By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
There was no question that it was going to take an epic final-day stringer to win the Lake St. Clair FLW Tour. Chad Grigsby was the angler who caught it.
Grigsby notched his second career victory on the circuit and claimed a Forrest Wood Cup berth as he finished with a 4-day total of 97-08 – an astounding mark considering that it was achieved entirely with smallmouth bass. His 26-04 haul on the final day left him a little more than 2 pounds ahead of runner-up Dylan Hays.
"I can't believe it, man; not that I won, but how much weight it took," Grigsby said. "Being from here (he grew up in Michigan before moving to Minnesota in his early 30s), this one was a lot of fun. My wife and daughters were here for it – the kids got to stay with grandma and grandpa.
"A lot of times when somebody wins, they get handed the trophy and they don't have any (family members) around and then it's like, 'Okay, now drive home.' It was nice that they all could be here."
Hays, who as the day-3 leader was the only competitor other than Grigsby to sit atop the standings, boxed 23-02 to finish with 95-05. Knight, the former Forrest Wood Cup winner who shared an area with Hays throughout the event that was in close proximity to Grigsby's locale, ended up with 92-05 after a 21-13 final-day sack.
Local standout Scott Dobson finished 4th – his placement after each day of the derby – with 89-11 (21-01 on day 4). Perennial high-finisher Bryan Thrift concluded his best trip to Michigan with a 21-11 stringer that gave him a 5th-place aggregate of 87-13.
Here are the final numbers for the bottom half of the top 10:
6. Todd Castledine: 85-01
7. Cody Hahner: 84-11
8. Jeremy Lawyer: 82-14
9. Ryan Chandler: 82-06
10. Joey Cifuentes: 82-03
Grigsby's performance in the regular-season finale allowed him to slip into the field for the Forrest Wood Cup – he needed to finish 3rd or better in the tournament to make it. It's an event he's competed in four times previously, but not since 2010.
Grigsby had a 45-minute flurry on day for that he described as "crazy."
For a complete list of Cup qualifiers, click here. The tournament will take place Aug. 10-12 at Lake Ouachita in Arkansas.
Grigsby's Move Paid Off
> Day 4: 5, 26-04 (20, 97-08)
Grigsby caught quality fish throughout the final day, but a move toward the shore (albeit still far from dry ground) produced the flurry that carried him to victory.
"I had one 4-pounder and a limit that weighed 13 or 14 pounds and I was milling around the area I'd been fishing," he said. "I was starting to feel like I'd burnt it out. I'd seen some bass on the first day of the tournament about 400 or 500 yards away that were coming up and busting on mayflies or something. I made a pass through there on the second day and didn't get any bites, but I knew there was something there that was holding them.
"I didn't go to it yesterday, but today I had a gut feeling. Where I was at was dying – I'd already caught all the big ones. I'd expanded out deeper, but not in the direction of the bank. When I went in there (the surface) was kind of choppy, but not bad. The wind was dying down and I caught a 5-01 and a 4-11 on my tube."
By the time he'd put the second one in his livewell, the wind had almost completely shut down.
"I said to my cameraman, 'You may think I'm crazy (to change baits), but this is what I've been waiting for. I picked up the spybait and on the second cast I caught a 5-15, then a 5-06 two casts later that had seven other fish with it and they were all big, black magnums. Then I caught a 5-03.
Dylan Hays started the day with the lead and caught another good bag, but it wasn't quite enough.
"For 45 minutes, it was crazy. It was (a bite) almost every cast and they were all big ones. To find a place that good that you have all to yourself doesn't happen very often."
Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be posted in the coming days.
2nd: Hays Came Up Short
> Day 2: 5, 23-02 (20, 95-05)
Hays, who spent the entire tournament among the top 5, caught another strong bag. However, it wasn't enough to hold off Grigsby.
"There's nothing I can do about it – I didn't lose it, I just got beat," he said. "At this point I just have to (accept) it.
"I didn't fish clean and it's hard to win when you don't. At least I was able to overcome it and still have a big bag."
He boated more than three dozen keepers, including many in the 4-pound class. At one point he caught 10 consecutive 4-pounders – none of which helped him. His haul was topped by back-to-back 5-pounder that bit in the early afternoon.
He lost two 6-pounders at different parts of the day from the exact same locale, which made him wonder if it might've been the same fish on both occasions.
"From 12:30 to 2:30, I probably caught fish on 80 percent of my casts," he said.
3rd: Mixed Feelings for Knight
> Day 4: 5, 21-13 (20, 92-05)
Knight's finish was his best since his Cup triumph 3 years ago. Perhaps it marks the end of a rough stretch – he's now posted back-to-back 99th-place showings on the final points list.
"This one was bittersweet," he said. "From the business side, this is how I feed my family and pay the bills, so that part of it's good. But from a competition standpoint, I know how hard it is to get into contention to win one of these and when it happens, you want to close the deal.
"In all honesty, I'd have had to catch a ridiculous bag today to beat Chad. The last thing I would've wanted was to catch 26 pounds and still get beat."
Brad Knight's finish was his best since his Forrest Wood Cup win in 2015.
He got good bites throughout the day, but eventually reached a point where they were all 4-pounders or less that were of no use to him. A 5 1/4-pounder was the biggest fish on his stringer.
"Yesterday I had a couple flurries of 5-pounders, but today those fish were 3s and 4s. It was pretty much a three-man race and we all knew that whoever caught a 25-pound bag would win. Chad ran across a pod of big ones and he caught them – it's as simple as that."
4th: Dobson Did His Thing
> Day 4: 5, 21-01 (20, 89-11)
Dobson's 4-day total was entirely acceptable – he just had no inkling before the tournament began that multiple competitors would exceed 90 pounds.
"lf you'd have told me that I'd catch 89 pounds and wouldn't win this tournament, I'd have said you were crazy," he said. "I did my thing and I could've done it a little better – I maybe could've had 94 pounds if I'd executed on all my jerkbait fish.
"Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm not going to go and beat my head on a wall for coming in 4th out of 180 guys."
His final day bag was actually a bit bigger than he'd anticipated.
"I'd been looking at so many big fish this week and I didn't weigh any of them (on the water) today. I'd look in my livewell and see a lot of white (the floor and sides of the box) and I'd say to myself, 'Your bag sucks.'
"I thought I had closer to 19 1/2 pounds, maybe 20 at the outside."
5th: Thrift Pleased
> Day 4: 5, 21-11 (20, 87-13)
This wasn't just another run-of-the-mill single-digit showing for Thrift – he hadn't fared well on the Detroit River system in the past.
"It's an awesome way to end the (regular) season – I never dreamed of doing this well up here," the two-time Angler of the Year said. "I've been to Erie three or four times and I think I've made one check and finished in the hundreds a couple of times. I'm counting this as a victory."
He went through about a dozen keepers on day 4, including a 5 1/2-pounder and one that was almost 5. The only bite he lost was his first of the day and he said it would've aided him by only a couple of ounces, if at all.
"Today was a little slower. I knew I was running out of fish and I was prepared for it. I just made myself stay put and catch what was left."
> Day 4 stats – 10 anglers, 10 limits.
Day 4 (Final) Standings
1. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, Mn -- 25-13 (5) -- 24-4 (5) -- 21-3 (5) -- 26-4 (5) -- 97-8 (20) -- $128,000
2. Dylan Hays -- Sheridan, Ar -- 23-6 (5) -- 26-7 (5) -- 22-6 (5) -- 23-2 (5) -- 95-5 (20) -- $30,200
3. Brad Knight -- Lancing, Tn -- 22-1 (5) -- 23-0 (5) -- 25-5 (5) -- 21-15 (5) -- 92-5 (20) -- $25,100
4. Scott Dobson -- Clarkston, Mi -- 23-7 (5) -- 22-14 (5) -- 22-5 (5) -- 21-1 (5) -- 89-11 (20) -- $20,000
5. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 23-2 (5) -- 23-2 (5) -- 19-14 (5) -- 21-11 (5) -- 87-13 (20) -- $19,000
6. Todd Castledine -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 20-12 (5) -- 22-13 (5) -- 22-1 (5) -- 19-7 (5) -- 85-1 (20) -- $18,000
7. Cody Hahner -- Wausau, Wi -- 20-13 (5) -- 20-11 (5) -- 22-3 (5) -- 21-0 (5) -- 84-11 (20) -- $17,000
8. Jeremy Lawyer -- Sarcoxie, Mo -- 22-0 (5) -- 19-11 (5) -- 21-4 (5) -- 19-15 (5) -- 82-14 (20) -- $16,000
9. Ryan Chandler -- Hebron, In -- 23-10 (5) -- 19-11 (5) -- 20-11 (5) -- 18-6 (5) -- 82-6 (20) -- $15,500
10. Joey Cifuentes -- Clinton, Ar -- 22-11 (5) -- 21-10 (5) -- 19-2 (5) -- 18-12 (5) -- 82-3 (20) -- $14,000