Friday, August 14, 2020

2020 FLW Super Tournament on Lake Erie Day 3: Bertrand Reclaims Lead with 62-12lbs

St. Clair vs Lake Erie battle raging

By Sean Ostruszka


Bertrand capitalized on bumpy day.
(Photo: FLW) 

It’s a numbers game for Josh Bertrand, and the numbers keep lining up so far.

We’ll start with the biggest number – one – as in, he’s back again in first place at the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Erie after slipping from the top spot to fourth yesterday.

He did that with the biggest weight number of the day – 22 pounds, 14 ounces – to give him 62-12 for the tournament, which is a little more than 2 pounds ahead of Jacob Wheeler, who is on a historic tear (more on that later).

And he was able to put up that big number thanks to some dwindling numbers around his main area.

“Every guy that falls off opens more water up,” says Bertrand about sharing water, especially on day two, around the Gull Island Shoal area. “It’s so hard to bounce around and fish a lot of stuff when you’ve got other guys fishing all the same stuff. Yesterday, I was sharing a spot with seven or eight guys. Today, it was three. Tomorrow, it’ll be one or two.”

Now, those were the good numbers. There are some bad ones, though.

For instance, Bertrand continues to struggle to generate many bites in his area. He admits there are less fish in his area than to start, as “a lot of fish have been pulled out.” He’s barely getting enough bites to fill his limit, and he’s only able to do that because he’s maximizing his time on the water.

“I need every minute,” says Bertrand. “When you’re only getting 5-6-7 bites a day, on a good day, it’s such a fragile thing. If I didn’t have six hours to fish, I’d have no chance. I’d come in with two fish for 9 pounds. It would be too tough, if you were fishing for single fish like I am without that time. It’s the only way it works, for sure.”

The other number to watch is the wind speed, especially for tomorrow.

While the wind was light this morning, it picked up steadily into the 15-20 mph range from about noon on, which made the lake pretty rough. The forecast for the final day looks similar, with potential for even stronger winds. So many guys wondered if they might be held in the bay like what happened on the final day of the recent Toyota Series event out of Sandusky.

Of course, that’s a number Bertrand will just have to worry about come tomorrow. Right now, he’s just focused on that No. 1 number and trying to keep it one more day.

“I’m definitely excited,” says Bertrand. “We’ll try to get a good night’s rest, and prepare for anything. It might be blowing 20 mph in the morning, and I might be fishing for largemouth in 15 hours. Who knows what’ll happen, but I’m super excited.”


2. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 60-9 (15)

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, Wheeler is on a historic run.

Arguably, the three greatest runs of success in recent history are Bryan Thrift’s 2017, Skeet Reese’s 2010 and Kevin VanDam’s 2008. Thrift finished second, second, fifth, 12th and third in five straight FLW Tour events. Reese tore up the 2010 B.A.S.S. Elite Series with finishes of second, fifth, first, fifth and first. Meanwhile, VanDam had a stretch in 2008 where he finished fourth, eighth, second and first in consecutive events.

You could probably put Wheeler’s current streak up against those. His last four finishes in major competition have been 10th, 17th, first and second, with the last two coming in massive fields in the Pro Circuit Super Tournaments. This week, he’ll add another top-10 finish to his streak and has a shot at the best three-tournament streak ever if he wins.

And based on what he saw today, he’s excited to go for the win, especially after losing more than an hour to trolling motor and outboard engine troubles.

“I said to myself (after the technical issues), ‘Listen. This is going to make the story even better. Now let’s go out there and catch a big bag,’” says Wheeler. “And I did that. I caught my biggest bag all week and feel really good tomorrow to do it again.”

Wheeler has bounced between the two lakes this week, staying in Erie on day one, running to Lake St. Clair yesterday and today hanging again in Erie. What he saw in Erie really has him excited, as not only does he have some areas all to himself west of the islands, but he also found one spot where he left them biting.

“[Having the places to myself] is a huge deal,” says Wheeler. “If I can rotate on those places and catch a few nice ones, I have a chance. Two pounds back, it’s possible. I’m excited at having a chance to win two of those things. It’s been unbelievable these last three events, and I’m not about to give it away tomorrow.”

3. Justin Lucas – Guntersville, Ala. – 59-8 (15)

Lucas figured 20 pounds a day would have a shot to win. He’s only a couple ounces shy of hitting that mark and he definitely is in contention.

Unfortunately, Erie seems to be getting stingier on him.

“It was tougher today,” says Lucas. “I got the same amount of bites. I got seven bites, but the weights have been going down each day. I never hooked a big one today. Never lost one today. Is what it is.”

Lucas did deviate a little to try to get some bigger bites, spending an hour around the Bass Islands that didn’t pan out. “You have to take a little gamble and risk to win these things.”

Fortunately, he knows what lives in his main areas, and if the pros are allowed to fish the lake tomorrow, he feels he can make it happen.

“Tomorrow will be a battle,” says Lucas. “If we go out there, Wheeler or Bertrand could go out and catch two or three fish. It can happen. Fortunately, I have a couple spots where I feel there are multiple fish living on those spots. So, if I can catch a limit early and then scrap out a couple big ones, I can have a chance at this thing.”


4. Spencer Shuffield – Hot Springs, Ark. – 57-14 (15)

When you’re running more than 100 miles each way, fishing time is a factor. When that run also may include some bumpy water, it’s even more so. Hence, Shuffield has had to really try to time things right while running almost to Metropark area of Lake St. Clair.

“Today I fished for 2 hours, 45 minutes, but I could’ve fished for four hours,” says Shuffield. “Every day I’ve been back an hour and a half early. I’ve really paid attention to [time] all week and especially today. The first day was the bumpiest ride, but today was the most treacherous. The waves were a lot bigger.”

Despite the lack of time with a line in the water, Shuffield has made the run worth it, and had the fish cooperated more today, it really might’ve been worth it.  

“I have an area where I’ve caught my biggest one every day,” says Shuffield. “I always stop on it 15 minutes left and catch a big one. Well, today I saw more big ones there than I’d seen yet, and I do not know why they wouldn’t bite. They’d chase the dang drop-shot all the way to the trolling motor but wouldn’t touch it. Really weird today.

“I don’t see [the waves] getting much worse tomorrow. So, the way I see it, I can at least fish another 45 minutes. So, I’m going to try and fish for three and a half hours. I’m going to go to my primary area and get 13-15 pounds, and then go to my big-fish area and spend the rest of my time there.”


5. Alton Jones Jr. – Lorena, Texas – 57-0 (15)

Like Shuffield, Jones Jr. has been making the 100-mile run to St. Clair for the first three days. He may not tomorrow, though.

“An hour in I didn’t have a fish,” says Jones Jr. “I was starting to think who can I call to come pick me up at Metropark. If I wouldn’t have had a good enough bag to put me in the top 10 I’d have called somebody, even an Uber to get me back here and leave my boat. Because I wasn’t going to make that run back with nothing.”

The reason it got tough was a change in wind direction that seemed to move all of his fish.

“These smallmouth are so nomadic, the second the wind switches they move,” says Jones Jr. “So, my fish ghosted me. I had an area five football fields long and never saw a bass or caught a bass. I changed areas and was fortunate to catch five and cull once.”

As for tomorrow, he’ll make a “game-time decision.” As of weigh-in, he didn’t think he would run, but once he sleeps on it, he will see how close he is and may still try it. And what he’s truly hoping is for the field to be locked in the bay because “at that point it’s anybody’s ball game.”


Top 10 pros

1. Josh Bertrand – San Tan Valley, Ariz. – 62-12 (15)

2. Jacob Wheeler – Harrison, Tenn. – 60-9 (15)

3. Justin Lucas – Guntersville, Ala. – 59-8 (15)

4. Spencer Shuffield – Hot Springs, Ark. –57-14 (15)

5. Alton Jones Jr. – Lorena, Texas – 57-0 (15)

6. Scott Dobson – Clarkston, Mich. – 55-4 (15)

7. Jim Moynagh – Shakopee, Minn. – 54-6 (15)

8. Jason Lambert – Michie, Tenn. – 53-3 (15)

9. David Dudley – Lynchburg, Va. – 52-11 (15)

10. Russ Lane – Prattville, Ala. – 52-2 (15)

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