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

Smallmouth Slugfest on Tap at Erie

Smallmouth Slugfest on Tap at Erie
This is a typical Lake Erie scene that may cause anglers to think twice about make a long run.

Coming into the home stretch of Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division competition, which concludes this week on Lake Erie in Sandusky, Ohio, in an event presented by Evinrude, we find an interesting mix at the top of the points. In addition to the $40,000 top prize for winning at Erie, anglers will also be competing to claim the Strike King Angler of the Year award and its $2,000 prize package, which includes deposits into the 2016 Rayovac FLW Series.

Florida pro Glenn Browne leads the race with 492 points, largely due to his win at the previous divisional event on Lake Champlain. Following well within striking distance are Canadian pro Cory Johnston (484 points) and Louisianan Gerald Spohrer (483), who found his way into the Northern Division quite incidentally. More on that in a moment.

Here’s the divisional picture:

Glenn Browne – 492 Points

Glenn Browne hoists some Champlain hawgs.

Browne has used a homemade black and blue jig to log back-to-back top-10 finishes in the first two Northern Division events. He used it to flip lily pads on the James River for a ninth-place finish, then followed up by flipping grass and shoreline cover on Champlain for the win.

Both times, largemouth bass filled his weigh-in sack. Not surprisingly, Browne is expecting a different deal on the second smallest of the Great Lakes.

“Erie is a smallmouth lake; it’s not like Champlain, where you can go either way and catch smallmouths or largemouths,” he says. “If you want to be competitive here, you have to fish for smallmouths.

“My history with smallmouths is pretty grim, but I came up here a few days early to practice and find a few places,” Browne adds. “I’ve pretty well dedicated myself to fishing for smallmouths.”

Swapping his jig for a drop-shot and his flipping sticks for the “upside-down” rods, aka spinning rods, Browne hopes to hold off all challengers by “floating around in the middle with finesse baits.”

Browne says he expects anglers will need 18 to 20 pounds a day to do well. For him, doing well carries a dual benefit – the AOY race, and his 2016 season. The former Walmart FLW Tour pro plans to fish the national circuit in 2016, and a high points finish is imperative.

“At the very minimum, I want to make the top 10 in points so I automatically qualify for the Tour,” Browne says. “I’m not sweating it too much; I just need to make it out there and catch some fish.”

 

Cory Johnston – 484 Points

Sitting just eight points off the lead, the pro from Cavan, Ontario, says he’s focused on the W more than AOY.

“I always fish every single tournament to win,” Johnston says. “I don’t look at point standings and fish safe. I swing for the fences and see where it gets me.”

To that point, Johnston says he’s keeping his options wide open. Windy conditions that plagued practice are supposed to subside during the tournament, and that could open the door of opportunity.

“If the weather cooperates and you can run to where you need to be, the fishing on Erie is always incredible,” Johnston says. “It’s just a matter of finding the right school of fish.”

Not out of the question, he says, is the smaller, yet bountiful Lake St. Clair, which links to Erie’s northwest corner via the Detroit River. It’s a 70-mile run from Sandusky, but Johnston says the payoff could be huge.

“The fish are on fire right now in Lake St. Clair, so that could also be a player if guys are willing to run there,” Johnston says. “I spent two days practicing in St. Clair, and I think 21 pounds a day will win this tournament, for sure. Erie’s fishing tough right now, and if you got on the right school of fish in St. Clair you could definitely win it there.”

 

Gerald Spohrer – 483 Points

Gerald Spohrer hauled up from Louisiana and has cracked 37-12 the first two days for third place.

Trailing second by a point and the lead by nine, Spohrer’s path to Northern Division AOY contention is a notable one. Last year, the Gonzales, La., angler quit his six-figure job as a mechanical technician for Shell Chemicals to pursue his dream of fishing professionally.

Unfortunately, he was too far back on the Walmart FLW Tour waiting list and missed the chance to fish the Tour. With sponsors secured, he scrambled to put together a Rayovac FLW Series program with hopes of qualifying for the Tour in 2016, but after bombing in the Southeast Division (154th place), Spohrer found the Texas and Central division schedules conflicting with other commitments.

That left only the Northern Division, which Spohrer says he approached with an open mind. The James River’s shallow cover and tidal nature reminded him of his home waters. And for Champlain, he immersed himself in online study of smallmouth tactics – something he quickly picked up, and something he hopes will serve him well on Erie.

“I understand my electronics really well and how to fish deep,” Spohrer says. “Once I caught a few fish, I knew what I was looking for. Then, it was just putting the pieces of the puzzle together. One bite led to another.”

Looking at the final divisional event’s implications, Spohrer says he’s more concerned with his 2016 plan

“I thought it would be cool for a guy from southeast Louisiana to win the Northern Division, but I can’t let that affect my main goal of qualifying for the Tour,” he says. “To me, if AOY happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, I’m still focused on the Tour.”

 

Grabbing Green?

Lake Erie and smallmouth bass are a natural fit for anyone’s word association game. However, there is a good possibility that the lake’s largely unsung largemouth population could play some role in the final Northern Division event.

Now, before anyone jumps off the dock, we’re not suggesting that three days of largemouth limits will win the event. That’s really not the picture here.

However, strong winds and rough water greatly limited offshore efforts during practice, so smallmouth scouting has been slim. The big waves did serve a positive benefit by breaking up and dispersing a summer algae bloom. Still, pre-tournament reports have told of tough smallmouth fishing.

Fishing history might carry some through this lean time, but don’t be surprised to see a good number of boats plying the shallows for those green fish.

So, what does that mean for our top three? Well, Browne and Spohrer would be quite comfortable flipping, pitching, maybe throwing some reaction baits for largemouths. That’s certainly not to say they won’t be dropping in the deep stuff, but if the brownies play hard to get, these guys will have no trouble transitioning.

As for Johnston, this tournament could very well play right into his hands. Far more experienced in deep-water fisheries, he’ll have a distinct advantage with smallmouths, especially if the bite is tough.

Then again, his James River victory proved he can spank the largemouths. This is not the place for predictions, but Lake Erie could be setting the stage for a home-stretch surge by the young Canadian.

Then again, how many times have we seen a pulled hook, a nicked leader or the unforeseen mechanical issue rain on an otherwise promising parade?

This one’s gonna be interesting.

 

Championship Berths at Stake

The AOY isn’t the only thing on the line at the season finale. Berths in the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Championship are also at stake. With the top 40 pros and co-anglers from each division heading to the Championship and 10 spots in the Forrest Wood Cup up for grabs once they get there, a big section of the field will be interested in more than just a tournament paycheck on Lake Erie.

Tags: lake-erie  david-a-brown  pre-tournament  2015-08-27-lake-erie 

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