Caleb Sumrall cut his bass fishing teeth on the shallow bayous of Southern Louisiana pitching soft plastic lures around cypress trees and thick vegetation – pretty much bass fishing’s polar opposite of what he’ll face this week at the YETI Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair.
But the former petroleum industry supply yard worker is a quick learner – and bagged a Top 20 at his very first tournament on St. Clair last September.
Not only did he learn really fast the waves here get equally as big as the smallmouth, but he’ll also be quick to tell you it’s not all about dragging a tube or drop shot around. Instead, crankbaits are a major player on St. Clair too.
“Obviously, there’s plenty of history to prove that you can do really well, or even win tournaments here with a tube or drop shot. But it’s really hard to cover this massive body of open water, especially in practice, with just tubes and drop shots. So that’s where the beauty of a crankbait shines. I can cover a lot more water with it, and smallmouth flat-out eat crankbaits here,” explains Sumrall.
When asked why he believes St. Clair smallies have an appetite for ‘diving plugs’ he reasons it’s because they largely feed by sight, often roaming in open water looking for abundant numbers of yellow perch and gizzard shad, looking up and outward in the water column, as opposed to purely searching the bottom for crawdads or the occasional goby.
Sumrall also warns that spending too much time riding around looking at sonar screens in search of schools hanging on a ledge or drop like one might do at Guntersville, Pickwick, or Toledo Bend can be a waste of time on St. Clair.
“You typically don’t see a lot of schools on the bottom here like you do at those famous largemouth fisheries,” says Sumrall. “Here, you’re looking for really subtle changes on the bottom that might hold fish, but mostly casting to find the fish, rather than just dropping waypoints on organized schools,” says Sumrall, who trusts a Yamaha-powered Xpress aluminum boat on these big waters.
Point is, smallmouth roam and hunt, versus southern largemouth that lay and wait on the food to pass by. Hopefully, this week, St. Clair’s smallmouth will hunt down Sumrall’s Spro Fat Papa crankbait that dives 10 to 14-feet deep.
If so, look for the highly likeable pro from deep in Southern Louisiana to bag another Top 20 -- roughly a 19-hour drive from the shallow flooded cypress trees back home.