Smallmouth season starts for the Michigan Division at the Detroit River - Major League Fishing
Smallmouth season starts for the Michigan Division at the Detroit River
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Smallmouth season starts for the Michigan Division at the Detroit River

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May 24, 2023 • Jody White • Phoenix Bass Fishing League

TRENTON, Mich. – The Michigan Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine will get the season rolling July 8 on the Detroit River. This year, all the events for the Michigan Division are out of the Detroit River, which gives anglers easy access to Lake Erie, the Detroit River itself, Lake St. Clair and even the St. Clair River for the more adventurous.

Every body of water within running distance is one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the country. St. Clair has hosted countless epic beatdowns, as has the Detroit River. Just last fall, Gregg Gallagher caught the new Ontario record smallmouth out of Erie, a giant that tipped the scale at 10.15 pounds.

Tournament details

Detroit River

Trenton, Michigan

July 8, 2023

Sign up today!

There is nearly an unlimited amount of water in play for Michigan Division anglers.

About the fishery

The Detroit River is the gateway to some of the best smallmouth fishing in the country. The river itself offers both deep and shallow fishing, with the ability to drift deep current breaks or fish specific spots up shallow.

Lake St. Clair is a decent run up the river from takeoff and offers a huge playing field. Big and flat, with a lot of current in its own right (the water in St. Clair is completely exchanged almost weekly), there are grass beds, sand flats and tons of bait in LSC.

Erie offers less grass and more rocks, with big migrations of bait affecting the playing field throughout the year. In the fall, fish will often be packed into the mouth of the Detroit River gorging on bait. In the summer, running far into Canada and fishing deep rock piles has won many a tournament.

What it takes to catch summertime smallies on the Great Lakes is pretty well-documented at this point.

What to expect

According to Michigan angler Chase Serafin, early July should see most of the bass deeper and getting into the swing of summer patterns.

“You’ll have people in the Top 10 from the river,  St. Clair, Erie, maybe even the St. Clair River,” said Serafin. “Honestly, I like that they’re all out of Elizabeth Park, it makes it easy for all three fisheries to play. You’re launching where all those fisheries are accessible, you’re in the middle of everything.”

Serafin said that St. Clair has been a little off this spring, but that he expects everything to be rolling by July.

“St. Clair has always been on fire,” he said. “This spring, for me and the group of people I talk to, it’s been the slowest in terms of big fish I’ve seen in a long time. We got so much pressure this spring, you caught a ton of fish, but the size wasn’t the same. I’m sure a lot of those fish adjusted and spawned deeper and it’ll be typical St. Clair in the summer.

“I think a lot more people are putting time into Erie and figuring it out. Erie is a tougher place to fish, it’s not like St. Clair where you can just drift around and catch them. You really have to put time in. With St. Clair getting so much pressure, you’re seeing more guys put the time in on Erie to figure it out.”

Figuring on about 24 pounds or better to win, Serafin says the baits won’t be any big surprise.

“It’s gonna be your typical smallmouth deal out deep,” he said. “You’ll see everybody throwing a drop-shot, a tube, a spy bait will play. Some guys will get on current stuff in the river with a crankbait or a jerkbait – some moving stuff. But for the most part, I’d expect everyone to be full-blown out deep.”

For Serafin, the options at Erie and St. Clair are what make them such gems for tournament fishing.

“I like how much they spread out,” he said of the fisheries. “They’re the type of place you never need to be fishing on top of someone. There are always big fish to be found away from other people.”

Often, there are a lot of big fish to be found – in 2022, three of the Michigan Division events took more than 26 pounds to win.