June 15, 2001 by Neil Ward
2001 Forrest Wood Open
FLW Tour Stop #6
Lake St. Clair, Mich.
Lake St. Clair located near Detroit is one of the greatest smallmouth bass fisheries in America and site of the 2001 Forrest Wood Open featuring a $1 million purse. Gigantic Lake Huron flows into Lake St. Clair via the St. Clair River. The lake then empties into the Detroit River, which flows into Lake Erie. It is a massive water system with the smallest natural lake in the chain, Lake St. Clair, covering over 560 square miles.
St. Clair is not a deep lake. The average depth is only 11 feet. The lake has a lot of submerged vegetation in it, including milfoil, cabbage and coontail moss. The majority of the bass fishing is not shoreline-related. Instead, it involves finding offshore grass lines and scattered rocks where huge schools of smallmouth congregate.
According to local angler David Reault of Livonia, Mich., who finished fourth in the last FLW tournament on Lake St. Clair, the area enjoyed an early spring with the water warming up quickly. Then, it started raining and turning colder near the end of May, which has delayed the transition from spring to summer patterns.
"I believe during the tournament that there will be both spawn and post-spawn bass caught," Reault said. "The most productive depth will be from 5 to 12 feet deep."
The tournament date coincides with the peak of the mayfly hatch. Millions and millions of mayflies blanket the surface of the lake during a hatch, and the smallmouth gorge on the tiny insects.
Fishing a topwater lure, such as a Rebel Pop-R, is a strong pattern in June. Mornings are usually the best time to capitalize on the insect bite because mayflies hatch at night.
May and June is also a time when spawning alewives invade St. Clair. Bass readily devour the minnows. Reault's favorite technique is to fish scattered weeds on flats with a minnow-colored jerkbait. For weeds deeper than 8 feet, he often switches to a bright-colored jerkbait to "draw" the fish up from the depths.
2000 Wal-Mart FLW Tour Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, has been anticipating the great fishing at St. Clair since the schedule was announced.
"The fishing is as good as it gets," Wendlandt declared.
Wendlandt will spend his time in open water fishing the massive flats sporting grass beds. His top lures will be a shad-colored Husky Jerk, a Zara Spook and a Skitter Pop.
Wendlandt may also utilized a popular technique for St. Clair's open, windy waters - dragging a tube. Using a 1/4-ounce lead head with a pumpkin-colored plastic tube lure, anglers drift across flats in 8 to 12 feet of water until they locate a huge school of smallmouth.
The Detroit area hosts an almost unlimited variety of entertainment. Downtown there is gaming at the Greek Town, MGM Grand and MotorCity Casinos.
For something educational as well as entertaining, visit the Henry Ford Museum. Adults can learn to start and drive an original 1924 model T Ford. Children can learn about a variety of subjects, including how glass marbles are made. They can also join other children in a "house raising." Assembling a house inside the museum teaches children how to use tools and work as a team. For more information, call (313) 982-6055.
The Michigan Wine and Food Festival will make its debut June 22-24. Twenty-one Michigan wineries will present more than 100 wines for sampling and winemakers will explain the art of winemaking. More than 20 specialty food vendors from around the state will also be present to highlight locally produced gourmet food items, including smoked fish, specialty cheeses and a variety of jams and jellies. For more info, call (800) 600-0307.
Wal-Mart FLW Tour anglers prepping for $1 million Forrest Wood Open
Tournament field: Forrest Wood Open, June 20-23, Lake St. Clair