By Todd Ceisner
Seth Feider sure enjoys racking up tournament wins, but he’d prefer his next one be accompanied by a $100,000 payday.
Earlier this week at Lake St. Clair, Feider put on an early fall smallmouth clinic, piling up nearly 78 pounds over three days to win the Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year Championship event for the second time in his career. He came into the tournament eighth in the points standings and he had no mathematical shot to win the AOY title. That didn’t stop him from cementing his reputation as one of the top smallmouth anglers in the sport.
When he won the 2016 AOY event at Mille Lacs Lake in his native Minnesota, there was no cash prize for the tournament winner or a trophy. A fan actually created one and presented it to Feider afterward. This time around, he collected $25,000 in addition to $36,500 in AOY bonus winnings.
“I did finally get a blue trophy,” he said, referring to the trophy he took home that resembles the ones given to other Elite Series winners. “I’ve won two Elites for a total of $25,000.”
If he continues on his current path – he’s been a top-20 finisher in points the past three seasons – it won’t be long until he cashes in a six-figure payday.
With a berth in the 2020 Bassmaster Classic already secured, Feider arrived in the Detroit area with an open mind and desire to have some fun on the water. Averaging more than 25 pounds a day, caught darn near exclusively on a crankbait, certainly met his fun threshold.
“I just took a laid-back approach and made it about having fun,” Feider said. “I didn’t have much to gain or lose. I was just going to catch some smallies. I didn’t take it too seriously and that seems to be when I do my best.”
Here’s a rundown of how he conquered St. Clair.
Conditions were brutal for the three-day practice session. Winds were unrelenting and frothed a good portion of the lake, making some areas unreachable and unfishable. The water temperature in the lake was still in the mid 60s and the fish hadn’t yet started to group up in advance of their fall feeding push.
With Lake Erie and Lake Huron off limits – anglers could only fish portions of the Detroit River and St. Clair River – Feider knew he had to make something happen in St. Clair. He had waypoints from previous tournaments, but those were earlier in the year. He needed to find something fresh and timely.
“It was tough,” he said. “Lake St. Clair is a weird lake. It’s a big area where they get and it’s never anything specific. I bounced around and tried to sniff around each part of the lake. I found two spots on the south shore and that’s really all I found.”
> Day 1: 5, 26-12
> Day 2: 5, 24-13
> Day 3: 5, 26-06
> Total = 15, 77-15
The wind was fierce on day 1 out of the east and prevented Feider from probing the two areas he found along the south shore in practice. That left him to explore an area up north, but he managed four keepers for roughly eight pounds.
From there, he headed toward a community hole known as the Firecracker, a navigational marker near the mouth of the St. Clair River. All he was hoping for was to catch a 3-pounder to finish his limit. There wasn’t another boat around when he got there.
He wound up catching the biggest bag of the tournament over the course of the rest of the day.
“The wind was gassing in there and I stopped about 200 yards short because you can usually catch one on the way in there,” he said. “I made a cast off the side of the boat with a crankbait and caught a 4-07.”
He then caught 10 more smallmouth of similar caliber to get to 26-12 with a 6-12 slob anchoring his stringer.
“If it wasn’t windy or had another scenario played out, I never catch those fish,” he said. “I just got dumb lucky. I just ran into them.”
He had the lead after day 1 and figured he’d go back to the Firecracker to start day 2. His reason was two-fold. One, he wanted to see if more big fish were still there. Two, with the winds forecasted to slack off, he wanted to give the water in the other areas on the south shore some time to settle down.
He waited until 11 a.m. before heading toward the south shore and by then he had a 12-pound limit in his livewell. He said his timing was just right because the crankbait bite was incredible.
“I’m glad I didn’t go there any earlier than I did because I probably would’ve given up on those areas,” he said.
He said the key factor in the two areas he had along the south shore was the current as it was located near the mouth of the Detroit River.
“It was a really plain, flat bottom and it was a little shallower than anywhere else I found them,” he said. “There were thousands of bass there.”
In practice, he said he used SideScan sonar and saw some small rock mixed with sand in the area.
“I got on the end of it and drifted through and saw a wad of them, then dropped a waypoint,” he said. “I kept going, saw some more and dropped another dot.”
Those dots were productive again on the final day as the crankbait proved to be the big producer in 11 to 12 feet of water. He tried to keep his plug from touching bottom. His goal was to get it in front of their faces and let them react to it.
“I don’t like grinding bottom for smallies,” he said.
On the final day, he mixed in a dropshot every now and then and caught several good fish on it, but 14 of the 15 fish he wound up weighing in were caught on a crankbait.
“The bigger ones wanted the crankbait,” he said.
Winning Gear Notes
> Cranking gear: 7’6” medium-heavy Daiwa Tatula Elite Cody Meyer Searchbait casting rod, various Daiwa casting reels (7.3:1 ratio), 12-pound Sufix Advanced fluorocarbon line, Rapala DT-10 (Helsinki shad).