I recently went to Lake Erie to fish as a co-angler in the Northern Division of the Stren Series with the intention of learning more about catching northern smallmouth. The tournament was July 17 through the 21st, out of Cleveland, OH. When it was all said and done it was certainly an interesting trip and I thought I would share some of my observations.

Downtown Cleveland was surprisingly empty, there was no traffic at 5pm and the sidewalks had very few people on them. I stayed less than ¼ mile from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and saw very little traffic headed that way.

They call those lakes, the “Great Lakes” for a reason; they are bigger than most can comprehend a fresh water lake being. Its like looking out at the ocean, you can not see land on the other side, its awe inspiring and a bit un-nerving.

Bodies of water that big and that open give a whole different meaning to the word rough. We had slight 5 to 10mph winds out of the north east the first day that produced 2 to 4 foot rollers.

Southerly winds are ok for this area as most fishing areas within 20 miles or so are reasonably protected.

The beating that your body and boat take in this kind of water is unlike anything I’ve seen.

Nightly you go through and check/retighten motor mounting and jackplate bolts. Be prepared to replace anything and everything in or on the boat.

Two plus hours of pounding in 2-4 footers will break or rattle loose just about anything.

Its surprising what a bouncing trolling motor head will brake, and those bounce busters wont necessarily protect you.

Pack a separate independent bilge pump, in a Tupperware container; show it to your co-angler so he knows where it’s at and how to use it (hope like hell you don’t have to use it).

Carry different sizes of bungee cords and a roll of duct tape in your boat.

Controlled drifting is a method of fishing.

8lb test will land 4 and 5lb smallmouth.

Smallmouth will hold on to a bait if they eat it, they are not as likely to spit a bait out as a largemouth is.

Drop shotting is coming and I hate it!

Lake Erie is full of drum, aka sheephead, and they live with and eat the same things the big smallmouths do.

If you are going to run more than a quarter mile, you better put on at least your rain jacket. The spray off the waves will soak you, if you manage not to take one over the front.

Be prepared(mentally and equipment wise) to drag a tube with a ½  or ¾ oz. head in 25 to 30’ of water on 8 to 10 lb test.

If you reel a smallmouth 20 or 30ft, and he gets off, open the bail, you’ll
probably still get a fish to the boat.

Just because you’ve never been motion sick, doesn’t mean you don’t
need Dramamine on Lake Erie.

Don’t forget to wear sunscreen, and reapply throughout the day.

Well, I hope someone besides me has learned something from this. I usually try to go through this type of review after a tournament to try and drive home the lessons learned.

There is no substitute for time on the water!

Rusty White of Rock Hill is a professional fisherman and full-time guide on the Catawba chain of lakes, offering full- and half-day services. For more information, visit fishingwithRusty.com.