I talked to Jesse a couple of days after the tournament to try and figure out what went wrong. I was most interested in his thought process and how he approached the tournament.
The first thing I took away from my conversations with Jesse was that he wasn't that far off a mid-pack finish. He had the kind of tournament when everything you do doesn't work like you think it should. We've all had them, you turn right when you should have turned left and vice versa. That said, Jesse had a pretty good practice. His flaws lay in how he approached the tournament. He underestimated what it would take to win and he misjudged a foreign body of water.
Jesse didn't realize that 15-pound bags wouldn't be in check range. His practice indicated that a 15-pound bag would be pretty decent. So he felt comfortable catching the occasional four pounder and loading up on twos and threes. He also put perhaps too much stock in the dock talk that indicated the water wasn't fishing as good as usual. In my experience, on a great body of water, even when it's down, people still catch 'em.
He also misjudged the body of water and he confined his efforts to the river and Lake Saint Clair when he should have ranged further. Jesse built an untenable milk-run in practice. As it turned out, it took a massively inefficient amount of time to run spot-to-spot during the tournament because of the wind. But, besides that, his spots just weren't good enough. Jesse would catch a quality fish off a spot and assume more could be had. In reality, the good spots were loaded with quality fish and he should have caught 2 or 3 or 6 big ones before declaring a spot "good."
Finally, he had to learn on the fly. Similar to my experience on Kentucky Lake, Jesse lacked familiarity with the norm and couldn't make the right adjustments. He also had to get comfortable with fishing giant pieces of structure with roaming smallmouth, not sharp edges with schooled largemouth.
Next time Jesse fishes St. Clair I think he'll do really well. He had a crash course in big-water smallmouth and I'm sure he'll be a lot better the second time around. The next stop is Cayuga and a shot at the Classic. I talked to Jesse and he's determined to fish his strengths and not bother with smallmouth there. I don't know that he'll win but it is certainly a less foreign lake than St. Clair and an all around easier-to-plan fishery than the James.
Below, find Jesse's St. Clair tactics in his own words:
After talking with many of the competitors I came to the conclusion that I was using the right tackle and fishing the right techniques, however, I was not in the right areas. Location, Location, Location. My drop-shot setup was a 1/4oz BPS Tungsten drop-shot weight with a 6-8 inch lead to an Owner 2/0 Mosquito hook. Also, about a foot up the line I used a swivel to reduce the line twist while drifting. Using braid on a spinning reel really will help reduce the tangles as well but since we were drifting and the baits are constantly moving, it is a good idea to have a swivel to prevent future time wasters. I had a few key baits for my drop-shot. If I was around grass, the Strike King Baby Rage Craw or Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw worked well. If I was around rock, the Poor Boys 3" Goby and the FindBass Mino was the deal. My tube setup was a 1/2 Bite-Me tube hook with a Secret Lures Stupid Tube, Green Pumpkin Orange. Both setups were ran on spinning tackle with 10lb Braid and 8lb Sunline Super Natural Mono.
If you have any questions about the tackle I used or Lake St. Clair feel free to Email me or shoot me a message on Facebook and Twitter.