I’ve always wanted to fish the Great Lakes and what better way to do it than when $10,000 is on the line? Kayak Bass Fishing held the Northeast Open hosted by FishUSA and the city of Erie Pennsylvania September 14 and 15. Myself and great friend Jim Clark decided to fish it. We took the week off and made the 12 hour drive up. We had hashed out our plans, talked about fishing information we had gathered and discussed the ever so important topic…what restaurants we were going to try.
When we arrived Monday evening we settled into our camp site at Sarah’s Campground and headed out to get food. I had read that many restaurants have fresh Lake Erie perch on the menu and we were definitely going to try it…I enjoyed the perch so much I ended up eating a “fried perch plate” three different times at three different restaurants. All were delicious but the Pittsburgh Inn is a must visit restaurant/pub if you’re in the Erie PA area.
After a much needed night of sleep in my Hennessy hammock we headed to the lake bright and early Tuesday morning. I used information I had gathered from a couple of friends that were familiar with the lake and from a couple of articles that featured B.A.S.S. Elite Pro and two time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Dave Lefebre. I had decided to focus on Presque Isle Bay and more importantly, the largemouth bass it holds. I know…Lake Erie is world famous for it’s small mouth bass but I’m from Georgia and I am most confident fishing for the green fish.
After the anxious wait on my vacation to start, the long drive and the never ending map study I was finally on the water. What I found was a sea of grass and immediately set out searching for grass edges and isolated patches. I worked a distinct grass edge with a spinner bait with decent success catching fish up to about three pounds. I spent some time in the vast grass flats pitching a Senko with little success so I headed to the “lagoon” area in Presque Isle State Park.. This area reminded me of Florida with it’s lilly pads and a plethora of aquatic vegetation. I picked up my frog rod and made a long cast past a point created by the pads. As soon as my frog passed the point a large fish erupted on the lure. The strike startled me and I set the hook too soon which brought my frog sailing past my head. I immediately made the same cast and the fish was ready and waiting. It struck again and the hook set was on time. After a good fight I landed my first ever Northern Pike. It wasn’t trophy sized but all 29 inches of it was pure aggression. Day one on the water was in the books and I was satisfied.
The rest of the practice days were spent looking at several different areas inside and outside of the bay. I was heading across the bay and noticed some isolated grass patches in what is a section of the bay that has a pretty barren bottom. I lined my kayak up on the largest of the patches and cast my light Carolina rig to one side. I felt that “thump” that every bass fishermen love. I set the hook and landed an awesome Presque Isle Bay Largemouth Bass…20.25”long and weighing 5lb2oz. I made one more cast and had another bite. I decided this area will definitely be a tournament day spot.
The day before the tournament Jim and I packed up our camp and headed to a cabin that we were renting along with several other guys from different parts of the country. All were passionate kayak angler’s and the evenings were always filled with fishing stories, laughter and camaraderie.
I felt good the day before the tournament, I had found a pattern that worked on the deep grass edges and had confidence in a couple of different lures. From my experience fishing for fun and in tournaments things change and usually will. On tournament morning the wind had made a 180° shift and increased by about 10mph drastically decreasing my ability to efficiently fish the areas that I had found fish. After a long tournament day I only had landed two keepers and several other short fish.
On day two I was able to fish the areas I had prefished earlier in the week but came up one shy of a limit. I had landed 3 nice largemouth, a small keeper and several undersized fish. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have caught any of those fish if it weren’t for my Jackson Coosa FD’s ability to tackle the wind and waves with ease and some quality electronics that allowed me to find offshore grass edges and isolated structure. I wanted to finish much better than 35th out of 69 anglers but sometimes that’s the way it goes sometimes.
Earlier I had mentioned that I had read articles about Lake Erie bass fishing that featured Elite B.A.S.S. Fisherman, Dave Lefebre. To my surprise, Dave had entered the Lake Erie KBF Open and it was to be his first kayak fishing tournament. Dave ended up winning the tournament by a narrow margin but it was a great experience getting to compete against such a high profile, accomplished angler and a genuinely good guy. His interest in our sport was well received by all of the event’s competitors and several KBF angler’s gave him a run for his money.
The trip was an overall great time. I got to see many of my buddies from the north east, eat some great food and actually caught some really nice fish…just not when it counted. I’ll chalk it up as a learning experience for the next Lake Erie Kayak Bass Fishing tournament because I’ll definitely be back.
Thank God for little plastic boats!