Canadians Gallant 5th, Chris Johnston 29th. Cory Johnston 46th & Gustafson 59th
By Christopher Decker
BASS Press Release
The 2021 St. Lawrence River champion, who landed 21-12 on Day 1, leads Arkansas pro Joey Cifuentes III by 10 ounces and Oklahoma’s Luke Palmer is third with 45-12. With his performance Friday, Ito has now secured the Day 3 cut in every single northern smallmouth Elite Series event he has competed in.
“It was an awesome day,” said Ito, who speaks limited English. “I don’t know why, but many fish come in my boat. It was a crazy day.”
Ito said he caught almost 20 smallmouth over 4 pounds on the day, including a 6-2 smallie that took over the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament.
“I dropped my bait down, and (it bit) just like that. It is easy,” Ito said.
Ito’s Day 2 bag, which now leads the race for VMC Monster Bag of the Tournament, wasn’t something he thought was possible coming into the event. He was expecting 19 or 20 pounds would be a good day.
Unlike a lot of anglers who are moving around vast areas on the trolling motor, Ito has been bouncing from spot to spot with his outboard. He noticed the smallmouth hanging around several types of cover, including rock, sand and grass.
“It is isolated,” he explained.
Ito has caught bass in a variety of depths, from 8 feet all the way out to 15 feet, and has noticed crawfish and gobies floating in his livewell.
Cloudy conditions, along with a little wind, were present most of Day 1 across St. Clair — and while Ito was already in good position in 14th place, the calm and mostly sunny conditions across the lake Friday helped him immensely. With those conditions, he can see the bass easier on his forward-facing sonar.
“Calm, sunny and no wind, very good for me. I love it,” Ito said.
Using Japanese baits, including a shrimp-style bait and a drop-shot rig, Ito has mostly dropped vertically on the smallmouth he has caught with a couple coming on shorter casts. Ito mentioned putting a secret powder and secret liquid on his baits for added attraction power.
Although he returned to the same general area where he landed 22-10 on Day 1, Cifuentes fished all new water on the second day and landed 24-0.
“It was slow to start and I was catching little ones, but that is how my days go,” Cifuentes said. “I catch a lot of small fish going in and then I’ll catch a 4-pounder. I just stayed in there and kept working around, and then I caught a 5-pounder and then another 4. It was a good, solid day.”
After leaving his primary area around 12:30 p.m., Cifuentes made one final cull near the takeoff site to get to his final tally.
He has fished several events at Lake St. Clair before, but this is the first time Cifuentes is fishing this particular area. The best part is, he has it mostly to himself. His smallmouth are in a summer pattern and have been located around cabbage with a little rock in 18 feet of water.
He has been able to land the majority of his weight on a Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm rigged on a drop shot.
“I don’t have any pressure around me,” he said. “It feels really good. I think I can expand on it even more. I didn’t catch any fish today on the same waypoints I did yesterday. If I find the right direction to expand, I can catch them. I don’t know if it can hold up for four days — it might be tough, but I am going to try.”
Palmer added 23-12 to his 22-0 Day 1 bag, moving from 12th place all the way to third. The winner of the Elite Series event on Santee Cooper in late April, he started Friday by catching a 5-pounder and several other smaller bass.
After bouncing around some, Palmer arrived at his best area and culled four times using a drop shot and a couple of soft plastics. That area is a place he has saved until the afternoon each day so far and has had mostly to himself.
Palmer feels the sun significantly improves the bite on that spot, but the challenge is relocating his smallmouth each day.
“If I can see them and they are 3 feet off the bottom, it is going to happen,” he explained. “It just takes a while to find them.”
Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 582 points. Opelika, Ala., pro Kyle Welcher is second with 567 points, followed by Raceland, La., pro Tyler Rivet in third with 540, DeBary, Fla., pro John Cox in fourth with 532 and Cairo, Ga., pro Drew Cook in fifth with 530.
The Top 50 remaining pros will launch from Brandenburg Park at 7 a.m. ET Saturday and will return for weigh-in beginning at 3 p.m. The Top 10 after Saturday’s round will advance to Championship Sunday for a chance to win the coveted blue trophy and $100,000.
Bassmaster LIVE kicks off tournament coverage Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on FS1 before moving to Bassmaster.com until 2:45 p.m.
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
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