Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Lots of Big Smallmouths Likely at Bassmaster Open at St. Clair, Michigan

MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. — Warmer than average temperatures have spread across the northern section of the country thus far this summer, which means the Lake St. Clair smallmouth should be healthy and heavy for the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake St. Clair presented by SEVIIN according to Michigan native Bo Thomas.

“I think they will be in a full-fledged summer pattern, and I think the weights will be really, really good,” the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifier pro said. “It should be a fun one.

“This is going to be a slugfest event. This isn’t going to be an event where everyone is going to struggle. Everyone is going to catch them.”

The sixth stop of the Opens season is scheduled for July 11-13. Anglers will launch from the Harley Ensign Boat Launch beginning at 6 a.m. ET and return for weigh-in starting at 2 p.m. The full field will compete the first two days before the Top 10 anglers after Day 2 compete for the top prize the final day.

Known for sheer numbers of quality smallmouth bass, Lake St. Clair is a favorite venue amongst anglers on the Bassmaster Tournament trail. Just look back to the 2023 Elite Series event won by Joey Cifuentes with 91 pounds, 8 ounces. The entire 102 boat field scored a limit during the first two days of the event.

Thomas believes the Opens anglers will catch the same numbers of bass, but separating from the field will be much more difficult to do.

“The X factor is going to be who can catch a 5- or 6-pounder each day,” Thomas said. “Whoever can get those two big bites that go along with three 4-pounders (is going to excel).”

With warm temperatures across the region to start the summer and the mayfly hatch mostly finished, Thomas expects the smallmouth to be in their summer patterns when anglers begin practice.

They will likely be targeting two different types of forage: perch and gobies. Several different types of vegetation will play a role, from cabbage to other thinner types of grass. That means Anchor Bay, which received a lot of attention during the Elite Series event in 2023, will be a popular destination for Opens anglers.

“During the summer, it seems like the smallmouth tend to move into the grass a lot more. That will be a big player. I think Anchor Bay will put out a lot of the weight in this tournament. I’m sure a lot of the field will be focusing on that area. It seems like that’s the trend for big tournaments right now. A lot of the Southern guys can relate to the fishing there. It’s shallower and it has grass. You can power fish to catch them.”

Lake Erie and Lake Huron will also be in play for Opens anglers, both of which have more rock features, but how much time Thomas will dedicate to those two fisheries all depends on the wind. The Detroit River and St. Clair River will also be in play, adding yet another element to the mix.

“Those fish will be relating to current breaks and hard bottom (in the rivers),” Thomas said. “(Erie) doesn’t look good for practice. The wind will be blowing out of the south each day. It is blowing right up the chute. There might be one day where I could go check some stuff, but Erie is one of those places I focus on the wind. If it is flat and calm, I’ll go look. If not, I won't mess with it.”

Several different techniques can come into play at St. Clair. A drop shot will be a popular choice as well as a tube and a Damiki-style presentation. Thomas also thinks a crankbait could be an important tool for some anglers in this event.

Thomas believes an all-smallmouth total weighing around 65 pounds will likely win this event. While St. Clair is an impressive largemouth fishery in its own right, a green-fish pattern can be hard to replicate day-to-day.

And while there are several popular areas that hold bass all the time, Thomas thinks an angler who can find a less pressured area will have the best chance at winning.

“It is going to be an event where being around a crowd isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you find something to yourself, it is going to play throughout the tournament,” he said.

Minnesota’s Easton Fothergill leads the Tackle Warehouse Elite Qualifier standings after five events with 878 points. Texas pro Dakota Ebare is second with 869 points, Canada’s Evan Kung is third with 853 points, Idaho’s Cody Meyer is fourth with 853 points and Alabama’s Matt Adams is fifth with 850 points. Ty Faber is sixth with 821 points, Tucker Smith is seventh with 808 points, Andrew Loberg is eighth with 808 points and Jack York is ninth with 799 points.

Tournament coverage begins Saturday at 8 a.m. on FS1 and runs through 1 p.m. Bassmaster LIVE will be streaming on daily. All coverage times are ET.

The Detroit Sports Commission is hosting the tournament.