The Skinny On Lake St. Clair
Sportfishing Paradise For Bass, Muskie
By Tom Morrison
Surrounded by the Great Lakes - Lake Huron to the north and Lake Erie to the south, Lake St. Clair is dwarfed in size and legend. However, this lake of 430 square miles of surface area, is responsible for nearly 30% of the sportfishing catch of the Great Lakes and 50% of all the sportfishing that takes place in the Great Lakes. It has, over the years, gained a new respect amongst the 'world's' anglers, making it the 'little lake that could'.
Lake St. Clair boasts millions of smallmouth and largemouth bass that grow to an average of 2 lbs.. This large population of North Americas favourite game fish thrives by no accident or coincidence. The 'lake' flushes itself into Lake Erie an average of every seven days, taking as little as 2 days or as long as 30 days to push the flow from the St. Clair River, through the Detroit River. This flushing provides plenty of nutrients for the small forage fish and creatures that make up the diet of resident bass. It also helps keep this shallow lake somewhat cooler than you would think, considering it has an average depth of only 10 feet with the deepest section being the shipping channel at 27 feet.
The smallmouth bass fishing is nothing short of spectacular. Once the summer patterns have settled in, it is not uncommon to catch upwards of 40 to 60 bass in a four hour period, with many days providing more action than that. On our charter operation, clients (2 to 4) are treated to non-stop action throughout their 6 hour trip. This 'gamest of all sportfish' gives them all they can handle.
It's hard to argue with the success of the tube bait. Whether you use a salted tube like a Mizmo Big Boy or scented like Mr. Twister's Exude, the tube is most popular lure choice in almost all situations on the lake. Competition is fierce among the bass, with the smallest most often beating the largest to the bait. With a little patience, those four pounders will come to the lure. One way to get to those lunkers among charter operators and tournament anglers alike, is to wait until your partner or buddy has a bass on and near the boat. Almost always, there is another bass lying in wait for the first one to cough up it's catch and in most cases it's usually the largest of bass that waits for this free and easy meal. Don't disappoint him. Toss your tube out close to your buddy's fish and hang on, usually it's just a matter of a few seconds before the 'follower' takes the offering.
In other situations, you'll see the bass cruise around your boat at about a depth of four to five feet. A quick toss of the tube and you have yourself a four pound trophy.
You can spend all day running Lake St. Clair looking for productive hit and miss spots or you can let the lake come to you. I prefer to let the lake come to me. Using the wind or breeze push you over productive areas not only saves gas but lets you present your bait (the tube) to the large loners that wander the lake in search of food. This method is called the Drift & Drag. Letting your tube bait scratch the bottom, as a crayfish would, is easily the most popular and deadly of presentations. If you know the lake and have found the bottom structure you're looking for, set up a drift pattern that allows you to slowly present your bait over the productive area. Too many times I see tournament bass anglers use their electric trolling motor over productive areas. I believe this takes them much too fast over these 'hot spots', thereby missing many fish in the process. Take your time. You'll be rewarded for your patience in not only quantity of fish but quality as well.
It's hard to beat the spinning gear of today to make this legendary scrapper even more of a combatant. The popular line choice is 8 lb. test with some using 6 lb. or even 10 lb. Brand choice is yours, however, if you use 10 lb. test line, try to use one of the premium, small diameter lines like Maxima's Perfexion or Berkley's Vanish. Those of us who fish tournaments welcome the extra strength found in the small diameter lines. A little insurance is a good thing.
The spinning rod is usually in the 6 foot or 6 1\2 foot category. A good glass or graphite rod with a fast tip and strong backbone is a great choice. In addition, a reel with positive anti-reverse is almost a necessity for solid hooksets.
Lake St. Clair, whether you're a weekend fisherman or tournament warrior, it's hard to find more productive and dream fulfilling water to fish on. Fish On!