By Joel Shangle – August 14, 2020
Two big-water smallmouth tournaments in a month, two championship trophies for Justin Lucas.
Powered by a limit of 19 pounds, 10 ounces of Lake Erie smallmouth, Lucas claimed the champion’s trophy and $160,000 payday Friday at the final FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament of the season, out of Sandusky, Ohio.
Lucas finished the four-day event with 79-2 to eke out a 1-ounce win over Jacob Wheeler (79-1). MLF pro Josh Bertrand (74-6) and FLW pro Scott Dobson (73-12) finished third and fourth.
“Some bigger fish showed back up today that I had been waiting on,” Lucas admitted. “Man, I knew it was going to be really close (at weigh-in). Wheeler told me he had 17 pounds, but he’s a little bit of a sandbagger. I thought it was a tie (when Wheeler’s weight was announced), I was sitting there deflated. I’m a little at a loss for words.”
“I was out from 6 a.m. to almost 9 every day (in practice),” Lucas said.
Lucas fished a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm on Lake Erie on the final day, as he had done the previous three days. Instead of gambling on the long run to Lake St. Clair that several anglers in the Top 50 made, the Phoenix pro bet on his ability to locate new, productive spots on Erie (a fishery he’s only competed on once previously).
“I was out from 6 a.m. to almost 9 every day (in practice),” Lucas said. “I don’t think I’m the greatest smallmouth fisherman, but I feel like if I put in the practice, I can be in contention in these tournaments. I was out from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day in practice, and that’s just the kind of work you have to do when you don’t know a body of water. I didn’t have a single waypoint when I got here, I just told myself, ‘Okay, let’s just figure it out and make it work.’”
The win is Lucas’ sixth under the FLW flag: He started his career with a win as a co-angler in a 2006 FLW Series event on Lake Shasta in California and collected five wins as a co-angler in three years.
“To be back here and win like this, it’s just really cool,” Lucas said. “I came here in 2013, qualified for the Elite Series. To be back and to win here is really cool. I’ve never won an FLW Tour.”
Lucas’ win comes almost exactly a month after his win at Stage Five of the 2020 Bass Pro Tour at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.
Lucas’ win on Lake Erie is the second tour-level smallmouth win in a month for the Alabama pro. Photo by Charles Waldorf
Wheeler fell short of the win by the smallest of possible margins, but the Rapala pro was far from disappointed in his event. Of his three-event run in the FLW Super Tournaments, he finished first at Lake Chickamauga, and rang up second-place finishes on the Upper Mississippi River and Lake Erie.
Lucas fished a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm
“It’s an up-and-down sport, you’re not going to win them all,” Wheeler said. “I left it all out there on Lake Erie, (second place) is just how it fell today.”
Rounding Out the Top 10
Other MLF pros finishing in the Top 10 included:
Josh Bertrand (3rd/74-10): Bertrand entered the final day with a slight lead over Lucas and Wheeler, but saw his offshore-smallmouth bite diminish. He weighed in 11-14 for his second Top-3 finish in a month.
“I caught almost all of my fish this week looking at them with my Garmin LiveScope, drop-shotting a Berkley Flat Worm,” Bertrand said. “It’s my favorite way to fish, and I got a good check. That’s a pretty good way to finish the season.”
Alton Jones, Jr. (6th/72-14): Jones finished the final day with 15-14 for 72-14, making the long run to Lake St. Clair for the fourth day in a row.
“I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this week, so I’m glad to be (in the Top 10),” Jones said. “That 700 to 750 miles is hard on your boat, hard on your tackle, hard on your body, I’m happy with the week.”
David Dudley (7th/68-12: The four-time FLW Angler of the Year weighed 15-12 of largemouth on Friday to finish with 68-12: “I ended up making a Top 10 on largemouth, I’m happy about that,” Lane said. “I heard all the stories of these guys running 200 miles, and I thought ‘No, thank you.’ There’s plenty of largemouth around (Sandusky).”
Russ Lane (9th/66-12): The Alabama pro weighed in 14-10 on the day for 66-12 total. Lane caught most of his final-day weight on a SPRO Fat Papa Squarebill.
“I caught probably 50 fish today, maybe 25 keepers,” Lane said. “I can’t believe the amount of fish in this bay.”
Jason Lambert (10th/53-3): The Tennessee pro didn’t connect with a keeper fish on the final day, ending the week in 10th place with 53-3 (his 21st Top 10 in FLW competition).
“I committed to making the run all the way up to Avon, and I guess that wind blew all night long last night,” Lambert said. “As soon as I got there, I saw a mile of shoreline that was pretty dang muddy. Anybody who lives here knows that you don’t catch (smallmouth) fishing in the dirt.”