Mid-August brought one of the most challenging tournaments I have fished in a while. The MN BASS Nation TOC was being held on Island Lake Reservoir north of Duluth, MN. Island Lake for a large tournament comes with a handful of challenges. For starters, it is one of the smaller venues we fish TOCs on, it also has a fairly low population of bass per acre compared to most of our fisheries resulting to a fishery that doesn’t respond well to heavy fishing pressure of a large tournament.
Coming into this tournament, I had very little experience on the lake, I did not pre-practice on the lake and I just practiced for 3 of the 4 official practice days. Watch my official practice video below for all the details.
Coming out of practice, I had a few deals that I thought I could get bit doing. Topwater over rocky shoals, finesse tactics around grass and then a quirky specific dock pattern.
As the tournament unfolded, it became very apparent that 2 of those 3 things evaporated on me. Watch my day 1 tourney recap to see how that unfolded.
Going into day 2, I had a great shot at winning my first BASS Nation title. I ground & gave it all I had, but came up just a bit short. Congrats to Brent Haimes.
Lastly, if you play fantasy fishing, make sure to watch my final recap of the season for the Bassmater AOY Championship on Lake St Clair.
Coming soon recaps of my TBF Semi Nationals out of La Crosse, WI!
End of July is usually the time for the Minnesota TBF TOC tournament that qualifies a MN team to participate in the TBD District 9 Semis in late September. From the Semis one each angler and co-angler from MN earns a berth to the TBF National Championship. Last year, I finished 3rd overall and one spot out of be able to head to Nationals, so looking to get back on the horse and make the Semis again this year.
This year’s TBF Tournament of Champions was held on Lake Minnewaska out of Starbuck, MN. I was able to practice the weekend ahead of the tournament, it was my first time on the lake. I found it to be a pleasure to fish and break down, Lake Minnewaska is chock full of bass. I spent most of my practice looking for offshore fish, figuring I could always turn to the bank during the event if needed. Check out my practice recap video for more details on my practice weekend.
Day one of the tournament went pretty well outside the loss of one nice 3lb+ fish lost boat side. I weighed 1 smallie and 4 largies totaling a little over 15lbs to sit in 3rd after day 1, see day one video recap here.
The final day got off to a great start, but I couldn’t find the final upgrade to bring how the W, ending up .1lbs short and finishing in 2nd. Below is a shorter final day video due to GoPro malfunction. Details of how I caught them and links to the gear are all in the video descriptions.
Either way, the main goal was to be heading to La Crosse in September to fish the Semis on the Mississippi River.
Follow this blog and my bass fishing YouTube channel to see upcoming posts and videos on the BASS Nation TOC from Island lake in early August.
This blog always seems to fall to a lower priority than my YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Definitely consider following me on any of those platforms to stay more plugged into my fishing activities and catch any fishing tips & nuggets that I pass on through those channels.
I am not giving up on the blog and for now, I am going to leave you with a few of my recent Bass Fishing YouTube videos. I am definitely putting more of my energy into my YouTube content as its something I really enjoy, but the downside it is time-intensive labor of love to produce high-quality original content in video format.
I always say I will and need to blog more, but here we are again with big gaps between blogs. Largely because I like to post blogs with video content now and that takes much more time to edit and publish than a blog with a few photos. So the following is two tournament recaps from July.
That being said, I recorded a little video from MN TBF TOC on Lake Pokegama, but my finish was very mediocre and so were the fish catches on video, maybe I will clip it together and post it here in the future. I didn’t even take any photos from that event. I love Pokegama and have done well there in the past. In the end, I fished for both smallmouth and largies, but probably needed to dedicate more to one, ultimately I didn’t catch either one well enough. Kudos to Sport and Chong on the wins & my dad for big fish of the event. Final results from that event – click here.
Two weeks after that event, was the Minnesota BASS Nation TOC on Mille Lacs. Practice was stingy but I felt like I still had a few things figured out to go on, but many of the areas that were good last August, weren’t the same this year. Could just be year to year or fish adjusting to the growing fish pressure of being the #1 Bass Lake in the US by Bassmaster Magazine. Day 1 ended up being postponed due to the wind, but new day 1 on Friday still ended up being pretty darn windy. I was greeted with a nice surprise of none of my electronics being able to power up as we lined up for taking off, even though they worked fine all practice.
Before I had time to dig into the issue, my boat early boat number was about to be called. So I set off to my first area with no GPS mapping or sonar depth. I got close to the area and I was able to switch some cords to get waypoints and maps on my console graph. I tried fishing inefficiently for awhile walking to back graph, moving trolling motor and spot locking on and off with my Ultrex. I finally gave up on that and went into back compartment, ultimately I rewired around what I believe had to be a bad fuse harness and got everything back up and running front and back. After way too much time spent, I had 1 or 2 small fish and broke off on a good bite in the first area.
Trying to go to my next area, all the sudden I could not get on plane with the big motor. So mentally I decided I would fast idle and fish the area I was in and then work my way back to take off. That worked for a bit, caught a few more fish, lost a 4lbr next to the boat and caught a 4lbr on a stupid tube. After fishing my less than prime areas more, I finally decided to pop the cowling off the main motor and have a look to make sure it wasn’t something silly, and it was just a spark plug wire that popped off.
After getting that fixed, I made the run from Agate Bay area up to the east of Myramar to fish calmer waters that I had success in practice. My next stop produced a decent quality bite and a small upgrade. With time running out, I ran a handful of area working down the west side of the lake, finally I hit some isolated boulders about mid lake on the west side and got a big upgrade drop shotting a boulder that I almost gave up on and the fish probably bit on the 9th or 10th time I dropped. I knew the bag still wasn’t where I wanted or needed to be but felt like maybe I had avoided a complete disaster. Then the treacherous run back across the middle of the lake and by the way, I should have left much earlier than I did, it was way too rough to push as hard as I ended up pushing it. We made it back without too much damage other than a bent trolling motor stabilizer. I ended up with 17lbs and was probably in about 30th place out of a 100 or so boaters.
Day 2 I knew I need to get over 20lbs to have a shot. I started in a somewhat shallow area between take-off and Doe Island that was way too windy on Day 1, it yielded a limit in the first 90 minutes along with two 5lb class fish. A much better start and 20lbs felt pretty attainable at that point.
I bounced around fishing areas on the east side of the lake picking off quality fish on the stupid tube and drop shot. I won’t go into fish by fish details, if you want that info, check this video because I had my GoPro going all of day 2.
I ended up with 22lbs even, which is my best 5 smallmouth ever weighed in a tournament. That felt pretty good until the results came out that I missed the Top 10 cut by .7lbs. That is fishing, on one hand, I felt pretty good not letting the adversity of day completely snow ball on me and hanging in there to give myself a shot to fish on day 2. But in the end, my goal was not achieved, so that kind of sucked.
Pretty much all the fish I weighed came on two baits and two setups. I had 4″ Green Pumpkin Stupid Tubes rigged on 3/16oz BassTEK Agitator Heads fished on 12lb fluoro on a DX743C Dobyns Extreme Casting rod. The other setup which caught most of my biggest fish each day was 2.75″ Baby Tube fished on a drop shot with #2 VMC Neko Hook, 8lb fluoro leader tied to 8lb main line braid spooled on a spinning real connected to my DX742SF Dobyns Extreme spinning rod. I used a pretty short 12-14″ drop leader to a 3/8oz BassTEK Tungsten dropshot weight. That 7’4″ rod does an unreal job of controlling the big smallies on light line and keeping them pegged with those small hooks. More details and images at the end of my recap video.
My next big event is on Lake Pokegama on September 1st, where I will be fishing for a brand new Skeeter Boat in the Classic Bass Champions Tour TOC! Wish me luck!
Sorry, this blog is about a month overdue. First off, the inaugural Classic Bass Champions Tour event was AMAZING! Classic Bass put on a great event and fishing an MLF (Major League Fishing) style tournament is a completely different kind of pressure over traditional 5 best bass style tournaments. It was also no coincidence they chose Mille Lacs Lake which was also recently recognized the worlds Best Bass Fishing Lake for 2017 by Bassmasters Magazine!
If you have never seen an MLF event on TV or on the Web, basically every legal keeper bass you catch counts, it is weighed by an in boat judge (thanks to Prior Lake HS Bass Club) and there is a live scoreboard all day through an app on your phone. The other really unique thing about this event, it was an invite only event, so to participate, you had to be selected.
It was on honor just to be selected and I was super excited to fish against this field. You can see the results and field list here. I was able to get about 3 days of practice in for this event. My strategy was to check several parts of the lake so I would be prepared to fish multiple areas since they were likely to section up the lake for our event and to prepare for the wind. I also wanted to have baits I felt confident in so I wasn’t second guessing baits when I was looking for fish fast during the event. Because of the high winds and rough water, I didn’t set up my GoPro during the tournament, but you can check out my practice video which is very similar to how I caught them during the actual event.
The event ended up being split into morning and afternoon sessions, where we had to fish the East side of the lake during the first 4 hours and then after lunch (Thank Rocky Reef Resort for Lunch), we fished the west side of the lake for the final 4 hours.
The split caught me a little off guard based on the wind forecast, I made a big run across the lake only to find the area I planned to fish was completely blown out, I only caught two tiny keepers before getting tired of taking waves over the bow and stern of my boat. So I ducked into the closest protected water I could find and I hunkered down and made the best I could out of that area that I didn’t even practice. It turned out to be pretty productive, I was able to catch like 18 or 20 fish for about 43lbs which was good enough to be 3rd out of 24 for the first half. Here is an Instagram Video of the trip back to Rocky Reef at the end of the first half, water was a little rough.
In the second half, I got off to a slow start with only one 2lb fish in like 90 minutes. Finally, I got into an area where I got around some fish and it was calm enough to properly fish them, I made a big surge late to make it back to 3rd after falling out of the top 6 cut. Making the top 6 has qualified me for the Tournament of Champions where I get to fish for a Brand New Skeeter Boat in September. Watch this post tourney interview from Classic Bass as well for details on my day.
My first tournament of the year has come and gone, covering what went down in this blog. This is the first time I have ever fished an April tournament in MN or WI and not really fished this part of the Mississippi River in April. For those that hate reading, just jump right to my tournament recap video embedded below.
That being said I have fished several tournaments out of La Crosse including several BFLs. I was able to get two full days of practice the Thursday and Friday before the tournament and 2 hours on Wednesday night. From the time I launched my boat on Wednesday night to tournament morning, the water temps went from almost touching 60 degrees to 47-48 degrees in the area I started the tournament on.
In practice, I had decent success flipping a black blue tube rigged with a 1/4oz BassTEK Tungsten Flipping Weight as well as a 3/8oz Bladed Swim Jig paired with a Menace grub worked around wood and grass.
In the end, I could not find the current based staging fish and as cold as the water got, my slack water banks and flats became trash with the rapidly cooling water and it pushed the fish to people like Cade who smashed them! Check out his video to learn something about Mississippi River bass fishing.
Basically, during the tournament, my bites ended up being cut in a third from practice. I ended up 69th place out of 154. In the end, it was good to get the boat out and fish a derby early. On the down side, I caught a really nice head cold.
I really believe that the guys coming for the FLW Tour in a couple weeks will really catch them on the Mississippi River. The cold weather we had, will keep them fish from getting to Post Spawn for them, so they should have a lot of shallow biting fish to catch for their event. I think the weed flats around Stoddard and “The Box” will look and fish like the “Monkey Box” of Lake Okeechobee, other likely popular areas to fish will be Goose Island, Target Lake, & Lawrence Lake in Pool 8 and then Lake Onalaska in Pool 7, a few guys will likely make the run to fish the upper end of Pool 9 as well. Should be a very exciting tournament to follow, there will likely be spawning fish as well as a few frog fish starting to bite. Swim Jigs, Chatterbaits, and flipping techniques should be quite strong as well.
After winning the TBF TOC on Gull earlier in the year, I did have a little confidence coming into the tournament. I only practiced 3 of the 4 official days allotted, saving some PTO time and being home for first day of kid’s school. All in all, I had a pretty rough practice, spending the majority of my time deep and checking occasional shallow areas, I think I only got a single 3lb bite in 3 days of practice. While not a great practice, it was actually better then the practice I had for the TBF and that turned out just fine.
I had one area that I was pretty confident that would produce a decent limit on a topwater bait or by flipping the edges of the deep weed edge. On Day 1, that spot gave up a few small fish on chatterbaits and crankbaits, but nothing that I was looking for. The day continued, mixing in some offshore with some shallow and ultimately all my fish came shallow skipping a 3/8oz Bluegill Colored BassTEK Tungsten Flipping jig around boat docks. My best weighed 11.32lbs and had me hovering somewhere around 33rd place out of 188 anglers and after 2 days the top 20 would advance to Lake Guntersville in April 2016.
Going into 2nd day, I felt like I need to have about 12lbs to move up enough to make the top 20. I started out offshore and alternating again and did get once decent keeper flipping a tube craw in 8ft of water, but ultimately leaned on the dock pattern most of the day to fill a limit and catch a few decent 2lb fish. About mid day, I caught a fish punching a shallow milfoil mat around some wood and it was a nice upgrade at the time. I took that as a clue and ran that pattern for a bit and culled most of my early limit almost calling my shots for about 90 minutes. Check out the following video to see some of the fish caught this way. These punching fish all came in Big Bite Bait Tube Craws in Green Pumpkin with a 3/4oz BassTEK Tungsten Flipping Weight, 20lb Sunline Fluoro on a Dobyns 765 Flipping Stick.
Havaing a box full of 2lbr mid day on this pattern, I was feeling decent knowing I really just need one more good bite. I spent the rest of the day shallow chasing that bite, but it never materialized. I ended up with 10lbs on day 2 and remained in about the same place as I stared the day, 34th place. Kudos to the angler that caught them and are moving on to Guntersville. I fished very clean and my weight reflected what I caught during practice, just never got those key bites I did in the TBF tournament earlier in the summer. One slight bright spot, is our bass club Twin City Bass won the team portion of the event for the 3rd year in a row and Brian Bengston is moving on to Guntersville to represent our club.
This was pretty much my last tournament of the year, except for participating in a Minnesota Match Fishing event that was a lot of fun as well. I did do quite a bite of fun fall fishing in October and early November, I will have some videos coming soon on that, in the mean time, check out my Instagram account to see some of my best catches and 15 second fish catch videos.
Drop a comment if there are things you would like to see on my blog this winter.
This was the tournament I had been thinking about since about half way on my drive back from the National Championship last November. Once you get to BASS Nation Nationals and you are one step from the Classic, it really creates a burn to get back and finish the job.
Planning and prepping, my game plan going into this event was to focus on main lake offshore smallies. In my mind, if I found 15-30 spots with quality fish potential, I could rotate through them hitting the sweet spots and creating a big bag every day and possibly supplement with a few shallow fish as needed.
I had 4 days of practice before the event, after two full days fishing the tops of the prime pieces of structure, I was really struggling. With the mid-summer cold front, it really seemed to knock these fish off the edges onto isolated cover and they really were not schooled up in very many places. With my final two days I shifted a focus for more shallow isolated cover. I had two days of practice doing that and caught some really nice fish and pulled on many more.
My game plan revolved around hitting a few key offshore spots early to get a few solid bites early and then grind the rest of the days on specific shallow targets. Day 1, I had a first flight draw and Zach from Indiana, who didn’t get much practice in, so he was willing to go along with my game plan. After a 2 plus hour fog delay, we got to my starting spot and Zach got a good fish on a Big Hammer swimbait on my starting spot and I got a walleye on a tube. We ran more spots, I picked up 3 small fish on tubes and one 3lbr, but I opted to throw back a 13″ smallie due to bleeding. About mid day, I could tell the bite was super tough and I went to every spot I knew just to try to fill a limit, both shallow and deep, chasing largies and smallies and only Zach got one more keeper on a wacky senko. What a disaster, starting with 3 fish for 6lbs and change, National dreams DEAD!
Many guys struggled, but the leader for Minnesota Corey Brant sacked almost 17lbs and I was dead last on the MN team. My day 2 partner was from WI and he zeroed on day 1, we agreed to work together and just try to catch solid limits for team weight. My starting spot produced 4 fish for me and 2 for Kyler and one of mine was close to 4lbs. We made a run through my spots working west towards Kyler’s fish. His grass fish didn’t go, but I gave some advice to him and we both ended up with limits and culling from Norwegian Bay. I ended up with a modest 12lb bag and moved up on spot on the team. The good news, Minnesota had grown our lead from about 18lbs on day 1 to close to 50lbs on day 2. With our sights set on the Three Peat of winning this event for 3rd consecutive year and defending our home turf!
Day 3 I drew Jim B from Wisconsin, agreeing we were both out of contention, we decided to have a fun and just go fishing. I was not able to get on my starting spot, but my second spot had some good smallies busting on the surface. We both got 3lb class fish to commit to topwaters and also picked up some keepers on jerkbaits.
Working west under foggy conditions, I filled my limit and culled few times fishing both deep and shallow. Going to Jim’s water in the last few hours, we both ended up culling a few more times. I had almost 13lbs and Jim got the better bites to get 14lbs.
Minnesota extended our lead and took home another boat, kudos to a great team and a bunch of new friends. Special congrats to my buddy and roommate Corey Brant who will be representing MN at Nationals on the Ouachita River in November!
Check out and subscribe to my YouTube channel to see some of my fish catching highlights from both last year’s TOC and this years practice and tournament. I will get the video edited and posted in a few weeks!
No rest for the weary, this week I will be at Gull Lake near Brainered for the BASS Nation MN TOC, looking to start the path back to Divisionals and Nationals again….
First off, my last tournament, which was the Lakeville Pan-O-Prog bass tournament was a total bomb, 6 fish for 10.4lbs, first time not cashing a check in that event. So after having a terrible weekend of practice for this Gull Lake state tournament, I was itching to get my swagger back as my fishing confidence was definitely pretty low.
I had some success on Gull back in a BASS Nation State Tournament in 2001 where I was runner up, but since then, only fished there a handful of times with mix results and since then, there is a lot more milfoil and cleaner water due to zebra mussels, so fishing what worked 10+ years ago probably wasn’t the answer.
My game plan for this tournament was to keep an open mind and rely on my strengths, which is power fishing with a jig. I stated the first morning with a topwater as that produced fish the weekend before, but the fish really weren’t having it. From there I fished new water bouncing around deep and shallow, mostly fishing a 1/2oz BassTEK Tungsten Flipping jig paired with a Stike King Menace grub as a trailer. Focusing on points and inside turns on weedlines and other shallow areas that looked good based on wind and current conditions. It didn’t take me to long to fill my limit and start upgrading a bit at a time.
Mid morning I got two really good bites, a 3.5lb fish deep and a 4.45lb fish shallow, both on a jig, from there I just kept at it and upgraded a few ounces here and there to get to 14.37lbs, which was good enough for 2nd place after day 1. Thanks to Rick Pelletier for some great net jobs and going along with the flow as I made things up as we went.
It felt great to be near the top of the leaderboard after day 1, but I also new that I would have to fish mostly new water on day 2 and that withouth getting a few key bites, 8lb was as likely a results as another 13-14lbs bag. On day 2, I drew former club member Steve Brummer and he was more then game to fish the moment and the conditions as well.
Day 2 started with a few decent fish and a few small fish to fill an early limit and then we bounced around slowly keeping my jig wet and bites came steadily building a decent limit. My biggest fish on day 2 was 3.3lbs and the rest were all 2 to 2.75lb fish.
The main keys for me were not fishing history and fishing the conditions and having a bait that I had a ton of confidence in. I chose my jig because it required little maintenance. On day 2 I only went through 2 jig trailers due to my Jig Sling keeping it on place and secure, which meant more time casting and less time fixing my bait.
The end result was 13.62lbs and a 1st place finish. Felt great to get a win over a solid field with several local Gull anglers in the field. Also, cool that my dad was able to finish 4th on the non-boater side, so we both qualified for the 2016 TBF Northern Divisional in South Dakota next year. Final Results Here.
I know in my last post, I said I was going to blog more, not that great, but here I am. Work, Business, Family and other stuff has kept me off the water more then I would have chosen.
I have only fished 3 small tournaments thus far, but good news, cashed checks in all of them. Winning would have been better, but anytime you are cashing and losing less money then most, so that is a good thing!
Two of the tournaments I fished down in La Crosse with my buddy Kevin, we fished some Bass World Sports team tournaments, got big bass in both and got 3rd and 4th places. They may tournament all are fish fell pray to Bladed Swim Jigs and Tubes, no real surprise for the river.
The other event was a Bass Pursuit event on O’Dowd on June7th, it was a tough bite, but we scratched out a few 2-3lbrs on Dropshot and 3/8oz BassTEK Jigs in Magic Craw on deeper weed edges bordering hard bottom areas. The weights were so low, we didn’t even both to snap a picture of the fish.
Next up this week is the annual Pan-O-Prog event on Lake Marion which is close to home. It always seems to be a grind, but it’s nice to fish a few events close to home.
To close, here is a recent video on a local pond to my house. I don’t always have a ton of time to get out in the boat, but I sneak a little fishing in when I can, not bad eh?