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, I am not happy or pleased with how I finished at the B.A.S.S. Nation National Championship presented by Old Milwaukee. But it for sure was an honor to represent the State of MN and the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation Nation in this event. I assure you all it was not for a lack of effort, but likely came down to some decision making on locations in the end.
I was fortunate to get about 2.5 days of pre-practice before the cut-off and based on my research I had made up my mind, win, lose or draw, to put all my eggs into fishing D’arbonne Bayou. The little info that was available suggested most tourneys were won in there and that the average size of fish was better there. It also suggested that you would sacrifice the number of bites one could potentially get, but the chance of quality fish was best there.
My entire pre-practice was spent in the 35 mile long bayou and its adjoining sloughs. The first morning, I launched at the spillway below D’arbonne Lake where Jamie Horton had won the previous Championship held here. It was full of bait and gar, but not much from bass that I could find. The rest of the day, my dad and I explored the upper 1/3 of D’Arbonne, finding a few fish and lots of time learning to navigate. I would’ve had a decent limit fishing square bills on cypress trees and my dad got some decent bites flipping plastic.
My next practice day, we launched at Hollands Bluff and fished from the mouth of Long Slough down to Cross Bayou, and checked out Circle Slough and the part of Cross. It was actually a pretty good, day, we got on a deal where we were nearly calling our shots when we found deeper cypress trees with 3-5′ of water on them, mostly flipping a beaver to the shady sides of targets.
My last day I looked the middle part of the bayou, the bean field and the other side of Cross bayou, had to sort through small bites, but would have managed a limit and starting to build confidence in the style of fishing.
The first official practice day, I made the 80 minute run from take-off to the spillway. Coby Carden off Alabama arrived moments after I and we both checked things out, I never saw him catch anything and I only managed two small spotted bass on a Muscle Squared crankbait. From there, I started working my way down the bayou checking on stuff from pre-practice, I caught a decent keeper on a square bill early on and then switched to flipping so I could better pull on fish. And the bites came fairly steady while flipping, some felt better then others, but I pulled on them all. I felt pretty confident that I could have had a decent limit fairly early that morning, but there was also a lot of traffic in the upper bayou where I was. All in all it was a very good practice day, until I made a mis-step in the S-turns on my way back in and put a nasty gouge in the bottom of the boat.
My second and final official practice day was spent riding shotgun with Brett Reid (Ohio Youth Director) who was awesome enough to take me out while my boat was getting patched. I concentrated on the lower end of the bayou. I started in Cross and caught a fish on a spinnerbait way in the back by the small bridge and had another bite on a buzzbait. On the way back out, I had several fish hit a crankbait that I pulled on and also pulled on some bites on laydowns flipping. From there I checked out areas and it wasn’t awesome, but I was getting bites on my square bill and flipping. I ended up catching 3 keepers and pulled on several more.
Not sure if I over thought things in my head or let the patch get in my head, but I decided to fish the lower bayou on day 1, and move up the next two days. I started and worked large sections of Cross Bayous with nothing but frustration to show, thinking maybe I had a few short strikes on my square bill. Moving up to some of my deeper cypress tree fields, it took me until after 10am to boat my first keeper and it was barely a keeper at that. The next large field yield two more keepers flipping a beaver, but 3 fish for 3-15 was all I could manage and was mired in 41st place after day 1.
Below is a video show casing the boat ride from Forstyh Park to D’arbonne Spillway that I did on the first practice day, but wished I had done every tournament day.
On day 2, I started in the deeper trees, quickly caught a 13″ keeper, but the rest of the large area produced nothing. My second produced a barely keeper and the 3rd area I fished a large area and only for one more keeper. From there I ran about 15 miles up the bayou and fished some key areas on the way back down and scratched out a small limit flipping a hematoma beaver and a Junebug Kompak craw. I felt better about getting a limit and staying in the game, I moved up about 10 spots, but lost ground on the leaders of my division.
On the final day, I felt I had two choices, either go all the way up to the spillway and fish my way down, or enter a larger slough or bayou on the lower end and just keep my baits wet. As far back as I was, I convinced myself to stay away from where several of the leaders were fishing, even though, that was my primary area in practice, and I spent a little time in Cross bayou where I caught a decent keeper on a spinnerbait and then the rest of the day in Boggy. I managed two more keepers in Boggy, on spinnerbait and chatterbait, plus a handful of shorts and a few more short strikes. Another 3 fish for 3lbs and change effort made for a disappointing finish.
I actually fished a very clean tournament, not losing any fish that I had hooked, but felt very angry with myself that I didn’t commit to the upper end of the bayou where 4 of the 6 classic qualifiers spent the majority of their time. Most of us know that bass fishing is very mental and comes down to decisions and I am not happy with my decisions made each morning. Which made for a long drive home to MN from Louisiana and will make for a longer then normal winter.
The next video is a sampler of fishing scenery & a few fish catches
Thanks to all of you that texted, emailed, messaged me during practice and before each day of competition. Also thanks to the Family, Friends & Sponsors that helped me along the journey.
BASS puts on a first class event at this level and I am fueled more then ever to fish hard to get back! Congrats to the 6 anglers who “Survived” the Ouachita River, as it was very tough on equipment and the anglers all week!
Last video is a compilation of take-off and weigh-in video from each day of the event.
Plus I met a lot of new bass friends at this event, the group representing the Northern Division was a great bunch of guys to hangout with all week as well as the anglers from other states and countries.
I look forward to getting back to another BASS National event and the next shot is in August on Lake Vermillion, it will be a dog fight being on MN waters, but I look forward to the challenge!
On Saturday morning I started fishing shallow and the very first bite I got was a 4lb smallie on a Big Bite Baits tube, and down that stretch I pulled on several more fish and caught another solid 2.5lb smallie, not a bad start. From there it was a bit of a chore, bites were further and farther between the rest of the day, sticking to mostly shallow and dabbling a bit off shore.
On Sunday, I stayed with the plan to stick shallow and keep covering water looking for more productive water that fit my strengths and preference. I got a few 3lb class fish, but mostly 2lbs and under, the highlight of the day was catching 2 muskies in 12 minutes.
Monday, I decided to check more of the West End of the lake looking at Largemouth water and I honestly had a pretty good day, good numbers decent quality with a few of the right fish mixed in. Nearly all these fish that I caught or pulled on were choking a 3/8oz BassTEK Tungsten Jig in Okee Craw. I felt this was a pretty decent option if I couldn’t get on a more consistent smallmouth bite on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, I practiced with club mate Corey Brant, we stayed on the Tower end of the lake and chased smallies with a larger emphasis on off shore structure. We definitely both added spots to our game plan and had pretty productive day.
I drew out with friend and former Gopher Bass club mate John Fairbanks, we were in 2nd flight. We decided to start on a hump that John had, then run some of my water and then finish on his stuff.
After a 2 plus hour lightening delay, we started with reaction baits, but after seeing a fish nose my bait, I decided to pick up a tube. The first cast yielded a 4.74lb brute of a smallie and a few casts later another 4lb class smallmouth bass. We tried to milk the area some more, but it seemed like the action was over.
From there I ran a series of shallow areas where I filled my limit, culled a few times and John got 3 fish for about 8lbs. All my fish came on tubes. We hit an isolated hump that I had, where I made a small upgrade. We then shifted to John’s areas for the last two hours, but nothing panned out. The day went by fast with that 2 hour delay.
My total weight was 15.54lbs which put me in 5th place after day 1 and positioned right in the mix with one day to go.
My day 2 partner Dan brought in a respectable 10lbs on the first day, but deferred to let me run the show since I was 5lbs ahead of him. We started on an isolated hump on day 2, again the reaction bait was fruitless, but the tube put a 3lb smallie in the boat and another keeper pretty quickly. I hopped around other humps and points in the area to fill my limit and then came back to the starting hump to catch my big fish of nearly 4lbs on the tube again, giving me 2 good fish, 1 okay fish and 2 small fish at about 9:30am.
My partner had a spot that he felt good about in the area, so we spent some time there and as I was about to suggest to leave, I got a 3lb class fish there. We gave that a little more time, hit another spot and revisited the big fish hump without anymore bites. It was almost 11am and I decided I would hit my water back towards the narrows possibly on the way to some largemouth if that didn’t work out. As I was about to reach the west end of Ely Island, my main motor just shut down.
I tried to restart it, nothing. Took the cowling off to look for loose wires, didn’t see any (turns out later, it was a wire clip that popped off my fuel pump). So we were effectively dead in the water about 4 miles from take-off at the half way point of the day. We were able to get towed in and switched to my partners boat, but it was after 1pm by the time we were headed back out.
Long story short, my partner got one keeper, I caught a few small keepers and one that upgraded me by about 4-6oz, but we never really got back on track.
I ended up with 14.64 on day 2, which crept me up one spot to 4th for the tournament. Which if you are not first, 2 though 6 are all boaters at divisionals. Fairly satisfied, but I definitely have to win one of these after 2 seconds, 2 thirds and now 3 fourths, plus Tweet Gate.
Kudos to my Twin City Bass Club team on another team victory at the TOC as well. All 4 of us made the Top 12 and divisionals next summer in MN (hopefully on Vermillion). Also, shout out to Fortune Bay Resort, they did a great job hosting us and I hope they get to host next year’s BASS Nation Northern Divisional.
Sorry no GoPro video from this event, between wet conditions and large waves each day at take off, I didn’t bother setting it up, didn’t want it to be a distraction. Might be some practice bass fishing video released next August….
Had fished several Northern Divisionals in the past and a few of them in Illinois and other states with tough fishing, I was mentally prepared for a tough tournament long before started driving.
It actually turned out to be tougher then I actually thought and the actual tourney days were more difficult then the practice days. My first practice day I got out on the water sometime after 8am on Saturday, after driving through the night and catching a quick nap in the truck. In summary I caught about 8-10 shorts that day fishing the end towards the dam on buzzbaits and squarebills, but actually had quite a few bites and action, just no size. I also spent a few hours scanning the mouth of Moores Creek, found lots of good structure and cover, but no bites. At our team meeting, none of the MN team got on much of anything, few fish here and there. With one boat finding some fish way up the the Middle Fork on the slow side.
Day 2 I fished with one of our Highschool anglers Matt, I chose to spend the majority of the day covering Moores creek and look at all the shallow water. By no means was it gang busters, but slowly we started building a shallow pattern throwing buzzbaits, buzz frogs and flipping a 3/8oz Okeechobee Craw BassTEK Tungsten jig. As the day went on, we took the pattern to other pockets and creeks and it held. Between the fish caught and shook off that we saw, I would have had an easy 16lb plus bag.
On practice days 3 and 4, I focused on looking at as many pockets and creek arms as I could and looking for more water to fit my pattern. As the week went on, the buzzbait seemed to fade and the senko and creature bait bite seemed to be better, plus shad seemed to move around quite a bit. Also, I started finding bites in shallow clumpy grass as well. Slowly, most of our team got on this pattern as well, with a few guys also fishing a few deep channel swing spots.
All of practice was pretty much rain and clouds, the tourney forecast was all about bluebird skies, sun and little to no wind, so I knew things would get tougher and change.
Day 1 I drew out in 2nd flight with a Gary Adkins from Wisconsin, he was on a completely different deal fishing deep, but we had water in the same parts of the lake, so we opted to work together throughout the day. I spent the first 2 hours and change running my best shallow water and we ended up both missing bites, I broke a fluoro leader on a senko and he couldn’t convert on a topwater fish.
The next 3 hours we spent working his deep areas with hardly a tap, both frustrated with things, we went to Allen’s creek to flip grass, Gary ended up getting a 3-02 flipping a sweet beaver in sprayed grass. We got a few more bites there, but nothing that kept. During that time I took control of the front of the boat and tried some more grass in that area. From there I went to Ramp Creek where I had an isolated weed clump that I pulled on a good fish the day before. First flip with a Rage Bug and I put a 3-03 in the boat.
We finished our day in Ramp and then a sunken brush pile just south of Ramp, no more bites or fish. That one quality fish had me tied for 30th out of 96 anglers on day 1 and about 5 lbs back of the top Minnesota guy and qualifying for Nationals.
Day 2, I had Jesse Weener from Michigan, he was 2nd coming into the day. He had caught 4 fish for around 9lbs on day 1. We also agreed to work together. The 2nd day, I chose to start in Ramp, fished several pockets and we each got a short on topwater, then finally in the back on a beaver dam I scored a 15 inch fish on weightless senko. From there I ran into an isolated pocket where I had pulled on a fish on Tuesday and then actually spooked again on first tourney day. Same thing, I ended up spooking fish with my buzzbait, mental note, planned to come back later to get him.
During the middle part of the day, we went to Jesse’s area which was around Cutright. He was catching most of his fish on a drop shot (dream shot dirt color), fishing shallow around points and docks. He ended up getting a pretty good fish on the first pass. The nest pass, I got keeper throwing my senko to sandy patches and points in grass clumps. Before we left Jesse got one more good keeper on a senko as well.
With a little bit of time left on my clock, I ran back that isolated fish, first cast with my senko, I put him in the boat and it was scramble time to get back to weigh-in. Long story, short, ran out of gas about 2 miles from Four Winds. Thanks to Ed Rounsaville from Indiana for picking us up with our fish, total life saver and yes, I am an idiot for running out of gas.
My 3 fish weighed 7-02 and I jumped up to 12th place, but I was actually 4th on my team still and 3-15 back from our leader and had to leap 3 anglers on the final day. Also good news, the Minnesota team jumped from 4th place to 1st place in the team competition.
Day 3, I ended up with the Illinois team alternate and I got to run my water all day. I stuck to my pattern, but threw buzzbait less and fished soft plastics more. Even with that, it took me until almost noon to get my first fish in the boat in the back of a pocket on a senko. It was only about 14.25″ and didn’t weigh much, so I knew I needed one more good fish to catch the leader to have a chance if he stumbled. I kept with it and got another fish just before 2pm that I felt put me really close to the 4lb mark between the 2 fish, but in my head I really thought I needed one more fish to make it happen.
I fished hard to the bitter end, but it never happened, 2 fish was all I would end up with. I made it back to weigh-in with plenty of gas and a few minutes to spare. I was first flight and 2nd angler from my team to weigh in. When I weighed the number was 3lbs 15oz to take the lead and I wasn’t certain whether I had enough.
I ended up with exactly that weight, while talking to Jon Stewart, I was pretty casual knowing that 2 more anglers that only need a fish or two were still coming to weigh and I was certain it wouldn’t hold.
About half way through the weigh-in, all the guys that were close to me had weighed except the day 2 leader had weighed and I was still in the top position for Minnesota. Then word got to me that our leader had zeroed on day 3. Honestly, I was couldn’t believe it at first, it definitely took awhile to set in and I did’t want to get excited until all MN anglers crossed the stage.
This was my 6th divisional and it feels awesome to finally make it to Nationals and be part of a team that won back to back boats at the divisionals. Assuming Italy sends an angler to this event, I basically have a 1 in 9 chance to fish my way to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell. I have been tournament bass fishing for about 20 years now and I have been working for this the whole time.
Next week is our Minnesota TOC state qualifier on Lake Vermillion, after that, I will be 100% focused on the Ouachita River.
Sorry no GoPro video, wasn’t much for fish catching on this trip, but I should get some great stuff from Vermillion.