I just spent two days chasing muskies on Lake St. Clair, with my second day on the water overlapping with the first day of Elite Series practice on the big lake. For all of my time at B.A.S.S. events, I don’t think I’ve been on the water with the competitors during practice since they eliminated co-anglers from Elite competition almost a decade ago, so I’m not aware of prevailing norms and habits.
St. Clair contains 430 square miles of water and the Elites also have lakes Erie and Huron open to them, but I won’t be surprised if substantial numbers of competitors end up clustered in little groups. As good as the anglers are at finding fish, there are no secret holes, even on the largest waterways. Whether it’s the Monkey Box, Catouatche or Frank’s Tract, to name but three, bumping rubrails is a way of life for most on tour. Most of the time they’re aware of the community holes and sweet spots as the result of a combination of historical records and personal effort, but this week confirmed for me that there’s also a bit of the old “bent rod pattern” in play.
Time and again during our second day on the water we’d be among a group of muskie fishermen congregated in known feeding areas. We’d see a low-slung, Power-Poled boat heading in one direction, then make a sharp turn to investigate why there were so many boats in such a comparatively small space. Seeing that we were in multi-species boats, not bass boats, they no doubt cursed under their breath, then stopped their progress toward us and realigned their steering toward their original direction. No, they were not part of the community.
I’m not going to name names – partially because there’s not necessarily anything wrong with what they did, and partially because I don’t want to embarrass anyone – but there were some big timers among ‘em. Sometimes I had to do a double take because I’ve never seen so many butt seats on tour-level boats, but when 25-40 mile per hour winds kept us off the lake the next day I understood why they took their chairs out of mothballs. Running through Tuesday’s slop, they were far less likely to be distracted by groups of muskie fishermen, even the few they could see as they crested the big waves.