UPCOMING EVENT: ABU GARCIA COLLEGE FISHING - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Sitko braves perilous Erie for EverStart win

Sitko braves perilous Erie for EverStart win
Pro champion Michael Sitko holds up one of his five huge smallmouths from day three on Lake Erie.

TRENTON, Mich. - Two consecutive days without wind is a rarity on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. Three consecutive days is virtually unheard of and true to form, the third and final day of the EverStart Series Central Division finale was wet, windy and wild. Each of the top 10 pros started with the intention of running east to Erie, but only one ended up fishing the entire day. That brave soul was Michael Sitko.

In truth, Sitko had an equipment advantage; he runs a Ranger 621VS as he also competes in national walleye tournaments. While it cost him a bit the first two days as the smaller bass boats would race past, today it was worth its weight in gold.

Michael Sitko caught a five-bass limit Saturday that weighed 21 pounds, 6 ounces.Sitko started the final day in seventh place and ran 35 miles east along the North Shore. He boated a quick limit that included one 4-pounder and four peanuts that barely measured. By 9 a.m. he had three good fish in the livewell and all the other tournament boats around him had vacated. He headed back too, but stopped after 12 miles to sample another spot. There he caught a 4-pounder and a 3 1/2. Unfortunately, his co-angler partner was getting violently ill due to the consistent 5- and 6-footers.

"I kept checking on him; I knew he was hurting but I also knew I was in contention," said Sitko. "I told myself that at 11:30 I was going to go in. I pushed it a little and at 11:40 I caught my last fish, a 4-pounder which culled out the 3 1/2."

Sitko raced back and safely checked in at 12:30 p.m. His final tally was 21 pounds, 6 ounces, which more than gave him the improbable comeback win. As the other nine finalists retreated to the Detroit River or Lake St. Clair, Sitko's margin of victory was over 4 pounds.

"The wind was the key. It was pretty nasty but I needed it to be rough to give me a shot. I knew these other guys couldn't get there or fish effectively. I was able to go where I needed to go; that boat made a huge difference."
A closer look at Michael Sitko
Sitko used two standard Erie presentations to catch his fish - a drop-shot and a tube. His drop-shot setup consisted of either a 1/2- or 3/8-ounce weight with a Poor Boy's Erie Darter or a Berkley 3-inch Twitch Tail Minnow. His tube was 4 inches long and green pumpkin in color. Sitko estimated he weighed nine fish this week on the drop-shot and six on the tube.

"I fished water anywhere from 12 to 25 feet deep, but most came in that 12-to 15-feet range. I had six spots that I made a milk run through, each were isolated rock. Sometimes they were suspended where I'd lift the drop-shot up to catch them or they'd already be on when I clicked the bail over on a cast. Other times they were right on the bottom. Today I was only able to hit four spots, my best being the furthest one away.

"I'd known about these areas for years," Sitko continued. "But when I checked them in practice, they weren't anything special. I had a pretty miserable practice altogether. I hit them again during the tournament, though, and they had turned on. Every spot produced."
Michael Sitko reacts after learning he won the EverStart Series Central Division event on the Detroit River.
Sitko has won many local tournaments on the Great Lakes, but he's never been victorious in an event of this magnitude. He took third two weeks ago at the BFL event and fourth earlier this year at an MWC walleye tournament.

"It still doesn't seem real. I'm looking at the trophy and I don't believe it. It's surreal. It's awesome. It's incredible."

For a total weight of 61 pounds, 15 ounces, Sitko earned $33,071 plus a Ranger Z518 with a 200 horsepower engine. And with it the battle for smallmouth supremacy in Detroit swings back to Lake Erie.

Taylor retains second

Mother Nature ended any notion of Rick Taylor winning his second EverStart Series event in 2013. Taylor, who won the Wheeler Lake event in May, started his day pointed east to Lake Erie. Like many others, he quickly realized that was a mistake.

Rick Taylor retained second place after catching a 14-pound, 4-ounce limit Saturday."I love these lakes so much I fished them both today," quipped Taylor, whose long boat rides resulted in only an hour and 45 minutes of fishing time. "We started at Erie and visited the 4:06 spot but the waves were taller than me. So we shifted gears, bought gas and then went up to St. Clair."

Taylor had a pretty good practice on St. Clair, but late Wednesday afternoon found the mother lode in Erie.

"I was 35 miles away from the ramp when I found that spot at 4:06 p.m. Check-in for registration was between 4 and 6 p.m. It just goes to show you, you never give up in this sport."

The appropriately-named 4:06 spot was a 20-acre area of rock, with the fish stacked on one specific pile. The bass were suspending and chasing bait, which is why Taylor caught them in as shallow as 6 feet and as deep as 30.

Taylor's bite was so strong the first two days he could almost call his shot in the morning. When he'd bring a fish in, the entire school of smallmouths would follow the hooked fish to the boat. This allowed his co-anglers to catch several, but it also required Taylor to wait approximately 10 minutes for the school to return to the rock pile.

The West Olive, Mich., pro caught fish this week on jerkbaits, swimbaits, tubes and crankbaits. But by far his most productive bait will remain a secret. Taylor explained it's a bait reigning Bassmaster Classic champion Cliff Pace clued him in on. Because the Elite Series makes a stop here in less than a month, Taylor wants to keep the bait quiet out of respect for Pace, his good friend.

Taylor's limit Saturday weighed 14 pounds, 4 ounces, giving him 57-4 for the tournament. He earned $12,315 for second.

"I knew when I turned around I conceded the win, but I was happy to preserve second."

Wagner slips to third

Heath Wagner slipped from first to third after catching 13 pounds, 4 ounces on day three.Like Taylor, day-two leader Heath Wagner attempted to fish Erie Saturday. But instead of running all the way up to St. Clair, Wagner retreated to the Detroit River. He was able to scrounge up a limit, but they weighed only 13-4, a far cry from his 24 pounds on day one. Included in his limit were several largemouths, a green-colored type of bass previously foreign to the Angola, Ind., pro.

"Truly and honestly, I was just trying to catch every ounce I could in the river and give my co-angler a chance at winning," said Wagner, who won the BFL event on Erie two weeks ago. "I've fished this lake for 20 years and this was one of the top three worst days I've seen. It was ugly out there."

Wagner caught his fish Saturday on a Keitech swimbait, a wacky-rigged Senko and a spinnerbait. Earlier in the week he was fishing in approximately 27 to 29 feet with a Poor Boy's tube (smoke purple flash color) and a 3/8-ounce weight. In the afternoons he'd sample a shallower area in 8 feet of water with a Strike King 5XD crankbait. Those two Erie spots accounted for all of his weigh fish the first two days.

Wagner finished the week with a cumulative total of 56 pounds, 13 ounces. He earned $8,440 for third place.

Jancasz finishes fourth

Trevor Jancasz caught a 14-pound, 5-ounce limit Saturday and rose from fifth to fourth.Trevor Jancasz had a very similar third day to Wagner - initially trying to fish Erie before punting to the Detroit River. His limit consisted of three smallmouths and two largemouths and weighed 14 pounds, 5 ounces.

"It was rough, but we salvaged a pretty decent day," said Jancasz who moved up from fifth to fourth. "I knew what the forecast said, but I didn't want to believe it. I had to go."

Jancasz lasted an hour on the big lake and even caught two fish, but ultimately couldn't hold on the spot. Other boats were leaving, and he admittedly got a little scared and decided to error on the side of caution.

"Once I got to the river I basically flipped a jig around boat docks. The first day I caught them on a drop-shot and yesterday I used a drop-shot and a crankbait."

Jancasz's key baits were a 4-inch Strike King Super Finesse Worm, a Strike King Series 5 crankbait and a 5XD (both in sexy shad). With the finesse worm he used either a 1/2- or 3/8-ounce drop-shot weight. Jancasz fished the North Shore area. His crankbait spot was approximately 10 feet deep and his drop-shot spot was roughly 25 feet.

The White Pigeon, Mich., native finished with a three-day total of 55 pounds, 7 ounces, earning $7,389.

Said falls to fifth

Ryan Said finished the week in fifth place with a total weight of 51 pounds, 10 ounces.Ryan Said also initially tried Erie, but thought better of it and ultimately decided to head back and fish close - catching four smallmouths Saturday that weighed 10 pounds, 6 ounces.

"I had a pretty good pattern going earlier in the week - catching my better ones in less than 10 feet," Said explained. "But 6-foot waves don't exactly work when you're fishing only 10 feet of water."

When Said was shallower, he'd throw crankbaits - a Lucky Craft CB D-20, CB D-10 or a Norman Deep Little N (all in shad colors). But each morning he'd start out in 24 feet of water and fish with either a Poor Boy's Erie Darter, DS Darter or tube. That deep bite would last until 7:15.

"Then it was like they would flip a switch and completely stop biting."

The Wixom, Mich., pro finished fifth with 51 pounds, 10 ounces, earning $6,568.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the EverStart Series Detroit River event:

6th: Jeff Vizachero of Grosse Ile, Mich., 51-6
7th: Matt Belletini of Birmingham, Mich., 49-9
8th: Jared Rhode of Port Clinton, Ohio, 49-0
9th: Skip Johnson of Goodells, Mich., 47-14
10th: Gary Greenwood of Irwin, Pa., 47-5

After finishing 12th this week, Dan Morehead captured his second EverStart Series Angler of the Year award with 746 points over four events. By winning the Central Division AOY, Morehead solidified his spot in the 2014 Forrest Wood Cup.

The next EverStart Series event is slated for Sept. 12 on Chesapeake Bay in Perryville, Md.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2013-07-25-detroit-river 

Sam Houston Leads with 24-11

Sam Houston Leads with 24-11

Day one of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance on the Harris Chain certainly didn’t disappoint. The consensus from many of the teams during practice was that the chain was fishing tough, yet would kick up some solid bags on Tuesday. With 10 bags over 18 pounds and six over 20, it’s safe to say the Harris Chain is living up to it’s potential. READ MORE »

College Championshp Updates - Day 1

College Championshp Updates - Day 1

Day one of the Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship presented by Lowrance is underway on the Harris Chain. READ MORE »

Strickland Hangs Tough on Harris

Strickland Hangs Tough on Harris

The final day of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain was a bit tougher than expected. After putting over 30 pounds on the scale on day two of the weather-shortened derby, Laramy Strickland worked up 15 pounds, 4 ounces on the final day for a 61-4 total to earn the win. For the win, the Bushnell, Fla., rookie took home $100,000 and a big win over a stacked top 30 that included some of the best anglers in the country and some superstar Floridians. READ MORE »

Harris Chain Day 3 Coverage

Harris Chain Day 3 Coverage

The weather-shortened Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bad Boy Mowers at the Harris Chain wraps up today with the top 30 pros. Follow along all day to see who can take home the hardware and $100,000. READ MORE »

Strickland Sticks 31-Pound Megabag

Strickland Sticks 31-Pound Megabag

Florida cold fronts are supposed to shut the fishing down, but that wasn’t the case for many of the leaders through two days of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain. Rocketing into the lead from 35th place, Laramy Strickland popped a 31-pound, 6-ounce megabag to put his leading total at an even 46 pounds. In second, Jimmy Washam stayed steady, weighing 21-13 for second and a 41-13 total. In third, Hunter Freeman also made a big jump, hammering out 25-14 on day two to get up to 39-6. READ MORE »

Harris Chain Day 2 Coverage

Harris Chain Day 2 Coverage

The weather has made a 180 here in Leesburg, Fla., for stop No. 2 of the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Follow along for updates on all the action. READ MORE »

Day 2 at Harris Postponed

Day 2 at Harris Postponed

Day two of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain has been postponed due to high winds. With a lake wind advisory in effect from 10 a.m. ET until later this evening, many pros believe staying off the water today was the right call. READ MORE »

Salewske Cracks 26 at Harris Chain

Salewske Cracks 26 at Harris Chain

Day one of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit event presented by Bab Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain was a catchfest, but it wasn’t quite the sight-fishing showdown that some hoped for. In the lead, Rusty Salewske weighed 26 pounds, 10 ounces. Just ounces behind him, Miles Burghoff wrangled 26-8. In third, Jared McMillan put 22-1 on the scale to kick things off. READ MORE »

Harris Chain Day 1 Coverage

Harris Chain Day 1 Coverage

Anglers are enjoying near-perfect conditions for a day-one slugfest in Leesburg, Fla., for stop No. 2 of the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Follow along for updates on all the action. READ MORE »

FLW Live Leaderboard - Harris Chain

FLW Live Leaderboard - Harris Chain

FLW Marshals and media staff provide unofficial weight estimates for the second stop of the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers at Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes. READ MORE »

Guyot Catches 23-8 for Murray Win

Guyot Catches 23-8 for Murray Win

Boater Scott Guyot of Fayetteville, North Carolina, brought five bass to the scale Saturday totaling 23 pounds, 8 ounces to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event at Lake Murray in Prosperity, South Carolina. For his victory, Guyot earned a total of $4,359. READ MORE »

Flack Goes Finesse on Lewis Smith

Flack Goes Finesse on Lewis Smith

Local boater Jackie Flack of Cullman, Alabama, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces to win the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event at Lewis Smith Lake in Cullman. For his victory, Flack earned a total of $6,011. READ MORE »

Fitzgerald Finishes Strong at St. Johns

Fitzgerald Finishes Strong at St. Johns

Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., moved ahead one spot in the standings on the final day of competition at the St. Johns River to earn his first Toyota Series victory. His three-day catch of 57 pounds, 12 ounces earned him the win by a 6-pound margin. READ MORE »

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 3

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 3

Day two of the Toyota Series Southern Division opener on the St. Johns River brought more fish, bigger fish and eight bags over 20 pounds – a marked improvement over what we saw on day one. Day three could go either direction, though, as a small cold front overnight left behind bluebird skies and abundant sunshine today. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from the St. Johns River – Day 2

Top 5 Patterns from the St. Johns River – Day 2

It’s been a question of when, not if: When is the first big wave of spawners going to move up on the St. Johns River? That question may have been answered on day two of the Toyota Series Southern Division opener, as more and more anglers brought big fish across the weigh-in stage, with many of the bass coming from beds or shallow cover where fish are staging to make their big move. READ MORE »

Big Day Puts Blair Ahead at St. Johns

Big Day Puts Blair Ahead at St. Johns

Jason Blair caught 22 pounds, 3 ounces – the biggest limit of the tournament so far – to take over the lead at the Toyota Series Southern Division season opener on the St. Johns River. The West Palm Beach, Fla., pro has a two-day total of 39-15 and a 1-pound, 11-ounce lead over yesterday’s leader, Trevor Fitzgerald. READ MORE »

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 2

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 2

After a warm but windy day to start the Toyota Series Southern Division opener on the St. Johns River, day two brought lower temperatures, rain and a shifting wind that blew right up the chute early this morning. READ MORE »

Top 5 Patterns from the St. Johns River – Day 1

Top 5 Patterns from the St. Johns River – Day 1

The St. Johns River is fishing tough, and while weights were down across the board on day one of the Toyota Series Southern Division opener, the top five found a way to get the job done with some impressive stringers of big Florida bass. READ MORE »

Fitzgerald in Front on St. Johns

Fitzgerald in Front on St. Johns

Trevor Fitzgerald of Belleview, Fla., took the lead on day one of the Toyota Series Southern Division opener at the St. Johns River with a five-bass limit that weighed 21 pounds, 2 ounces. Fitzgerald has previously won a Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine event on the St. Johns and is in contention to make his 12th top-10 finish with FLW. READ MORE »

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 1

St. Johns River Midday Update – Day 1

As expected, the St. Johns River is still fishing pretty tough in the Toyota Series Southern Division opener, which kicked off this morning. The St. Johns holds plenty of good fish, but she’s not all that willing to give them up. READ MORE »