By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


If Michael Sitko weren't a serious walleye fisherman in addition to being a hardcore smallmouth-chaser, he likely wouldn't have won last week's Detroit River Central EverStart.

His boat, a Ranger 621VS, is the type preferred by open-water walleye anglers. With a deeper V-hull than a standard bass rig, it was much better suited to the rough conditions that prevailed on Lake Erie on the final day of the derby than the crafts piloted by the other nine finalists. It allowed him to withstand the 5- to 6-foot rollers produced by winds in excess of 20 mph while his competitors, most of whom had also fished Erie on days 1 and 2, were relegated to plying either the river itself or adjoining Lake St. Clair.

He caught a 21-06 stringer on the final day to leap-frog six anglers and claim the most significant victory of his career. The 39-year-old repair technician for AT&T ended up with a 61-15 total, outdistancing runner-up Rick Taylor by more than 4 1/2 pounds.

Here's how he did it.

Practice

Sitko lives just 45 minutes from Erie in Farmington Hills, Mich. and is on the lake an average of a couple of times a week during the warmer months. For this event he slept in the house he grew up in – his mother's place in Trenton, Mich. – which is only about 10 miles from the launch.

"One night she made me spaghetti and another night we had corned beef and cabbage," he said. "There's nothing like mom's home cooking."

On the Saturday prior to day 1, he and a buddy placed 3rd out of 12 teams in a local tournament, catching just over 20 pounds. He stayed off the water on Sunday, and then practiced Monday and Tuesday before taking Wednesday off to tend to his equipment.

"I had kind of a poor practice. I was trying to find new stuff. I knew some of my better stuff had fish, so I stayed away.

"On Wednesday I opted not to practice. I didn't want to go to stuff I knew, and I knew that's what I'd do if I went out there."

Having not located anything promising in his 2 days of venturing to new locales, he decided to stick to a half-dozen tried-and-true areas during the event. All were isolated patches of rock in depths ranging from 12 to 25 feet that he worked with dropshot rigs.

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 18-10
> Day 2: 5, 21-15
> Day 3: 5, 21-06
> Total = 15, 61-15

Sitko weighed his smallest bag of the tournament on day 1, and he said that was primarily because he was outfished by his co-angler.

"He had almost a pound more than I did, but that's just how it happens sometimes – that's fishing," he said. "My biggest one was 4 1/4 pounds.

"The best thing about the day was that I fished some stuff that didn't produce and I was able to eliminate it for the rest of the tournament."

His day-2 haul was more than 3 1/4 pounds heavier. Some of the credit for that went to a 6-02 brute that was the biggest fish to come to the scale over the first 2 days. It represented an upgrade of more than 3 pounds over the bronzeback it replaced in his livewell.

That big stringer gained him a slot in the final-day field and he took full advantage. The conditions that blew in overnight (the big lake had been relatively calm and flat for the first 2 days) were precisely what he needed to have a shot at victory.

"I was 3 pounds behind, and that would've been too much to make up if it had been calm again," he said. "Fortunately the fish in Erie like to bite when it's not calm.

"I don't want to make it sound like it was a walk in the park for me because it was the farthest thing from that. It was very miserable fishing and you couldn't hold on your spots. Even in that boat I couldn't fish extremely effectively, but I was able to fish."

By 11:40 he'd amassed a bag that was only about a half-pound shy of his previous day's haul, even though it didn't contain a fish over 4 3/4 pounds. He headed for the launch shortly thereafter.

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Sitko's day-2 bag was topped by a 6-02 bronzeback.

"I had a seasick co-angler who I was getting a little worried about and it took me 50 minutes to go those 20 miles. On the way back in, I thought I might've had a chance (to win) because I saw that everybody who'd been on the lake was no longer there – they'd all left to go to the river.

"I'm still having a hard time believing that I actually won because all of those guys I was fishing against are so good out there."

Gear Notes

> Tube gear: 7'3" medium-action G. Loomis Bronzeback Series rod, Quantum spinning reel, 10-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon line, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce lead dropshot weight, size 1 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook, 4" generic tube (green-pumpkin).

> At times he employed a Berkley Twitchtail Minnow to imitate fry that he saw. He threw that on the same setup, but used a 6'6" medium-action G. Loomis Drop Shot rod.

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "The wind. It gave me (Lake Erie) all to myself."

> Performance edge – "Absolutely, my boat was the key. It allowed me to get where I needed to go to catch those fish."

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. Michael Sitko -- Farmington Hills, Mi -- 18-10 (5) -- 21-15 (5) -- 40-09 (10) -- 21-06 (5) -- 61-15 (15) -- $32,841 + boat

2. Rick Taylor -- West Olive, Mi -- 21-12 (5) -- 21-04 (5) -- 43-00 (10) -- 14-04 (5) -- 57-04 (15) -- $12,315

3. Heath Wagner -- Angola, In -- 24-00 (5) -- 19-09 (5) -- 43-09 (10) -- 13-04 (5) -- 56-13 (15) -- $8,210

4. Trevor Jancasz -- White Pigeon, Mi -- 22-01 (5) -- 19-01 (5) -- 41-02 (10) -- 14-05 (5) -- 55-07 (15) -- $7,389

5. Ryan Said -- Wixom, Mi -- 21-09 (5) -- 19-11 (5) -- 41-04 (10) -- 10-06 (4) -- 51-10 (14) -- $6,568

6. Jeff Vizachero -- Grosse Ile, Mi -- 21-15 (5) -- 17-14 (5) -- 39-13 (10) -- 11-09 (5) -- 51-06 (15) -- $5,747

7. Matt Belletini -- Birmingham, Mi -- 17-05 (5) -- 20-09 (5) -- 37-14 (10) -- 11-11 (5) -- 49-09 (15) -- $4,926

8. Jared Rhode -- Port Clinton, Oh -- 20-05 (5) -- 20-11 (5) -- 41-00 (10) -- 8-00 (4) -- 49-00 (14) -- $4,105

9. Skip Johnson -- Goodells, Mi -- 19-12 (5) -- 18-04 (5) -- 38-00 (10) -- 9-14 (5) -- 47-14 (15) -- $3,284

10. Gary Greenwood -- Irwin, Pa -- 21-09 (5) -- 20-09 (5) -- 42-02 (10) -- 5-03 (2) -- 47-05 (12) -- $2,463

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Joe Balog -- Harrison Township, Mi -- 20-07 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 37-11 (10) -- $2,053

12. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 18-15 (5) -- 18-08 (5) -- 37-07 (10) -- $2,053

13. Troy Lindner -- Los Angeles, Ca -- 17-05 (5) -- 20-00 (5) -- 37-05 (10) -- $2,053

14. John Devries -- Fishers, In -- 19-09 (5) -- 17-05 (5) -- 36-14 (10) -- $2,053

15. Chris King -- South Amherst, Oh -- 18-07 (5) -- 18-06 (5) -- 36-13 (10) -- $2,053

16. David Reault -- Livonia, Mi -- 19-04 (5) -- 17-03 (5) -- 36-07 (10) -- $1,642

17. Greg Bohannan -- Rogers, Ar -- 17-03 (5) -- 18-14 (5) -- 36-01 (10) -- $1,642

18. Rick Damphouse -- West Lorne, On -- 19-04 (5) -- 16-06 (5) -- 35-10 (10) -- $1,642

19. Chris Blackwell -- Clarksville, Tn -- 17-00 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 35-10 (10) -- $1,642

20. Brian Jackson -- Crete, Il -- 16-12 (5) -- 18-10 (5) -- 35-06 (10) -- $1,642

21. Wayne Macklin -- Fowlerville, Mi -- 18-08 (5) -- 16-05 (5) -- 34-13 (10) -- $1,232

22. Michael Trombly -- Perrysburg, Oh -- 16-15 (5) -- 17-08 (5) -- 34-07 (10) -- $1,232

23. Eric Schultz -- Minnetonka, Mn -- 16-06 (5) -- 17-15 (5) -- 34-05 (10) -- $1,232

24. Randy Ramsey -- Ceresco, Mi -- 16-00 (5) -- 18-04 (5) -- 34-04 (10)

25. Todd Hollowell -- Fishers, In -- 12-13 (5) -- 21-02 (5) -- 33-15 (10)

26. Todd Schmitz -- Goshen, In -- 17-07 (5) -- 16-04 (5) -- 33-11 (10)

27. David McCrone -- Minnetonka, Mn -- 16-01 (5) -- 17-07 (5) -- 33-08 (10)

28. Craig Dowling -- Franklin, Tn -- 17-05 (5) -- 16-02 (5) -- 33-07 (10)

29. Nick Neves -- Brooklyn, Mi -- 16-04 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 33-04 (10)

30. Mark Flick -- Delton, Mi -- 16-01 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 33-01 (10)

31. Jeff Cox -- Saline, Mi -- 17-07 (5) -- 15-05 (5) -- 32-12 (10)

32. Frank Novock -- Rockwood, Mi -- 15-07 (5) -- 17-04 (5) -- 32-11 (10)

33. Randy Ramsey Jr -- Chicago, Il -- 15-00 (5) -- 17-00 (5) -- 32-00 (10)

34. Mark Tucker -- Kirkwood, Mo -- 16-10 (5) -- 15-06 (5) -- 32-00 (10)

35. Jason Root -- Fostoria, Oh -- 15-09 (5) -- 16-07 (5) -- 32-00 (10)

36. Michael G Woolley -- West Bloomfield, Mi -- 18-07 (5) -- 13-07 (5) -- 31-14 (10)

37. Ryan Chandler -- Valparaiso, In -- 16-08 (5) -- 15-06 (5) -- 31-14 (10)

38. Chip Harrison -- Pierceton, In -- 14-05 (5) -- 17-08 (5) -- 31-13 (10)

39. Scott Dobson -- Oak Park, Mi -- 14-15 (5) -- 16-13 (5) -- 31-12 (10)

40. Pat Upthagrove -- De Pere, Wi -- 14-05 (5) -- 17-06 (5) -- 31-11 (10)

41. John Hempel -- Brownstown, Mi -- 14-13 (5) -- 16-12 (5) -- 31-09 (10)

42. Rick Eyman -- Lockport, Il -- 16-02 (5) -- 15-01 (5) -- 31-03 (10)

43. Terrance Smith -- Fishers, In -- 15-04 (5) -- 15-14 (5) -- 31-02 (10)

44. Matthew Malmquist -- White Lake, Mi -- 16-10 (5) -- 14-05 (5) -- 30-15 (10)

45. Gary Isgrigg -- Mt. Washington, Ky -- 15-01 (5) -- 15-13 (5) -- 30-14 (10)

46. Chuck Austin -- Saint Peters, Mo -- 14-09 (5) -- 16-02 (5) -- 30-11 (10)

47. Michael Stetich -- Ankeny, Ia -- 16-13 (5) -- 13-13 (5) -- 30-10 (10)

48. Dewayne Eck -- Angola, In -- 17-11 (5) -- 12-14 (5) -- 30-09 (10)

49. Joe Wong -- Hartford Cuty, In -- 14-12 (5) -- 15-08 (5) -- 30-04 (10)

50. Scott Noel -- Loveland, Oh -- 17-01 (5) -- 13-01 (5) -- 30-02 (10)

51. Jason Young -- Fort Pierce, Fl -- 15-07 (5) -- 14-07 (5) -- 29-14 (10)

52. Casey Martin -- New Hope, Al -- 14-09 (5) -- 15-05 (5) -- 29-14 (10)

53. Troy Sitar -- Lawrence, Mi -- 16-00 (5) -- 13-08 (5) -- 29-08 (10)

54. Al Farace -- Hunt Valley, Md -- 13-08 (5) -- 16-00 (5) -- 29-08 (10)

55. Chuck Willis -- Kettering, Oh -- 14-05 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 29-07 (10)

56. Erhardt Tulgetska -- Posen, Mi -- 14-14 (5) -- 14-08 (5) -- 29-06 (10)

57. Jason Lambert -- Pickwick Dam, Tn -- 13-14 (5) -- 15-05 (5) -- 29-03 (10)

58. William Beal -- Lenox, Mi -- 13-13 (5) -- 15-04 (5) -- 29-01 (10)

59. Mike McDonald -- Randleman, NC -- 13-13 (5) -- 15-02 (5) -- 28-15 (10)

60. James Lindner -- Baxter, Mn -- 15-04 (5) -- 13-10 (5) -- 28-14 (10)

61. Bob Priest -- Clarklake, Mi -- 15-04 (5) -- 13-10 (5) -- 28-14 (10)

62. Art Ferguson III -- St. Clair Shores, Mi -- 12-14 (5) -- 15-11 (5) -- 28-09 (10)

63. Brian Rufty -- Berea, Ky -- 15-01 (5) -- 13-08 (5) -- 28-09 (10)

64. Patrick Stines -- Granger, In -- 15-01 (5) -- 13-05 (5) -- 28-06 (10)

65. Cary Bever -- Rhinelander, Wi -- 13-03 (5) -- 15-01 (5) -- 28-04 (10)

66. Michael Fiedler -- Richland, Mo -- 13-14 (5) -- 14-04 (5) -- 28-02 (10)

67. John Zubkoff -- Monroe, Mi -- 18-03 (5) -- 9-14 (3) -- 28-01 (8)

68. Angel Rosario -- Kalamazoo, Mi -- 15-03 (5) -- 12-09 (5) -- 27-12 (10)

69. Tom Murphy -- Richland, Mo -- 15-03 (5) -- 12-06 (5) -- 27-09 (10)

70. Ken Young -- Saint Louis, Mo -- 13-10 (5) -- 13-14 (5) -- 27-08 (10)

71. James Dixon -- Southfield, Mi -- 12-14 (5) -- 14-06 (5) -- 27-04 (10)

72. Terry Nold -- Jefferson City, Mo -- 12-13 (5) -- 14-01 (5) -- 26-14 (10)

73. Douglas Jewart Jr -- Glassport, Pa -- 12-11 (5) -- 13-12 (5) -- 26-07 (10)

74. Shawn Murphy -- Nicholasville, Ky -- 14-15 (5) -- 11-06 (5) -- 26-05 (10)

75. James Jenkins -- Joliet, Il -- 13-08 (5) -- 12-11 (5) -- 26-03 (10)

76. Dirk Daniel -- Rutledge, Tn -- 12-10 (5) -- 13-04 (5) -- 25-14 (10)

77. Lionel Botha -- Okeechobee, Fl -- 12-08 (5) -- 13-00 (5) -- 25-08 (10)

78. Ben Felton -- Marshall, Mi -- 15-06 (5) -- 9-13 (5) -- 25-03 (10)

79. Rich Dalbey -- Greenville, Tx -- 16-00 (5) -- 8-14 (5) -- 24-14 (10)

80. Brian Metry -- Grosse Pointe, Mi -- 14-14 (5) -- 9-14 (4) -- 24-12 (9)

81. John Leader -- Granger, In -- 10-15 (4) -- 13-10 (5) -- 24-09 (9)

82. Peter Cherkas -- Grimes, Ia -- 10-05 (5) -- 14-00 (5) -- 24-05 (10)

83. Sean McBee -- Sibley, Mo -- 6-09 (3) -- 17-09 (5) -- 24-02 (8)

84. Greg Schultz -- Naples, Fl -- 5-11 (2) -- 17-15 (5) -- 23-10 (7)

85. Charlie Anderson -- Dayton, Oh -- 17-12 (5) -- 5-08 (2) -- 23-04 (7)

86. Brett Haake -- Shorewood, Il -- 13-15 (5) -- 8-13 (3) -- 22-12 (8)

87. Douglas Lepper -- Union City, Mi -- 12-06 (5) -- 10-03 (4) -- 22-09 (9)

88. Curt Fiessinger -- Ft. Loramie, Oh -- 14-10 (5) -- 7-12 (3) -- 22-06 (8)

89. Terry Sportsman -- Sycamore, Il -- 11-12 (5) -- 10-09 (5) -- 22-05 (10)

90. Shane Melton -- Kokomo, In -- 11-03 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 22-01 (10)

91. Tommy Robinson -- Westland, Mi -- 11-09 (5) -- 10-07 (5) -- 22-00 (10)

92. Travis Loyd -- Kinmundy, Il -- 4-12 (2) -- 15-09 (5) -- 20-05 (7)

93. Sam George -- Athens, Al -- 9-00 (4) -- 11-05 (5) -- 20-05 (9)

94. James Christian -- Dickson, Tn -- 7-10 (4) -- 12-05 (5) -- 19-15 (9)

95. Chuck Loerzel -- Yorkville, Il -- 9-10 (4) -- 9-15 (4) -- 19-09 (8)

96. Dennis Edmonds -- Centennial, Co -- 6-09 (2) -- 12-11 (5) -- 19-04 (7)

97. Jeff Tennell -- Franklin, In -- 14-06 (4) -- 4-13 (2) -- 19-03 (6)

98. Cody Sullivan -- Dewey, Il -- 9-15 (4) -- 8-09 (3) -- 18-08 (7)

99. Cecil Cole -- Durand, Mi -- 14-12 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 14-12 (5)

100. Mike Foree -- Osage Beach, Mo -- 14-04 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 14-04 (5)

101. John (Jack) Morris Jr -- Robinson, Il -- 9-10 (5) -- 4-07 (2) -- 14-01 (7)

102. Kenneth (Boo) Woods -- Hazard, Ky -- 13-08 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 13-08 (5)

103. Troy Hollowell -- New Concord, Ky -- 4-00 (2) -- 9-07 (5) -- 13-07 (7)

104. Mark Frickman -- Shelbyville, Mi -- 11-00 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 11-00 (5)

105. Brad Risch -- Bay City, Mi -- 11-00 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 11-00 (5)

106. Michael Williamson -- Fort Smith, Ar -- 9-11 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-11 (3)

107. Ralph Blasey -- Pinckney, Mi -- 9-10 (4) -- 0-00 (0) -- 9-10 (4)

108. Jay Grave -- Linn Creek, Mo -- 8-00 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-00 (3)

109. Roger Hensley -- Jonesboro, In -- 5-08 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 5-08 (3)

110. Larry Schroeder -- Clayton, Oh -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-06 (1) -- 4-06 (1)

111. Sam Rosefsky -- Morris, Il -- 4-04 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-04 (2)

Shawn Caskey -- Mount Sterling, Ky -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Steve Eisenmenger -- Mount Clemens, Mi -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Todd Koehler -- Bradenton, Fl -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Todd Steele -- Port Huron, Mi -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0) -- 0-00 (0)

Big Bass

> Day 1: Heath Wagner -- 5-10 -- $230
> Day 2: Michael Sitko -- 6-02 -- $230