The 2015 tournament season is just under two weeks from getting underway for me as I head south for one of the many famous Tennessee River systems; Kentucky Lake. Having a strong fall season I’ve put myself in position to travel to many new areas this year competing in many different college series events while representing the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. For my full schedule you can visit the “2015 Schedule” tab at the top of the page; I will be competing in collegiate events hosted by the ACA, BASS, and FLW with the vast majority of them being on the Mississippi River and Kentucky Lake. The first leg of the season is fast approaching as I will be heading south from March 11th to the 23rd and calling the shores of Kentucky Lake home for the time being. Through the course of the trip I’ll be fishing in both the ACA Cabelas Big Bass Bash as well as the new FLW College Open; both of which are sure to be big events with many college anglers from across the country competing.
It’s likely that I wont be able to update my blog much through the trip but for short updates you can follow me on Facebook and Instagram with links to both featured on the right side of this page. It’s been a long winter preparing for the 2015 season but I’m very eager to get things started. Thanks again for all the support!
Finding myself leading the club points race halfway through the season was something I was extremely proud about; however, I knew there was going to be nothing easy about holding onto that lead through the next two tournaments.
Waupaca Chain – (October 12th) – The first day that I fished this lake I remember how much my head was spinning. I’ve fished clear water before but this place takes that to a whole different level. With sandy bottoms and sparse weeds on the sharp breaklines in 10-20′ of water I felt like I was fishing in an aquarium. For the first full day I was spun out from start to finish and never developed anything to work off of. The second day I settled down, ignored the water clarity and fished how I like to fish when arriving to a new body of water; pick up a jig and go down the bank. It took some time but I soon developed a pattern on extremely shallow fish (0-2′) that were holding on any piece of cover they could find. By the third day of fishing I could call my shots just about anywhere I wanted in the shallows and had a few off-shore deals that produced some higher quality fish. With confidence sky high I felt a 13lb bag wouldn’t be a problem on tournament day. Boy was I wrong! For whatever reason, the fish shut off big time on the day that really matters. My thoughts are that the cooler than average morning any cloud cover early on just delayed the movement of fish from the breaklines in to the shallows. We bounced between the two all day in disbelief that we couldn’t find the fish as we had earlier. By early afternoon I realized a limit would be a big deal and picked up the drop-shot. With ultra clear water we could see fish no problem, they were simply holding right on the upper edge of the breaklines; however, they had no interest in eating anything. Long casts with 6lb line yielded some short fish and eventually a keeper or two. Late in the day we picked another few fish up and went to the scales one short of a limit which surprisingly landed us in 2nd place for the day. The day didn’t unfold how I envisioned it but we we’re happy to be rolling into the final event with the lead.
Wolf River – (October 26th) – Nothing like saving the hardest for last! Prior to prefishing for this tournament I had never weighed in a smallmouth at a tournament or fished a tournament on a river, and now here I am on a small river system dominated by smallmouth. An abnormal fall had the water much higher than normal with a swift current moving scattered debris downstream. Prefishing was tough, but I was able to find a few different ways to catch some fish. The pattern was changing every day but generally by the end of the day I would have something figured out. Tournament morning got off to a fairly good start with one in the box early on; I knew every fish in the box until we had a limit was that much more the guys behind me would need to catch. After a few hours of nothing we started running spots to try and pick the fish off with nothing to show for it. By the time we had 2 hours left I noticed the trolling motor batteries going downhill fast, covering water moving against the current was now out of the question. Staying calm I started using my Minnkota Talon to hold the boat in place while we worked an area over, then fired up the motor to creep upstream and repeat the process. By slowing down we put two more fish in the box before we had to head back. I knew we had likely blown the lead, now I just hoped to stay in the top three; with our three fish we clung to third place for the overall points. As much as it hurt, I was glad to see my good friends Sam and Connor drop a beautiful bag of smallmouth on the scale to overtake the points lead. One season and four tournaments down we sit in 3rd place out of 18 teams for the club standings; we’re ready to climb back to the top in the spring!
This fall I crossed state lines and moved into my new apartment here in central Wisconsin. Opting to continue my education at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point brought not only the opportunity to study at one of the leading natural resources colleges around but also competing on one of the top collegiate bass fishing teams in the nation as well. This was without a doubt a big factor in my decision-making so I put a lot of time into studying and learning the area water bodies ahead of time to give myself a shot at competing this past fall. With about three weeks between the start of school and the first tournament I tried to cover a variety of waters to at least lay eyes on the types of venues I’d be competing on. I was amazed right from the start at the vast differences from Minnesota to Wisconsin as instead of the hundreds of natural lakes I found myself on many small man-made reservoir systems and river systems with just a few natural lakes in the mix. It took some adjusting but fishing every chance I had I was able to pick some things up and get my confidence up by putting fish in the boat fairly consistently.
Camelot Lake (September 21st) – Where it all starts. Coming into a top ranked collegiate team my biggest goal was to finish consistently in the top half and simply prove to myself and the rest of the team that I belonged here and could compete. The team has over 40 members with at least 16 teams competing in every tournament (usually 16-20), with some area sticks in the mix to keep you on your toes. Prefishing went well for me, I developed both a deep and shallow patter with deep off-shore structure yielding numbers of 2-3lb fish while shallow produced some bigger fish. Knowing the layout of the lake (lots of docks) I felt most guys would be on the bank and it would be hard to string anything together in shallow; therefore I opted to fish off-shore to get things started. With a good boat draw I got on my primary spot first but after a half hour it failed to yield anything more than a line burner to get the skunk out of the boat. On a hunch we ran to a spot I had only gotten two bites on in practice, thinking this would start the milk run and we would just jump from spot to spot all day. Well, the next 45 minutes proved that wrong as we loaded the boat with almost 14lbs in quick fashion. We actually found the fish by mistake as they weren’t relating to the brush piles like they were in practice but instead were roughly 50-75 yards off of them cruising on a flat where I picked them off with Rapala DT-10. Feeling good we now had the opportunity to gamble on the shallow water fish we found in practice to try to put a kicker in the box. Unfortunately through 5 hours of this we never made another cull, but did continue catching keeper fish everywhere we went. I was a bit nervous at weigh-in, my first college club tournament and I knew I had a good sack. As things turned out, our nearly 14lb bag was enough to land us in 1st place for the day and it definitely boosted confidence going into the ACA Midwest Shootout the following weekend on the Madison Chain of Lakes.
Madison Chain (September 27-28th) – The ACA Midwest Shootout provided a neat opportunity to dive into a slightly larger two-day tournament for us. With nearly 40 teams from across the Midwest competing we set our sights on another good finish. Prefishing revealed a favorable pattern for me with some nice sized fish coming in the boat. I knew we could fare well on day one but might run out of fish on day two but having no back-up plans we rolled the dice. Despite dropping a few key fish on day one, my predictions were right as we ended the day in 5th place overall with a limit just under 10lbs. As I stated earlier, we committed to our pattern and were simply looking for 5 fish on day two. Things started very slow, finally picking up a few fish in the afternoon but we never had the opportunity to finish off our limit. Weighing only 3 fish we dropped down to 9th place overall and 7th place with-in the club. It was disappointing but finishing in the top 1/4 of the field was something to be proud of; had we figured out the off-shore fish we could have finished in a better spot.
Halfway through the season we found ourselves in 2nd place for the club Team of the Year race, time to close the door in the second half! Stay tuned for part 2 coming in the near future.
Leaving off from two posts ago where I ran through the first half of my summer tournaments, I will now pick up with the last half of summer leaving the fall tournaments for another post to come. The late summer had its high and low points for me. In the first half of the season I tended to have one average finish after another but to end the summer the highs got higher while the lows got lower with a few solid upper end finishes as well as one real let down. As always I will run through each event briefly…
FOM – N/S Center Lake – This tournament was a real grinder from start to finish. My partner Cory and I got in a fair amount of prefishing beforehand and essentially agreed that we would have to gut it out in a couple of off-shore spots and hope to get a few big bites to have any shot at winning. At this point in the year, points meant nothing to us so we were going for it all or nothing. Through the first half of the day we stuck to our plan and had put a fair limit in the box by soaking drop shots around off-shore rock piles but as the bites slowed we opted to switch things up a bit. Having gotten some good bites shallow in practice we ran to some slop areas and made a few important culls that brought our bag up to a level we felt a little better about. Even on a tough day it wasn’t near enough to win but we cashed a check with a 5th place finish and had some momentum in the boat with us going into the next event.
Bass Pursuit – Lake Waconia – The little prefishing I did for this had me jumping at the gun at blast off to get the day started. I knew we had to prove ourselves though as some top sticks from the area had thrown their hat in the ring but I felt confident in taking them down. Working some big schools of fish we had no problem putting a limit in the boat early and proceeded to cull through countless fish for a few hours until we agreed the school wasn’t holding the 4lb fish we were looking for. unfortunately for us, my big fish spot from practice had a boat on it all day so we jumped around to a few other spots close by hoping they would move on. With just a half hour left in the day I realized they had moved just far enough off the spot and were casting the opposite way that I felt comfortable edging in and fishing my waypoint. No more than ten casts in the decision paid off with a solid kicker fish in the box. As scales settled we fell just a couple pounds shy of first place but were satisfied with our showing as we ended the day in 3rd place.
FOM – Lake Minnetonka – Some things just never change I guess. Even after putting in some long hours prefishing we came up with no solid game plan to run on tournament day. Knowing the deep wedlines would likely produce the winning bags we opted to stay off of these popular areas and fish our strengths. Being the last tournament together for the summer we picked up frogs and flipping sticks looking to have some fun. The day was tough, missing a few bites along the way we plummeted down to a 32nd place finish for the tournament, our worst of the year.
By now you’ve likely realized that my summer didn’t go very well for tournament fishing. Missed opportunities along the way led to a 14th place finish in the Team of the Year standings for MN Fishers of Men. With that being said, I turned things around in the fall as I crossed over into Wisconsin and started the college fishing season which I will talk more about in my next post.
Well, I definitely let the posting slide this past summer. With the short off-season here I’m going to do my best to get caught back up and continue using this blog to share my fishing adventures with everyone. Throughout the next month or so you can except to see a series of posts running through my 2014 tournament season; one which was filled with many highs and lows along the way. In the end I will preview what’s to come for 2015 which is sure to be an exciting year as I embark across the Midwest to compete in several different tournaments. Thank you to everyone who has followed along here, with-in the next few months I will have things back up to speed and intend to keep it up to date (as best as I can) through the busy season ahead.
Merry Christmas everyone!
It’s been a tough go of it thus far on the tournament trail. My apologies for the lack of posting; between working all week and fishing every weekend things have flown by. I will give everyone a quick rundown of the tournaments I’ve fished thus far along with a little info about them. Crazy to think that we’re sitting at the halfway point of summer already, lets hope the second half has some big things in store.
Bass Pursuit – Crystal Lake : This was the first tournament of the year for me on a lake I had never fished before. Fishing with my regular tournament partner Cory Herrmann who had fished here before we had a decent plan laid out for the day. The day went relatively well, mainly fishing shallow prespawn fish while simultaneously looking for bedding fish. Ended up taking 4th place out of 10 boats for a decent start to the year.
Fishers Of Men – Prior Lake : I wasn’t sure what this tournament would bring. Prefishing was fairly poor and all the fish that I had located on beds had left by the time the tournament day rolled around. Prior Lake used to be a phenomenal fishey but the size caliber of the bass has since dropped dramatically – although some big fish do still exist. We fished shallow for early post-spawn fish the majority of the day, then looked for some off-shore fish late in the day. Ended up only weighing in 4 fish and finding ourselves in 23rd place of 26 boats. Talking to some guys who finished towards the top it sounds like we were doing the right thing, just not in the right areas.
Fishers Of Men – Le Homme Dieu Chain : Another lake that’s known to have a large population of small fish. Although this time I landed on something special in prefishing and carried high hopes into the tournament after laying hands on some beauty 4 and 5lb’ers the week prior. We grinded it out all day fishing for the few prespawn fish that were left; catching lots of postspawn ones along the way. Focusing on prespawn/postspawn staging areas we definitely had not problem catching numbers and were just waiting for the “right bite”. Unfortunately the big bite of the day came at an in-opportune time; I never quite got a hookset into her on the jerkbait and she threw the bait before making it to the boat (a solid 4lb+ fish). A few more 2.5lb class fish did the same that day and we ended up finishing in 16th of 30 boats with 10.69lbs. Had that big one and just one of those other ones made it to the livewell we would have weighed over 14lbs and easily walked away with the win. Big lessons learned in this event, but overall I was happy to know that I went into a totally unfamiliar water body and dialed in a pattern that would have won (also by the sounds of it, no one else was doing anything like it).
Fishers Of Men – Whitefish Chain : This tournament just wrapped up yesterday. I had devoted nearly my entire prefishing time on trying to locate the small population of smallmouth bass in the chain that usually dominate the tournaments. After coming up empty handed I scrambled to get a few largemouth spots going in hopes of just making a check on tournament day. The late tournament start (7am) hurt my primary spot as they were early morning topwater fish; we picked 4 of them off before things shut down. As if things couldn’t get worse, my secondary spot went totally dead and never kicked a fish out for us all day. Scrambling to try and find some better bites we jumped from dock to dock all day and put one better fish in the box. Unfortunately only weighing in 11.15lbs we finished in 20th place out of 32 boats on an extremely tough day of fishing.
It’s now time to regroup and make something of these last few tournaments. I’ve got two more Bass Pursuit tournaments that I likely wont do a whole lot of prefishing for. The majority of my time will go into preparing for the final two Fishers Of Men tournaments on North/South Center (August 2nd) and Lake Minnetonka (August 23rd). Before long it will be off to Wisconsin for the start of another year of school and some college fishing events.
My time is almost over living in Ely. Halfway through finals, graduation ceremony tomorrow night, and heading south on Wednesday. It’s been quite the ride and fishing-wise came to a great end over the weekend. I had my mind made up where I wanted to spend the opener at; however unfortunately without a boat I wasn’t sure how it would go.
Saturday I was only able to get out for a couple hours in the early afternoon. After winding my way down the forest road and through the mud, then walking the last mile or so I was more than ready to get fishing. This is a popular spot, the whole time fishing it from shore there were always 10-20 boats floating around nearby and a few other fisherman spread along the shore. I found a nice little spot and called it home. After trying a handful of different jig/plastic combination without any luck I finally found what was working and managed to walk out with a couple nice eater walleyes for dinner that evening.
Saturday was beautiful, 70 and sunny… Sunday however was predicted to be overcast with chances of rain so I was grim about the chances of getting out again. But when the alarm went off the sun was trying to peak through so I quickly headed out. Fished from roughly 9:30am-12:30pm and had an absolute blast. In the first 15 minutes I nailed one just inside of the protected slot and one just under it for the stringer. By now I knew I had the pattern dialed in, unfortunately being from shore I just couldn’t hit the areas I wanted to in order to duplicate it. So I stuck in the area and would pick up a fish every 30 minutes or so, by the end I walked out of the woods with a big smile on my face and a nice limit of walleyes to bring home to my mom for Mothers Day!
Everyone I talked to thought I was crazy when I told them I never touched live bait all weekend. But there really was no need. Just about every other angler I encountered or observed over the weekend was doing just that, with mediocre results. Instead I went with the jerkbait. Did a lot of experimenting and the fish showed a big preference to either gold/black or orange/black colors that had flash to them. Smaller jerkbaits outfished larger ones by far as well. Even more so than the color though was the retrieve that mattered, 1-2 quick snaps followed by 20-30 second pauses were what brought every fish to shore for me. They weren’t chasing the faster retrieve, but with that long pause I could feel it through the line when the inhaled the baits – what a blast! Smithwick Suspending Rogue, Rapala Husky Jerks, Strike King KVD, and LiveTarget jerkbaits all turned fish for me.
Hope everyone had a fun opening weekend, I know I did! Time to wrap up finals and start the next chapter – but Ely isn’t gone for good, already planning a trip back for the fantastic fishing available in October.