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Reporter gets hooked on fishing with the pros

Melissa Topey • Sep 13, 2013 at 9:27 AM

There’s life in these waters. I found out just how much, one cast at a time.

Perhaps it was beginner’s luck Wednesday morning when I went fishing with Fremont native Michael Simonton, a Bassmaster Elite pro who has had three Top 10 finishes in competition.

His boat is bigger than most cars, and it has more tech gadgets than the Batmobile.

I went fishing with him, for work, which made some of my co-workers just a bit jealous.

During my expedition, it was practice day for Simonton, who is competing in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open tournament that started Thursday and runs through Saturday on Lake Erie. He’s competing against 120 other anglers for the chance to win a new boat and up to $8,000 in prize money.

I have fished maybe twice my entire life, so I was a blank slate ready to learn.

“I’m lucky. We will catch some fish,” I told Simonton as we motored onto the water.

He was doubtful. We launched out of the boat ramp at the Mazurik Access Area on the north side of Marblehead Peninsula, just west of Lakeside. Once we reached our fishing spot, Simonton showed me how to rig a lure, and he tried to instruct me on how to cast off the boat.

I was a bit perplexed. He saw it on my face.

“Just let it drop down,” he laughed.

So I did. The lure dropped down and must have hit those fish right on the head, because I pulled four white bass from the lake like it was nobody’s business.

OK, it might have helped that Simonton’s boat has side sonar, which allowed us to see where the fish were on the lake bottom. These fish weren’t record-breakers — maybe 1 or 2 pounds apiece — but when I felt them hit the end of the line, it was exhilarating.

Simonton pulled out a few large mouth bass and several white bass.

“Fish on” was the phrase we repeated many times.

During practice sessions, he has to be careful not to over-fish the waters. If he goes back to the same area later, the fish may not bite when it counts during the tournament.

Fishing the local waters, meanwhile, gives Simonton a great advantage in this competition. And hopefully he’ll get perfect weather conditions for fishing, which would include sunny skies and wave chops of about 1 to 2 feet, he said.

But you never get perfect when fishing. You have to adapt and have other locations scouted, Simonton said.

Participants in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open launch out of the Shelby Street Boat ramp in Sandusky, and hours later their catches are weighed.

“I love fishing the elite series,” he said. “It’s all about strategy. I’m having more fun than I ever did.”

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