Top 10 Patterns from Lake Erie - Major League Fishing

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Erie

How to catch smallmouths in August
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Trevor Jancasz Photo by Brian Lindberg.
August 31, 2015 • David A. Brown • Archives

Chicago pro David Matual found an area near Pelee Island where a massive influx of baitfish had the smallmouth fired up and feeding. Targeting rock reefs in about 15 feet, he nabbed his winning total of 65 pound by drop-shotting a Jackall Cross Tail Shad and casting a 3 ½-inch tube.

To read more about Matual’s performance, click here.

Click here to see the Top 10 Baits.

Most of the other top top-10 finishers found their fish over rocky bottom structure around the Pelee area. Drop-shots and crankbaits dominated the catches.

Here’s a look at second through 10th places:


2. Jared Rhode – Port Clinton, Ohio – 64-9

Jared Rhode

Focusing on humps around the helipad north of Pelee Island, Rhode led the event on day one and then shared the day-two top spot with Dave Lefebre. In the final round, Rhode had to locate new opportunities when his main spot dwindled.

Fortunately, he found an epic day-saver about 3 miles farther north of the helipad.

“I was shooting for another 20-pound bag and I could tell it wasn’t going to happen at my main spot,” Rhode says. “I ran to an area that’s kind of my bread and butter. I got near it and there was a nice spike on my graph.

“I fish out there a lot and I’ve never driven over that. When I turned the boat around and drove back over it, I saw it was a monstrous school of bass.”

Rhode describes the spot as a hump rising from 30 feet up to 26. His top drop-shot baits were a green pumpkin Jackall Crosstail Shad and a Keitech Shad Impact in pro blue.

“We sat there for three hours; I never moved the boat and we caught ‘em and caught ‘em and caught ‘em,” Rhode says. “All my weight came from there.

“I guess you could say I was lucky, or I guess I could thank my electronics.”

Rhode says he prefers to idle a spot, mark individual fish and drop to them. This week, that tactic didn’t work, so he went to a casting and slowly dragging presentation. An occasional dead-sticking move proved effective.

“A lot of the big bites were subtle – they were just pecking at it,” Rhode recalls. “You’d think they were little ones, but you’d just have to wait and wait and let them load up the rod. Then you’d just lift and reel and they’d be there. Those were nice fish.

“I guess you could say less was more.”


3. Dave Lefebre – Erie, Pa. – 64-8

Dave Lefebre

Coming out of his day-two tie with Rhode, Lefebre was ready to put the squeeze on one of his personal honey holes. Shortly after picking up a handful of followers, he decided he couldn’t risk disclosing such a potential tournament winner. Instead, he hopped around and picked off a good limit of 20-15 and finished third with 64-8.

Concluding just an ounce behind Rhode and half a pound off the lead when he had the right fish located was a bitter pill to swallow.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so mad standing here,” Lefebre chuckles. “This is the closest high-level tournament that we have to home and I really wanted to win this one.”

Lefebre caught his fish on a Rapala DT-10 crankbait in the Rasta, Caribbean Shad and Helsinki Shad colors; and a drop-shot with a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm in watermelon and cinnamon.

When drop-shotting; a controlled drift was essential and Lefebre points to his Power Pole Drift Paddles as intrinsic to the process.

“They put these on for me during the [Forrest Wood Cup] and I thought it was just something for looks, but they really slowed me down,” Lefebre says. “I don’t drift a whole lot, but when it was rough during practice, the Drift Paddles slowed me down from about 1.3 mph to .4.”


4. Trevor Jancasz – White Pigeon, Mich. – 62-1

Trevor Jancasz

Luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. That’s, essentially, how Jancasz described his location of a spot that produced the majority of his fourth-place fish.

“I stumbled across this place in practice when my partner caught one while pulling a Rat-L-Trap across 8 feet of water,” Jancasz says. “I was just inside of my spot and it started to drop off and came back up.

“I was [about 100 yards] from my waypoint, so I punched one in, swung the boat around and caught them on every single cast. Today was the same way. As soon as I wheeled in there, it was lights out.”

Noting that he was shallow enough to use his 10-foot Power Poles, Jancasz caught his fish on a Strike King 5XD crankbait in Sexy Shad, a Strike King Redeye Shad in Chrome Sexy and a drop-shot with a KVD Super Finesse worm in green pumpkin. He modified his crankbaits by replacing the stock hooks with Mustad Triple Grip hooks.

“That really helps keep them from jumping off,” Jancasz says.


5. Matt Vermilyea – Perrysburg, Ohio – 61-2

Matt Vermilyea

Departing from his preferred finesse fishing, Vermilyea fished near Pelee and did most of his damage with a Rapala DT-10 crankbait in the Blueback Herring and Smash colors. He also caught fish on an unnamed spy bait, along with drop-shots bearing an assortment of Poor Boy, Z-Man, Case Plastics and Missile Baits products.

“My fish were really, really shallow and the key was to not move up on them too fast,” Vermilyea describes. “Every day I’d work my way in easy. I used a Motorguide Xi5 and the anchor mode really helped me.”

Vermilyea says that locating an isolated piece of structure allowed him to fish unhampered.

“There were no bass boats around me whatsoever,” Vermilyea says. “The closest I saw another bass boat running back was a 1 1/2 to 2 miles away from me.”

One of three top-10 pros to break 20 pounds each day, Vermilyea says his spot’s fish volume was incredible. Between himself and three co-angler partners, he estimates carrying over 120 pounds of bass to the scales.


6. Matt Elkins – Spencerville, Ohio – 60-5

Matt Elkins

Working deeper than most, Elkins fished rock humps in 30 to 35 feet. Picking apart the structures, he used a drop-shot with Jackall Cross Tail Shads and hand-poured darters from LBA Baits were his strategy. Darker colors worked best, as Erie’s summer algae bloom diminished light penetration.

Essential to his deepwater rig was a braided main line with a barrel swivel linking an 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.

“I can feel the bite better that way, especially at those depths,” Elkins says. “I was losing some fish earlier in the week, but Jared [Rhode] helped me out by telling me to take my time and let the fish load up the rod. I caught them better the rest of the week like that.”


7. Joe Balog – Harrison Township, Mich. – 58-5

Joe Balog

His top spots were about 25 miles apart, but Balog says the tournament’s relatively calm weather enabled him to run as needed. He fished a range of depths from 16 to 38 feet and found his better action mostly in the afternoon.

“I didn’t catch any in the morning the first couple of days, but [on day three] my co-angler and I went to a different place and it was wide open,” Balog says. “It was great fishing – the best summer smallmouth fishing I’ve had on Lake Erie in a decade.”

Balog caught his fish on a drop-shot with a Jackall Cross Tail Shad, a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm and a fluke style baits.


8. Jeff Vizachero – Grosse Ile, Mich. – 53-6

Jeff Vizachero

Fishing in 5 to 6 feet of water all week, Vizachero caught most of his fish on reaction baits. His choices were a shad color Sugoi Vibe lipless crank and a Lucky Craft shallow diver in the parrot color.

Staying active and working a milk run of spots was the key to his strategy.

“I probably burned a tank of gas [on day three] just running all over the place,” Vizachero says. “I couldn’t find them deep, but I found lots of fish shallow. I didn’t find giants, but what a great time.”


9. Michael Sitko – Pinckney, Mich. – 48-4

9. Michael Sitko's main bait was a Poor Boy Erie Darter on a drop-shot, with a tube as his follow-up bait.

The offshore drop-shotting game also produced for Sitko this week. He caught his fish on a drop-shot with a Poor Boy Erie Darter.

Sitko complemented the vertical-dropping strategy by casting a tube and dragging it across the structures he targeted.


10. Mike Oberski – Ann Arbor, Mich. – 42-9

Mike Oberski

Mike Oberski captured his first top-10 finish at the Rayovac FLw Series level this week by keeping it simple. Oberski used a black Berkley Gulp! Leech on a drop-shot to pluck smallies from Erie. To spice up the rig’s visual appeal, he used a red No. 2 Gamakatsu Octopus hook.