UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Ft. Gibson

Reel Chat with STEVE CLAPPER

Reel Chat with STEVE CLAPPER
Finishing the job: Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio, shows off his tournament winning smallmouths that came from the depths of Lake Erie.

- MODERATOR COMMENT -
Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we're joined by FLW Tour pro Steve Clapper of Lima, Ohio. As a longtime Lake Erie fishing expert, Clapper has raked in honor after honor in Stren Series and BFL competition over the years, winning seven events and logging an astounding 31 top-10 finishes in FLW Outdoors related events over the course of his career.

- MODERATOR COMMENT -
Clapper's crowning achievment came July 15 when he won the Chevy Open at the Detroit River/Lake Erie, adding yet another win and top-10 appearance to his resume. Not only did he win the first FLW Tour event he ever entered, but he managed to nearly triple his career earnings with FLW Outdoors after taking home the $200,000 first-place prize from the Chevy Open. Today, Steve Clapper is here to take questions from you, the fans. Let's get started.

Q: First off, congrats on the win! What a thrill! When searching for new spots on Erie, how do you go about finding them -- looking at maps and finding breaklines or just time on the water cruising and looking at your electronics? Thank you!
-- Justin Miller (Marshall, Mich.)
A: Really, when you go looking, it helps to have a calm day when you're not in 4- or 5-footers, where you can read the bottom effectively. I usually pick a spawning area, and you know that after they spawn they're going to move to deeper water. Every year I just keep following them out further and further. On big lakes like Erie, you're catching fish in over 30 feet of water in the summer. Years back in a Stren event in Buffalo, N.Y., I was catching bass in 43 feet of water. In that case, there was a shoal, and we kept moving out and moving out, and we just kept finding fish. The mapping GPS systems we have today are unbelievable, so electronics really help as well.

Q: First off, great job on your first FLW victory last week! Drop-shotting is big on Erie. Can you explain how you used this technique in deep, rough waters like you fished last week? Thank you.
-- Brian Threet (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
A: That's a good question, because it's tough to drop-shot in rough water. I was marking my rock piles with a buoy. I just make little pitches, no more than a 45-degree angle. As it got rougher, especially on the third day of the tourney, where we had 7-footers, I picked up a tube with a 3/4-ounce head, and that seemed to be the ticket -- much more so than the drop-shot. That was probably my biggest asset that day -- that tube. It was just so much easier to work with that heavier head and cast away from the boat. I just had more flexibility with the tube in the wind. However, it seems like when fish move into summer haunts, the drop-shot is king, in my estimation.

Q: When using the drop-shot, how do you select which bait you will use?
-- Seth (Wixom, Mich.)
A: Well, there are like three baits I like: a Poor Boy's goby, Berkley Gulp baits and Roboworms. But the goby and the Gulp have been my two favorite baits for drop-shotting. Also, I have to say, the way the scent works on those Berkley Gulp baits is amazing -- I can't tell you how much of a difference they have made on the fishing the last couple of years, especially on Lake Erie. Overall, I had four drop-shot rods rigged up during my last FLW tourney, with a different bait on each one. I also made up about 10 special leaders ahead of time for my drop-shot hook, because it's not something you want to waste your time with during tournament hours.

Q: Steve, congrats on the FLW Lake Erie win; no one that fishes Erie deserves it more than you. I am newer to running a bass boat on Lake Erie, and I was curious about how you run the bigger waves - 5 to 7-plus feet - with a bass boat. I never know when you are supposed to quarter them, run the troughs, or go against them or with them. Also, what do you suggest for a newer boater to have as far as a setup for Lake Erie (prop, tie-down equipment, etc.)? Thanks, and congrats again.
-- Travis (Harrod, Ohio)
A: As far as equipment goes, a good five-blade prop is very important. They have adapter kits for them as well, to customize them to your own boat. If you notice on Lake Erie, most of the guys run a five-blade prop. You also need straps that go around the trolling motor bracket that go right around the shaft and Velcro down. On the bracket, where it meets the furtherst point back in the boat, I attach a ram mount. In bad weather, it really holds it secure. It's critical. I've seen too many new fishermen who run too hard and break all of their equipment. I also like to carry a VHF radio and a cell phone for safety purposes. As far as boat control goes, in high waves, I want to keep the nose of my boat in the air and just meander along. You don't want to be in a hurry, because that will get you in trouble in high waves. The main thing for a newcomer is to go out at first with somebody who has experience, because you might not encounter any rough water your first trip or two. I've seen a lot of people out there who really didn't know what they're getting into. Start out close, know your boat well and gain experience. Because when that wind kicks up, most people have never seen anything like it before.

Q: What fish-finder unit are you using? Have you seen Hummingbird's 987c side finder, and if so, what do think of its technology?
-- Brian Feutz (Ada, Mich.)
A: I use a Lowrance 104c on the console, and I have an X15 MT on the front of my boat. Both units are equipped with their own GPS module. The new technology that Hummingbird has come out with is supposed to be phenomenal as well. Personally, I haven't seen it yet myself, but from what I've been told, the new technology sounds interesting.

Q: How big of an impact has the population explosion of gobies had on Lake Erie fishing? Have you retooled your approach at all in response to the presence of that baitfish?
-- Jon Tourant (Sandusky, Ohio)
A: The introduction of the goby has been monumental in the whole life cycle, I believe, of smallmouth bass. Once they were introduced, they grew immensely throughout the lake. But it's actually turned out to be an unbelievable forage fish for smallmouth, and as such, smallmouth bass have gotten a lot bigger. They've also drawn the smallmouth into deeper water, as gobies will be at a lot of different and deeper depths than most other baitfish. Also, with the introduction of zebra mussels, a lot of the crayfish population has disappeared off of the shallow rocks because the mussels are covering everything. I think this has also pushed the smallmouth into deeper water.

Q: Do you think Lake Erie can sustain the level of quality smallmouths with the amount of tournaments being held on its waters?
-- Duane Bethke (Pinckney, Mich.)
A: That's a good question. I guess the short answer is, I hope so. The anglers are taking a lot better care of their fish, and there's just been a higher level of special care, especially with the new equipment, holding tanks, etc.

Q: Steve, great job in Detroit. What would be the first area you would look for on the Detroit River to find fish if you were unable to fish the lake?
-- Mike (Cleveland, Ohio)
A: The first area I'd look for is the area as close to the lake as I could get. I'm not really good on the river, but there is great fishing on the river. One of the things I'd look for is where the current is running up hard against a bulkhead or a dock. Those are prime feeding spots for smallmouths. I'd also look for flats and the eddies. If I'm forced to fish the river, I'm definitely looking for that current up against those bulkheads.

Q: Do you prefer different colors (baits) for different water conditions or water clarity?
-- Joe (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
A: That's a real good question. As far as the drop-shot, I've found that a green-pumpkin goby with black and purple fleck is the first bait I'll put on in stained water. For clear water, I'll go more toward a lighter, natural goby color. And I'd do the same, pretty much, for a tube bait. You can't go wrong on Lake Erie with a watermelon color of some sort.

Q: Steve, congratulations on the win! I hope you don't spend the money too fast! Anyway, do you treat Lake Erie as one big lake, or do you treat it as several different lakes in one and just concentrate on one area, breaking it down like you would a normal-size lake?
-- Jonathan (Charlotte, N.C.)
A: I guess I just treat it as one big area. If I go there and start practicing, I kind of have a circuit I need to go check. When I make the rounds on a practice day, I'll probably run 120 miles, making a loop, checking spots. It's as simple as seeing who is home and who is not. Understanding how the the currents work in the lake is important as well, which is mostly determined by the wind. I really like to bring my bait in the same direction as it would naturally flow with the current.During this past tournament, the fish were in transition. So we'd pull up on those summertime haunts and catch one good fish, maybe two. That was the norm. I realized the fish had just not migrated yet. Once you get into the August, deep-water structure fishing on Erie, it can be the highlight of the summer.

Q: Congrats on your win. I was hoping a local guy would take the trophy. I was wondering if you had a special way of fishing on a dead flat day. Are there certain retrieves or lures that are more effective in these conditions? Catching fish on Erie is more difficult for me when it is supercalm.
-- Ryan Miller (Manchester, Mich.)
A: That's a great question. The last day of the FLW Tour event on Lake Erie, the day went flat and I wasn't getting any bites. When we started out in the morning, we had a nice little chop and it was pretty good fishing. But when it's calm, it can be tough fishing on Erie -- you hear it all the time. When it is flat, I like to put a 3/4-ounce Big Dude made by Bite Me Jigs. By having the heavy weight in there, your bait falls like a rock. What I do is make a long cast, let the bait fall all the way to the bottom and then snap it horizontally -- in an erratic manner -- about three times. Usually I can get a reaction bite out of that. On that final day on Lake Erie, I made three casts and landed a 4-pounder right away. I hooked two fish in about 20 minutes that way. The finesse techniques had worn off, and had I not had that technique at my disposal -- triggering a fish into biting -- I wouldn't have been as successful.

Q: Congratulations on your FLW Lake Erie win. My question is, what type and brand of sunglasses do you prefer to use? And does price make much of a difference in the brand of sunglasses best for all water conditions? What's the best lens type?
-- Larry Martin (Prattville, Ala.)
A: As far as sunglasses go, I've been with Solar Bat for several years. They're a premium sunglass, and I know the owner is very interested in improving those sunglasses every year. As far as lenses, it depends on whether it's overcast or sunny. I have four different pairs and just use the ones that are recommend for the conditions at hand.

Q: Steve, what types of equipment did you use as far as rods, reels and line in your victory? Congratulations, by the way!!
-- Chad (McDonough, Ga.)
A: The rods of choice were G.Loomis; my drop-shot reels are Shimano Stradic 2500; on my tube rods, I had Shimano Stradic 4000; my drop-shot line was Seaguar InvizX, 8-pound-test; on my tube rods, I had the same brand of line, only 10-pound-test.

Q: With a win under your belt, are you going to go tackle the full schedule of the FLW Tour now?
-- Neil Townsend (Ronda, N.C.)
A: No, I'm not. I'm going to stick around the area and maybe travel to one or two of the major tournaments next year. But I have four grandchildren, and three of them are ballplayers, so I plan on being here to see their games. These years, I'll never get them back if I'm away from home fishing. I guess Grandpa just wants to see his grandchildren play.

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