CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — Engines were roaring as the Bassmaster Elite Series kicked off on the St. Lawrence River Thursday morning.

This competition challenges over 90 of the world’s best anglers to fish the waters of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and catch the most weight in smallmouth bass over a four-day period.

“These are the pros,” B.A.S.S. Director of Events Operations Eric Lopez said. “It’s the top level of fishing, the guys you see on TV. They’re all going out for their five best fish.”

What this means is that every day, each angler will have a daily limit of five fish. However, they will catch more than five each day, but will strategically choose fish that will bring in the heaviest final weights.

Throughout the competition, anglers will also have their choice of fishing on Lake Ontario or the St. Lawrence River.

“So that’s another big question,” Lopez stated. “Who is going to go where is and how is the strategy going to go into play.”

While on the water we saw back-to-back world champion Hank Cherry secure his first catch of the tournament, as well as anglers John Cox and Drew Cook strategically reeling in smallmouths. 

Although this competition is only one of the several locations these pros have fished this year, Bassmaster Master of Ceremonie Dave Mercer said the coming to the North Country is an all-time favorite.

“Coming back to this area is pretty simple for B.A.S.S. It gives them everything they want: Big bass, big crowds,” Mercer explained. “It truly is one of the greatest smallmouth bass fisheries in the world.”

The full field of anglers will compete Thursday and Friday, but the pool will be narrowed starting Saturday, eventually challenging the top 10 anglers to win the top prize.

Daily takeoffs will be at 7 a.m. with weigh-ins at 3:10 p.m. at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton. The competition will close and crown a winner on Sunday, July 17.