Christopher Smith

Bass Elites Face Smallmouth Heartbreak

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erieIf you follow the Bass Anglers Elite Series, you probably already know that Chris Lane won the Bassmaster Elite East Plano Championship Chase and walked away with a check for $100,000. He ended up with 80 lbs of smallmouth bass for the tournament total.

You probably also heard that Aaron Martens clinched the Angler of The Year competition on Saturday.

What you may not of heard about were the close calls and heartbreaks that occurred at this tournament.

Lake St. Clair was the location, but many of the anglers left this amazing smallmouth bass fishery to pursue winning fish either in Lake Erie to the south or Lake Huron to the north.

Lake St. Clair in Michigan, is a smaller lake that is connected to Lake Huron by the St. Clair River and to Lake Erie by the Detroit River. Some of the anglers felt they could catch the larger bass they needed to catch to win by heading to Erie or Huron.

The trouble with cruising down the Detroit River to Lake Erie is that the amount of commercial boat traffic can get heavy and when you combine that powerful unpredictability of Erie, with some crazy boat traffic, it can spell trouble.

Aaron Martens, who had just won angler of the year was closing the gap on Chris Lane and had an unofficial 20 plus pounds of smallmouth bass in his live well, was making the trek back to weigh in, when he was hit by a perfect storm of Lake Erie waves and the wake from 3 much larger boats:

“The area I was fishing got calmer than it had been all day the last two hours I was there,” Martens said. “I didn’t think it was going to be rough going back, but I still left myself plenty of time. After about 20 miles, I started running into 4-footers. I knew then it was going to be bad.

“I didn’t expect that at all. But I was still OK on time. Then about a mile from the gas dock, just before you get to the river, the boat wakes were huge.”

Martens had planned to gas up at a dock that was about 36 or 37 miles from the weigh-in site. As Lake Erie narrowed into the Detroit River, Martens took the middle between three big boats that were cruising by – two in one direction, one in the other – a 50-footer on one side, two 30- to 35-foot boats on the other. The wind and three big boats combined to create the perfect storm.

“You want to back off plane in that situation,” Martens said. “I just caught a wave wrong. It was like a perfect drop-kick into the corner (of a football field). It wasn’t that we hit it so hard, we just kind of twisted (upon landing).”  Source

Mark Kulik with an Erie pig

Mark Kulik with an Erie pig

With that perfect storm, 2 of the 4 bolts holding the motor snapped, rendering his boat dead in the water. He had to let an estimated 20.5 lbs of smallmouth bass go, which, if he had made it back to weigh in, would have probably put him in the money and a check for a $100,000.

Mark Davis also faced some obstacles and tough breaks that probably cost him a tournament win as well.

Leading in to the final day, Mark made his way down to Lake Erie and had found an area where the bronzebacks were big but not plentiful. Having boated 4 nice bass, he couldn’t land his 5th keeper. In addition, he had other pigs come unbuttoned earlier in the tournament that cost him:

“That fifth fish got off twice today,” Davis said. “I about cried. A 4 1/2 was right at the boat, I fought it forever. The other one was a 3 1/2-pounder. Those two fish would have won for me.”

But he pinned his failure on four other lost smallmouth bass. They came unbuttoned on the first day, when Lane led the full field of 99 pros. Davis said they were two 4-pounders, a 5 and one over 6.  Source

When we are out catching smallies, its heartbreaking to lose that pig you’ve been hoping to catch all day, but all it costs us is our pride. Pro anglers face the same frustrations but the winners combine luck, attention to detail, sharp hooks, retying frequently and expert planning to avoid or overcome these obstacles.

I find it fascinating to see what separates the best from the rest. I hope you do too.

Please click LIKE and comment below to relate a story about overcoming obstacles while angling.

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