Saturday, August 23, 2008

BASSMASTER Weekend Series Tournament

Lake Vermillion , Cook, MN

My wife Bri and I, as well as the two dogs, Kairo and Madison, headed up north for a semi relaxing week. Bri's family has a cabin in the McGregor area and the lake is full of trophy largemouth's. After much relaxing I decided to launch the boat and go fishing for just a half an hour or so, and make sure the boat was running good before leaving the next day for Lake Vermillion.

As usual the boat ran spectacular, largely in part because the guys at Mobile Marine Pros, make well sure that it is in it's optimum running condition. I fished some reeds and only managed to catch one bass in that half hour but she weighed all of 5 pounds. She fell victim to an 1/2 oz. Amp Lures Killa Buzz (Black Ninja).

I woke early Thursday morning to be sure I made it up to Vermillion by the still early a.m. Vermillion is a great lake full of smallmouth and largemouth bass. These bass are fortunate in that they are not sought after nearly as much as the walleye, crappie, pike, and muskie are.

After launching I started on a nice shallow stretch that I have never fished before. It was chuck full of reeds and laydowns. On my third flip of a good ole' trusty 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (green pumpkin/brown), I stuck a beautiful 4 1/2 pound largemouth. That is what you like to see when your fishing a lake your not used to fishing. I managed to pull on a few fish that seemed of good size and decided to waypoint the area on my Lowrance LCX 37c, and venture out to see what else this 50,000 acre lake had to offer.

I started fishing looking for some good smallmouths and was instantly attracted to the islands. I mean how could I not? There is over 365 of them. I managed to catch mid range smallies all over the shallow areas, but couldn't seem to get a deep bite going. I do know that traditionally on this lake if you can tune into the cisco bite, you will find big packs of three and four pound smallmouth's. Although for me I couldn't seem to get that bite going. It was hard to leave the shallow's. I was catching crawfish left and right. I've never eaten crawfish before but I could have had a good ole southern boil with all the craw's I was catching. They were everywhere!

Needless to say, but I opted to use crawfish imitating baits most of the day. I managed to catch a lot of smallies, they seemed to be all over the place. Reeds, docks, islands, humps, reefs, it really didn't matter, the key was finding the good ones. I got off the water kind of early on Thursday. The wind was blowing hard and I noticed around four o clock in the afternoon that my trolling motor batteries were loosing some serious juice. Being that I have a MinnKota 101 lb. Pro, this should not be an issue. I new I better get off the water and go get my batteries checked and as you can imagine I ended up leaving the marina with three brand new group 29 Interstate Deep cells and even made plans to buy a new Interstate cranking battery once I got back to the cities.

Friday morning I awoke to cool temps, overcast skies, and some good rain. I decided to try the other side of the lake and thought it would be best to pull my boat and launch once I got there. Conserving on the gas. The morning bite was pretty good and I managed to find some deeper smallies, that were of better size. I also pulled on lots of fish and checked a good largemouth area that my wife Bri and I found a couple years ago while on vacation. Soon enough I was rained off the water. Leaving for registration I was pretty confident in my patterns and new that getting bit shouldn't be that difficult and felt that I had some good water to catch a winning bag.

Tournament morning I had a late boat draw and decided to start fishing some of the largemouth areas that were producing for me. I pulled into the area and instantly noticed all the good anglers that were also fishing that particular that area. Not just any anglers either some of the better hooks fishing this event. Looks like there are no secrets here. I fit myself into rotation and was quickly awarded with a nice largemouth just shy of four pounds. I missed another bite and then decided to go hit some of my smallie areas hoping to get a quick limit. No such luck. The smallies were there, but they were just pecking my offering. I decided to make a long run to some of my largemouth areas, figuring that with the overcast skies they would be better targets. The run was a windy and rainy one, that took about 40 minutes. Although I did make one pit stop on an area that I was catching good smallies and instead of a brown fish, I was awarded with a nice 3 pound largemouth. This assured me that I was doing the right thing, so I quickly got back at it. I ended up making one more pit stop and again was awarded with a solid 3 pound largie. This one was sitting in a clump of pads and bit my TT jig.

I got into my better area and on the first cast I boated another three pound largemouth on a Scum Frog (Black), underneath some hangdown trees and around some floating vegetation. I caught a couple one and two pound fish but nothing else so I decided to find some similar areas and power fish them quick, figuring they would all hold a good fish. My next stop I caught a quick couple three pounders, next area same, and the next again the same. Awesome fishing but all were about the same size. Next thing I knew time was running low and I had to get back to weigh in.

I arrived pretty confident I had a good bag. I knew it wasn't winning but I figured I had a good chance of cashing a check. I hit the scales at 15.12 lbs. and walked away with 15th place. No money but a strong finish none the less. With that 15th place finnish I was able to claim sole possession of 3rd in the overall Angler of the Year race in the Pro Division, with only one tournament to go, a two day championship on Lake Minnetonka.

Up next is the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation State Championship, held in Wabasha, on the Mississippi River Pools 4 and 5. I've had some past success on the river in the past this time of year, and I'm hoping that will help out for me this time. I'm spending all next week going back and fourth to the river in preparation. I would love to make the top 12 and get a berth into the 2009 B.A.S.S. Federation Divisional Championship. Wish me luck!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Life Can Deal Some Pretty Tough Blows

KairoIt's been a little while since my last entry, due to the lack of fishing. My wife Bri and I, were delivered some horrible news that our four year old rottweiler Kairo has what vets believe to be a type of cancer called lymphoma. It's never easy hearing news like that, especially since there is not many options available for him. Kairo, aka Big Rig, aka Haus, aka Kill, aka Podgers, is truly my best friend and I'm going to cherish every opportunity I can with him. I opted out of a couple of club tournaments that was on Pokegama Lake, instead making plans to take the family up to the cabin for a long week of fun, fishing, and relaxation.

It's not all relaxation though, I will also be heading up to compete in the fourth stop of the BASSMASTER Weekend Series Tournament, held on Lake Vermillion. I have every intention of doing real well there. Currently I'm sitting in 3rd place for the Angler of the Year race in the Pro Division and a strong finish on Vermillion would be huge, because the final stop will be on my home waters, Lake Minnetonka.

This morning I was able to get out to "Tonka" for a few hours early in the morning. The fish were scattered but still very catchable. No big ones, but still caught a dozen or so of solid two's and three's. In the last week, the only on water time I've had was doing guide trips so it was nice to get out there and take my mind of things for just a little while. Nothing like taking out some anger by exercising the bass.

Well that's all for now. I'll give a full report of Lake Vermillion and all the smallmouth action when I get back. I also have some real big tourneys coming up, like the B.A.S.S. Federation Tournament of Champions, the BASSMASTER Weekend Series State Championship, the BASSMASTER Regional Championship, on Kentucky Lake, KY., and hopefully the BASSMASTER National Championship, in NC. Wish me luck and please say a prayer for Kairo.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

BASSMASTER Weekend Series Tournament

Pokegama Lake, Grand Rapids, MN

Pokegama is a great lake that is quickly becoming one of my favorite bodies of water to fish. There's a lot of different reasons for this, but mostly I love the diversity that it offers us tournament anglers. With that though, comes choices to make, these choices are either hit or miss. The lake itself has a great abundance of big smallmouth bass, it also has an above average population of largemouth bass. The chain of lakes to the north connect with the upper Mississippi River. There you will find largemouth's that are probably a little bigger in average size but a little harder to locate due to the abundance of rice, cane, reeds and lily pads. Sometimes I hear people say that to find bass up in the river it's like finding a needle in a haystack. I agree and disagree with this philosophy because it seems that if you know what type of environment the big bass are holding in, you can find them pretty easily.

About two weeks before this tournament I had the opportunity to head up to Pokegama with my buddy Rich Lindgren, and do nothing but fish the river. I had a lot of confidence in Pokegama, but was clueless in the river, so this gave me a good opportunity to get dialed in, helping me to decide what pattern I was going to attack once tournament day rolled around. During the practice day we were able to locate good fish simply by employing a strong power fish style. Rich caught the nicest one, a easy four pounder, by flippin' a texas rigged Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (Black and Blue). Leaving that practice I felt pretty confident in how to catch them in the river and figured that I could get a few key bites during the tournament. My game plan was to fish the lake a couple hours in the morning on tournament day, catch a quick 12 to 13 pound sack of smallies, and then head up into the river and work on those few BIG bites, and make some huge culls. I knew this lake would take close to 20 pounds, if not more to win, and thought that would give me the best shot at doing just that.

The day before the tourney I headed up with my wife Bri, and met up with another good buddy Corey Brant, to practice on the lake. Right away in the morning I caught a nice three pound smallmouth on a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig, tipped with a 2.75" YUM chunk. I continued to check out some of my better smallie areas and Corey quickly caught another nice one in the three to four pound range. After confirming that indeed my smallies were right where they were supposed to be, we decided to check some weedlines and shallow water for largemouths. Just a few casts and I caught a nice 3 pound largemouth, then Core Dog hooked into a nice one, but was able to shake it free. We continued that pattern for an hour or so and pulled on numerous nice largemouths along the way.

With only a few hours to go I wanted to check one more area that I thought would hold good smallmouths. Did it ever. Corey caught a nice one going every bit of 4.5 pounds. Hmmm. Things to think about. Figuring the general rule that where there is one nice smallmouth bass, there is a lot more, and the fact that I had good sized largemouths going, started leaning me in the direction of staying on the lake, and avoid killing time running up the river. I figured I could weigh at least 15 to 16 pounds staying on the lake, with the possibility to weigh in 18 to 19 pounds. I figured I would let tomorrow dictate what I was to do. Fish for the moment right? Either way, I got off the water with some real good confidence of what tomorrow was to bring.

At the launch the next morning I came to find that my trim was not working. Making it real hard to get on plane. This was ok. I could still fish, I just threw any thought of running up the river out of the equation. The lake it is. I was lucky enough to draw boat number five and had an early start to my morning. I decided to actually run to my shallow largemouths first thing and leave my smallies until a little later. I generally would not do so a foolish thing but I had seen anglers go through my smallie areas all of practice and not catch anything. That gave me confidence that I had the right set up for the job. After ten minutes or so with no bite in the shallows, I decided to run to another laremouth spot that was also very close to one of my better smallmouth areas. My first cast and I managed to catch a two pound largemouth on a Amp Lures 6" Mimi Worm. After a few more casts not resulting in anything but a couple small largemouths that wouldn't bump anyway, I decided to go after my smallmouths. There I managed to catch what ended up being my biggest, weighing over 3.5 pounds. I also managed to catch two more in the two pound range before heading out. I saw a boat dock nearby and decided to give it a try, there I was able to fill my limit with a tiny little 12" largemouth. Nothing spectacular. but a limit's a limit! I decided to run to another smallie spot, where I ended up catching another good one that was right around three pounds. The weird thing, is that after catching one good smallie, I wouldn't catch another one. Usually they hang out in packs and catching one can excite all of them into biting. Not so this time, the area would just shut down.

I again headed to another smallie area of mine and like the other times quickly caught a good one but than wasted another 30 minutes trying to rein act it. Through out the day I kept running to my largemouth areas, hoping they were ready to start biting and it was like they disappeared. Frustrated I decided to hit some deeper weedlines and was able to make a couple small culls for and ounce or two. Before I knew it time was out and I had to head back to weigh in. I knew I had a respectable bag, but knew I had no real shot of winning. I weighed in at 13.06 pounds, with my big fish being a 3.84 pound smallmouth. The winner won the tournament with 19.60 pounds and there was a good second place bag with 18.06 pounds. Both sacked up the largemouths in the river. Big fish for the tournament was a giant 5.75 pound smallmouth bass, AWESOME! I finished in 22nd place and am sitting in a tie for third in the Angler of the Year points with two tournaments to go, Lake Vermillion and Lake Minnetonka. Looking back I wish I would have stuck to my guns and headed up river once I had a good sack. I had pretty much all my weight by 9 am, and it's not every tournament a guy gets a chance to truly go hog hunting for five hours knowing he has a good sack already. It takes a lot of the anxiety out of the situation. You live to learn though. Most of the top ten were fishing the river this year and were able to convert those quality bites into better than quality bags.

Mobile Marine ProsThe next few weeks are going to be very busy for me. A lot of tournaments as well as guide trips, mix in practice and making plans for upcoming big events like the Minnesota Federation tournament of Champions and the BASSMASTER Regional Championship in Kentucky and I'm thinking time will just fly by. Lucky for me the boys at Mobile Marine Pros already have my boat all fixed up, running better than she ever has. They are truly the best at what they do. My next tournament is on Wednesday on Lake Minnetonka (aka Hog Heaven) I'll give a full report when it's done.

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