Whitney Stephens wins at Lake Erie, earns berth in GEICO Bassmaster Classic

Category: press release

 Sep 28th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Sep 28th, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Whitney Stephens’ tournament winning edge came 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.

Whitney Stephens (Shaye Baker/Bassmaster)

“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.

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.

More like this