ERIE, Pa. – Consistency is a hallmark of a successful tournament angler. It’s how you win tournaments, points titles and the respect of your peers. But consistency is difficult to achieve from the back of the boat, where you have no control over where you fish and only some latitude regarding how. Don Smith of Brodhead, Ky., seemed to defy that logic this week, winning the FLW American Fishing Series event on Lake Erie wire to wire.
The 38-year-old, a Central Division director for the Fishers of Men Tournament Trail, outfished all but one pro Thursday, sacking a four-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 6 ounces while fishing with pro Daniel Welch. He added a 16-1 limit to that on day two while fishing with pro Jeff Hippert, then sealed the deal with an amazing 19-11 limit Saturday while fishing with pro Pat Eichmann for a total weight of 52-2. That consistency paid off to the tune of $6,468.
Eichmann is also from Kentucky, and the two are good friends and fishing buddies. In fact, they both decided to fish the AFS Northern Division this year and are practice partners. He’s fished here before, though not in an FLW event, and has had his eye on Erie for a while
“This is my favorite place to fish,” he said. “I kept telling Pat, `Just wait till we go to Erie.'”
After Eichmann gained the lead in the Pro Division on day two, they were paired together in boat No. 1 for the finale. Though Eichmann ultimately finished third on the pro side, he was still instrumental in his friend’s success, having put them on the popular “dump site” during practice.
“Pat found those fish,” Smith said.
Though he fished in three different locations over three days, Smith was able to use his go-to bait each day – a Jackall Cross Tail Shad in “Ayu” color. He also fished with Berkley Gulp leeches. Both were part of a drop-shot along with ¾- to 1-ounce weights; drifting worked best to drag the bait slowly across the bottom.
Smith has fished 10 FLW Outdoors tournaments over the years, and has now won two; his other win was in 2003 in a Bass Fishing League tourney on Cumberland Lake in his home state. With a record like that, it’s clear he’s not only consistent, but one to watch down the road. He ended up third in the Northern Division points race among co-anglers, so he’ll fish the AFS Invitational on Wheeler Lake in November.
Jeff Zeisner of Arva, Ontario, placed second today and earned $2,587 after catching an 18-7 limit for a three-day total weight of 42 pounds.
Zeisner is another back-boat success story when FLW hosts events in the northern part of the country. He has notched five top-10 finishes in AFS events, but couldn’t quite pick up his first win this week.
“I’m smiling today,” he said after weighing his hefty limit today that more than doubled his day-two weight. “I thought I wasn’t even going to make the cut.”
Zeisner said it took a correction in his drop-shotting technique to make the difference: “I was over-fishing the bait in the morning. I was doing a little too much of the jiggle, jiggle. You had to fish as vertical as possible.”
Zeisner rigged his drop-shot with a Jackall Cross Tail Shad, but also fished with Canada’s own StrikeZone Slammer.
Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finalists who fished the AFS Northern Division event on Lake Erie:
3rd: Curt Tindall of Brandon, Vt., two-day total of 11 bass, 37 pounds, 6 ounces, $1,294
4th: Kenneth Ramsier of Girard, Pa., 10 bass, 36-12, $1,132
5th: Joseph Stois Sr. of Fairview Park, Ohio, eight bass, 35-14, $970
6th: Donald Hamer of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., nine bass, 35-3, $809
7th: Nathan Knapp of Brooktondale, N.Y., nine bass, 29-3, $647
8th: Matt White of Midway, Pa., nine bass, 27-14, $582
9th: Chuck Bellerby III of Croydon, Pa., seven bass, 26-15, $517
10th: Gary Walker of Harrisville, R.I., six bass, 25-10, $453
The top pro and co-angler based on point standings from each of the FLW American Fishing Series divisions – Central, Northern, Southeast and Texas – will qualify for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup. The top 50 pros and 50 co-anglers from each division also qualify for the American Fishing Series Invitational on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., Nov. 4-6, with the winning pro and co-angler also advancing to the Forrest Wood Cup.