(Editor’s note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2012 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his eighth installment of the season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Detroit River event in 17th place with a two-day total of 54 pounds, 4 ounces and took home $10,720 in winnings).
Detroit is such an incredible place to fish and I especially like it because it is the closest FLW Tour stop to my home in Erie, Pa., at only four hours. Although Lake Erie is where I usually like to go in tournaments out of Detroit, it never ceases to amaze me how different that section of the lake is compared to where I live; it is truly like night and day. My area is usually gin clear, it’s got sharp drop-offs, really deep water and there is no vegetation. In the western waters of Lake Erie you’ll find plenty of shallow water, grass all over the place and typically stained water in a milky green color. Because of this, the bass in the Detroit area are a lot different as well, mainly a shallower water fish … and that’s what I found again this year.
Detroit is really big, with lots of options for the tour anglers. You can fish the river, which is where we take off from. You can make a 20-mile run north to Lake St. Clair, you can keep going through St. Clair and up several miles into the St. Clair River, or you can do what I did, which was turn right. A right turn out of the boat ramp will lead you straight out into the Erie ocean after traversing the river for a brief three miles. It is by far the most water we fish on tour, with endless possibilities. I like this, but it also means I had a ton of water to search (or check) and thus it was the most expensive water I fished all season. I spent roughly nine hours in my Chevy Suburban during the practice period, driving to and from various boat ramps near our tournament boundaries. And all of that was basically eliminating water as it eventually turned out.
On the final day of practice I finally found an area that had a ton of fish, about 40 miles out into Lake Erie. It was super shallow, but I didn’t catch any big ones, all 3-pound class smallmouth. So I worked my way out deeper and caught a bass close to 6 pounds and then another in the 5-pound range – so in my mind, I thought I found the big ones and was going to do well in the tournament.
On day one, I started shallow and quickly caught 15 pounds. Not catching anything big as expected, I quickly left the shallows and headed out deep for the rest of the day. I only culled a single fish the entire rest of day one and was disappointed with my measly 16-pound bag. On day 2, I started shallow again and caught 16 pounds rather quickly and then proceeded to go deep again in hopes of finding a giant or two as I did that last day of practice. Well, again, no luck. So this time I decided to go back shallow and perhaps weed through the smaller fish. To my amazement, I lost a 5 ½ pounder on my very first cast with a shallow crankbait. I told my co-angler that at least we know what we need to be doing the rest of the day, and that’s what we did.
I ended day 2 with a huge 20-pound, 8-ounce sack, made the top-20 cut from 50th place after day 1, but more importantly, gained a ton of confidence going into the third day. I really thought that if I stayed shallow for an entire day that I would have 25-pound potential … I was excited! But to make a long story short, I could not convert. I had the bites to easily make the top 10, losing several 4-pound fish and a couple pushing the 5-pound mark. Unfortunately, when smallmouth fishing with treble hooks, it is truly a 50-50 ballgame – a ballgame I lost on day 3. I wound up bringing in 16 pounds and finishing 17th -place overall. On the bright side, I now sit in fifth in the FLW Tour Open AOY standings with two events remaining in the Open schedule. The top five at the end of the year qualify for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, obviously a main goal for me.
My crankbait of choice was a Rapala Clackin’ Crank 55 in Helsinki Shad. As I said at the final day weigh-in, they ate that thing like candy when they would only follow the others. I could throw it a mile and for the 4-5 foot depth range it was absolutely perfect. This is the first time I have tried this particular crankbait, and I couldn’t be more excited to experiment with it around my home and on other lakes around the country. I need to thank my friend, Dan, for sending me some to try. He said they really work in Minnesota and that I need to check them out …Well I took his advice, and quickly discovered he was not kidding!
Big bass were caught many different ways in Detroit and in a variety of different areas of the fishery. Lake St. Clair was a huge player and supported the eventual winner, Larry Nixon. Several other top-10 finishers came from St. Clair as well. Some guys caught them cranking over there too. I was told some had success with a spinnerbait. But the biggest bags came on the typical drop-shot and tubes. You just can’t beat those two approaches for catching big smallmouth anywhere in the northland.
The biggest bags from the big lake were also caught on drop-shots and tubes. One guy who made the top 10 was fishing the same area as I was and was employing the old drop-shot instead of the crankbait. He didn’t get nearly as much action as I did, but in the end, his bite to catch ratio was a good deal better. I had another pro in the tournament asking me for baits – well, he was actually begging, lol. What did he need so badly you ask? Why it was a Yamamoto Shad Shaped Worm of course! I guess a co-angler had schooled him the day before who was clued in on the right bait. That pro went on to make the top 10 thanks to ole Shad Shape.
You know, on a different note, I would love to see the FLW Tour go to Detroit again, but I can’t help but think how awesome it would be to not allow any brown fish to come to the scales. How about a “largemouth only” event out of Detroit next time? There is so much virtually untapped largemouth water around Detroit that we could never explore it all in a week, and there are tons of largemouth … tons! I just think it would be a load of fun and something different.
Our next FLW Tour Open is coming up soon on Wheeler Lake in Alabama. I’ve had good results over the years on the Tennessee River lakes and always look forward to fishing Wheeler. I think it will be a tougher event this time around though, but those are the kind I like. See you on stage in Alabama!
To read more about Dave's life on the road, check out On Tour With Dave and Anne, sponsored by Chevy. Throughout the 2012 FLW Tour season, Dave and his wife, Anne will be keeping a detailed blog of their experiences while traveling the country in their Chevy Trucks.