July 25, 2013 by Brett Carlson
TRENTON, Mich. - With calm winds and high temperatures only reaching the mid-70s, day one of the EverStart Series Central Division finale proved to be the perfect chance to wrestle with Lake Erie. Known for both huge rollers and huge smallmouth bass, Erie produced only the latter on opening day as each of the top five pros chose to fish the big lake.
The heaviest Erie haul belonged to Heath Wagner, the winner of the recent Walmart BFL event. Heading right back to the winning spots from two weeks ago, Wagner caught a five-bass limit quickly.
"I had a limit in 41 minutes; I always keep track," he said. "I probably had 18 or 19 pounds at that time. By 8:30 I had culled up to 22 or 22 1/2; that's when I stayed away from my best areas. After that I went shallower, just trying to get my co-angler a limit and I caught a 5-10 in about 10 feet of water."
That 5-10 was the heaviest bass of the day among the pros and anchored Wagner's 24-pound stringer. The pro leader said he caught his fish over gravel in water as shallow as 10 feet and as deep as 30 feet.
"I like them both," Wagner said of Erie and St. Clair. "But I'm an Erie guy. And I think I need to be on Erie to win this tournament. Last year you had to be on St. Clair to catch that bag, but Erie is starting to come back."
Wagner elaborated on his pattern, saying he targeted precise spots with a Poor Boy's tube (smoke purple flash color) and a 3/8-ounce weight. He'd snap the tube to trigger his bites.
"The stuff I'm catching them off now is typically fall stuff."
Jancasz second despite mechanical problems
Like Wagner, Trevor Jancasz spends most of his tournament hours over on Erie. But his opening day didn't go nearly as smoothly as Wagner's.
"I went out to one of my spots and caught three good ones and two little ones," said Jancasz. "I fished for about four hours and then I left and experienced a bunch of mechanical issues. My livewell shut off, my electronics stopped working. I figured all my fish were going to die."
Jancasz decided to head back and maybe sample the Detroit River on the way in for a quick upgrade or two. When he stopped along the North Shore, suddenly everything came back on. He knew he was near a waypoint, so he slid over and popped two 5-pounders. Not wanting to press his luck, this time he went straight to Elizabeth Park.
"I only caught those seven smallmouths all day," said Jancasz, whose best five weighed 22 pounds, 1 ounce. "And I only fished two of my spots. Tomorrow I should have a good day if everything works."
In terms of pattern, the White Pigeon, Mich., native said he stayed on the trolling motor and targeted isolated rock piles in 20 to 30 feet of water.
"Smallmouth fishing is just my thing. Every time I'm in a tournament, Erie seems to be where I go."
Jeff Vizachero took 13th at last year's FLW Tour Open - catching 20-12 on the tournament's first day and 20-10 on day two before falling back a bit on day three. He upped that opening-day catch to 21-15 today and is hoping for a stronger finish this year.
"I'm an Erie guy," said Vizachero. "I live in Grosse Ile, Mich., so I've got to go to Erie."
Vizachero described his bite as steady, noting that early was slightly better than late.
"The area I'm fishing is not a numbers game. I only caught 10 keepers total, but these are big fish. I just want five bites."
To that end, Vizachero blanked on his best spot first thing this morning. It took him about an hour to reconnect with the school, but he eventually did find them.
"They tend to roam when it's flat calm; that's normal. I would have actually preferred it to be windier. I'm used to 3- and 4-footers."
All of Vizachero's weigh fish were just over 4 pounds and came via a custom-made bait.
"The way I look at it, 60 pounds will do it, so I'm on track."
In fourth place is West Olive, Mich., pro Rick Taylor, who won the Wheeler Lake EverStart in May. Taylor's opening-day limit weighed 21 pounds, 12 ounces and consisted of all brown bass.
"I practiced for five days and I found that school yesterday at 4:06 in the afternoon," said Taylor. "You just can't give up in this sport."
Fishless after his first two stops, Taylor went back to that aforementioned area and discovered they were still biting. He caught a limit quickly and culled four times in the afternoon.
"It's not a big area. I basically work my way up, and then go back down. I caught fish from 8 feet to 32 feet, but the vast majority came in 22 to 24."
Taylor said he caught his fish on a bait given to him by his good friend and reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Cliff Pace.
"He showed me the bait," Taylor explained. "But I'm fishing it totally differently. It works phenomenally though. I caught a glob of them today."
While he fished Erie today, he's not deciding where to go tomorrow until he sees the flag pole firsthand in the morning.
"I've got about 17 or 18 pounds in St. Clair; I had a good practice over there. I just think the Erie fish are generally fatter right now."
Said, Greenwood tie for fifth
Tied for fifth with 21 pounds, 9 ounce are Ryan Said of Wixom, Mich., and Gary Greenwood of Irwin, Pa.
"I fun fish St. Clair in the spring," explained Said. "Come tournament time, I fish Lake Erie."
Said reported that both he and his co-angler partner had limits within the first 45 minutes of the day. He started with a drop-shot but the fish wanted a Poor Boy's tube more (smoke purple flash) so he switched.
"I've got one real specific area that I left today with about 19 pounds. Then I went up shallow and caught a giant that weighed probably 5 1/2 pounds and that really helped."
Anchoring Greenwood's 21-9 sack was a 5-pound, 2-ounce smallmouth.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one:
7th: Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., five bass, 20-7
8th: Jared Rhode of Port Clinton, Ohio, five bass, 20-5
9th: Skip Johnson of Goodells, Mich., five bass, 19-12
10th: John Devries of Fishers, Ind., five bass, 19-9
Rupe leads co-anglers
Bryan Rupe took the co-angler lead Thursday after catching a 19-pound, 14-ounce limit. Rupe caught that weight from Lake St. Clair, the first limit of smallmouths in his life.
"Every fish I caught, with the exception of one, was a big one," said the Mayfield, Ky., co-angler. "I probably caught eight or 10 fish today dragging a drop-shot with either a goby or a Roboworm through the grass. When it got hung, I'd rip it through the grass and a lot of times that's when I'd get my bites."
Rupe said he lost a good one right at the boat as the fish jumped and spit the hook. He estimates it weighed nearly 5 pounds and would have culled out a 3-pounder. Without it, his big fish weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
"I can't complain, I'm in the lead. This is now one of my favorite places to come fish. I want to thank Bottom Line Bait and Tackle in town here. They set me up with exactly what I needed to catch them and showed me what to do."
In second place is co-angler Jim Hippensteel of Rochester, Ind. Hippensteel caught a five-bass limit weighing 19 pounds, 7 ounces.
Raider, Gallion, Soulliere round out top five
Derek Raider of Lexington, Ky., caught a 19-pound, 6-ounce limit for third place among the co-anglers.
Marc Gallion of Lyons, Ill., caught a 19-5 limit for fourth.
Derrick Soulliere of Windsor, Ontraio, rounds out the top five with 18 pounds, 8 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one:
6th: Tony Goff of Fortville, Ind., five bass, 18-7
6th: Chad Wright of Clarklake, Mich., five bass, 18-7
8th: Donald Sibley of Strasburg, Ohio, five bass, 18-5
9th: John Terry of Lexington, Ohio, five bass, 18-4
10th: George Wagner of Ypsilanti, Mich., five bass, 18-2
Day two of the EverStart Series event will begin Friday at 6 a.m. from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Ile Parkway in Trenton.