By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Following are some pattern details for the 2nd- through 5th-place finishers at the recent Lake St. Clair Bassmaster Elite Series.

2nd: Cory Johnston

> Day 1: 5, 21-11
> Day 2: 5, 21-05
> Day 3: 5, 23-01
> Day 4: 5, 19-14
> Total = 20, 85-15

Cory Johnston logged his third consecutive Top-10 finish to move from outside the 2021 Bassmaster Classic cutline (40th place) to 13th in the Angler of the Year standings. He didn't have to burn much gas to do it, spending the vast majority of his time within a 5-mile radius in the Metro Park area. He ended up with a total that was half a pound less than winner Bill Weidler's.

He targeted sand flats with isolated grass in 16 to 21 feet of water. He rotated through half a dozen locations, but there were three that produced well above the others and two of those he had entirely to himself.

"It was just a matter of getting in the right areas and grinding it out," he said. "The real key was the Garmin LiveScope without that you're basically at a huge disadvantage. I saw about 90 percent of the fish (on his graph) way out and I could cast to them before they were under the boat.

"You could find a group of fish that would be there one day, but the next day they were gone. I had to keep covering water until I came across a group of them."

He located a sunken barrel that seemed to be a smallmouth magnet. There were five hanging around it on day 1 and he picked off each one of them, and he found two there the next morning and caught them both.

All of his fish came on a dropshot rig utilizing various baits.

> Dropshot gear: 7' medium-light Daiwa Tatula Elite Cody Meyer Dropshot rod, size 3000 Daiwa Exist spinning reel, 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid (main line), 8-pound Seguar Tatsu fluorocarbon (10' leader), 3/8-ounce Woo Tungsten teardrop-style weight, size 1 Gamakatsu Aaron Martens TGW Drop Shot hook, Strike King Baby Z-Too (shad colors), Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm (green-pumpkin) or Berkley MaxScent Flatnose Minnow (green-pumpkin).



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

John Cox held the lead after each of the first 3 days.

3rd: John Cox

> Day 1: 5, 24-12
> Day 2: 5, 20-10
> Day 3: 5, 20-12
> Day 4: 5, 19-10
> Total = 20, 85-12

John Cox sat atop the standings after each of the first 3 days, although never by much his biggest lead was 1-10. He spent the tournament in the St. Clair River after discovering that all of the places he wanted to try on the lake were covered up on the first day of practice.

"There were people everywhere," he said. "I had spots marked where I wanted to look for grass, but I couldn't pull up on anything that didn't have at least five boats on it. Some of them had 30.

"Once I got in the river, there were only a few people in there."

He fished seawalls and current seams and caught weigh-in fish from a wide depth range (3 to 20 feet).

"I think the biggest thing was not giving up and just continuing to grind on them," he said. "It was the first time I'd really gotten to grind on smallmouths and run spots and bounce around."

He had a 5 1/2-pounder in his final-day bag, but caught only six keepers that day and was forced to weigh two that were under 3 pounds.

> Dropshot gear: 7' medium-action Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier MGX and MGXtreme spinning reels, 8-pound Berkely Fireline Crystal (main line), Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon (leader), 3/8-ounce teardrop-style tungsten weight, size 2 straight-shank hook, Berkley MaxScent Flat Worm (brown back or white) or Berkley PowerBait Jerk Shad (white or watermelon red).

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Fish management was a big key to Clark Wendlandt's 4th-place finish.

4th: Clark Wendlandt

> Day 1: 5, 20-00
> Day 2: 5, 24-05
> Day 3: 5, 20-13
> Day 4: 5, 20-07
> Total = 20, 85-09

Clark Wendlandt has visited Lake St. Clair many times during his long career. This time he exploited an area he'd never fished before a place near Anchor Bay in the northern part of the lake that featured various cover types.

"I wasn't really targeting anything in particular," he said. "There was a little bit of grass and some boulders."

One thing I did was I managed my spot pretty well. I got some bites on the first day of practice and some were the type I needed up to 5 pounds. I never fished that area again in practice and I didn't fish any satellite places or other spots in that same (vicinity). I knew there were big ones there and that's where I was going."

The place was extremely fruitful in the early mornings and he loaded up in the first hour or two on each of the first 2 days. He stayed longer on the weekend days, but it became more difficult to fish due to heavy boat traffic.

"I was fortunate that nobody else found that place and I managed it really well."

He used a two-pronged attack featuring a dropshot rig and a crankbait.

> Dropshot gear: 7'1" medium-action Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Series rod, size 300 Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Series spinning reel, 16-pound Sunline SX1 braid (main line), 10- or 12-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon (10' leader), 3/8- or 1/2-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten teardrop-style weight, size 2 Owner Mosquito hook, unnamed finesse worm (green-pumpkin).

> Cranking gear: 7' medium-heavy Bass Pro Shops Cranking rod, Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Platinum Signature Series casting reel (8.3:1 ratio), 18-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, Strike King 5XD (chartreuse sexy shad).

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Jake Whitaker's bags increased in weight on each of the 4 tournament days.

5th: Jake Whitaker

> Day 1: 5, 18-07
> Day 2: 5, 21-10
> Day 3: 5, 22-06
> Day 4: 5, 22-11
> Total = 20, 85-02

The weight of Jake Whitaker's bags increased on each successive day, but his chances of winning were dealt a severe blow with an 18 1/2-pound effort in the opening round. Like Cox, he dedicated the vast majority of his time to the St. Clair River.

"I practiced one full day in the river and I didn't kill it by any means, but I caught better quality fish in there," he said. "On day 1 (of competition) my plan was to catch 17 to 18 pounds in the river, then go to the lake and try to upgrade. I caught 18 1/2 and went to the lake at 12 o'clock, but I never did anything, so from the second day on I stayed in the river the rest of the time."

He fished places where grass flats dropped off into the river channel and used a Ned rig to pull fish from 20 to 30 feet of water.

"I'd usually catch two or three good ones in the morning, then from 9 to 12 it would just go dead at my starting spot. I started spending that time at another place, which was sometimes good and sometimes not, and then I'd go back to my primary after 12 and usually upgrade a time or two.

"If I could've made a couple of upgrades on that first afternoon, I would've had 20 pounds and I would've won. But that's part of fishing and I'm not disappointed at all."

> Ned rig gear: 7'2" medium-light ALX ZOLO Trickster rod, size 30 Abu Garcia Revo Premier MGX spinning reel, 15-pound P-Line XTCB braid (main line), 8-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon (leader), 1/4-ounce True South Custom Lures Ned Head, Bizz Baits Ned Dizzy or Z-Man Hula StickZ (green-pumpkin).