Nothing more competitive than bass fishing

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

It seems competitiveness is part of human nature.

No matter what the subject, we like to outperform others whether it’s in sports or other areas.

When it comes to fishing, we like to catch more and bigger fish than our companions, no matter what the species. And while there are competitive tournaments for several species, there is nothing more popular or competitive than bass fishing.

I began competing in bass tourneys in the early 1980s when I joined a local bass club for the “friendly competition.” The membership in this club grew from about 20 regulars to 50 after a few years. I learned a lot from these anglers and the eight hours of being on the water in tourney competition in all kinds of weather.

I saw plenty of innovations in lures, rods, reels, line and other bass fishing equipment. In the process I wound up fishing a variety of lakes in Indiana and Michigan. Being located in northwest Ohio, our club was so much closer to lakes in those two states than in Ohio. We fished one Ohio lake while I was in the club. It was Nettle Lake, but it became too small to fish for out membership. We once fished the Auglaize River and the results were so poor, we never tried it again.

Through experience fishing elsewhere, I’ve heard the bad-mouthing of Ohio bass fishing for decades. It was really bad when the Bassmaster Classic was held on the Ohio River out of Cincinnati. Larry Nixon of Hemphill, Texas, won the 13th Classic (held Aug. 4-6, 1983) by only 10 ounces with a three-day weight of 18 pounds, 1 ounce. The pros pulled no punches in their dislike for Ohio’s bass fishing. The Classic has never returned to the Buckeye state.

I like following Limaland bass anglers on different circuits because you can see how well they do on “tough” lakes as well as “quality” ones. Of the three divisions local anglers fish on the Bass Fishing League (BFL), those fishing the Michigan Division are catching more and better quality fish versus the Buckeye and Hoosier Division anglers.

One often sees a number five-bass limits in the Michigan Division. That’s not the case in the Buckeye or Hoosier Divisions. There’s an easy explanation for that. Anglers in the Michigan Division are fishing better quality lakes.

While anglers in the Buckeye Division are fishing the Ohio River, Indian Lake and Mosquito Creek Lake, in the Michigan Division, they fish the Detroit River a couple of times, Burt/Mullett, Muskegon and Lake St. Clair. It will be interesting to see how Limaland bassers do on St. Clair today (Saturday). Bassmaster Magazine rated this lake the top bass lake in the country in 2013 and it currently is ranked fourth. It is the top-rated lake in the northeastern part of the country, according to the magazine. Burt/Mullet lakes are ranked ninth on the list.

Michigan has six of the top 10 rated lakes in the northeast, according to the magazine. Ohio has only Lake Erie. To be fair, when anglers fish the Detroit River for a tourney, they can run to Lake Erie.

St. Clair boasts huge smallmouth bass (Some anglers claim it has the best big smallmouths in the country) and in tourneys, anglers come in with heavy five-bass limits. In the recent FLW tourney held there, Chad Grigsby of Maple Grove, Minnesota, had a four-day total of 20 bass weighing 97-8 gave him the tourney win by a 2-pound, 3-ounce margin over second-place angler Costa pro Dylan Hays of Sheridan, Arkansas, who weighed 20 bass for 95-5 to finish second. Grigsby averaged nearly five pounds per fish.

Local angler Kyle Weisenburger, of Ottawa, caught two five-bass limits in that tourney (19-9 and 19-3) and finished 34th. He failed to qualify to fish the third day.

One should remember that most of the top-rated lakes are huge. St. Clair has freighters coming through its waters as it connects Lakes Huron and Erie along with the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. The lake’s total surface area is 430 square miles.

If you like to catch bass, don’t fret. You can travel to Lake Erie and fish for quality smallmouth and largemouth bass in Sandusky Bay, the bass islands or near Kelleys Island. The Portage River has good numbers of bass and by following the river to where it flows into Lake Erie you can catch good bass along Erie’s rocky shore.

There are plenty of small bodies of water around that could not hold a bass tournament of any size, but produce some nice fish. Some of those include reservoirs like Williams in Lima. It definitely is worth giving a try.

Then there are the many farm ponds in northwest Ohio. For some fun fishing, it is difficult to beat a farm pond. If you can secure permission to fish a few, you should have numerous enjoyable fishing hours.

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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