Clifford Pirch by Bassmaster Steve Bowman

Clifford Pirch pulls a bass from the water with a cameraman recording the action.

Clifford Pirch started so strong.

The Payson professional angler stood in fifth place after two days of the SiteOne Bassmaster Elite Series at St. Lawrence River on July 23-26.

A cameraman accompanied him in his boat on the second and third days of the tournament shown on ESPN2 on the river separating Canada and the United States in upstate New York. Anglers could also venture out into portions of Lake Ontario.

The top 40 anglers through the first two days qualified to fish on Saturday. The top 10 after Saturday moved on to compete on Sunday.

But the bass weren’t biting for Pirch on Saturday like they had the first two days and he failed to advance to the last day.

He finished 23rd with a 15-fish limit of 53 pounds, 4 ounces.

Chris Johnson won with a 20-fish limit of 97-8. Paul Mueller finished second with 95-14.

That’s nearly 25 pounds per day.

So you know the fishing was great.

And it started so well for Pirch, who caught a five-fish limit weighing 24 pounds, 12 ounces on Thursday. He caught five more totaling 19 pounds, 6 ounces on Friday.

He managed five bass once again on Saturday, but they weighed just 9 pounds, 2 ounces, leaving him some time on his hands on Sunday.

“Today’s just been a little bit tougher,” he said for the TV camera late in Saturday’s round. “But, mainly I’ve been drop shootin’ with a Phoenix medium. It’s a 7-6 medium action rod.

“It’s nice and soft and I’m using really light line. A lot of times these smallmouth are biting really finicky this week, so when they take it in it has enough softness for them to take it you know, where you don’t pull it out of their mouth. Then you just let it roll up and catch them.

“But that’s been a way I’ve been catching a lot of them. Then I had a little jig that was working the first day that I thought was going to be a deal, but it’s gotten too windy for me to get them on it and it’s made it a little bit harder.”

He loved the fishing but talked about the challenges he faced on day three.

“It’s been a fun week,” he said on ESPN2. “This is a great place to come and fish. They’re not just everywhere. It always looks really easy but there’s just certain areas that have ’em.

“So, obviously today we haven’t connected with them well. The fish have either left or are not biting. But I still see some on the graph but they could be some other kind of fish that just kind of sets up like bass on the bottom. So, it’s hard to say.”

Time was running out on Saturday.

“We’ve got a little bit of time,” he said in the final couple of hours. “It really doesn’t take that long. One little flurry you know, three four-pounders, three five-pounders, something like that and think we would still have enough weight to fish in the top 10 tomorrow. But I’m cutting it close. It’s been a tough day for us gettin’ ’em. But it could happen. You never quit. I mean, it could happen in the last five minutes, last 10 minutes.”

“They kind of take a long time to catch those smallies on the light line. You know. You gotta fight ’em for a while. So, it’s not like you boat flip ’em on a flippin’ stick but you can still do it in 10-15 minutes. So, we got time. We’ll keep huntin’ for ’em and try to recover.”

Pirch moved up from 30th unofficially at that point to finish 23rd.

Pirch will remain in New York for the Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain for another tournament Thursday, July 30-Sunday, Aug. 2.

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