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.
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….
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!
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?
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….
After doing well in this first BFL spring event last year, I
was really looking forward to fishing it again, but with a busy hectic spring, I found myself scrambling the Wednesday night before getting my boat and tackle ready for this event. Thursday May 15th,
was actually the first day I got my boat out all year, which has to be some kind of record for me. Not a good record to break at all. Also, some home obligations didn’t allow me to get down to La Crosse and on the water until 11am. The Mississippi River near La Crosse is a vast sprawling body of to begin with, but to complicate matters more the water was over flood stage and rising for my practice and through the tournament. I had actually never been on this pool with the water this high.
As I continually have short practices for most of my tournaments, I have kind of learned to try to find an area or section of water that I feel good about and try to find some fish and then continually expand that area. Running all over the river can kill you in practice and in the tournament. To start my practice I launched at the Stoddard ramp. My practice started fishing some drops off
well known grass flats with a lipless crankbait that results in a few bites and a handful of chunky northern pike, time to move on.
From there I tried some steeper banks with current breaks
figuring that with fluctuating water the fish could easily adapt, only produced more northerns and a few short largies. My next stop was the closing dam that produced most of my fish last year. My first few casts with produced nothing, but I didn’t feel like I was getting bit, so I up-sized my mojo weight to a 1/4oz tungsten weight and instantly caught a chunky prespawn smallmouth. I got bit on the next few casts, which included 3.5lb class fish. I then picked up a DT6 to see if they would hit a reaction bait, my first cast over the sweet spot yielded a double. It was another big smallies with a keeper hanging on for dear life until shaking loose next to the boat. This was actually my first every double for bass. Rather than cast anymore there, it was time to find more fish and more water areas in the same section of the river.
One of the good fish from the school in practice
I spent the rest of the day going back and forth trying to
duplicate this smallsmouth spot and checking for largemouth getting ready to move up. I ended up catching two more keeper largemouth on a MJ rig or Power Spinner rig, depending on what you call them. The 2nd fish was a good quality fish and was at the mouth of a likely spawning pocket that had what looked to be the makings of a good area if the weather warmed at all.
My take on the MJ Rig, bulked up a bit…
Day 2 of practice was a complete grind; I worked all kinds
of water new and old to scratch out 3 measly keepers, 2 on a jerkbait and on the MJ rig. I called my practice a little early to get up to La Crosse for an interview with the local NBC news affiliate, embedded below was the result. My feeling going into the tournament is that if that school of smallies held up I could have another Top 10 finish, if they didn’t, I knew it would be a grind just to get a limit.
I ended up drawing boat 110 out of 152, which made me a
little nervous about getting on my fish, but also the late check-in time could be well worth it with the sunny warm day that was forecasted. My co-angler was a local, who agreed that fishing had been pretty tough for him as well. Take off and getting down to my fish went as smooth as one could hope. It only took a few casts with my mojo rig to connect with a keeper smallie. Not the fish I was hoping for, but showed me fish were here and in the past this spot has mixed sizes of fish. By 8am I had my limit of smallies, but most of them small and my co-angler had 3 smallies, but he got two bites in the 3lb class.
We both missed and lost what felt like good fish early. It kind of felt like some fish had left this spot, so I tried bouncing around the area to fish areas where I thought they were headed and then I would return to this area hoping they would get a rest and be ready to bite again. It worked once for a nice cull, but it just wasn’t producing enough bites or the size.
A little before noon, I headed down to the area where I caught one good largemouth in practice. Working my way in we quickly connected with several short fish, but this felt like a good sign of activity for fish moving into this area. I missed a few bites, my co-angler got 2 keeper largemouth on bladed jig, and I got one good bite flipping to get rid of another sub-standard smallmouth. With
one hour of fishing time left, I decided to go back to the current area. Honestly, I think I could have gotten another bite or two in the largemouth area, but I felt my best chance for a big bag was to go back to see if that school had reposition or fired up. Since I am not fishing all the BFLs this year, points didn’t really matter and I wanted to shoot for a good payday. I ended up catching a short, a catfish and a walleye in the last hour.
Final result was 10lbs – 15oz which was good enough for 31st,
one spot out of the money by 2oz. Kudos to my co-angler Josh, catching those two nice smallies propelled his limit to 11lbs and a 4th place finish on the non-boater side. Honestly I think I had a decent game plan, if I had gotten the right bites I could have had a nice check, but maybe I overestimated the quality of the school or not recognized they were leaving and put too much time into it during the tournament, but that is fishing and it’s all about decisions.
For those that don’t like to read, feel to watch the video summary below and I also have some GoPro fish catches from practice and tournament morning.
I have had many people leave messages both on my blogs and forum. How do you rig the “Stupid Tube”?
The Stupid Tube was made famous when Federation Nation angler Terry McWilliams from Indiana made the Bassmaster Classic through the Federation Nation ranks, largely on the fish he caught on his “Stupid Tube”. It got the name, because anglers back home always asked if he was catching fish on “That Stupid Tube” he so often used to beat them with. See article on Terry here.
The only real difference between a Stupid Tube and a normal tube jig, is the way you rig it. The stupid tube still used a tube jig head or similar jig head, but you kind of rig in a hybrid between a texas rig, normal tube rig and a shakey head! Below are picture diagrams of how to rig your own “Stupid Tube”. The reason the stupid tube rig is so deadly, you get a similar erratic fall and action as an exposed tube jig, but its virtually weedless and still gets great hook ups on fish!
Start by inserting the hook point into the hollow end of the tube
Run is all the way up and poke it out through the tube wall near the head, about wear a texas rig hook would come out, about a 1/4″ from the nose of the bait. You will find where you like it for your jig with a little practice.
Pull the hook out, so the head fits snug up in the nose of the tube & then poke the eye of your jig head out the other side of the tube, so you can tie your line there
Then bring the hook back into the tube body and out the other side like a texas rig and then skin hook the tip of the hook back into the tube wall so it covers the point of the hook (Texposed). This keeps the hook from catching on snags & weeds, but only takes a little pressure to stick a fish!
Experiment with different jig heads, weights, hook & tube sizes to fit your needs, just be sure your hook has enough throat to stick the fish and let tube collapse on the hook set. This bait comes through cover and skips great. Another big advantage over texas rigging your tube is that texas rigging tends to tear up tubes real bad after just a few fish. You usually can catch a limit or more before you need to replace your tube with this rig. So rig a handful up the night before and you should be set for the day!
June 1, 2015 – Update
Just to refresh this post and keep it up to date, few things to add. I still use this rig all the time for both smallmouth bass and largemouth both. Details on my setup, usually I fish this with 12lb Fluorocarbon, Dobyns DX743C baitcasting rod, and the jig head is usually a 3/16oz BassTEK Agitator Finesse Head.