Sunday, August 26, 2012

2012 Walmart FLW Tour Open Lake Erie Day 3: Legendary Nixon Takes Lead Win Big Sack

25.Aug.2012 by Brett Carlson
FLW Press Release
WOODHAVEN, Mich. – Bucking the normal trend of diminishing weights, Larry Nixon has improved his catch each day of the Walmart FLW Tour Open. After sitting in relative obscurity on day one with 17 pounds, Nixon rallied on day two with nearly 23 pounds. Today he upped the ante to 23 pounds, 11 ounces and is one day away from his second tour title on Lake St. Clair.
Larry is trying to capture his 3rd national tournament
on St. Clair. Can he do it fishing amongst several other
top 10 anglers?
(Photos: FLW)
After a relatively poor practice, Nixon was pleasantly surprised to learn his one area that had potentially was actually loaded with giant smallmouths. This spot, a 1-square-mile stretch of water, is essentially a flat with a clean, hard bottom that has scattered rock and grass. It also possesses a considerable amount of baitfish – namely perch and emerald shiners. The area is so big crowding is not an issue, but each of the top three pros are fishing it, as well as ninth-place Shinichi Fukae and 10th-place Chris McCall.
“In practice I really thought I stunk,” said Nixon. “But you never know what you have until you fish it hard. Today was one of those great days. I got on my best waypoint and they were just loaded there. I caught them and caught them, and I was getting concerned because they were mostly 2- to 2 1/2-pounders. Finally I caught one real big one, and another that was pretty big. It really wasn’t as good as yesterday to be honest.”
Nixon has fittingly named this spot “awesome” on his GPS and said it produces best right away in the morning. In fact, the General said he had close to 20 pounds by 8 a.m. By the end of the day, he had caught roughly 25 keepers.

The Chevy pro said he fished in about 15 feet of water and would cast his drop-shot rig to the fish as opposed to dropping it straight down – a technique he referred to as “drag-shotting.” He said he switched up baits when the rig seemed to lose its effectiveness mid-morning. Nixon remained tight-lipped as to what bait he switched to after the drop-shot, but did mention 3-inch Gulp minnows and some various Gulp worms as key drop-shot baits.
Nixon was on fire.
The Bee Branch, Ark., native has accumulated a three-day total of 64 pounds, 7 ounces.
“You just never know on Lake St. Clair,” Nixon said. “I’ve had them just completely disappear. Twenty (pounds) is realistic, but I’m going to need more than that to win. I do have one other really good place where I caught a 4 1/2 and my co-angler jumped off a great big one. It has potential, but it doesn’t have the same bottom composition.”
McDonald slips to second
Bill McDonald didn’t have the best day on Lake St. Clair, but he’s only 5 ounces off the lead after catching a 17-pound, 7 ounce limit Saturday. He’ll start day four with a total weight of 64 pounds, 2 ounces.
“They didn’t bite as good today, but every day is a new day,” said the Greenwood, Ind., pro. “I had a small limit at 9 or 9:30 but it was a grind.”
McDonald’s primary pattern is drop-shotting a Poor Boy’s Erie Darter in 14 to 16 feet of water. Today he also mixed in a crankbait, but dragging plastics continues to be the best presentation. In addition to a new lure, he also sampled two or three other spots. But don’t expect major change tomorrow.
“My game plan is staying the same. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m going to go swing for the fence.”
McDonald said he and Nixon are fishing the same general area and come within 300 or 400 yards of each other during the course of competition.
“He’ll catch his, and I’m going to catch mine. We’ll let the scales weigh them. I’m happy to only be 5 ounces out of first. One big fish changes everything.”
Shuffield third
Despite catching another 21-pound limit, Spencer Shuffield only moved up one spot on the leaderboard – from fourth to third. But that 21-pound limit has him within striking distance with a cumulative total of 62 pounds, 15 ounces.
“Today I started on my best spot within the area and I had that weight in 30 minutes,” he said. “Then I decided to save some because I still think 21 pounds a day is enough to win.”
Shuffield is still catching most of his fish in 15 feet of water on a tube, but today, like McDonald, he mixed in a crankbait. The crankbait acts as a mechanism to fire up the school and the tube is typically the finisher. At times the action is so fast Shuffield will swing a bass in and then immediately drop his tube under the boat to catch the fish that were just chasing.
“The bite is the best right away in the morning and it’s slowing down earlier every day. So the plan tomorrow is to start on my best spot again.”
After staging a late rally at Table Rock earlier this year only to come up ounces short, Shuffield is again in contention for a life-changing first win.
“If I could pick one of those two tournaments to win, it would be this one. I absolutely love St. Clair.”
Johnston, Balog round out top five
The highest-ranking pros not fishing the magic area in St. Clair are Cory Johnston and Joe Balog. Both are sampling Lake Erie, but their patterns are considerably different.
“I found some shallow fish in Erie,” said Johnston, who caught 20-13 on day three. “But the problem is that it takes awhile for the sun to come up and warm the shoals. You’re lucky to get a couple bites before 11 a.m.”
Johnston is using a combination of jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and drop-shots to catch his fish. Each of the last three days he’s shared water with fellow pro Dave Lefebre. Since Lefebre failed to make the top-10 cut, Johnston will have it all to himself on the final day.
“I have a lot of confidence in my spot. If the weather stays consistent I don’t see why I can’t do it again. The only problem is that it takes an hour to get there and an hour to get back. The fish don’t move up until 12:00 or 12:30 so I don’t have much time.”
Johnston’s three-day total is 61 pounds, 11 ounces.
Balog meanwhile continues to play the deep-structure game in Erie. Today was by far his lightest sack as he weighed just 16-14.
“I don’t know what happened today,” said the Harrison Township, Mich., pro. “I fish for big fish in these tournaments and today I only caught little fish. I’d move and catch little fish, move and catch little fish.”
Balog is sampling many spots in 30-some feet of water with a drop-shot and a 5-inch Trigger X minnow. He’ll also occasionally mix in his signature 1-ounce Goby Replica. He starts the final day with a 4-pound deficit and a total weight of 60 pounds, 11 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros who made the cutoff after day three:
6th: Tim Wilson of Gas City, Ind., 60-10
7th: Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., 58-11
8th: John Cox of Debary, Fla., 57-11
9th: Shinichi Fukae of Palestine, Texas, 56-15
10th: Chris McCall of Brookeland, Texas, 56-14
Day four of the FLW Tour on Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River will begin Sunday at 6:30 a.m. from Elizabeth Park Marina located at 202 Grosse Ile Parkway in Trenton. Sunday’s weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 23800 Allen Road in Woodhaven, Mich., beginning at 4 p.m.

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