Todd Schmitz of Goshen, Ind., had the deck stacked against him on the final day of the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on the Detroit River. He started Saturday in ninth place and more than five pounds behind leader Chris King, who had smacked 25-plus pounds Friday.
But King of South Amherst, Ohio, faltered Saturday and didn't weigh in a single fish. The honey hole he relied on for the two previous days dried up and King wound up in 20th place, which opened the door for Schmitz. Schmitz boated 23-13, the third heaviest bag of the tournament and the heaviest of the final day, to build his three-day total to 61-0. With the victory, Schmitz will take home more than $46,000 and valuable points in the Bassmaster Northern Open circuit.
Schmitz is no stranger to success in BASS competition, registering two previous wins with BASS, but this is without a doubt the biggest.
"This is unreal, I mean I'm thrilled and all, but it really hasn't set in yet," Schmitz said as he shielded his trophy from the rain. "To be able to compete -- and win -- against guys this good is unbelievable. I couldn't be happier."
Schmitz's practice was cut short as he had to work on Sunday and Monday. However, the fish he found in Lake St. Clair proved to be reliable enough to sustain him over three days. He was throwing a Bomber Fat Free Shad in perch colors and mixed things up -- a more natural shade when the sun was out and a brighter scheme during overcast skies -- depending on the conditions. He focused on sandy spots near the shipping channel in St. Clair.
"The water I was catching them in was slightly cooler than the rest of the lake," the national RV rep said. "They'd move around a lot and it was just a matter of finding them each day."
Day 1 leader and Lake Erie guide David Hasty of Toledo, Ohio, brought 16-14 to the scales the final day, falling over a pound short with a three-day total of 59-3. Hasty found that the Detroit River had dropped more than a foot the final day, which scattered his fish.
"They moved, and I caught some good fish, but not like I was the first two days," he said.
Behind Hasty was local favorite Ryan Said, of Wixom, Mich., who made a strong case for the win with his 20-9 limit on the final day and 56-10 total. In fourth was Art Ferguson of St. Clair Shores, Mich., who added 17-12 to his weigh for a total of 56-7. In fifth place was Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., who caught 18-11 the final day for a total of 56-5.
With Dave Wolak, the points leader in the Northern Opens heading into this week, not participating in the Detroit River Open, the door was swung wide open in the points race and Said took full advantage. With a third and a second-place finish in the division, Said has taken a commanding lead in the race for the two Bassmaster Classic spots. The full standings are below.
On the co-angler side, Kenneth Taylor of Shelby Township, Mich., took home a Triton/Mercury rig valued at $34,000 for his three-day total of 38-13. He bested second place by more than 5 pounds.
"This is incredible," the Chrysler employee and part-time firefighter said. "I had great pros all three days who were willing to work with me and put me on fish."
Taylor drop shotted most of his fish in Lake St. Clair, where he feels most at home. Behind him was Ken Ramsey of Cassopolis, Mich., who brought 11-8 to the scales on the final day for a three-day total of 33-12. In third was Joshua Kolodzaike of Toledo, Ohio, whose three-day total weighed 32-6.
The next stop for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Opens is set for the Chesapeake Bay out of Cecil County, Md., on Sept. 16-18. The tidal fishery will undoubtedly play into the hands of the locals who are familiar with the treacherous waters. Last year's winner, Dave Mansue, is doubtful that he will attend after a less-than-stellar performance in the first two Northern Opens. This leaves the door wide open for other pros to earn a Classic berth.