September 28, 2002 by Jeff Schroeder
Hot Michigan pro fishes `perfect' tournament, wins second EverStart Series Northern Division event in two years
TRENTON, Mich. - You just knew it was going to take something special to win this tournament. The pros fishing on the Lake St. Clair-Detroit River-Lake Erie waterway this week have been bringing in limit after limit of big smallmouth bass. The winner was going to need to do something more than just catch a limit; perhaps he needed to achieve something like perfection. So when Michigan pro Kevin Vida came to the stage Saturday afternoon and told the hometown crowd that he had fished a "perfect" tournament this week, the outcome seemed inevitable.
Vida weighed in a five-fish limit of smallmouth bass worth 22 pounds, 15 ounces and won the last EverStart Series Northern Division tournament of the year, collecting $15,000 and a new Ranger boat. His catch Saturday was the biggest stringer of the week, and it seemed like an ideal ending to such a big-fish tournament.
"This is unbelievable," the 37-year-old pro from Clare, Mich., said. "It has just been a perfect week for me."
Undoubtedly. To claim victory here, it had to be. Following right behind Vida was the indomitable Steve Clapper, a heavy favorite anytime he enters a bass-fishing tournament on Lake Erie. Clapper, who led the opening round, made his push Saturday - just like he said he would - but came up short with 21 pounds, 1 ounce. Clapper finished in second place and collected $10,000.
"I didn't execute really well," said Clapper, whose final-round stringer was the second-heaviest weight of the tournament. "I got myself in the right place, but I just had trouble keeping (the bass) pinned. I lost some big ones. Everybody loses smallmouth; it just seems that lately I'm getting real good at it."
The ability to keep the feisty smallmouth on the hook appeared to be the difference at this event. Vida said that he "never lost one fish that jumped the whole week."
Like almost everybody, Vida fished a green tube in roughly 20 feet of water. He targeted an area at the mouth of the Detroit River not far from the takeoff point at Elizabeth Park, saying, "I don't think I burned more than $20 worth of gas all week." He and his partners caught some 50 fish per day, perhaps more, he thinks. But it was his ability to keep the big ones on the hook that set him apart.
"Today, we just went there and stayed there. We worked it and worked it and worked it," he said. "I thought I had about 21 or 22 pounds, so I was pleasantly surprised (with 22-15). And I knew I was going to need all of it to beat Clapper."
Vida is on a roll. He won the EverStart Northern Division event at Thousand Islands, N.Y., last year and earlier this month fished in the final round of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Championship at Cross Lake, La., where he finished 10th. He also won a Wal-Mart BFL event at Grand River, Mich., earlier this year.
"When things go your way, you just keep on going. When you roll, you roll," he said.
And he rolled it all the way home. Five Michigan pros and five Ohio pros competed in Saturday's final round - all of whom caught five-bass limits - so it set the stage for a bit of an interstate rivalry.
"All I know is that I wanted to win this tournament really, really bad," Vida said. "I guess I pulled it off for the home team."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top five pro finishers behind Vida and Clapper were Dan Mansky (3rd place, $9,000) of Youngstown, Ohio, with a weight of 20 pounds even; Mike Trombly (4th, $8,000) of Perrysburg, Ohio, with 19-15; and Butch Dobransky (5th, $7,500) of Canton, Ohio, with 18-11.
To highlight just how prolific this bass fishery has been and to put Vida's tough win into perspective, note that pro Richard Grosse of Hebron, Ohio, caught 18 pounds, 5 ounces and finished as low as seventh place. The 10th-place pro, Thomas Ledingham of Trenton, Mich., caught 12-2 - a winning weight at many other tournaments.
The next EverStart Series event is the EverStart Series Championship to be held at Lake Martin, Ala., Nov. 6-9.
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