It’s going to be an Easter egg hunt on Lake Erie, but at least the great lake will behave a little better during the final Rayovac FLW Series Northern Division event than it did during practice.
Strong winds curtailed pre-tournament searches, while an algae bloom in the popular Pelee Island area northwest of the takeoff site at Sandusky has further impacted visibility.
Powell Kemp, currently fourth in the Northern Division points, says he couldn’t locate any substantial groups of fish during practice.
“The wind has blown pretty hard for a couple of days and it’s been hard to move around,” Kemp says. “I think most of the fish are on individual rock piles. I think they’re in smaller schools or individual fish.
“When you find a spot you think holds fish, stay there until you get one to bite. I plan on hitting my spots multiple times [throughout the day], because I don’t have that many spots.”
Northern Division points leader Glenn Browne agrees, noting that even short runs of two to three miles was a chore during practice. Arriving late last week, he put in some extra time to dial in a handful of productive areas.
“I’ve been here for a few days so I had a couple decent ones where I could get around,” Browne says. “You’re going to need 4-pounders to do well here. The difference between a good bag and a bad bag is 4-pounders.
“Three-pounders are okay, but 4-pounders are cut-makers.”
FLW Tour pro Dave Lefebre calls Erie his home waters, but even he’s prepared for a grind. Despite a cool spell that had anglers bundled up like a spring event, the summer season still has the fish scattered.
“It’s not on fire; we’re a couple weeks away [from that],” Lefebre says. “I found a lot of fish, but nothing I’m really excited about.
“Yesterday, I made a long, long drive in the truck toward my house [in Erie, Pa.] and got as close to there as I could. I caught a 6 1/2 and two fives. I checked two little places and it took me 30 minutes to see the potential.”
Unfortunately, today’s north wind will stymie such long-range plans, but Lefebre says that his weather app indicates south winds on Friday – a welcome change that may open the door for anyone with distant aspirations.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can just stay alive close and maybe get to go down there at least one time,” says the Pennsylvania pro.
Lefebre recently started using the Power Pole Drift Paddles for his offshore work. Properly angled, these accessory pieces slow his drift and allow him more time to work precise drops.
He, and most of the field will fish drop-shots and tubes on the humps, roll-offs and isolated rocks. Lefebre says he’ll drop-shot in about 30 feet of water, but if he moves up shallow to check for smallies in 5 to 6 feet, he’ll throw a chartreuse Terminator Big John spinnerbait and a Storm Arashi crankbait.
Jonathan Coholich plans on not running all the way to Pelee, instead he located areas closer to Sandusky where he believes he can catch quality fish and allow himself more fishing time. After breaking a trolling motor mount in the big waves of practice, he’s now back in running order, but he’s in no hurry to test his equipment.
Coholich has dialed in a particular drop-shot bait that his fish seem to like. He has three active colors that he’ll rotate through, as he hits his spots.
Notably, while most agree that smallmouth will almost certainly win the event, some have spent time cultivating largemouth options in the coves, bays and protected harbors. Riprap, reeds, pads and eel grass offer plenty of targets for those who want – or need – to target the green fish.
One such angler is Maine pro Troy Garrison, who struggled so badly with smallmouth in practice that he’s devoting most of his time to largies.
“I only got two days of practice and I had no luck on smallies, so I went to find largemouth,” Garrison says. “I’m sitting 39th in points, so I need to find a limit each day and try to stay in the top 40 for the championship.
“I don’t have huge largemouth, but I should be able to get a limit each day and hope for a nice kicker.”
Garrison will fish a 1/4-ounce flipping jig with a 5-inch Senko trailer. The longer plastic, he said, extends the jig’s profile.
Sunrise: 6:38 a.m.
Water temperature: 72 degrees
Air temperature at launch: 62 degrees
Forecast high: 71 degrees
Wind: north at 5 to 10 mph
Weather: Partly cloudy
Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for three days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner each division determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.
Takeoff time: 6:30 a.m. ET
Takeoff location: Shelby Street Public Boat Launch, 101 Shelby Street, Sandusky, Ohio
Weigh-in time days 1 and 2: 2:30 p.m. ET
Weigh-in location days 1 and 2: Shelby Street Public Boat Launch
Weigh-in time day 3: 3:30 p.m. ET
Weigh-in location day 3: Walmart, 5500 Milan Rd Ste 200, Sandusky, Ohio