ERIE, Pa. – The baits have been selected, the patterns refined, the wind and waves endured. Now it’s show time for the 10 pro and 10 co-angler finalists fishing in the FLW American Fishing Series Northern Division finale Saturday, and there’s a lot on the line.
These skilled fishermen are competing today for trophies and bragging rights; cash and sponsor incentives; honor and notoriety. But they also have even more riding on today’s outcome: For a couple, the Northern Division points title and a berth to the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup championship are hanging in the balance; and the rest are looking to accumulate enough points to attend the AFS Invitational on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., Nov. 4-6, which provides another avenue to the Cup for the winners.
Nothing to be nervous about, right? But you truly wouldn’t guess that so much is at stake when listening to the friendly banter and casual dock talk taking place at the marina at Presque Isle Bay State Park early this morning – because in the final analysis, the vast majority of these guys fish for a reason that rises above all else: fun.
Where it stands
Currently leading their respective divisions are pro Pat Eichmann of Nancy, Ky., and Don Smith of Brodhead, Ky. – each with just short of a 2-pound lead over their nearest competitors. They are friends back home, and they practiced together for this event. They will fish together again today from boat No. 1.
“I feel pretty good; I made the top 10 at Champlain (last month),” said Eichmann, who plans to travel about three miles out onto Erie to fish a hump with drop-shot rigs. “It’s just going to be what it is. We’re just going to have fun.”
Patrick Roy of Syracuse, N.Y., in second in the Pro Division and has fished consistently over the opening two days. Behind him in third is David Cioppa of Hopkinton, Mass., who tripled his day-one weight on the second day of competition.
In the Co-angler Division, current runner-up Kenneth Ramsier of Girard, Pa., also nearly tripled his opening-day weight on day two. After Ramsier, there’s a marked drop-off in cumulative weight.
It should be noted that anglers were restricted to the bay on day one due to high winds, which made it difficult for many anglers to fish their desired locations or patterns.
And there’s a battle for the pro points title and a ticket to the Cup taking place today between 10-place pro Darrin Schwenkbeck of Varysburg, N.Y., and veteran FLW bass pro Bill Chapman of Salt Rock, W.Va., who is in sixth place. Chapman is just a couple of points behind, but has a four-place advantage as of this morning – so it’ll come down to who can catch them better today on Lake Erie.
The Lake Erie American Fishing Series tournament is being hosted by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Visit Erie.
Pros are fishing for a top award of about $15,000, plus a 198VX Ranger boat with 200-horsepower outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers are casting for a top award of up to about $6,000. If the co-angler winner meets Ranger Cup guidelines, he will earn an additional $5,000.
The American Fishing Series consists of four divisions – Central, Northern, Southeast and Texas. Each division consists of three tournaments, and competitors vie for valuable points that could earn them a trip to the American Fishing Series Invitational on Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Ala., Nov. 4-6. The points champion from each division will qualify for the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup, and a fifth Forrest Wood Cup qualifier will advance from the Invitational that is open to the top 50 anglers from each division.
This week’s Lake Erie event marks the final tournament on the Northern Division schedule for 2010.
For bass-fishing fans unable to attend the festivities in person, you can catch all the weigh-in action live at FLWOutdoors.com with FLW Live. Show time starts at 2:30 p.m. Eastern today.
Sunrise: 6:56 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 51 degrees
Expected high temperature: 74 degrees
Water temperature on surface of bay: 64-67 degrees
Wind: SSE at 9 mph
Maximum humidity: 87 percent
Day’s outlook: mostly sunny with temperatures warming rapidly into the low to mid-70s; winds SE at 5 to 10 mph