As I’m sure you recall, B.A.S.S. held their most recent Elite Series event on Lake St. Clair, where winner Chris Lane brought in over 80 pounds of bass during the 4 day event. One of the many complaints in that event was the poor showing and condition of the fish from the Lake proper. Even Kevin VanDam, in an interview with BassFan this week stated, “What really blows me away was the fish were not in that condition right before the off-limits. I couldn’t imagine that things could change that much in a month, but they did.” Of course, the lake isn’t even close to being fished out, so why the headline? What does this have to do with bass fishing history?
Interestingly, local anglers used to think that the lake actually WAS fished out. I came across the following picture/report in an April, 1967 issue of Fishing News this week that featured none other than Buck Perry himself, with one of his many catches made in the region, this one actually from Lake St. Clair, while traveling and promoting “spoonplugging” during those early ‘structure fishing’ days.
The caption in the picture reads:
“Here’s John Buoy of LaGrange, Illinois with the old master himself, Buck Perry. John drove over to Detroit one day last season to fish Lake St. Clair which the local natives regard as completely fished out. The natives were staggered by the success these men had, right off the skyline of one of the world’s greatest cities! John reports that the fishing was out of this world. He reported that it was no trouble at all catching 20 or 40 smallmouths of this size while anchored and casting. They were in a spot none of the local anglers ever fished. They first found the school – using the Perry Method – and then anchored and cast into them. What a slaughter! Again, proof, that the Perry Method works in any lake, anywhere!”
As has been stated before, the health of most of our bass fisheries throughout the country are in better shape now than they’ve ever been for a variety of reasons. Still, it is interesting to look back and see how anglers that had largely been relegated to fishing the shoreline and whatever visual cover objects they could find, felt that the local lakes were over pressured and truly fished out. In reality, the advent of sonar (Lowrance Lo-K-Tor) around that time, along with a few angling pioneers who got anglers looking for fish “out in the middle of nowhere”, created a fish catching revolution that helped propel the sport forward in so many ways…and sensational headlines like “Huge Fish Within Sight of Skyline of Detroit” probably didn’t hurt the cause either.