UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Norman

Clapper sets the bar in Detroit

Clapper sets the bar in Detroit
The legend shows them how it's done: Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio takes the early lead in the Chevy Open with 22 pounds of Lake Erie smallmouth.

DETROIT - In a way, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Chevy Open being held on the Detroit River is like the Iditarod of professional bass fishing: it's more of an equipment survival contest than a fishing tournament.

That was made even clearer today as Lake Erie whipped up some significant 4 and 5 foot swells for the FLW Tour pros and their equipment to endure.

As many predicted, Lake Erie produced the leader, and as many others predicted, Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, a legend who pioneered the art of offshore smallmouth fishing, is the leader.

But due to the winds and rough water, Lake Erie weights did not exactly dominate the day one standings.

Of the top 6 pros, there was an even split in those who fished Erie and those who fished St. Clair.

Also, the Land O Lakes Angler of the Year race took a bit of an interesting turn today as BP pro Shin Fukae has momentarily taken the lead away from current leader, Yamaha pro Jay Yelas (see Quick Bites for further details).

When it comes to the patience, persistence and knowledge required to negotiate Lake Erie's wild waves and tap the offshore smallmouth bite, there are few better at the game than Steve Clapper.

On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of the worst conditions Clapper has endured on Erie, he gave today a 6-1/2, which for him, is just like another day at the office.

All total, Clapper caught 10 keepers and his best five pegged the scales at an even 22 pounds.

"I really had to rely on some of my old, old stomping grounds today," Clapper said. "My best spot was way offshore in about 26 feet of water. I've had to go back to fishing the more subtle rises that I used to fish years ago because with all the GPS and high-tech bottom machines we have these days, these other guys have gotten real good at finding the better sharp breaks and drops.

"During practice there were a few flat (water) days out there and I couldn't believe the number of boats that were on the best breaks. You give these caliber fishermen on this tour the kind of technology we have today and it takes them a few hours to find what it took me eons to find in the old days. And it's getting harder and harder to find new places so I dropped back to some old stuff where the bottom contour is more subtle and the water is actually a little dirtier so as to not to attract as much attention."

Clapper noted that he caught his fish on a tube and drop-shot.

Not surprisingly, the leading co-angler weight of 21 pounds, 4 ounces, belonging to Chris Langenfeld, also came from Clapper's boat.

Moleski second

Another pro who made the Lake Erie gamble pay off today was Thomas Moleski of Elkhart, Ind., Thomas Moleski sits in second place on the pro side with 21 pounds, 4 ounces.who sacked 21 pounds, 4 ounces for second place.

"We caught them pretty quick," Moleski said. "I caught five and only culled once and then I held the boat and let my co-angler (Bill Gift in fourth with 19-3) finish his limit and then we started back in at about 11:30."

Moleski said that the fish came out of water that was "mid 20's" in depth and that his best lure was a drop-shot rig.

"Like some of these other guys, I'm targeting isolated `stuff' on the bottom out there in Erie," he added. "And the smaller and more subtle the stuff is, the better it is."

Three-way tie for third

Eric Struif is another local pro whoAt the 19-pound, 5-ounce mark is a three-way tie between Eric Struif of Lake Villa, Ill., Terry Baksay of Easton, Conn., and David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn.

Struif is also fishing Erie, but he has moved shallower than he normally fishes.

"Normally, I get out there in 26 to 30 feet of water and drop-shot the deep isolated rocks and breaks," Struif said. "But this year, I really focused my efforts shallower - in 14 to 18 feet of water - dragging a tube."

Though Struif weighed a large limit, he did note that those were his only five bites.

"It was tougher out there today than I had expected," he added. "I think if the wind calms down they'll bite better for me."

Switching gears to the Lake St. Clair crowd, Baksay committed his Yamaha pro Terry Baksay fished St. Clair to catch 19 pounds, 5 ounces for third place.whole practice on St. Clair where he found a wad of fish.

"Call me wimp, but I'm done with big water," Baksay said about Erie. "I've done enough of it in my career that I don't care to even mess with it anymore. They can have. I'm just as content going over to St. Clair where I caught 70 bass a day during practice. There are plenty of big fish over there to suit me.

"I fished one spot all day and never had another boat within a mile of me. It was great. My co-angler and I caught fish all day and we had a ball."

Baksay reported catching his fish dragging a tube in 16 to 18 feet of water.

Walker also caught his fish in Lake St. Clair, but he did not plan it that way.

"When they started calling boat numbers this morning I was absolutely headed to Erie," Walker said. "I Last minute decision: BP pro David Walker shows of what happened when he decided to fish St. Clair instead of Lake Erie at the last minute: 19 pounds, 5 ounces of smallmouth for third place.was boat number 160 and when they got to 140 my nose was pointed to Erie. Over the next minute I got to looking at the trees and the flags blowing and by the time they called 160, I was completely headed in the opposite direction. I just decided I wasn't going to put myself through that out there on Erie."

Walker's last minute decision ended up being a huge blessing in disguise.

"I really had no idea what I was on over in St. Clair," he continued. "I figured I could definitely catch 10 to 12 pounds - maybe 14 if I was lucky. And when I got there, that's the way it started - all little fish. Pretty soon I caught a 3-1/2-pounder and a little while later I caught a 4-pounder and then another big one. And even coming back in I had no idea I had over 19 pounds. I was stunned."

For the sake of making the Forrest Wood Cup, Walker says he plans to return to St. Clair tomorrow.

Big bass

Chad Morgenthaler of Coulterville, Ill., caught the big bass in the Pro Division, a smallmouth weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces worth $1000.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top-10 pros in the Chevy Open after day one:

6th: Danny Pierce of Greenbrier, Ark., five bass, 19-4
7th: Brent Crow of Hartselle, Ala., five bass, 19-2
7th: Kevin Long of Berkley, Mich., five bass, 19-2
9th: Katsutoshi Furusawa of Japan, five bass, 19-0
10th: Shinichi Fukae of Mineola, Texas, five bass, 18-14

Langenfeld leads co-anglers

Chris Langenfeld of Clinton, Ohio, got a real treat today when he got to fish with one of Chris Langenfeld leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 24 pounds, 2 ounces.Lake Erie's best offshore anglers - pro Steve Clapper.

The fortunate draw helped net Langenfeld the Co-angler Division lead with five bass weighing 24 pounds, 2 ounces.

He fished a drop shot behind Clapper to catch six keepers total.

"It was quite a privilege fishing with Steve," Langenfeld said. "He's a great guy. He got me out there, put me on fish and got me back safe, what else can you ask for out here?"

Mike Lawrence of Toledo, Ohio, rode with pro Chad Morgenthaler into Lake Erie and collected five bass for 20 pounds, 11ounces to take second place.

James Richardson of Harrison, Ohio, fished with pro Terry Baksay over on St. Clair and caught 20 pounds, 7 ounces of smallmouth to start the event in third place.

"We had an absolute ball," Richardson said. "We caught fish all day long. Most of my fish came on a drop shot. There was a lot of grass on the bottom so a drop-shot with about an 18-inch leader to suspend the bait over the grass was the ticket."

Bill Gift of Alix, Ark., fished with second place pro Thomas Moleski to catch 19 pounds, 3 ounces for fourth place.

"Tom was extremely courteous," Gift said. "He got a limit before I did; I only needed two more fish and he held the boat in place until I finished my limit."

Beecher Strunk of Somerset, Ky., rounds out the top 5 in the Co-angler Division with 19 pounds.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers in the Chevy Open after day one:

6th: Chris Phillips of Little Rock, Ark., five bass, 18-9
7th: James Dixon of Southfield, Mich., five bass, 18-7
8th: Cecil Cole of Durand, Mich., five bass, 18-6
8th: Mike Simpson of Dayton, Ohio, five bass, 18-6
10th: Ken Murphy of Meridian, Miss., five bass, 17-6

Day two of the Wal-Mart FLW Tour Chevy Open begins at 6:30 a.m. Friday at Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Isle Pkwy. in Trenton, Mich.

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