Disappointing finish in Michigan Bassmaster Elite Series event

The seventh stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series season took place this past weekend at Lake St. Clair on the border between Michigan and Ontario. It was my fifth time visiting this smaller Great Lake and for some reason my hard times continued at this body of water. My past results here haven’t been great and they continued with a 59th place finish at this event.

St. Clair is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in North America. Full of fish is the best way that I can describe it. Not only smallmouth bass but it’s a great fishery for musky, walleye and perch as well. Catching bass has never been the problem, instead, it’s been catching the right caliber of fish – four pound plus smallmouths, to climb to the top of the leaderboard.

It’s a unique fishery in that it is essentially a big bowl, with little structure or obvious fishing locations. The deepest part of the lake is around 22 feet, so it’s relatively shallow. Instead of finding rock piles to fish like we do in most waters, the smallmouths relate more to where the bait is and to weed clumps that grow around the lake. You can literally drop your trolling motor just about anywhere in the lake and start catching fish. That is what makes it kind of tough. You can’t just look at a map and decide an area looks good. It all looks the same.  

I fished different parts of the lake throughout the three day practice, putting in some long days. The fishing was great, with numbers of fish north of 50 every day. I was looking forward to the tournament. I did catch a few four pound plus fish during the practice and figured if I went through enough fish, I would run into five big ones each day and have a good tournament.

Things went okay the first day. My five bass limit weighed 19-3 and coming in I figured I would be safely inside the top 50 cut, which is always the goal in these tournaments. That gets you into day three and some good money. When the day was over, I was in 46th place, only a couple ounces above the cutline.

On day two, I was literally catching smallmouths as fast as I could get my bait in the water for the first couple of hours but had no big fish to show for it. I ran around to some different locations and more of the same. With an hour left in the day I ran to an area I had found near the takeoff and caught three good ones to bump me up to an 18-8 total. I knew I needed one more good one and I would probably be okay. I simply ran out of time and came in with one smaller fish just under three pounds that hurt me. I ended up finishing 59th, missing the cut by twelve ounces, which was very disappointing.

It’s disappointing because I feel like I have an advantage on these smallmouth fisheries but the field of anglers I compete against is just so good. I got stuck fishing in areas where I was catching good numbers but they were not the right quality and it costed me. It was a learning experience and hopefully I won’t make this mistake again if we come back to this fishery.

It turns out most of the top ten finishers were fishing in Anchor Bay, just out from the takeoff area. Traditionally, this hasn’t been the area where tournaments have been won in the past and I just overlooked it. In the three days we get to prefish, you can only cover so much water and I spent most of my time on the Canadian side of the big lake, where traditionally, the winning fish are usually caught.

Congratulations to Arkansas angler Joey Cifuentes on winning the tournament. The Elite Series rookie won his second event of the season, which is pretty extraordinary. He had over 22 pounds every day to earn the $100,000 top prize.

Jeff Gustafson congratulates Joey “The Cowboy” Cifuentes of Arkansas for winning his second Bassmaster Elite Series event of the season this past weekend at Lake St. Clair in Michigan.