Caleb Sumrall is making the final turn in his stretch run to land a spot in the 50th anniversary Bassmaster Classic and intends to make the most of it in back-to-back Bassmaster Elite tournaments this month in New York State.
The 32-year-old second-year pro from New Iberia starts practicing today for the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet, which begins Thursday near Union City, New York.
Following the tournament on the St. Lawrence River, Sumrall and the other Elites head to Union Springs, New York, to fish the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake on Aug. 22-25. Then it’s on to Fort Gibson Lake in Oklahoma on Sept. 19-22.
“They’re all important. I really want to make the Classic,” Sumrall said this past week while in New York State, far from home, which he left July 28, and his wife, Jacie, daughter, Clélié, and son, Axel.
“This stretch, a month away from home, it’s tough being gone a month,” he said.
However, like any serious competitor facing a long layoff between contests, Sumrall has been chomping at the bit to get back into action on the front deck of his Bass Cat Cougar. He posted July 21 on his Facebook page calebsumrallfishing, “This long break in between tournaments has got me itching. After a slow start to the year we’re in a good spot in AOY (Angler of the Year standings). Hoping to keep the momentum going into the northern swing.”
Sumrall talked about that Thursday night on his way to get groceries and fish tacos where he was staying at the moment in New York State.
“Hopefully, at the end of the year, I qualify for AOY Championship,” he said, noting the Top 50 anglers at the end of the regular season qualify for the tournament that has been rescheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Lake St. Clair near Detroit.
With three regular-season tournaments remaining, Sumrall acknowledges he is in good position for that run.
“I like to think that I am. I’ve got some work to do, though,” he said.
Considering he could qualify for the AOY Championship, Sumrall fished Lake St. Clair recently on his way to the back-to-back Elite tournaments in New York State. And he loved every minute of fishing the lake in Michigan, particularly the part about five bass he put in the boat weighing 20 pounds.
He posted Aug. 5 on his Facebook page, “I am now a fan of Lake St. Clair. Had a blast the last few days checking this place out.”
Then he headed east to fish Lake Ontario before the official practice period gets underway today on the St. Lawrence River. He was fishing Lake Ontario with his cousin, John Adkins of Texas, and a friend of Adkins’.
Sumrall has a definite goal in mind going into the tournament at St. Lawrence.
“I feel like I just need to cash a check, Top 35, maintain my 30 points. All I want to do is maintain where I stand now,” he said, or, of course, climb the leaderboard.
Sure, he admitted, it’s a different ballgame fishing-wise up there, and there are veterans who have plenty of experience on those northern bodies of water.
“There are some good (regional) anglers up here. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do my work and do the best I can,” he said.
He likes to fish lakes near the next tournament right up to practice day, which is one reason he targeted Lake Ontario. He wanted to get an idea what the bass are doing.
On Thursday, he said, the temperature was in the 70s while he was out to get a bite or two to eat after daytime highs between 80-85.
“I’m getting a feeling for what the fish are doing. It’s very different. Smallmouth in general are different. It’s a giant lake, deep, clear. There are largemouth to fish for … I don’t know if they’ll be in play,” he said, adding the most effective artificials have been drop shots and swim baits.
“You’re not going to catch a bunch of fish but there are big ones. I could use them,” he said.
Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Florida, consistently catches bass — both largemouth bass and, surprisingly for a bass angler from the Deep South, smallmouth bass — on northern lakes like the St. Lawrence River and Cayuga Lake. He can’t explain it but sure doesn’t mind.
In a bassmaster.com story he wrote recently, the Elite pro said if the wind blows, which it does frequently, swimbaits, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits come into play big time for the smallies. If it doesn’t, drop shots, spybaits and tube jigs usually are better choices.
For largemouth bass, frogging and flipping, even some dock fishing, could be the main techniques.
However, there’s a wrinkle that may mess up a lot of the Elites, he wrote in the story, noting, “I’m hearing reports of super-high water levels, so that will certainly impact the best patterns and locations in which to apply them. High water usually translates to high current flow, especially on the rivers flowing in and out of the Great Lakes. Therefore, what I know about these bodies of water could be vastly different this time around.”
For sure, it is a vast fishery. The St. Lawrence River flows in a roughly northeasterly direction connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It traverses the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario and is part of the international boundary between Ontario, Canada, and New York State.
The river includes Lake St. Louis south of Montreal, Lake Saint Francis at Salaberry-de-Valleyfield and Lac St. Pierre east of Montreal and encompasses four archipelagoes, foremost among them the Thousand Islands chain near Alexandria Bay, New York.