TOP 10 BAITS & PATTERNS: How the best caught ‘em on Lake St. Clair - Major League Fishing
TOP 10 BAITS & PATTERNS: How the best caught ‘em on Lake St. Clair
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TOP 10 BAITS & PATTERNS: How the best caught ‘em on Lake St. Clair

Drop-shot was king for anglers who made the Stage Six Championship Round
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Drop-shot baits were king at Bass Pro Tour Stage Six on Lake St. Clair.
July 2, 2023 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. – As expected, General Tire Stage Six Presented by John Deere Utility Vehicles on Lake St. Clair was dominated by smallmouth and the drop-shot. All 10 anglers who made it to the Championship Round relied on a drop-shot (while mixing in a few other techniques along the way) to register Top 10 finishes on one of the best lakes in the country.

Here’s a look at the top baits and how the pros strategized their fishing on Lake St. Clair.

1. Jordan Lee – 47-3 (10)

Lee was incredibly consistent and impressive at St. Clair, winning the Berkley Big Bass award all four days he fished and narrowly missing having the best bag each of his competition days. It was an strong week for Lee, who was clearly on better-than-average fish.

Lee spent all of his time on two spots in Canadian waters. Since Canada was off limits to fishing during practice, he utilized an underwater camera to locate one of his best areas; the other he said he found by “complete luck” during the event.

“The main spot was one with taller cabbage grass in 17 feet or so, and I found that with my camera in practice,” he said. “That’s where I caught the 6-7 in the Knockout Round and that fish really won the tournament for me. The other area was bare and what I’d call a feeding spot with a lot of perch around. It was unbelievable for me in the mornings.”

Lee relied primarily on a drop-shot with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow in watermelon red magic but also mixed in a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Lil’ General. He used a ½-ounce tungsten weight for the drop-shot and threaded the bait on a 2/0 straight-shank hook.

2. Alton Jones Jr. – 46-10 (10)

Easily one of the hottest anglers on the Bass Pro Tour right now, Jones scored another excellent finish and took over the Bally Bet Angler of the Year lead with one event left on the schedule. Like others, he focused on the drop-shot rig to catch his bass on St. Clair.

“I caught almost all of my fish on a drop-shot rig with either a Geecrack Imo Kemushi, Geecrack Revival Shad, or a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm in green pumpkin or goby colors,” Jones said. “I tried some baitfish colors, but they wouldn’t seem to eat them for me. I was threading the baits on #1 straight shank hook and would use a 3/8-ounce tungsten drop-shot weight when it was windy and a ¼-ounce anytime it was calmer.”

Jones spent most of this time in Canada, fishing places he found in practice with his underwater camera.

“I did that to get a leg up since we couldn’t fish over there in practice and several others did the same thing,” he said. “The places all look the same out there, but the best areas were fairly bare with some scattered cabbage anywhere between 15 and 17 feet deep. The one big thing was the last day, the baitfish appeared and those places got even better.”

3. Jacob Wheeler – 43-12 (10)

The reigning back-to-back Bally Bet AOY had another great finish and is within striking distance of a third straight title. Wheeler spent several days pre-practicing on St. Clair when he was fighting to win his first AOY trophy in 2021 and that knowledge helped him nearly two years later.

“I spent a lot of time here before the 2021 event went off-limits,” he said. “I fished ten days in a row on the American side, so I understood what to focus on this week. I spent some time in Canada during practice, but it came down to focusing on a couple of areas in U.S. water during the tournament. Smallmouth fishing will always be the same baits with drop-shots and stuff, so it’s all about being in the right areas.”

Wheeler fished a new Rapala Ned rig bait called the “BLT” in green pumpkin watermelon and goby colors. He rigged the bait on a drop-shot rig, threaded on a No. 2 VMC Redline Series Finesse Neko Hook and added a 3/8-ounce VMC Tungsten Tear Drop Drop Weight.

“I used the green pumpkin watermelon color when it was cloudy and went with the goby color more when it was sunny,” Wheeler said. “The key was fishing the bait where the grass tailed off because those places harbored the baitfish. The smallmouth wanted to be close to the grass but not in it. The other deal was anywhere you could find a transition between different types of grass.”

4. Jesse Wiggins – 43-4 (10)

Wiggins posted another solid finish by doing what he’s done every time he’s been to St. Clair, fishing the “Mile Roads” area with a drop-shot.

“It’s similar to what everyone else did this week and what I always do when we come here,” Wiggins said. “I started in that area in practice and got a lot of bites but no quality. The fishing seemed to get better every day. I was focusing on grass lines and the outskirts of thicker grass. There was a short stringy grass and something like cabbage; if you could find where the two types of grass met, there would be some there.”

Focusing on water between 12 and 15 feet deep, Wiggins had four or five drop-shot rigs ready at all times and he alternated between a Jackall Cross Tail Shad and Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, both in green pumpkin on a 1/0 Owner Mosquito Hook.

5. Terry Scroggins – 42-14 (10)       

Florida pro Scroggins has had plenty of success on northern smallmouth waters over the years, including last week at St. Clair. Scroggins kept things simple, focusing on an area in Canada every day he fished.

“This week was all about the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm, it’s the only thing I threw,” he said. “I had one area in Canada, a pretty big area, but I milked that place all week. It was between 16 and 18 feet deep with scattered grass and a lot of bait.”

Scroggins rigged his green pumpkin Flat Worm on a No. 1 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot Hook and alternated between a ¼ and 3/8-ounce drop-shot weight. Another key to finding groups of bass was his forward-facing sonar.

6. Mark Daniels Jr. – 42-8 (10)           

After a terrible start to the season, Daniels has been fishing well and rising in the points standings, still with an outside shot of making REDCREST. For Stage Six, he stuck with the tried-and-true method of a drop-shot.

“The drop-shot was dominant, although I found a lot of my key areas with a crankbait,” Daniels said. “It’s too hard to cover water just ‘plinking’ around a drop-shot all day. I used a Bill Lewis MR-12 and some other crankbaits to cast and see if bass would follow them on LiveScope. If they showed themselves, I could cast and catch them with the drop-shot.”

Daniels focused on the “Mile Roads” area of the lake, looking for sparse grass in 16 to 17 feet of water all week.

“(Fish) were keyed on the weed edges and they’d meander through those areas,” he said. “I fished a Googan Baits Rattlin’ Ned and fluke style baits with an Owner Cover Shot Hook and 3/8-ounce tungsten weight.”

7. Mark Rose – 42-2 (10)

Sticking to the Canadian side, Arkansas pro Mark Rose had a stellar event with the help of the drop-shot and several different soft-plastic baits.

“I was throwing various worms and every day was a little different,” he said. “The Strike King Baby Z-Too in Arkansas shiner was good some days, but I went up to the bigger Z-Too the final day because the bass were spitting up big perch.”

Rose fished these fluke-style baits threaded on a 2/0 Mustad Grip-Pin Edge Finesse Hook and for the baits that he nose-hooked, it was a No. 4 Mustad TitanX Neko Hook. He used various weights depending on wind conditions, often settling in at 5/16-ounce.

Another key to Rose’s success was stealth and making long casts.

“I went down a size to 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braid to cast further,” he said. “I had my forward-facing sonar set to 120 feet. It seemed like the further you were away from the fish, the easier they were to catch. If you got right on them, you’d catch maybe 25 percent of them, but backing to 100 feet or more away, you’d hook about 90 percent of the ones you saw on the screen.”

8. Gary Klein – 41-1 (10)

Veteran pro Gary Klein finished eighth the last time the Bass Pro Tour visited Lake St. Clair in 2021, and matched that at Stage Six. He focused on transitioning fish in 12 feet of water on the lake’s eastern bank in Canada.

“I keyed on water that was around 12 feet on places I found with a camera during practice,” Klein said. “There was a lot of slick bank shallower than that and that depth was right where the grass started. A lot of migration goes on this lake, especially this time of year, and the fish were progressing to deeper water after they finished spawning.”

A drop-shot was one of Klein’s top producers, with a green pumpkin finesse worm on a 1/0 Berkley Fusion19 Drop-Shot Hook.

“The first morning, long casts with the drop-shot were key to get them to bite,” he said. “I also caught fish throughout the week on a 3-inch shad colored swimbait on a ¼-ounce ball head jighead.”

9. John Hunter – 39-9 (10)

Rookie John Hunter posted another strong showing, finishing in the Top 10 with the help of a drop-shot. He focused on two areas, one in Canada and one on the American side of the lake.

“It was typical St. Clair stuff, a drop-shot in 16 to 18 feet of water,” he said. “I had a few different areas that had sand and grass. I caught them pretty good the first day on the northern shore in Canada, but then we got that strong west wind and it wasn’t happening. I tried it again in the Knockout Round, but that wind did something to it, so I ran to the stuff I had on the U.S. side.”

Hunter used a Googan Baits Drag N Drop Worm in the natural and green pumpkin shades, fished on a No. 1 Googan Drop N’ Finesse Hook with weight sizes varying by the wind, most often going with the 3/8-ounce size.

10. Josh Bertrand – 37-11 (10)

Arizona pro Josh Bertrand stayed in the “Mile Roads” area on the American side all week, even though he tried to explore Canadian waters.

“I wanted to go over to Canada, but both times I tried, I never ran into any fish,” he said. “I stuck on the American side in the 13- to 15-foot zone, depending on the day. On windier days, the bass seemed more grass related and the sandy places were best when calm.”

Bertrand relied on several Berkley PowerBait MaxScent baits in green pumpkin and brown back, including the Flat Worm and Flatnose Minnow. He rigged them on a No. 1 Berkley Fusion19 Drop-Shot Hook and employed a 3/8-ounce drop-shot weight.

“The clumpy grass with bare spots around it seemed to be a good combo,” he said. “The key this week was not being tied to a waypoint and where you caught them the day before. The wind and current changed every day and the fish repositioned.”