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.
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?
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.
Starting to lose track how many years I have fished the Pan-O-Prog bass fishing tournament, but I started fishing it every year when I moved to Lakeville, so it must be 9 or 10 years now. In the early years, I spent quite a bit of time practicing out on Lake Marion, but in recent years, I am lucky if I have 4-5 hours on the lake from one year to the next between tournaments. After how badly the Bass Pursuit tourney went out there for us, I was hoping to get a little more time.
But this year was no different, I spent a little time scouting the Sunday before the event, bouncing around looking deep for weed growth and potential schools of fish, I found a little of both, but nothing great. My partner Paul, got out fishing for a few hours as well, and found a few deep fish as well. We drew boat 31 out of 35 on tournament morning, so with little to go on, we started on a place that had been good to me in the past.
The first stop produced a few small keepers but not what we needed so we tried a few docks and then out to a deep coontail clump. It didn’t take long for Paul and I to fill our limit on drop shots and start the culling process. The drop shot fish came on 4″ wacky ReSticks and 4″ Biovex Kolt Shad Tails. You can check out the embedded YouTube video to see our fish catches from the 6 fish that we weighed.
After that spot stopped producing we bounced around the lake finding a few upgrades here and there but mostly fish that wouldn’t help. Right at the end, we returned to our starting area and I got us one final upgrade flipping a Pumpkin Oil Kompak Craw into the milfoil.
Our final weight was a respectable 18.3lbs, but weights were up this year and it was only good enough for 6th place and small check. Sometimes the bigger bites just don’t fall your way and that is the way it goes.
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.