Jun 11, 2023

Joey Cifuentes III wins Bassmaster Elite tournament on Lake St. Clair

His family is growing. So is his collection of Bassmaster trophies.

Joey Cifuentes III landed five bass that weighed 23 pounds, 13 ounces Sunday and won the Elite Series tournament on Lake St. Clair.

Starting the day in second place and fishing Canadian waters as he did Thursday-Saturday, Cifuentes pulled in the biggest single catch, 5-1, of the sunny Sunday and racked up a tournament total of 91-8 to claim the first-place prize of $100,000. It was the rookie’s second Elite tournament victory of the season.

“I had a great day today,” said Clinton, Ark., resident Cifuentes, whose haul included four, five-pound fish. “I couldn’t be more grateful.

“I cannot believe I have just won another tournament in the same year.”

On stage after being declared the winner, the 34-year-old Cifuentes announced that his wife, Gwendlyn, is pregnant with the couple’s third child.

The Cifuentes have two girls.

“We’re hoping for a boy,” Joey said. “We’ll see what happens.”

One of Cifuentes’ final-round catches jumped into his boat.

“It jumped right next to the boat and then it jumped into the boat,” said Cifuentes, who used a Berkley Flat Worm throughout the tournament. “That’s the way I want to land them every time if I can. It was really cool.”

Cifuentes was dedicated to fishing the southern part of the lake, away from most of what was a 102-boat fleet for the first two days.

“Primarily, all of my weight was (caught) there,” he said. “There was a good strip of cabbage that was maybe 100 or 200 yards long that they were sitting in, and every time I would go through there I’d catch one.”

He fished about 20 miles — a 25-minute trip, he said — from the Brandenburg Park launch site. He wanted to avoid pleasure craft that he knew would be on Anchor Bay Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s a big factor, even when you run in,” Cifuentes said. “Today, I left (the fishing spot) early because the boat traffic on the weekends here is really bad. There were some big fish out here in Anchor (Bay), but it’s so rough, it’s very hard to effectively fish, and I think it messes with the fish some, too, with all the big boats running, because it’s only 10, 12 feet of water and you’ve got boats running over them. They’re probably not very happy.

“You can make the cut fishing out there (in Anchor Bay), but to win, I knew that today it was going to be tough on those guys (in the bay), and I was going to be sitting out there in really nice weather and no big boats coming around.”

Oklahoman Luke Palmer, who was in first place after the third round, had 21-15 in the finals for a total of 90-6 and finished second. He won $35,000.

Japan’s Taku Ito, whose 25-8 Friday was the big bag of the tournament, closed with 22-1 and 89-11 for third place and $30,000.

Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Ontario, finished fourth with 87-11 and Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Md., was fifth with 86-10.

Cifuentes, Palmer and Ito surpassed the record for a Lake St. Clair tournament — 88-8 caught in 2017.

Jacob Foutz with 86-4, Kyoya Fujita 86-2, Brandon Lester 85-15, Greg Hackney 85-15 and Frank Talley 82-15 closed out the top 10.

Talley said Lake St. Clair was a pleasure to fish.

“It’s got more bass than Michigan has people,” the Texan said.

Seven of the 10 finalists had catches that exceeded 20 pounds. For the tournament, 116 bags (of a possible 264) weighed more than 20.

“This place is ridiculous,” said Gallant.

This was the first tournament staged at Brandenburg Park. Previous ones were at Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Chesterfield Township, Macomb County and the Detroit Sports Commission were the tournament hosts. The Bass, Brews and BBQ Festival was held in conjunction with the fishing Friday-Sunday.

“The crowd’s off the hook,” Schmitt said during his weigh-in.

Enthusiastic gatherings watched the weigh-ins, especially Saturday, when the field was trimmed from 50 to 10, and Sunday.

“On the township side, the weekend’s been awesome, great,” said Chesterfield Township Supervisor Brad Kersten. “We’re ecstatic how this played out. It is beautiful. We’re happy to host it. I think it highlights the township and it highlights Macomb County.

“I would love this to become a regular event stop.”

Kersten said a decision regarding a future tournament will be made later.

During the weigh-in, Bassmaster tournament director Lisa Talmadge drew a cheer from the crowd when she said, “We definitely will come back. This is a great venue.”

The series finishes the season with tournaments on Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

Sign up for email newsletters

Follow Us