Matt Arey was excited to get day one of the YETI Bassmaster Elite on Lake St. Clair underway, but he wasn't hesitant to admit his three days of practice had been 'up and down'. The Team Toyota pro explained the giant smallmouth St. Clair is known for are still here for the taking, they just seemed to be more scattered than he is used to.
"The anglers are grouped up but the smallmouth are not," Arey said with a laugh. "It's still the same old St. Clair, its just going to fish a little differently this time around. The big bites were random and spread out for me. On Tuesday for example the first two fish I caught were five pounds, but they came two miles apart."
Bassmaster Elite Series competitors may be more grouped up than normal due to Canadian waters being off limits on account of COVID restrictions. While there are a plethora of great fishing opportunities on the U.S. side, "the grass is always greener on the other side" as they say.
Arey has a solid track record on this massive fishery and lucky for him most of those good finishes have come on the U.S. side of the lake. The North Carolina native is no stranger to the drifting techniques that excel on St. Clair; he just wishes the fish were a bit more concentrated than he's experienced this week.
"It's a mental grind knowing you need to weigh-in five bigguns a day here with the fish being so spread out," Arey explained. "I'm sure I'll be fishing around a bunch of other guys and I hate to use the word luck in bass fishing, but at times it does feel like luck out there. It'll be up and down everyday in my boat I'd guess."
Speaking of up and down, that's what Arey expects this event to do to anglers in the Angler of the Year race. With the way St. Clair is fishing, he predicts this event could make or break positions in the points race before heading into the southern swing to close the season.
Arey current sits in 3rd place in the Angler of the Year race and knows he needs a strong finish here to hold that position. With any luck he'll collide with enough fat bronzebacks each day to keep himself in the AOY hunt when he hops in his Tundra following this event.