Saturday, June 15, 2013

BASS boys are rolling in

It's that time of year again.  Yep, the Elites are back in town with official practice beginning Monday morning.  A stop down to the junior state tournament event revealed a few of the Elite guys already in town.  Crochet, Hite, Chapman, and Tietje were at the tanks and in the weigh-in crowd.  It appeared that the kids were really enjoying having those guys around and chatting with them as they waited at the tanks.  It's nice to see anglers of that caliber taking a little time to make the day for some idolizing young teens.  I'm pretty sure they won't forget this state tournament for quite some time. 

Monday will mark the first day of practice for the Elites and Torry Rhoades and myself will be riding with and documenting a day of practice with a couple B.A.S.S. pros.  Torry will be with David Walker and I will be riding with the "Cajun Baby" Cliff Crochet.  The purpose of our ride-alongs will be to document a day of practice from take-off until the boys put the boats on the trailer at the end of the day.  Our focus will not be on the lures they throw or the techniques they use, but more so on the way they break down a body of water and the decisions they make over the course of the day.  How fast can they develop a pattern?  Do they pick apart an area or do they run and gun? These are just a couple of the questions we hope to have some perspectives on.   After the tournament concludes we'll be posting about our experiences on the water and likely will have gained some valuable insight into tournament preparation.  It should be an interesting day and I'm really looking forward to it.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day Two Sturgeon Bay...Sometimes it Blows

For day two of our River Road clubber to Sturgeon Bay we faced a significant change in conditions.  The temps dropped into the 40's with a stiff northwest wind at 20+mph to start the day.  Any hopes of running north to those pre-spawn fatties from the day before had vanished and now the plan was to figure out what to do without leaving Sturgeon Bay.  For this day I drew Kevin Herlitzke.  Kevin had spent the day before fishing in and around Sturgeon Bay so we had options.  The flats were out of the question to start the day as the wind was blowing straight in, frothing up the shallows with 4 foot waves.  After a short bit messing around on a flat in the channel the decision was made to run to Sawyer Harbor.

Getting to Sawyer Harbor on a good day is a piece of cake.  (If I had to guess I'd say it's 2-3 miles from the shipping canal.)  But on a day with 4-5 footers blowing straight into your face, I promise you, it will make you pucker up tight.  Especially for guys like us who don't spend a lot of time on Great Lakes waters.  Once we got there it didn't take long to start putting fish in the boat.  Kevin hooked up first on the Flash Mob Jr.  Not long after, I boated one on a spinnerbait.  For the next four hours we worked a portion of flat that had weed clumps scattered throughout it.  Those fish were definitely relating to the weeds.  Any time you pulled your bait through a clump you'd get bit.  The wave action had really dirtied the water up, but it didn't seem to bother the fish.  We probably caught 30-40 fish  from that particular area and we weren't the only the boat there.  The size didn't match what I caught the previous day, but that was to be expected as the majority of these fish were post-spawn.  Not catching the same weight really didn't bother me.  It was a blast having jacked-up smallmouth crushing a spinnerbait.  It's been a while since I've had that happen.  The umbrella rig was by far the best producer though.  Kevin put on a clinic with that thing and caught more and bigger fish than I did on the spinnerbait.  I threw it a little bit, but I get bored chucking that thing out there.

At a little after noon the wind began to settle a bit and it looked like we'd have a chance to fish the Sturgeon Bay flats.  We made our way across the bay and set up on a rock ridge that had some bedding fish up on top.  Kevin picked up the A-rig and I picked up the jerkbait again.  I didn't get three jerks in and I was hooked up.  Soon after the fish was able to shake the hooks and was off.  I immediately fired the bait back out there and jerked twice and I was hooked up again.  This time with a fish close to 3 pounds.  I was able to cull with this fish and with the quick action, thought I'd be able to cull out my entire bag.  That didn't happen, but we did pick up a handful more as we worked that area.  With about a half hour remaining the wind really laid down and we were able to look at some on beds.  It was difficult to see the fish and how they were relating to our baits, but we did put a hook in a few.

At the scales I managed a measly 13.5 pounds while Kevin weighed in over 15.75lbs.  Neither weight was enough to make the top five on this day.

Top Five Finishers

1.  Jamie Nichols                19.06lbs
2.  Andy Smith                   17.67lbs
3.  Ryan Geister                  17.07lbs
4.  Kyle Schauf                   15.92lbs
5.  Dave Snyder                  15.85lbs

Big bass honors went to Kevin Herlitzke with a personal best 5.17 pound smallie.

                                                               1st Place finisher Jamie Nichols

My closing thoughts on Sturgeon Bay are that it's an amazing fishery.  The long growing seasons we've had the past few years, coupled with the population explosion of the goby have created one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the country.  I don't know if the weights will continue to rise like they have the past few years, but if they do the next world record smallie will likely come from the Bay of Green Bay.  This I do know, I will be spending the first few weeks of the fishing season next year looking for one of those 8 lb giants.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day One Sturgeon Bay Whackfest

So it's been a while since my last post.  I apologize for that, but the last couple weeks have been extremely busy.  During Memorial Day week I went to Open Bay Lodge in Ontario on our annual family fishing trip followed by three days of work and then right back on the road to Sturgeon Bay for a two-day club tournament.  I'll get back to the Open Bay trip later this week, but today I'll fill you in our River Road trip to Sturgeon Bay.

If you've never been to Sturgeon Bay, it's a trip you have to make if you're a serious smallmouth fisherman.  I've never been to a place more loaded with 4-5 pound fish and it has the ability to kick out true monsters.  You have a legitimate chance of catching smallies over 7 pounds.  Earlier this spring during the annual Sturgeon Bay spring open, two fish over 8 lbs were weighed in with many fish over 6 pounds weighed.  Big bass honors were taken home with a fish weighing 8.45 pounds pictured right. WOW!!!!!  While we didn't bring in any giants of that magnitude, one member of our club did manage to catch two fish right near that 6 pound mark.

The Sturgeon Bay area of the bay of Green Bay is an interesting fishery in the spring.  From my experience there over the last three years, I've come to the conclusion that there are three different spawning periods that occur there, four if you count the Lake Michigan side.  The first areas to fire up in the spring are the areas in and around Sturgeon Bay, including Little Sturgeon, Riley's, and Sand bays as well as Sturgeon Bay itself.  The water warms in these areas the earliest and seems to kick out the biggest pre-spawn bags.   Once these fish start to spawn, however, your best bet is to begin moving north from Sturgeon Bay.  That's not to say that you won't catch a ton of fish around Sturgeon Bay, but once the spawn starts it's much more difficult to find and catch the giants.  As you move north you'll find colder water and more fish in that pre-spawn mode.  Areas to check out here are the points that extend out into the bay of Green Bay along the Door County peninsula, as well as, the bays including Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Eagle Bay and Sister Bay among others.  These waters I would put into the second wave of spawning activitiy.  As these areas start the spawn, it's time to move out into the Bay of Green Bay itself, looking for humps and island that will still have cooler water and the last of the spawning waves.

On the weekend of June 1st and 2nd our club planned a two-day outing that launched from Sturgeon Bay.  Having just returned from our trip to Canada it was time for me to get some work done and I didn't get any time to practice.  I drew Torry Rhoades as a partner for the first of our two tournaments and he was able to practice the weekend prior.  His plan was to spend a day north and I had him check some water that I had done well on in the past.  There were fish on the chew up there but he didn't catch any monsters.  He also reported back that he hadn't seen any bedding activitiy going on up there yet.  That was the key in my mind.  No beds means pre-spawn fish.  Just what I was looking for.  As the tournament edged closer some other guys from our club began heading up and reports started trickling back about all the beds in the southern bays and reports of some guys having 100 fish days which was another plus because I knew that they would have a hard time leaving all those bedding fish to look for bigger ones.  Who could blame them?  100 fish days?  Geez.  As we showed up the night before the tournament the dock talk going around was that they weren't catching any big fish north.  Of course this was dock talk, but we're a pretty open club when it comes to information sharing.  Even so, I thought there might be some sandbagging going on and with the reports that I was hearing I thought that the northern stuff should be ready to explode.  Luckily, I had drawn Torry and he was eager and willing to make the run north.

Tournament day greeted us with light winds which is a God-send when you're traveling 30 miles through the Bay of Green Bay.  The trip was a breeze except for the fact that I managed to get a jerkbait hooked into my rain suit within the first three minutes.  When we arrived we pulled up on the main point leading into one of the bays.  Water temp was in the low 50's which means perfect jerkbait temps.  It didn't take long and Torry was hooked up with a nice 4+lb fish.  Then another.  And another.  During this time I caught two small keepers.  It was one of those times where you knew it was pointless to put them in the box, but I did just in case.  From there we began working down the flat in about 6 ft of water.  We continued to catch fish but there weren't any big ones coming aboard.  From there we moved out to the second break and focused on area in about ten feet of water with a mixture of sand and rock.  These areas I had done well on in the past, but Torry hadn't checked them so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I didn't take long and I was able to put one in the boat around five pounds.  That was really all we needed to see so we spent the next 5 hours working this area.  By 12:30 both Torry and myself had the weight that we would end the day with.  I was unable to make a cull after 10:30.  At 12:30 we decided to run off shore to check some water out there.  We found a bunch of fish but neither of us were able to upgrade our catch.

Our primary techniques for the day consisted of jerkbaiting with a little umbrella rig action to mix it up a little bit.  I was able to land a few on the A-rig but none that I eventually weighed.  The jerkbait carried all the weight for both Torry and myself.  When it was all said and done our boat brought in 10 fish for over 46 lbs with the top six finishers all catching bags over 20lbs.

Top Five Finishers

1.  Nathan Ranallo                           24lbs 3oz
2.  Ben Potaracke                             23lbs 4oz
3.  Torry Rhoades                             22lbs 2oz
4.  Jim Tomsovich                            21lbs 9oz
5.  Dave Snyder                                20lbs 5oz

Big Fish honors went to Ben Potoracke with a 6lb 1oz brute. 

The strangest thing about fishing the Bay of Greenbay is that even with over 24lbs of smallmouth in the box, I never felt comfortable with my weight.  Any other place I've fished I wouldn't have questioned having enough to win, but I know what that place can produce having gotten my butt whipped in the Open over the past few years.  Our Day Two tournament would be a different story as the weather was about to take a change for the worse.  I'll tell you more about it my next post.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Q&A with Rich Lindgren on the BFL 5-18-13

Rich Lindgren blogToday, I bring you a Q&A session I had with sixth place finisher Rich Lindgren.  Rich is a tournament bass angler living in Lakeville, MN chasing bass all over Minnesota and its adjoining states. Bass blogger, podcaster and fishing promoter. You’ll see him fishing the Minnesota bass tournament scene representing and Dobyns Rods among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@HellaBass) and like him on Facebook (


 Q:  Talk about your previous experience fishing Pools 7, 8, and 9 and did that experience help in preparing for this tournament?

Rich:  My previous experience on these pools goes back to over 10 years where I fished a few small club tournaments, but there was a gap of close to 10 years from then until just last year,  when I came down for the Sunday of the Elite event (outside of a Weekend Series out of PDC, where I locked up to Pool 9). I also fished the Everstart as a co-Angler and fished the TBF northern divisional last September. Last year's tournament experience gave me the familiarity with Pool 8 so I could get around and gave me confidence in areas where I felt quality fish lived and I felt I just had to refine those areas for spring.

Q: What were the river conditions like?

Rich:  For the tournament, I believe the stage was around 8.7', water temps were 62-65F, and water clarity was around a foot in most areas that I fished.

Q:  How did your practice period go?

Rich:  Practice was limited and I really only found 1 decent area with about 3 spots. I spent about 5 hours on the top of Pool 7 the Saturday prior because of a small window I had.  I fished 7 again from 4-8pm on Thursday night on my way down and after that I had one small area where I found a few decent largemouth. Friday morning, I fished from 6am - Noon out of the Stoddard ramp. It was hit & miss, but I found an area where I got 2 good largemouth bites, a bank with some bedding smallies and then finally a staging spot that seemed pretty loaded with fish. From 1pm until the meeting I fished back up by Clinton street looking for backup water, that only eliminated more water for me.

Q:  Based on your assessment, what stage do you believe the majority of fish are in right now?

Rich:  Great question on what stage the fish are in.  Well, I can say that I found a few smallmouth and largemouth on beds in the tournament & caught some of each on Saturday. The weird thing for me, is that I fished a closing dam near my spawning bank, which I thought would be loaded with pre-spawn fish, but while a few fish were chunky, about 80% of them were long and thin, and looked worn out, which would suggest a bunch of post-spawn fish. So I guess, there are fish in all 3 stages, but my guess going in, it would've been mostly pre-spawn with the spawn just starting. For the next few weeks, I think you can fish for both bedding fish as well as spawners, but I think the safer bet would be to target the schools coming and going.

Q:  What pattern(s) did you establish in practice?

Rich:  Not sure I really ended up with a pattern, as much as I found a really good spot and two areas with some better single fish on beds.

Q:  On tournament day, did you catch what you expected to?

Rich:  I think I did expect to catch what I did in practice, but thought I would have got more fish off the beds, but ended up getting most of my quality fish off the staging spot. I caught a few quick fish off the spot in practice and left to find more, but when I fished it hard the morning of the tournament it quickly became apparent this spot was loaded. In hindsight, I wish I would have spent a little less time on the first spawing bank with smallies, many had left overnight, also spent time catching two bedders that were too small. Maybe I could have caught a bigger largemouth that I ran of time on.

Q:  Any closing thoughts you have about this event?

Rich:  Overall, pretty pleased with a 6th place finish in a May BFL. Outside of a dead fish that cost me 5th, I think I could have gained a few ounces to a pound by sticking with my primary spot, but I left to fish for a big upgrade looking for largemouth. It didn't work, but that is what I needed to do to have a chance at a win.

I'd like to say thanks to both Kyle and Rich for sharing their BFL experiences with us and hopefully we'll hear from them again in the future.  Friday, I'll be making a trip to one of my favorite spring smallmouth lakes and hopefully I'll have some pictures and stories of giants to share with you.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Great Lakes Division BFL La Crosse, WI 5-18-13

Saturday brought the first BFL Great Lakes Division tournament of the 2013 season to La Crosse.  While I didn't fish it, I was able to get reports from a couple different anglers.  I will be posting these reports over the next couple days.  Today, I'll bring you the first of these updates with a guest blog post written by Kyle Schauf.

In His Words

Fish to win.  Fish to win.  Fish to win.  It’s pretty easy to say, rolls right off your tongue, but when it comes to tournament day it is a lot harder to do than you think.   I haven’t always done it; it’s something that in the last couple years I’ve really tried to focus on learning.  Prior to that, I’d be happy if I got a check.  Aim small, miss small, right.  Don’t get me wrong, the W’s aren’t flying my way, but it’s a lot easier to swallow when I miss first by ounces and land in the top 5, than it is to miss a check and land in 60th.  Fish to win!  You have to practice the same way, eliminate areas and patterns that aren’t holding the winning fish.  So I’ve learned…sometimes you just don’t find the winning fish.

The BFL Great Lakes Division made its first stop of the season this past weekend here in La Crosse.  For me, practice started last Tuesday evening.  Prior to practice, I had yet to catch a bass on pools 7, 8, 9…so it was basically a fresh start from scratch.  I started my search on pool 7, Lake Onalaska.  Grass where I could find it was sparse and submergent. The rest of what I found was dirty, cold water and a few short bass.   A far cry of where I thought it would be, and at least a month behind last year.  So I abandoned the lake for the day and head out to the river in search of some brown ones.  Umm, not a bite.   When you get a bite you can start to piece things together, when you get nothing…as expected not much to go on. 

Wednesday night was much of the same, a night on the lake in all new areas with a few smaller fish.  I was definitely eliminating water but still really hadn’t gotten any clues to what was actually going on.  Thursday, finally a full day on the water; surely I could piece it together, after all, I had a full 12 hours on the water ahead of me.  It started out well, first stop, one keeper, then another, and another.  Ok, well this area is holding some fish, only problem they aren’t of the winning kind.  So I leave, head to a spawning area, the water is warming and there is an approaching spawning moon.  I pull into the shallows of the bay and see lots of spawning activity.  I found a lot of smaller bucks, building, cruising and even saw a bit of bedding activity.  However, everything I could see was small, maybe keeper range or slightly bigger and certainly not what I was looking for.  So I pull off the shallow weed edges to work them over.  The females must be close, the edge, the drop, the deeper ditch.  With a forecast of warming temps, I could almost visualize the females pulling into the shallows by tournament day.  My search of the weed edges and drops, gave me nothing, not a bite.  Where are they?  It’s early afternoon…and I’m still looking!   I pull into another shallow area and find 2 big fish on beds.  The kind I’m looking for pushing five pounds each.  I backed out and left them. 

Friday brought rain and a dip in the thermostat.  I decided to go back out to the river to see if anything changed.  The water was falling, the flow was increasing, but the water was surprisingly cleaning up.  I checked the smallie spots I had looked days prior and sure enough, I shook 4-5 bites and pulled up  a decent one.  My plan was formulating, despite the dip in temps I still could see the females moving in. 

Tourney day, boat 132 of 139, not really the draw you want in any tournament.  My plan was to see if I could put together a limit of males while I waited for the females to push into the areas I had found and of course pull the two big females off the beds where I left them.  I figured if I could catch those 2 big girls plus 3 other decent ones, I would position myself for the win.  Fish to win. 

After missing the first lock, I pulled into my first area and caught a keeper or two on a Senko.  It was by no means fast and furious but by about 9:00 I had a small limit.  I left my primary shallow flats in search of the bigger fish.  Once again I probed the edges of the nearest grassline, ditches and closest deep water;  I alternated thru the spectrum of traps, vibrating jigs, spinnerbaits and flipping baits  but nothing prevailed.   By noon the sun was high and warm.  I had upgraded my limit a couple times but it was only by ounces.  It was time to make a move. I headed over to catch the big girls off their beds.  The sun was high and they should have been set up perfectly.  I approached silently. As I arrived I couldn’t tell if they were home or not because of the shadows.  After a half dozen casts I realized that they had vanished.  I am not sure why they left, by virtue of nature or at the hand of an angler, but they were GONE.  Considering this was a key part of my fish to win program, much of my hope to win vanished right along with the big females off their beds.  Put it behind me.

I still had a plan to upgrade..  I headed back to my starting area, where I upgraded about 5-6 times, again only by ounces with each cull.  By one o’clock I knew this wasn’t going to be the way to make a run at the top spot, so I decided to make a run to check out the brown ones I had found the day before.  My hope was that the 4-5 bites I shook the day before would be bigger upgrades to my largemouth.  When I arrived at my smallie area I pretty much could tell it wasn’t going to happen.  The flow had increased pretty drastically and I only managed a couple of small buck males.  It was about 2:00 when I made the lock back down and had a little time for some last minute upgrades before the 3:00 check in.  I made a couple stops on some current points and eddies, but was unable to find a keeper bite.   The day was done.

At the scales I weighed in five large mouth for 10lbs 8 oz.  The winner had a bag of 5 good smallies for a little over 16lbs.  Despite my mid pack finish I still felt that I made decisions to fish to win.  I basically caught the fish I found in practice and never got the big bite that I was hoping for.  The females are not “there” yet.  With the full moon this week, stabilizing water levels, and some sun…I fully anticipate some big waves of spawning females will make a move into the shallow flats.  If you’re going to fish the Miss pools 7,8,9 for spawners, tie up a Senko, put on your Solarbats shades, because in my opinion…This week will be THE WEEK!

Monday, May 13, 2013

First stop on the River Road tournament schedule---Pool 5A

Pool 5A of the Mississippi River was our first tournament on the River Road schedule for 2013.  Saturday brought gale force winds and high water but no worries.....the fish would bite.

Most years our first tournament of the year is either held on Pool 9 or 10.  This year we decided to mix it up and fish some waters at different times of the year.  I have had very little early spring experience on Pool 5A so I decided to spend a couple days there to practice.  The first practice day brought
a slow, steady rain all day long.  It wasn't very nice to fish in but the fish bit well and I was able to locate a couple areas that were holding fish.    The key for me was finding points that led into spawning areas protected from the main current flow.  This was no easy feat with the water as high as it was.  Most places the current was flowing through the trees.  I also caught a giant walleye pitching a pit boss to a flooded tree line.

The second day of practice brought blue skies and tough post frontal conditions.  In five hours on the water I got only two bites, one small male and a nice 4lber.  I had three primary areas to fish and planned on spending my entire tournament day in those areas.

Tournament day brought brutal conditions.  The temperatures dropped into the 40's for take-off and the winds picked up throughout the day and would gust up to 40mph.  The good news was the fish were biting.  My first stop landed myself and my co-angler two beautiful 4.5 pounders, one each.  From there I moved to a secluded cut where I had found some smallmouth on beds.  They disappeared, but a bunch of largemouth moved in.  I was able to finish out my limit in there and make a few culls as well.  My co-angler picked up three more himself.  It was shaping out to be ok.  My last stop of the day didn't yield any upgrades and I ended the day with 12.5 pounds and finished fourth.  I needed a couple more like this one and I'd have been in the hunt.
The top three had 17+, 16+, and 15+lbs respectively.  The guys at the top focused on current areas which turned out to be the smart move.  I think a lot of fish haven't made it to the back of the pockets yet, though the 4.6 that I weighed did have a beat up bloody tail and she was shallow.  I think some spawning has happened but the recent weather has them a little messed up.  The following link will give you a look at what the leaders did to catch their fish.

The weekend of May 18th will bring the BFL to La Crosse.  I won't be fishing it but I'll try and bring updates back with results and a recap of the action.  I owe my wife a weekend home before the next flurry begins.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Drastic Changes

It's amazing the difference a week can make.  This applies anywhere in the sport of bass fishing, but even more so this week in Wisconsin.  Last Tuesday brought high's in the mid-80's and by Thursday the snow was flying.  Some areas received 15+ inches, while most areas around La Crosse got just a few inches.  With the snow came the drastic drop in air temps which in turn dropped the water temp of the Mississippi River by nearly 15 degrees in some areas.  Main channel areas dropped from the low 50's to the low 40's in the matter of just a few days.  This made for some particularly interesting conditions for the second tournament of the season.

Saturday brought the first of three MSBC tournaments to pools 7, 8, and 9 of the Mississippi River.  I was once again fishing with Torry Rhoades.  Last week had shown some good staging action for largemouths and with no time for either of us to pre-fish for this tournament, we were winging it.  We decided to return to the same areas that we fished the week prior.  We knew that the conditions had changed drastically from the week prior, but we felt that the fish would likely still be in the same areas.  While our assumptions were probably right, the fish did not want to cooperate.  We managed a nice 4 pounder early in the day, but only managed to pick up two other small keepers in the morning.  We decided to make the move north and try and pick up some smallmouth with only a few hours left in the tournament day.  Our efforts didn't pay off and we only caught one more keeper the rest of the day.  The reaction bait bite has yet to really turn on.  Typically lipless cranks and jerkbaits shine with these water temps, but it seems the only bites we can get are with slow moving plastics.  The decision to look for smallies was the right one, but with no practice we were really fishing history.  Smallies dominated this event with an awesome bag of nearly 25 lbs for six fish took top prizes.  Check out the following link to hear what the winners were up to.

Next weekend we head to pool 5A for the opener of the River Road season.  The weather is looking promising, but with rising water from the recent snow melt,  conditions should be interesting.

Lesson Learned

Never fish history.  Even if you have lots of local knowledge, you won't be able to compete with the guys who put their time in.  Work hard or stay home.