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.
Been a long winter, but I am getting the itch big time this spring. Compared to last year, I am way ahead of the game, I actually got the boat out fishing on the Mississippi River on April 1st, it ran great and we caught some bass, all in all a good start. Pictured is one of the best fish of they day.
Also, I finally got the bug to do some video editing of previously recorded GoPro footage I had some some drives. Trying out some new video editing software I just added to my new laptop.
Below is a pretty fun couple of hours of early fall bass fishing with Jason Holmer of Bass Utopia boiled down to 10 mins of highlights. We only weighed the 3 biggest fish, but the best 5 easily topped 25lbs.
All our fish were caught on flipping jigs and vibrating jigs, my jig of choice was a BassTEK 3/8oz Okeechobee Craw with various trailers. I also caught several fish later in the day on a Black Blue chatterbait style vibrating bladed jig.
My goal is to produce a lot more video content this year, leave a comment on this blog or on video, let me know what you want to see. Maybe even subscribe so you don’t miss any new videos!
Sorry for the delays between blogs, been one of those summers, I intend to back fill a few entries as well.
I qualified for this event through the MN TBF TOC on Mille Lacs Lake in late July. The event ended up being 51 total boats from Minnesota and Wisconsin, in true Pro/Am style money tournament with top boater and co’s from each state qualifying for the TBF National Championship next spring.
Monday thru Wednesday were off limits, so I practiced a few hours late on Thursday after work and Friday until the 3pm off the water deadline. I practiced mostly off shore in practice and felt pretty solid about morning topwaters, transitioning to flipping weed edges to catch a quick 11-12lbs+ and then I would go shallow for a couple upgrades.
Day 1, I hit several spots only to catch a few small fish on deep weed edges and losing one decent fish rushing a fish to the boat. My non-boater had a few decent fish as well. On about our 10th stop we finally hit a group of fish to fill our limits and I got one decent 2.5lb fish. It was about 2hrs left in day and I decided I need to try to find some fish shallow. After a few stops, I finally hit a short stretch of docks where I busted a 3.5lb and 5.25lb pair of studs for Gull on a 1/2oz Okee Craw BassTEK Tungsten Jig, tipped with a Strike King Menace grub.
With about 90 mins to go, I had 3 of the right fish and two 14″ fish. I worked my butt off, caught lots of fish, but only upgraded once for a few ounces, and my co-angler got one decent upgrade as well. My day one weight ended up being 14.9lbs, which is solid for Gull, but wasted opportunity with a 5lbr in the bag and not being able to catch a few more of the numerous 2lb class fish that reside in Gull. I was in 10th place and 3lbs off the lead going into Day 2.
Day 2, the fish came quicker, but they were even smaller for me, my co-angler once again caught fewer fish, but seemed to get a few of the right bites on a Flick Shake Green Pumpkin stick worm, while I continued to flip a Tube Craw on a 3/4oz Tungsten weight.
I went shallower a little earlier on day 2, but took longer to connect with quality fish, but I ended up getting on a stretch where I culled everything in my well in about 45 minutes. Then I bounced around hitting key docks and got 2 smaller culls in the closing minutes. I ended up with a touch over 15lbs, which propelled me to 4th place and a decent finish and check. The leader only weighed 14lbs on day 2, which left the door open, and made me realize even more, I missed my chance to win on Day 1.
In retrospect, I think if I would have committed to shallow for 8hrs each day, I think I would have gotten the extra bites to be right there for the win, but that is fishing and easy to see looking back.
This is the end of my tournament season, hoping to get in some fun fall fishing in the coming weeks and fish well into November like last year.
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.
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.
Not sure which items, lures, lines, rods, etc will be the long term winners or generate the most buzz this week, but based on the online coverage, here are the items I will most likely be trying this summer and fall as they become available. In no particular order….
Terminator Walking Frog: First off, I am a sucker for a good frog, hopefully this one fits the bill. Especially since my go-to Frog from Evolve has been discontinued, I need a new lead frog in my box. Here is what Randall Tharp has to say about it.
Rapala and Storm have had some really good track record of late on new baits, so I have a good feeling about this frog coming out under the Terminator label. So far the pictures look pretty sweet!
Sunline Assassin FC: This new Fluorocarbon from Sunline is touted as the Bee’s Knees! We all know that Sunline makes great line and Assassin is supposed to have new P-Ion technology that creates a smoother surface and increase resistance to abrasion. Based on Tackle Tour’s review, this will give you almost the performance of Sniper and Shooter but at a more competitive price point!
GoPro HERO4 Session: Smaller is always better right? Thinking this could finally be the lighter GoPro option to comfortable wear on my visor to add POV shots to my bass fishing videos.
Big Bite Baits Swimming Mama: This actually appears to be a reboot of the Wave Worm Tiki Swim Bug. The Tiki bug is not widely popular but a great bait, now with 1 more per pack and more colors, that is a good thing!
Nichols BPM Magnum Swimbait Head: I believe I have seen this on a flipping jig from somebody before, but this idea of pegging plastic horizontally with a tooth pick is pure genius, check out the video to see how it works.
Not a terribly long list, but I think these are some good ones. Also, new for this year but before ICAST, check out the Dobyns Fury Rods, awesome rods for $109!
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.
For the most part, this year was to be about fishing less but bigger tournaments. With limited time off of work, it’s either stretch myself thin and get minimal prefishing in for several tournaments or hopefully get adequate time for a handful.
That being said, it was quite clear, I had large gaps between tournaments and I decided I would fish some smaller local events to keep my self sharp and stay sane. These smaller events would require little to no practice time and reduce amount of time away from home and the family.
So the first of these events would be the season opener for Bass Pursuit on Crystal Lake near my house. My buddy Bill was my partner. It was a small 10 boat field and just a 5 1/2 hour tourney day with a 4 fish limit. Being that we were on the lake the day before, we had a pretty good idea the fish were getting ready to move up and spawn and had a good idea what areas had the most potential.
Things started a little slow, but picked up a few fish on a weightless ring fry around docks. We then worked our way into areas with more bedding fish, gradually we upgraded our catch throughout the day. Once we started seeing the fish as the sun got up, the best baits were a White Damiki Hydra on a tungsten Jika Rig, Wacky Rigged BassTEK ReSticks and Biovek Kolt Fish Tails in Ayu on a dropshot.
If we could see the fish at a distance, the wacky rig was best, if the fish were fairly aggressive the Hydra converted them quickly, but on the toughest fish, the Kolt Fish converted them better then anything. Overall we caught more the 20 fish and culled about 8 times.
For more details on the fish catches, check out my GoPro footage from the first 3 hours.
Our final tally was over 13lbs and we won by about a pound, but missed big fish by about a half pound, but both Bill and I had fish that would have been big bass, we just didn’t execute.
Since the tournament ended at 11:30am and we didn’t have to be home right away, we went back out released our fish and then did some more fishing.
I even caught my first frog fish of the year on an Evolve Nervous walker, it was a pretty nice fish and caught several more after that.
Well the Minnesota Bass Opener is almost 10 days ago now, so I should probably throw a quick blog up, now or never. Went out in the morning on Crystal Lake with my buddy Bill on Crystal Lake to do a little catching and scouting for a small Bass Pursuit tourney that was on Sunday.
We started out on some deeper drops, but quickly ruled that out with just a few bites and one small fish on a 1/2oz BassTEK Tungsten Football jig. Next step was to hit some points leading into shallower bays as staging areas. On the 2nd point, I quickly caught 4 fish on 4 casts with a ring fry on a mojo rig.
From there, we went into some shallower bays and that is where the fish were and coming in as we fished. It was quite obvious that love was going to be in the air real soon!
We went on to catch a whole bunch of fish on weightless ring frys and BassTEK resticks rigged weightless and wacky style, including a couple fish over 5lbs.