Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Denny's Wednesday Nighter

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Today started the first tournament of the Denny's Wednesday Nighters, held on the one and only, Lake Minnetonka. Also referred to as "Tonka", this lake is known for it's trophy largemouth bass and also has a few nice, but elusive schools of smallmouth bass. These are team format style tournaments and my partner for these series is my good friend Ryan Brant.

Going into this tournament we were very excited because we have really been getting dialed into the fishery and have some really good areas that have been holding both quality and quantity. We were real stoked when we drew boat number five and were pretty sure we could get to our areas without much competition. At take off we headed to a spot that has been holding some real nice fish and expected to put together a quick limit with a few nice ones and put ourselves into position to hog hunt the rest of the evening. Since these tournaments are only 4 1/2 hours long, time management is extremely important. As we pulled up Ryan was first to add a nice 3.5 pound largemouth to the livewell. I believe she was suckered on a homemade football jig. As time quickly started to pass, I was able to boat one that only went about 14 inches but still another keeper. We both missed a bunch of bites and just couldn't get anymore bass to commit to our offerings so we opted to head out and start running some water. We arrived at an outside weedline that I had done so well on in practice and I started cranking the weedline with a Storm Wiggle Wart (Red Craw) with no success at all. Again we left disappointed. With a couple hours gone and a pathetic situation going on in the livewell, we decided to run some boat docks and try to scrap our way to a limit. Ryan quickly adds a two pounder into the well and I quickly follow. We decided to continue on and get our fifth keeper. A little way down and I set into a nice largemouth that was about 3.5 lbs, but it threw my bait at the boat. That was rough, but fortunately for me I was able to semi make up for it by boating our fifth keeper that went about 2 pounds.

We only had about an hour and a half to go and Ryan suggested a nice point not far from the row of docks that we were fishing. We pulled up and I quickly caught a good three pounder on a modified carolina rig. The next 3 out of 5 casts I was able to boat a fish, culling nicely two more times.

With about 45 minutes to go, and sitting with roughly 13 pounds, we decided to hit up my money spot in hopes of a nice kicker. We arrived and instantly we both missed a nice strike. With about twenty minutes left I got a nice bite and set into a great fish. I instantly yelled to Ryan for the net knowing this was the fish that would place us in the top three for sure and maybe even a chance at the top spot. The fish quickly surged to the top showing off her big ole' belly, an easy 4 to 5 pound fish. After the initial leap, she surged back to the bottom as I played her to the boat. Ryan was eagerly waiting with the net as it started floating up from under the boat as if it was giving up the fight. Just as I was inches away from having her in netting position, she decided it was not over and again leaped from the water and shot straight back down just missing the net and that was it, the hook popped free from her mouth and left us with nothing but to watch her quickly swim out of sight. I swear to God I almost puked. After a few choice words and a toss of the fishing pole, we tried everything to get back on track and focus on trying to actually catch, not hook, but catch another one. We both did, but neither big enough to cull and time ran out. At weigh in we weighed 5 for 13.13 lbs. and finished in 12th place, three positions out of the money. The worst part was that we would have had second place easily had we boated that bass and would have won $700 dollars. Thats the bad news, but on the good side, we had a solid finish and are in good position for the team of the year race. The top two teams at the end of the season join the top eight from the Denny's Super 30, and all ten teams compete for a first place prize of $10,000.

I've had my share of fish get off in a tournament but never in the last minutes and never that would have been that big of a deal breaker. I suppose I better get used to it because when I make it to the level that I am desperately trying to get to, I see those guys do it and instead of loosing a $700 dollar fish, they loose a $250,000 dollar fish. I couldn't imagine.

Another good thing that came from this tournament was that we now have even more confidence that we're on the right kind of fish to put ourselves in position of winning some good money. This weekend I will be heading up to the Whitefish Chain, in Cross Lake to start preparing for the next BASSMASTER Weekend Series event and than will be coming right home to celebrate my 28th birthday on June 30th, and than will start preparing for the Pan O' Prag tournament on Lake Marion. Happy Bday to me!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Club Tournament

Green Lake, Spicer, MN

Every fisherman has a bad outing on occasion and finds themselves saying "the fish just weren't biting today". I have never agreed with that way of thinking. In actuality, the fish are always biting somewhere on the lake. The likelihood is that the fisherman didn't have them patterned correctly by making mistakes to seasonal patterns, presentation, location, the list goes on and on. So really 90% of the time it isn't the fish weren't biting, it's the fisherman wasn't catching.
I'll get to my point later. This tournament was held on Green Lake, in Spicer, MN. A trophy smallmouth fishery, that also has a ok population of largemouth bass. The lake is a clear, deep, and rocky lake. I had practiced the week before and managed to do pretty well. I caught a bunch of descent sized largemouth and even stuck a four and a half pound smallie. I spent most of the time checking out the lake and putting together a game plan. My pre tournament strategy was that the majority of the largemouth had already spawned and that the smallmouth were in the spawn. Meaning that sight fishing and shallow water was going to claim the biggest bags. I decided right away that I should concentrate all my efforts in the tournament on smallmouths because it is highly unlikely to do well with a bag of largemouths on this body of water.

The club format is that you are paired with another member of the club and split time on the trolling motor. It's not a team event, your actually competing against each other, but still bounce ideas off one another to give both a good shot at a nice limit. My game plan was to search out the rock flats, in 5 to 10 feet of water, for smallmouths. I had one area in practice that held a nice weed clump that I figured I could possibly get some nice post spawners from. I knew the lake had being getting a ton of tournament pressure and it was getting a little late into the spawning season for the to still be on beds. So just in case I had some back up areas to fish.
At take off my partner John informed me of some nice post spawn smallies in the three to four pound range that he was on just days before the tournament. The weather was great except we were expecting 20 to 30 m.p.h. winds, so we decided to hit his area first. Arriving at his spot I have to say it looked great. It was a nice weedy shelf in about ten feet of water and was surrounded by deep water. It also had some mixed rock piles along the edge. I started throwing a Amp Lures Pop topwater bait, but quickly decided it was already to windy for it to be effective, so I switched to a 5/16 oz. hand tied Jewel Jig (Brown) and started tossing it to the weedline. On my second cast my rod buckled and I knew I had a good fish on. The smallmouth surfaced, danced, and threw my jig! I couldn't believe it! Your not supposed to loose a fish like that on a jig!

The worst thing about it was that smallie was well over four pounds! That hurt. I was pretty worked up about that but found some excitement in the spot we were on. After spending another half hour or so in the area we decided to give it a rest figuring that fish may have spooked the school, and go run some of my water. We pulled up to a nice rock flat and only spent ten minutes there. No excuses but that damn fish was still in my head so I said we should go try my deeper weeds and try for some post spawners. We arrived to the weedline and I caught a couple quick largemouths but they were to small to keep and John hooks into a nice three pound smallie. That did it. That convinced me that the fish were in the post spawn. So we abondoned the area and spent the rest of the day fishing deeper water, that held nice weed clumps, in search of a good bag.

Arriving back to the area where I lost that good smallie, John starts catching them right away. A few small largemouths, but still keepers, and another good smallmouth. I caught a couple two pound largies as well. We continued to work similar areas and next thing you know it was time to head to the weigh in. I weighed in at four fish for 6.0 pounds and John had four weighing 6.7 pounds. I finished in 12th place, my worst performance in a club tournament to date. My good buddies Ryan Brant and Rich Lindgren took first and second respectively, fishing wouldn't you know it, rock flats for spawning smallmouths. Needless to say it was a long drive home for me. I understand that I will have bad tournaments, sometimes you just never got on them, but to be on them and make horrible game time decisions is a hard one to swallow. So back to my earlier statement. On the way to the weigh in I remember saying to myself "they just weren't biting, they must be in a post spawn funk", instead the truth to the matter is they were indeed biting, I just wasn't catching.

Mid way thru the season and I find myself in eighth place in the Angler of the Year standings. The good news is this tournament will serve as excellent motivation to do real well in the last four events and make a run at club stick. I have a lot of confidence in the bodies of water that we will be fishing, Lake Minnetonka and Lake Pokegama. Both lakes are capable of coughing up 17 to 20 pound bags. I have every intent at trying to do just that! There are so many skilled fisherman in the Gopher Bassmasters that it takes excellent fishing to be at the top. Now my plan is to put this one behind me and concentrate on the next.

This weekend I am heading up to the Whitefish Chain, in Cross Lake, MN, to do some prefishing for a BASSMASTER Weekend Series event held there in a few weekends from now. I had a nice start in the first event at the Le Homme Dieu Chain, where I walked away with a sixth place finish. I have been doing a lot of studying to prepare so I give myself every opportunity at having a great finish. Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Club Tournament

Lake Koronis, Paynesville, MN

Today was the third tournament of the year held at Lake Koronis, in Paynesville, MN. Koronis has an excellent population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. After take off I headed straight for some main lake islands that I knew was the best bet for some nice smallmouth bass. I started with an Amp Lures Pop and switched back and forth with a Reaction Innovations Barely Legal Vixen, neither producing. After figuring that the topwater just wasn't going to work for me, I quickly switched to a hand tied 5/16 oz. Jewel Jig (Brown) with a 2.75" Guide Series Chunk (Purple). I threw that along the deep side of a rock spine and quickly caught a 14" largemouth and a couple largies that wouldn't bump 12". With one fish in the livewell I continued down the spine and hooked with with a nice 3.5 lb. smallmouth on the same jig.

After spending another thirty minutes around the rocks with no fish I decided to switch it up completely and headed for some nice looking slop areas. After about an hour of slop fishing I was just about ready to head back out to the main lake when I bass exploded on my Scum Frog (Black), missing it all together. Being in this situation many times I didn't panic. I simply waited for the ripples to stop and twitched the bait once or twice and that was all it took. The bass came back and smacked it adding about three pounds to my total weight.

I headed back out to the main lake and decided to run some boat docks that were productive during practice. They were very productive except they only produced dinks, but none the less they helped me fill my limit. Looking back, I probably spent to much time on the docks. I think it was a good call to hit them up to fill a quick limit but I probably spent two to three hours on them hoping I would hook up with one big un. I should have made a better decision when I caught a nice smallie around the rocks and a nice largemouth in the back slop areas. Instead of trying to make something happen, I should have let the lake dictate where and how to catch a better bag. With that said I finally headed back to the rock in search of another football shaped smallmouth. I switched to a YUM 3" Tube (Green Pumpkin) and quickly hooked into another good sized smallie. Being that I forgot my landing net in the truck, I lost that fish right at the boat trying to hand land him. Bummer. Lesson learned. When fishing for smallmouth bass in particular, DON"T FORGET THE NET! They will never give up fighting.

I continued to catch smallie's one after another mostly to small to cull. I was able to cull one and probably gained a few ounces on the deal. I also broke off another nice one, but that's part of the game when your rocking with 8 lb. fluorocarbon around a bunch of sharp rocks. With about twenty minutes to go, I headed back to the slop and again started flinging my frog across the pads. With literally three minutes to go I hooked into another bass just shy of three pounds. I weighed in at 12.3 lbs. with a .3 dead fish penalty, which was good enough for a solid fifth place finish. Looking back I was happy with the way I fished considering I only prefished the lake for about an hour and a half. My only regret was that I wished I had studied a map a little harder and that I would have got of the boat docks after filling a limit on them.

No time to think about what if's though. I have another tournament the next day on Green Lake, in Spicer, MN. A trophy smallmouth lake! I can't wait!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tackle Update: Shimano Steps Up Again!

Anyone who knows me is well aware that when it comes to reels there is only one brand in my opinion, Shimano. I have a great assortment of these reels both oldies and newbies. I am very excited to inform you all that Shimano has redeveloped the very popular Curado line of reels. The Curado has long been one of my absolute favorite reels on the market. Their excellent craftsmanship paired with their very fair price makes them an excellent option for any angler.

I still own multiple Curado BSF and Curado D reels that I can't get myself to upgrade, but I have to admit the new Curado E looks like the best yet! Weighing more than 2 ounces less than the Curado D and sporting a more compact design similar to the Curado 100 and the Chronarch 100. The best part of it is they are actually set to be twenty dollars less than the older version. Look for the discontinued Curado D to be on sale at stores near you. Here is a review from Tackle Tour, click here.

Shimano Curado E E21 Boyd Duckett Series Carrot Stix
**From left to right: The new mean green Shimano Curado E and the E21 Boyd Duckett Series Carrot Stix

Also new to my arsenal is the new E21 Boyd Duckett Series Carrot Stix. Almost all of my rods are made by G Loomis and I have to admit I was very skeptical when the Carrot was first released. However after trying one out for only a half an hour I found myself ordering one days later. I opted for the 7'2" MH casting version and paired it with the Shimano Chronarch 50mg. I have never held a lighter combo in my life. Don't let the weight fool you either, the set up has zero problem yanking that 4 pound largemouth out from under a boat dock. Click here for more information from E21.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So Many Tournaments, So Little Time

I have been real busy lately to say the least. Between guide trips, preparing for tournaments, and tourneys themselves, I have spent some serious time out on the water. The good thing is, there's no other place I'd rather be, with the exception of course, of spending some quality time with the love of my life, my wife Bri. With the weather getting better and better, or should I say with the tanning season coming around, I get the privilege of her joining me more and more for a day of prefishing. I have to be honest, it's not all tanning, she's really becoming a pretty good fisherwoman.

Lately I have been up to Koronis and Green Lake preparing for a couple club tournaments that I have. Both lakes harbor smallmouth and largemouth bass, with Green Lake being a championship smallmouth venue. The wind was really rough when I was on Green, but I still managed to catch fish, one of which was a nice four pound smallmouth. I also had a pretty good practice at Koronis. I caught lots of fish, but size was an issue. Although I have a pretty good idea where I can get into them on game day.

I also took part in the Gopher Bassmasters Junior tournament on Lake O'Dowd, in Shakopee, MN. I drew Zach as my partner and we had a fun day. We missed a lot of fish but still had a respectable day besides. After the tournament, I went back out on the lake to work on some summer patterns, preparing myself for some upcoming tournaments that I know could potentially have me doing some heavy vegetation fishing. I found some nice clumps of a certain vegetation (which will remain un named for the fisheries sake) and started flipping a pegged 3/4 oz. Tru Tungsten Flippin' Weight, with a 5/0 Reaction Innovations BMF Hook, and texas rigged a YUM Big Show Craw (Black and Blue). It did not take very long and I was lipping a near six pound largemouth. Man does it get any better than that? That is what I live for. I also was able to catch a 4, a couple 3's, and a handful of 2's, duplicating the same pattern. Heavy flippin' is a style that I really enjoy fishing. It seems that I catch BIGGER fish when employing that technique. This is something you will hear a lot more from me as the year goes by.

Tanker Green Lake Smallmouth Twin Cities Largemouth
**From left to right: Myself and a Tanker Green Lake Smallmouth, and Myself with a near six pound Twin Cities Largemouth

This weekend I will be in the Willmar area fishing two tournaments with the Gopher Bassmasters on Lake Koronis and than Green Lake. I would like to do real well in these events because next month we will be fishing Lake Minnetonka and that is a lake I have a lot of confidence on. After that I will be heading right up to the Whitefish Chain to start practicing for an upcoming BASSMASTER Weekend Series event. After taking a respectable 6th place on the first event on Le Homme Dieu, I am going to be putting in as much practice and research as I can, to make sure I do real well on the Whitefish Chain.

Also recently I did a Pod Cast interview for Bass Fishing in the Midwest, which can be heard on either Bass Fishing in the Midwest, or on iTunes. The subject in which I was interviewed was on practice and pre tournament strategy. Be sure to check it out and leave any feed back for me at

Until next time, Tight Lines!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

BASSMASTER Weekend Series Tournament

Le Homme Dieu Chain, Alexandria, MN

Today was the Start of the BASSMASTER Weekend Series, put on by B.A.S.S. and ABA. This is the first of five events with a guaranteed five grand payout for first. I was also able to get out and practice yesterday and had some success despite the massive storm front that rolled in. According to the Weather Channel we had some gust blow over 40 mph. Despite the wind and rain, my pattern that I had developed last weekend during practice was still holding up strong. I usually try not to actually hook the fish in practice especially the day before the tournament, however, I do a couple just to verify that one they're bass and two, check their size. My first bite of the morning hailed a five and a half pound largemouth. Cool but not so cool at the same time. It was nice to see that I was on some tankers but was hard accepting that it was only practice and not the tourney itself. What do you do?

I drew boat number 18 for takeoff and was third in the second flight. I headed straight to one of my best stretch of banks and instantly started going to work throwing a 3/8 oz. Amp Lures Musashi spinnerbait (Sweetfish). I quickly caught a 12" squeaker that got the skunk out of the boat. It wasn't the size I was looking for but none the less, it was a start. About a half hour later and a little further down the stretch I caught a pretty nice fish that was between 2.5 and 3 pounds. This fish was a nice Le Homme Dieu keeper but I noticed it was bleeding pretty good from the gill. I decided to keep the bass even though I was worried about it dying on me. A dead fish penalty carries a .25 lb. penalty on your total weight and it's against tournament law to release a dead fish. An hour later I caught another 12 inch keeper and when I put in it the livewell I noticed the injured fish was floating, still alive but in real rough shape. I instantly added Rejuvenade to the livewell water in hopes to give the bass the kick it needed to live. Not to jump ahead but that fish was by far the most liveliest bass at weigh in. I knew for sometime that Rejuvenade was a good product, but good is an understatement. It's great! Any tournament angler should have a bottle in their boat. Not only did it save me a couple ounces at weigh in but more importantly it benefits the health of our fish. With how much we enjoy the sport of tournament fishing we owe it to the fish to make sure to take good care of them.

Back to the tournament, I was able to put together a limit rather quickly in the morning. I was moving water throwing an Amp Lures Midshooter crankbait (bluegill) and a Amp Lures Musashi Spinnerbait (sweetfish), and then would target isolated cover with a jig, a 3/8 oz jig for semi deeper water and a 1/4 oz. for the real shallow clean areas. I was convinced going into today that the bass would hold of on the first deep ledge and then as the afternoon approached they would move up shallow. I had the game plan of following this pattern and relying on the bite to get better as the afternoon wore on. At one point I came across a boat dock and I could see 6 or 7 bass holding underneath it. Most weren't even 10 inches but I kept getting glimpses of a pretty nice fish. After taking a few shots under the dock I managed to catch a couple but they weren't big enough to cull. I decide to come around the dock and pitch my jig from the backside. I watched as two juvenile bass fought for my jig and purposely didn't set the hook. Suddenly I saw the three pounder fly in and snatch the bait away from the other two. This proved to be effective as I was able to cull out a one pounder for a three. As I was pulling away from the dock I spotted another three pound bass cruise from deep water straight under that same dock. I instantly turned the boat around and skipped back under the dock and instantly set, culling away another little twelve incher. Now I knew I was in pretty good shape although I still had a 13" bass in the well. An hour later and I was able to set the little guy free and replace him with one that was about 2 lbs. Not huge but could prove to be critical.

At weigh in I brought 12.36 lbs. to the scales that ended up good enough for a solid 6th place finish. I was one big fish away from a top three but I just never really got that big bite when I really needed it. Which just made that five pounder from practice a little harder pill to swallow. That aside I was very content with my finish. I walked away with a pretty nice paycheck, sitting in great shape for the divisional tournament on Kentucky Lake, in Tennessee, and gave myself a boat load of confidence. No pun intended. This confidence is going to be very important on assuring I do well in the next four events.

Well from here my schedule only gets more hectic. I have a an all day guide trip tomorrow and then will be going directly from that to meeting my buddy Ryan Brant for some evening practice on Lake Minnetonka to prepare for the Denny's Wednesday Night Shootout. This weekend I will be heading out to Green Lake in Spicer, MN, preparing for an upcoming tournament and then will be coming back to do a Gopher Bassmasters youth team tournament in Shakopee, MN. As I said, hectic but fun doesn't even begin to describe it!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

BASSMASTER Weekend Series - Le Homme Dieu Chain Practice

I made it up to the Le Homme Dieu Chain in Alexandria, MN. Being that I had never fished this chain before, I put in a lot of extra preparation and research. I knew who and what weights had won in past years. I knew this chain was notorious for its massive weedlines and clear water. I also did some serious map work to better acquaint myself with this body of water. I obviously take my tournaments very seriously but these BASSMASTER Weekend Series tournaments I take especially serious. Besides the guaranteed five grand their giving out for first place, there's also the fact that I can qualify for regionals on Kentucky Lake, TN. Doing well at the regional tournament can put you into contention for the BASSMASTERS Classic or maybe even the Elite Series. Also Tennessee is where my wife Bri and I want to soon move. Tennessee is a beautiful area and better yet it's smack dab in the heart of bass fishing. I love tournament fishing and guiding. Here I'm restricted to six months fishing and six months of ice covered hog heavens. Also being that I plan to start fishing more tournaments at the national level, it will put us in a more central location. And in addition, on the record, Bri and I hate winter! So doing well at the first event of the series is on high priority for me.

Arriving at Le Homme Dieu I decided to launch on the North end of Lake Carlos and instantly starting moving water with a 3/8 oz. Amp Lures Musashi Spinnerbait (Sweetfish). I was targeting some wind blown reeds and was catching fish left and right but none of substantial size. This chain is known for its numbers of bass but lacks a little on the size. Not that there isn't any brutes but they're a little harder to track down. I also caught a couple in between boat docks in about 3 feet of water on a 5" Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube (Chartreuse Blue), rigged with a 5/0 Gamakatsu 1/8 oz weighted wide gap hook. I expected the bite on these swimbaits to be a massive explosion but was surprised to find it kind of like a worm bite. I would be reeling in slow and suddenly feel a slight "tick" in the line and the hook set was awesome. I searched out some other areas and found fish that didn't carry much weight and I missed a couple around boat docks with a 3/8 oz. Ten K Jig (green pumpkin). I noticed that because of our extremely late Spring this year the weedline hasn't had the weather to really bloom. I tried fishing some of the areas that looked good on the map but only caught small ones and really felt that the weedline may actually not be the ticket this year. I noticed the water temp was in the mid 60's but remembered when I was doing some internet research a day or two before that the lake was only in the very high 50's then. So I figured that the majority of the fish were still well in the pre spawn pattern. Knowing that since the water was very clear the shallower water would warm the quickest and decided to head there. I threw a lot of baits but caught some quality fish under boat docks and tree laydowns on the jig. They were few and far between but at the end of the day my best five would have weighed over 17 lbs. Looking back as far as I could only a handful of people have needed more than that to win a tournament here. This was by no means tournament conditions but it definitely gave me some confidence to build on.

Since I'm on this topic, last week I did a Pod Cast interview on tournament preparation and practice for Bass Fishing in the Midwest and it should be airing soon. I will post links to it as soon as it is available. Check back soon!

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