Anglers estimate the winner will need to bag 17 to 20 pounds each day. And many say the Great Lake, considered one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the country and a perennial angler favorite, will deliver.
“I’ve been here three days and practice is going great,” said Tour pro Terry Baksay, of Monroe, Conn. “This place is just full of fish, and practically every spot you go, you’ll catch them.”
Six-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier Kevin Wirth agrees. As long as the wind remains calm and weather remains pleasant, anglers should expect some heavy sacks, he said.
“The weather could hurt us if the winds are strong,” said Wirth, a former Kentucky Derby jockey from Crestwood, Ky. “If it blows from the east, you’ll still catch them, but it’s going to be tough.”
The forecast appears to be favoring anglers. Chances of rain are pegged at no more than 40 percent each day and light southeast winds are expected at 5 to 10 mph.
According to Wirth and Baksay, the smallmouth bass are scattered and in a post-spawn state. The early summer pattern means bronzebacks likely will be found off shore.
Baksay will target rock piles, shoals and humps in open water to find the smallmouth. He plans to fish deep in search of the post-spawn bite.
His choice of lure?
“Anything green seems to be working, both in deep and shallow water,” said Baksay. “You’ll find smallmouth two pounds or less in the shallows, but if you don’t have three-pound-plus fish, you’re not going do what you need to do to make the cut.”
Three 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifiers are competing in this weekend’s tournament: Wirth, 2003 Classic Champion Michael Iaconelli and 2005 Toyota Rookie of the Year Dave Wolak.
With time winding down, Wirth, Iaconelli and Wolak are using this weekend’s tournament to sharpen their skills for the Classic, scheduled in Pittsburgh, July 29-31.
But other anglers are focused purely on Lake Erie.
“My confidence is really good right now,” said Wirth. “It feels great to get out and snatch something for a change.”
This is the first of three Northern Open events that will send the top anglers to the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December. The top five from that championship are invited to the Classic in February 2006 at Lake Toho near Kissimmee.
Weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. at Shelby Street Launch, 101 Shelby Street, in Sandusky.
The second Northern Open event is Aug. 11-13 on Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The last event is Sept. 15-17 on Oneida Lake in Syracuse, N.Y.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2277 or visit www.bassmaster.com