The 2018 Border City Classic

I bet you didn’t expect a post-event article from the guy who placed 23rd out of 100 overall… that said, as I reflect upon the 2018 Border City Class event in Ontario on beautiful Lake St. Cair, I actually have a lot to say. BIG open water smallmouth bass, sitting in absolute silence miles offshore, seeing a storm coming at me from 5 miles away with no options but to ride it out, costly risks on Day 1, quality time with friends and family and a lot of other things that you may or may not care about. Maybe you don’t even care about the stuff above, if that’s the case just click the ‘X’ now!

Anyway, this event is extremely well run and professional. Don’t let the $100 price tag scare you away (it’s in Canadian dollars anyway). That price includes two days of competitive fishing, a meal between them, a shot at attending the Hobie Worlds and a payout/prize package that justifies the entry fee. The field of anglers is skilled and most have experience fishing CPR events to the drama is kept to a minimum- in fact, in two straight years, there has been no drama. Perhaps a record in the kayak fishing tournament scene.

I loaded up my Jackson Kayak Kraken 15.5 in preparation for adding numerous miles to my Bending Branches Angler Pro Carbon- a paddle that makes it almost effortless (well at least the first 8 or 10 miles). Truth be told, you will feel outnumbered by peddle crafts but everyone is very welcoming and actually respects what we do… and sometimes seems to forget it is all we know! The Canadian side of LSC is closed for bass fishing until Day 1 of the BCC and I had hoped to pre-fish Michigan on Friday but work got in the way. I ended up crossing the border late on Friday afternoon where I met up with my good friend and roommate for the long weekend, Greg. We did some scouting by car and finally found spot #1. We shared a frost brew at around 8 PM overlooking a very disappointing, very stained LSC.

Though not jumping up out of our seats, we settled on this area due to its proximity to deep water. In my mind I couldn’t help but think, the deeper the cleared and mentally I prepared to make a nearly 5-mile paddle to start the day in 20 feet of water. For those not familiar with the lake, Detroit River channel aside, this depth is difficult to find and most of the fishery is 10-12 feet deep. After a normal, sleepless pre-event night, we unloaded our Krakens at 5:00 waiting for the 5:30 start. We were alone which usually means you are either doing something very right or very wrong.

I paddled out a couple miles and had two bites on a 412 Bait Company tube but missed them both. This was very unusual but I later realized I was swimming in a sea of dinks so thinking back, it makes sense as they can be hard to hook with a fairly large bait. After a detour to a small plateau of shallower water I eventually made my way to the area I had my eye on since the night before. Quickly, I hooked up with an 18-incher. I zig-zagged the area for a couple hours and picked up dink after dink before very hesitantly deciding I needed to leave. By this time, I had spent entirely too much time in this area and knew I took a risk I wouldn’t likely recover from, especially since I was so far from “home.”

LESSON 1: Never make a risk so large on Day 1 that you cannot recover from it in a 2-Day event.

As I started to make my 4-mile paddle back, I noticed what looked to be a fairly substantial storm heading my way. Knowing I could get my Kraken to 5 MPH at best, I knew I couldn’t beat it. One of the coolest experiences of my life was hearing a torrential downpour from literally miles away become louder and louder each step of the way- by the time it was within 100 yards it was so quiet otherwise but loud from the rain dropping I wasn’t able to hear a thing. Unforgettable.

I paddled 2 miles or so in the hard rain and by the time I could see my truck, it was getting close to 12:30. This was a pivotal point… give up on Day 1, clean myself up and get back to the Captain’s Meeting or load everything up in a monsoon and try a different put in. By this time I had a couple a musky but only 2 bass on the board- the early morning 18.25 and pretty forgettable 15 that I picked up on my way back. For a 5-fish limit, things weren’t looking good. I decided to give it everything I had, load up, drive a while and paddle to clean water. As the sun started to break through the rain clouds I learned something else.

LESSON 2: Lake St. Clair cleans up more quickly than any other fishery I’ve seen.

Beautiful blue water was definitely within paddling range and much shallower than I imagined it could be the night before. By the time I reached it, it was close to 1:30 and I had hook-ups at 1:38, 1:57 and 2:52. My 2:52 fish was one of the most accomplished feelings of my life- I literally landed my 5th measurable fish to fill my limit with 8 minutes to go. Again, something I won’t forget. The paddle back was something I wouldn’t mind forgetting. On and off, I had one side of my body go numb and in total I logged over 14 miles, including a few which were spent digging in against some nasty gusts. I slept very well that night.

Day two was extremely fun- I fished among some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. In this extremely open and featureless lake, we weren’t within earshot but we still all shared the same area in a sense. By the middle of the day I found a very effective big fish pattern and ran with it until the bell rang. I ended up with 92 inches across my 5 best smallmouth bass which is a number I’ll take across the border with pride. It was good enough for 8th place among the nearly 100 anglers who fished the second day.

My parents drove up late Saturday night and brought their bass boat and I was able to share some time on the water with them on Monday and Tuesday. We rarely get a chance to fish together due to the general craziness of real life that it was a welcomed escape. We all caught nice fish and I can’t say enough about this fishery- it’s simply incredible and I can’t wait to get back across the border.

Thanks to everyone who dedicates their undivided attention to making this event a success and here’s to new friends and, of course, new adventures.

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