DUCKETT'S ST. CLAIR DECISION

Posted by Z3 MEDIA STAFF on 08/26/2015

Story by Boyd Duckett

The pressure’s on, and here’s the choice: St. Clair, Erie or Huron. . .

This is when the fun starts. Or, looking at it another way, this is when the pressure truly begins.

Our Elite Series field is heading into the last full-field event of the season, and we’re holding it at a familiar place: Lake St. Clair. We’ll launch just outside of Detroit. After this event, 50 anglers will qualify for one more event, which is the Toyota Angler-of-the-Year Championship at Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin.

Every year at this time, a whole bunch of anglers are on the cusp of either reaching year-long goals or failing. I wish there was a nicer way to put it. Failure is a strong word. But the reality is if you don’t reach the goal in front of you, you failed in your effort. I’ve been in these pressure spots before. Sometimes I’ve done really well. Other times, I failed to reach the goal.

For some anglers, the goal is Toyota Angler of the Year. The reality right now is that it will take a near miracle for anybody to beat Aaron Martens in that race. He’s a great angler, and he’s on his game. Good luck knocking him out of first.

Other anglers are trying to get to No. 50 in the points, so they can go to Sturgeon Bay and fish that one last event.

And another really large group of anglers with a common goal is the one with the guys trying to qualify for the 2016 Bassmaster Classic. I’m in that cluster. To qualify for the Classic, we need to fish two more events and wind up no worse than the high 30’s in Angler of the Year points. About 25 anglers, probably everybody ranked from 25th to 50th, go into this St. Clair event knowing that they better catch them.

I know the reality. I’ve got to slam them. I’m in 44th place, and I’m 13 points out of 37th. From a practical viewpoint, that’s not too far out, so it means I don’t have to completely abandon caution. I’ll need some big fish here and there, but I can afford to be patient. But I can’t be lazy. Bottom line, I probably need to finish somewhere in the low 30’s or better at St. Clair. That will put me in less desperate shape at Sturgeon Bay (assuming I make it that far.)

With all of that said, this is an interesting place to try and make up ground. Because when a tournament comes to the St. Clair, every angler is forced to choose between Lake St. Clair or making a long run to Lake Erie. There’s even a third choice that few anglers take advantage of, and that is Lake Huron, which is just north of St. Clair.

To put it in the most basic terms, St. Clair is a great fishery. And if you fish smart and get on them on St. Clair, you can wind up with a 15-pound bag most days.

But here’s the kicker, if you’re willing to make a long, tedious boat ride to Lake Erie – a ride that will can knock the motor off your boat if you’re unlucky – and you fish smart and get on them, you could wind up with a 18-to-20-pound bag every day. But is it worth the risk?

I was all set to fish Erie because I’m comfortable looking for smallmouth on that lake, but a few things have come up. For one, the wind has been downright nasty, and it didn’t seem to me worth riding all day just to practice for a short while on Lake Erie. Also, there will be another tournament on Erie in the vicinity of where I might have fished.

Since I didn’t go to Erie, I did spend a little time in practice on Lake Huron, but I couldn’t really get onto anything, so I’m afraid going up there on tournament day that would be too big a gamble to take.

So taking a look at all the factors, I’m feeling like the smartest thing to do is stay on St. Clair and take my chances.

But I might change my mind.