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Balog takes day-one lead at Stren Series on Detroit River

Balog takes day-one lead at Stren Series on Detroit River
Despite losing a big fish, Joe Balog still landed in the day one top spot on day one.

TRENTON, Mich. - Mother Nature rained on the parade, but the parade continued as bag after bulging bag of smallmouth bass - many 3 pounds or better - crossed the day-one stage at the Stren Series Northern Division tournament on the Detroit River.

As a light sprinkle dampened an afternoon in which pros and co-anglers caught 1,330 fish weighing a total of 3,937 pounds, 1 ounce, the sight of another heavy limit became commonplace. Then, just as the sun broke through a persistent cloud cover, Michigan pro Joe Balog took the stage and broke into the top spot with a hefty 22-pound, 7-ounce sack of smallmouths.

Here's the kicker: Balog topped the field with a 2-pound smallmouth in his bag. He said he had his shot at a significantly larger limit, but lost it when a heavy fish wiggled its way to freedom.

"That was a fish that just came off - you're not going to get them all," Balog said. "It was in a place where I caught one of my 5-pounders and a big 4-pounder, so I'm sure it was another big one that would have gotten rid of that little 2-pounder. That would have put me at 24 and change.

"Fishing on Lake Erie right now is really tough - you're not getting many bites, so the ones you get, you really have to get them in the boat. But I'm happy with what I got. To weigh in a 2-pounder and still have 22 pounds, you must be on some good ones."

Balog described his pattern as textbook Lake Erie summertime drop-shot fishing. "It was 6-pound Berkley Vanish line and just working them and working them and working them until you finally get a bite. I normally use 8-pound line, but when the bite gets tough, I usually go down to 6."

Of his day-two plan, Balog said, "I've got one backup area that holds a lot of good fish, so if I get into trouble, I can go there and catch enough to stay alive."

Campbell claims second

A.C. Campbell of Mineral Springs, Pa., placed second in the Pro Division with a five-fish limit weighing 21 pounds, 2 ounces after an 8-ounce dead-fish penalty. Working the north-central shore of Lake St. Clair, he caught his fish on tubes and drop-shot rigs.

Campbell said he found his fish over drop-offs from 8 to 10 feet and 12 to 13 feet. Some of his spots comprised a mix of vegetation and rock, while others presented just vegetation. Five days practicing on Lake St. Clair delivered critical insight.

"I've covered a lot of area in five days and eliminated a lot of areas in five days, and these are just some good areas that are productive. I caught a limit in my first area this morning. Then I moved to a rock pile and culled a couple of fish there.

"What I've found is that these fish are moving. They're staying in the same general area, but not right on the same waypoints. If the wind's blowing, you have to redrift the areas to locate the fish, and if the wind's not blowing, you have to get on the trolling motor and go find them."

With a heavy limit secured, Campbell went hog hunting later in the day. "I threw a big crankbait late in the afternoon just to see if I could get a big fish to bite on it. I didn't catch anything, but I'll try it again tomorrow."

Thursday's forecast calls for calm winds early, but blustery conditions later in the day. As Campbell noted, a good blow might benefit those who can handle the rough water it will surely bring. "Normally with smallmouth, the more the wind blows, the better the fish bite."

Chip Harrison gave Pringles a strong performance with his third-place finish.Rest of the best

In third place, Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind., weighed 21 pounds, while Kevin Vida of Clare, Mich., claimed fourth at 20-12. Brian Hensley of Edwardsburg, Mich., took fifth with 20-11.

Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series Detroit River event:

6th: Terry Boyd of Cincinnati, 20-3
6th: Ben Felton of Marshall, Mich., 20-3
8th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., 20-2
9th: Mike A. Trombly of Perrysburg, Ohio, 20-1
10th: Chris Oeser of Egg Harbor, N.J., 20-0

Todd Steele of Port Huron, Mich., earned Snickers Big Bass honors for his 5-pound, 9-ounce fish.

Sweeney swings into co-angler lead

The leading co-angler, Robert Sweeney, found the smallmouth aggressively biting goby baits on drop shot rigs. Fishing in Lake St. Clair near the mouth of the Detroit River, Baltimore co-angler Robert Sweeney caught a limit of smallies weighing 21 pounds, 6 ounces in isolated grass patches in 15 feet of water. Drop-shot rigs with Berkley Gulp Gobies in watermelon-red glitter on No. 1 hooks drew what Sweeney termed "very aggressive bites."

Sweeney said his day was productive from the start. He caught approximately 15 keepers and had his weight by 9 a.m. "I caught fish all day long of all sizes. I was throwing back 3-pounders because they just wouldn't do me any good. When you have 21 pounds, it's hard to improve."

Last-minute entry claims big bass

Notably, co-angler Monica Knight of Quitman, Miss., finished 54th with 13-6, but took big-bass honors with her 5-pound, 15-ounce smallmouth. Knight made an impromptu tournament entry when she learned Monica Knight, a last-minute tournament entrant, won big fish honors in the co-angler division.that the event was lacking one co-angler.

"She signed up on the spot just to make sure everyone had someone to fish with," said tournament director Ron Lappin.

Rest of the best

Mike Rice of Norton, Ohio, bagged 20 pounds, 11 ounces to grab the second-place spot, while Brad Baldwin of Dayton, Ohio, took third with 20-6. Matt Greenblatt drove all the way from Oldsmar, Fla., to sample the smallmouth action and ended up with 20-3 and fourth place, as Point, Texas, angler Robert Case was fifth with 19-11.

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler leaders at the Stren Series Detroit River event:

6th: Charles Hasty of Toledo, Ohio, 19-6
7th: Jeffery Cox of Saline, Mich., 19-1
8th: Melvin McNeal of Circleville, Ohio, 19-0
9th: Daniel J. Shuga of Botkins, Ohio, 18-11
10th: Richard Conrad of Hudson, Wis., 18-8

Day two of Stren Series action on the Detroit River continues at Thursday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. EDT at Elizabeth Park Marina, located at 202 Grosse Isle Parkway in Trenton, Mich.

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2007-08-15-detroit-river 

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