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A look at big — and bigger — smallmouth

Drew Sokolowski holds his 8.91-pound smallmouth which he caught Nov. 17 2012 Lake Erie near Buffalo N.Y. It is believed

Drew Sokolowski holds his 8.91-pound smallmouth, which he caught Nov. 17, 2012, on Lake Erie near Buffalo, N.Y. It is believed to be the largest smallmouth caught in a tournament in North Armerica. | Ron Willis~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 3, 2013 6:31AM

The quest to find out whether Tim Schneider caught the largest smallmouth bass weighed in a tournament takes us to Drew Sokolowski in Canada.

On May 17, Schneider, a parts manager at an auto dealership, caught an 8.45-pound smallmouth on opening day of the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament. He was partnered with Greg Dickson, the owner of Triangle Sports & Marine in Antioch. They were fishing tubes on a rocky flat in 2 to 4 feet on Green Bay south of Sturgeon Bay.

Schneider said some people thought it might be the heaviest smallmouth weighed in a tournament. But neither BASS nor FLW Outdoors, the major players in tournament bass fishing, had a record of that.

So I made some calls. Randy VanDam, a member of the famous Michigan clan of tournament fishermen and the owner of the Ohio-record smallmouth, pointed me to Mark Zona.

Zona, the host of ‘‘Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show’’ and a 1991 graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor, took time from fishing with Randy’s son Jonathon on Lake St. Clair to suggest I contact Sokolowski.

That’s where things got interesting. Sokolowski caught a bigger smallmouth, weighed at 8.91 pounds, from the New York waters of Lake Erie while fishing a dual Canadian tournament.

Sokolowski, 26, a crew leader for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and partner Mike Hauer, 30, an electrician from Niagara Falls, Ontario, were fishing the Niagara Outdoor Open and the Frostbite Lake Erie Open, held simultaneously out of Crystal Beach, Ontario, on Nov. 17, 2012. They won with 29.71 pounds, which might be the heaviest five-fish bag of smallmouth weighed in a tournament.

Sokolowski said the big smallmouth is thought to be the heaviest bass (largemouth or smallmouth) weighed in a Canadian tournament. If he had wished, it also easily would be the New York-record smallmouth. (The New York-record smallmouth is
8 pounds, 4 ounces.)

For those who love big smallmouth, here are some basics from Sokolowski.

‘‘We focused on fishing ‘big fish’ spots as we knew, judging by the size of the field and the caliber of anglers, that it would take close to 30 pounds to win,’’ he emailed. ‘‘The Saturday before, Mike and I won a Frostbite Lake Erie Open event with 26-plus pounds fishing a little deeper, but in the same general area.

‘‘On Nov. 17, we fished the inside breaks of offshore humps in 24 to 48 feet of water, which had a mix of sand, scattered rock piles and bait fish. These humps were west of Buffalo, in New York state waters.’’

That gives an idea about what they were fishing.

For the big girl (the one we are concerned with), Sokolowski said they were drop-shotting an Xzone Lures ‘‘Slim Slammer.’’ On that day, they also caught smallmouth on swimbaits, tubes and jigging spoons.

But back to the biggest smallmouth weighed in a tournament. I will start the unofficial list for North America:
1. 8.91 pounds, Drew Sokolowski, Nov. 17, 2012, Niagara Outdoor Open and Frostbite Lake Erie Open, New York; 2. 8.45 pounds, Tim Schneider, May 17, 2013, Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament, Green Bay, Wis.

And Sokolowski added this note.

‘‘A few weeks prior to the Niagara Outdoor Open, myself and Dave Johnson weighed in a 7.3-pound smallie at the Barrie Bassmasters Lake Simcoe Open, which was the big fish of the tournament,’’ he emailed. ‘‘[Lake Simcoe has the biggest smallmouth on earth. If you haven’t fished it you should].’’

Another to-do.

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