SANDUSKY, Ohio — Whitney Stephens Wins Lake Erie not from a secret lure but a widely used electronic gadget rigged on the front deck of his boat. Knowing how to use it well paid off Saturday at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Allstate.
Stephens, of Waverly, Ohio, won after three days with a final weight of 65 pounds, 1 ounce. He fished consistently all week, beginning in fifth place Thursday and moving to third on Friday. Jeff Lugar of Virginia took second place with 64-8, followed by third-place finisher Jason Root with 64-7.
Stephens relied on his bow-mounted fishfinder to pinpoint the location of smallmouth bass holding on isolated rockpiles. Those ranged in depth from the bottom at 28 to 23 feet on the peaks of underwater ridges. The rocks created a buffer of calm water for the bass until baitfish swept by in the current.
“I found the baitfish first and the bass were nearby,” he said. “It would have been nearly impossible to find them without the fishfinder.”
The electronics proved invaluable due to constantly shifting winds. The direction and velocity shifted each day, causing the bass to relocate their precise position on the rocks.
“It was like starting over every day because the wind made the current shift and reposition the bass,” he added.
He fished eight different areas around the bass-rich waters of Pelee Island. Stephens, like most other anglers fishing similar patterns, had limited fishing time due to rough boating conditions. The trip to his fishing area took one hour each way.
Whitney Stephens Wins Lake Erie How They Did It
Stephens and the other top anglers used a drop shot rig. He used a 1/2-ounce VMC Tungsten weight and a size 1 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot hook. He alternated between a Z-Man Jerk Shadz, Jackall Crosstail Shad and Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Shad Shape Worm.
“I do a lot of ice fishing and it led to a discovery for me this week,” Stephens said. “What I found out is tungsten shows up better and is detected more clearly by an electronic graph.”
To see the weight and lure he made short pitches, not casts, to the rockpiles while watching the screen. The high definition features of the unit allowed him to easily see the lure, bait and bass.
Before even deciding to fish an area, he idled around the rockpiles in search of baitfish and bass. If those fish appeared on the graph, he stopped, sometimes leaving after 15 minutes unless getting a bite.
“I just alternated around all of the spots,” he added.
Stephens collected $6,443 and a Triton 19TrX boat with accessories, a Mercury 200 Pro XS outboard and custom trailer. The package is valued at $45,000. Just as important is the automatic berth he received for the 2016 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake.
Mark Shopene, of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., took first place in the co-angler division. He received a Nitro Z18 boat with accessories, a Mercury 150 Pro XS and custom trailer. The package is valued at $30,000.
Shopene fished a drop shot rig on all three days.
Finally, the Top 5 anglers from the 2015 Northern Open season received invitations to the 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series, the top tier of professional bass fishing.
The Allstate Good Hands, Great Day award of $250 will be presented to Jim Dillard for climbing the most points from Day 1 to Day 2. Co-angler Nick Ray wins $150.
The Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 is presented to Derek Remitz for leading on Day 2. Co-angler Mark Shopene receives a Livingston Lures gift pack valued at $250.
The A.R.E. Top Angler award of $500 will be awarded to Fletcher Shryock.
The Bass Pro Shops Big Bass award of $750 goes to Rick Nitkiewicz for the 6-4 he caught on the first day. Co-angler Bob Snyder wins $250 for the 6-7 he caught on the first day.
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Allstate
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: A.R.E. Accessories, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk Performance Fishing, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.
2015 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open – Lake Erie Presented by Allstate 9/24-9/26
Lake Erie, Sandusky OH.
(BOATER) Standings Day 3
Angler Hometown No./lbs-oz Pts Total $$$
1. Whitney Stephens Waverly, OH 15 65-01 200 $51,443.00
Day 1: 5 21-14 Day 2: 5 22-14 Day 3: 5 20-05
2. Jeff Lugar Cross Junction, VA 15 64-08 199 $15,301.00
Day 1: 5 21-03 Day 2: 5 23-00 Day 3: 5 20-05
3. Jason Root Fostoria, OH 15 64-07 198 $11,476.00
Day 1: 5 21-05 Day 2: 5 21-13 Day 3: 5 21-05
4. Jamie Jacobus Johnstown, OH 15 62-15 197 $10,268.00
Day 1: 5 21-11 Day 2: 5 20-15 Day 3: 5 20-05
5. Al Farace Cockeysville, MD 15 59-09 196 $8,959.00
Day 1: 5 20-14 Day 2: 5 20-03 Day 3: 5 18-08
6. Fletcher Shryock New Philadelphia, OH 15 59-07 195 $8,151.00
Day 1: 5 21-04 Day 2: 5 19-00 Day 3: 5 19-03
7. Destin DeMarion Grove City, PA 15 57-04 194 $6,443.00
Day 1: 5 19-03 Day 2: 5 21-08 Day 3: 5 16-09
8. Pete Gluszek Mount Laurel, NJ 12 54-10 193 $5,134.00
Day 1: 5 23-01 Day 2: 5 22-14 Day 3: 2 08-11
9. Tim Sprouse Clarksville, TN 13 53-06 192 $3,825.00
Day 1: 5 20-11 Day 2: 5 20-13 Day 3: 3 11-14
10. Derek Remitz Grant, AL 11 51-00 191 $3,773.00
Day 1: 5 24-04 Day 2: 5 22-06 Day 3: 1 04-06
11. Steven Clapper Lima, OH 11 46-11 190 $3,221.00
Day 1: 5 20-13 Day 2: 5 22-08 Day 3: 1 03-06
12. Zachary Maisch Lima, OH 12 45-13 189 $3,020.00
Day 1: 5 21-03 Day 2: 5 19-07 Day 3: 2 05-03