Mike McKinstry, Feelfree pro and media star, has fished Lake St. Clair since he was a kid. Even as a pro, he returns to his native water a few times a month. McKinstry has traveled the country, but he scored his biggest smallmouth, a 21-and-a-half inch mossback, in his backyard.

Driving through the industrial center of Detroit, a world-class fishing destination is the last thing on my mind. Covering 403 square miles, connecting Lake Erie and the Detroit River and bordering Canada and the United States, Lake St. Clair has an average depth of 11 feet and a maximum depth of only 27 feet, making it an ideal location for smallmouth bass. Trophy smallies grow to 20 inches and over five pounds, attracting anglers to the lake.

The largest freshwater delta in the Great Lakes produces clear water but vegetation is sparse, leaving large open areas of hard, sandy bottom smallmouth favor for chasing prey.

[ Also read: Your Kayak Fishing Dreams Await In The Finger Lakes ]

Tired of targeting trophy smallmouth? Turn your attention to walleye, perch, muskie, northern pike and largemouth bass. Whatever your fancy, you can find great fishing in sight of downtown Detroit.

Lakeside Fishing Shop, www.lakesidefishingshop.com, for best lures and local information.
Hampton Inn and Suites, Detroit/Chesterfield Turnpike, is a great value and close to Metro Park, one of the best launches. www.hilton.com
The Detroit Pepper Company, 17180 E Warren Ave. Takes its name from the don’t-miss stuffed pepper.

What’s biting

Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, perch, rock bass, northern pike, muskie.


April to November is open water with December to March reserved for ice fishing.

Rigged Up

For smallmouth bass, a seven-foot, medium-heavy FX Custom rod with a fast tip with a 300 Abu Garcia STX reel. Spool the reel with 12-pound Trilene fluorocarbon or 10-pound X9 Berkley braid and a 12-inch fluorocarbon leader.

Clear water and heavy fishing pressure dictate stealthy fluorocarbon line and life-like lures. A dark tube lure on a quarter- to 3/8-ounce jig is a go-to favorite. Ned rigs and Z-man natural crawfish-color finesse baits is candy for big bass. Fish finesse jigs with a 3000-series spinning combo and 10-pound braided line.

Kayak Gear

This is a big lake that has very rapid changes in weather with storms coming across from Canada. In a half-hour, I have seen weather go from perfectly calm and sunny to dangerous winds, white caps and overcast.

A larger kayak over 12 feet and 34 inches wide provides stability to stay upright in heavy winds, waves and boat wakes. To fight moving water, a pedal drive will cover distance in any conditions. FeelFree’s Dorado with Overdrive motor and pedal system offers options for powering through the conditions.

Game Plan

A typical day on Lake St. Clair starts around 7 a.m. Launch at sun-up to catch the shallow water warming with the sunrise. Moving water and smooth, sandy bottom, expect to cover three to five miles looking for a drop off holding bass or panfish.

The best spots are subtle drop offs with sporadic structure where predators can ambush prey. Pack warm, dry clothes for a sudden weather change. Bring snacks and water for a long day out and have plenty of tackle since the toothy fish are bait thieves. Be ready for a fun day that may require patience between bites.

Motor City smallmouth | Featured photo: Mike McKinstry


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