July 30, 2005 by Rob Newell
CLEVELAND - Bryan Coates of Amherst, Ohio, finally got it done. After breaking his day-three EverStart Series jinx Friday with 19 pounds, 12 ounces, he never broke stride today and brought in 19 pounds, 6 ounces to win the EverStart Northeastern with a two-day total of 39 pounds, 2 ounces.
For his win, Coates collected a fully rigged Ranger boat, $9,200 cash, another $10,000 cash for being a Ranger owner, plus $4,500 in Ranger Cup and Yamaha incentive bonus money. His final earnings landed in the $65,000 range.
"This feels great," said Coates. "I've been fishing these waters for about eight years, and it finally paid off."
Coates stayed around the Lorain area all four days of the tournament.
He fished Phoenix tubes in watermelon on 3/8-ounce hand-poured jigheads in 26 to 32 feet of water. He tied the tube to 8-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon, which was spooled onto spinning gear.
"The key for me was staying in one general area without running around a whole lot," he said. "I had six or seven sweet spots within one little area, and I just kept rotating those spots."
Coates pointed to his rough-water boat-handling skills as another reason for his win.
"Surviving that ordeal on Wednesday was the whole key to getting here," he said. "A lot of people didn't go to their primary water the first day or didn't make it back to weigh-in on time. Knowing how to navigate that kind of water is critical to being consistent on these waters."
Hard work pays for Hastings
Finishing second was Aaron Hastings of Middletown, Md., with a two-day total of 36 pounds, 10 ounces.
Hastings attributed his successful week to hard work.
"When I came up here, I didn't have any local help," he said. "I got out there with my electronics and combed the bottom of Lake Erie from Avon Point to Lorain for eight days of practice and found my own stuff."
Hastings caught all of his fish on a 4-inch Kinami Flash and Poor Boy's Goby drop-shot rig with 3/8- and 1/2-ounce weights tied to 10-pound-test line.
"Every day I had to move about 100 feet to keep up with the fish," he said. "I never caught them off the same exact spot two days in a row. The memory of that 20-pound bag really haunted me - I wanted to go back there - but I learned to trust my instincts and move around within my area to stay with the fish."
Clapper misses again
Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, swung for the fences today. He ran to Canadian water to some of his choice spots that have produced huge bags for him in the past.
When his best places didn't pan out, he retreated back to the Ohio side and scraped up 15 pounds, 15 ounces to finish third with a two-day total of 34 pounds, 6 ounces.
"Sometimes knowing too many places like I do can actually hurt you," he said. "That was the case today. I know of too many places where I've caught 23- to 24-pound bags, and I wanted to hit them all, because I knew it would take at least that to win."
Clapper relied on the Poor Boy's Drop-Shot Goby in Balog's Choice tied to 1/2-ounce weights most of the week.
Although the well-known Erie veteran missed winning another EverStart event, he sent out a heartfelt thanks to his wife, who has supported his fishing endeavors to the fullest.
Balog to fourth
Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., kept moving up the leader board all week, but he ran out time.
"Maybe if we made another cut now and fished another two days I might be able to get it right," joked Balog who rallied with 18 pounds, 13 ounces today to finish fourth with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 10 ounces.
Balog fished the Avon Point area of Erie and probed waters anywhere from 28 to 38 feet to catch his fish.
He used a Poor Boy's Drop-Shot Goby and an ISG Dream Tube with a 3/8-ounce "aspirin head" jighead.
"Steve Clapper taught me a long time ago not to be afraid of moving around," Balog said. "I got reminded of that today; instead of locking into one place, I started moving around a lot more, and it worked.
"I wasn't moving around with the big engine, but rather trolling on high speed from spot to spot within one general area."
Dave Lefebre of Erie, Pa., finished off the week with a 16-pound, 2-ounce catch, which put him in fifth place with a two-day total of 28 pounds, 3 ounces.
Lefebre pointed to his wise move of dropping back and punting during Wednesday's rough conditions to get him into the top 10.
"On the first day, I headed out for my best smallmouth spot located about 20 mile west of Cleveland," he said. "Just as I was about to get there, I decided it was too rough to fish it, so I turned around and went back the other way - about 25 miles east of Cleveland - to some largemouth I had found in practice. I caught a small limit of largemouth, but it held me in there, and I was able to come back the next day with a big bag of smallies to make the top-10."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros in the EverStart Series Northeastern Division even on Erie:
6th: David Smith of Del City, Okla., 23-14
7th: Christopher King of South Amherst, Ohio, 22-5
8th: Warren Wyman of Calera, Ala., 17-3
9th: Jason Carleton of Rochester, N.Y., 11-9
10th: Jack Dalzell of Amherst, Ohio, 9-5