Aaron Martens stroked 20 pounds of smallmouth bass today (June 28) to take the first-day lead in the Bassmaster Elite Series stop on Lake Michigan.
Only 2 ounces back is Dean Rojas, and Martens said the lake is fishing small.
“Everyone’s basically fishing in the same area,” Martens said, describing a three- or four-mile stretch of Lake Michigan on the west side of the lake, not far from Green Bay’s Sand Bay. “I’m concerned that all the fishing pressure might affect the bite and make things tough tomorrow.”
The primary reason for the anglers knotting up is a ruling by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that pros were limited to fishing a maximum of 20 miles from launch.
David Walker, currently sixth with 17-13, estimated that there were as many 80 boats in a three-mile section of the lake.
“In places, the boats are just 50 feet apart.”
Texas’ Todd Faircloth, fresh off a win during last weekend’s stop on Wisconsin’s Mississippi River was in third with 18-03. Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk was in fourth with 18 pounds, and Matt Herren of Alabama was in fifth with 17-14.
Gonzales’ Greg Hackney goes into the second day of competition in ninth place with 17 pounds.
Though the anglers are customarily closed-mouthed in the early stages of a tournament, several commented that many of the bass being caught are bedding smallmouth between 5 and 10 feet deep.
Soft plastic baits fished on jigheads and drop shots are doing most of the work, though jerkbaits and spinnerbaits are also accounting for some bass.
Apart from concerns about the action holding up under such intense fishing pressure, there are concerns about the weather. A change in wind direction on a massive water body like Lake Michigan can turn a pleasant boat ride into an unpleasant journey and a challenging ride into one you just can’t risk.
With conflicting and frequently changing weather reports, it’ll be a game-time decision for each angler as to whether or not he can get back to his fish on Friday.
Japan’s Morizo Shimizu had the Carhartt big bass of the day, a 5-pound smallmouth. Unfortunately for the pro, it was one of just three keeper bass he scored today. His total catch weighed 12-12 and put him in 47th place.
In the Angler of the Year race, pre-tournament leader Brent Chapman weighed in 13-14 and ended the day in 33rd place. Faircloth’s big limit allowed him to pass Chapman in the AOY race. He now leads with 572 points to Chapman’s 560.
First prize in the Elite Series event is $100,000 and a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic. The pros also are fighting for points to earn a qualification for the 2013 Classic. Those near the top of the points standings are in contention for a postseason entry and the 2012 Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.