shots and some crankbaits,” said the FLW Tour rookie, who will return to the south in a few weeks for the Forrest Wood Cup. “There’s a little bit of a topwater bite going on; I’ve caught some of my bigger fish on a Boing G2 in between dragging and dropping. But I’m just hoping for two or three good bites today.”
Martin echoed Morehead’s sentiment about St. Clair, but still plans to fish there, simply because he’s more comfortable with it.
“Some of the St. Clair guys are crying the blues and I will say a 4-pounder is pretty hard to come by. If I was a betting man, I would bet on Erie this week. If the wind lays down like they say it’s supposed to, guys can move around and hit a bunch of rock piles. I think 20 pounds a day might win and it could take even less than that. But with 20 a day, you’ll at least be right there.”
Anglers will take off from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Ile Parkway in Trenton, Mich., at 6 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at Walmart store located at 23800 Allen Road in Woodhaven, Mich., beginning at 3 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
On the Web
For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
Sunrise: 6:19 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 55 degrees
Expected high temperature: 75 degrees
Water temperature: 72-76 degrees
Wind: E at 6 mph
Maximum humidity: 64 percent
Day’s outlook: sunny