Sunday, June 28, 2009

BASSMASTER Weekend Series Tournament

Mississippi River Pools 3 - 5, Alma, WI

After winning the first event of the 2009 BASSMASTER Weekend Series last month, I was more than stoked to get back on the Mighty Miss and attempt to go back to back. Since my 29th birthday is only two short days away I couldn't think of a better birthday present for myself.

I was able to get out and give myself ample practice time and really felt I had found some good areas. The other thing I spent time on was learning the vast backwaters that line the main river channel. Running these areas can be as difficult a task as actually locating and catching fish. A guy's really got to know where he's going when running at high speeds and idling isn't always an efficient way to get around. It just simply takes to long to get from one area to another and makes it actually impossible to get into some of the best areas. Since the backwaters are littered with sand humps, stumps, weeds, wing dams, rocks and whatever else floats down river, it's essential to know what your doing.

Every day of practice I was able to locate good fish but finding them grouped up was a bit difficult. I did manage to catch good largemouth and smallmouth each day and figured I would just have to run lots of water and I'd be in good shape. I didn't have any one lure that was always working and I was truly junk fishing the entire time. At one point I counted 21 rods on the deck of my boat all equipped with different lures that where all somewhat catching fish, everything from topwater to bottom baits and everything in between. Do you have any idea how much Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon I went through preparing my rods for game day? It'll make you cringe, but better safe than sorry. Good thing it holds up for a long time and I won't need to change it until my next major tourney.

Unfortunately I drew boat 72 out of 78 and was forced to wait a while tournament morning before I could got to work. My plan was to lock down to pool 5 right away and try to be back to pool 4 by 11 o'clock. Since I was one of the last to take off, I wasn't able to lock through with the first group and had to burn even more time waiting to get into pool 5.

Finally I got through and quickly arrived to my first stop. On my second cast I loaded into a nice smallie going 3 to 4 pounds, but because of a bad hookset the fish came off. Not the start I was looking for, but before that smallie could get back to the school and snitch me out I made another cast and hooked up with a nice smallie that weighed 3 pounds 11 ounces. That got me back on track and after a few more casts with no results I headed to another spot that I had caught some real good ones at in practice. One my first cast I managed to hook up with a HUGE smallie going well over 5 pounds and after about a good 30 second fight my line snapped and what was easily the biggest smallie I have ever been hooked up with disappeared. This was a hard pill to swallow, not only would it have been a personal best but it would have really put me in awesome shape to repeat a win. I looked at my line and saw it was tattered up and looked like shredded cheese, I had been fishing around rock and shells and must have had my line pretty beat up before I even made that cast. I maybe break off a fish once or twice a year, sure they get off but they don't break my line that often. I should have checked before I ever made that cast, but lesson learned, it was just horrible timing, but I can easily say that I won't make that mistake twice.

I needed to build some momentum so I decided to go do some flipping for largemouth in an area not to far from where I was and attempt to put together a quick limit. After loosing two giant smallies in the first half hour of actual fishing, I needed to start going in the right direction. It didn't take long and I put a 16'' largemouth in the box. I also caught a few more but they where in the 13" range and where not past the mandatory 14' mark to keep. After about an hour or so of flipping I decided to head back to my spot that I broke off that toad. I was able to catch a nice 17" smallie but that was all. I guess when you send the queen of the school back with a hook still in her mouth, things tend to get a bit "spooky" in that area.

At about 11 o'clock it was time to lock back through to pool 4. I had a few areas that had coughed up a couple 4 pound largemouths in practice and figured this would be a good area to fill a limit. I knew I had to fish fast and just started chucking and winding a Super K Swim Jig and was able to fill a respectable limit.

I weighed in at 12.42 pounds and tied for 27th place out of 78 boats. Not horrible but disappointing none the less. I couldn't help but think what could have been had I landed those two smallies early in the day. I was less than a pound away from cashing a check as it was and with those two I would've had the chance to take the win. But what if's surely don't cut it and I tilt my hat to those that made it happen. To be at the top of the leaderboard in one of these events means you had one heck of a good day on the water, limited your mistakes, and was better than the rest. Congrats to those that did!

I'm currently sitting in 4th place in the Angler of the Year points with the next stop in July at Prairie Du Chien, WI. I can't wait!

Congrats to my good buddy Rich Lindgren for his solid 8th place finish! That a boy Rich!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tackle Update: Super K Swim JIgs

Over the last two years swim jigs have become a staple for me on waters in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Known largely for it's effectiveness on river systems, I've found it to be equally productive on our lakes as well. When worked correctly, the swim jig comes through the thickest of vegetation when little or no hangups and at the same time offers a very unique subtle presentation.

Since swimming a jig is generally known as a shallow water technique, this subtle presentation becomes even more important. Most "weekend anglers" are shallow water fisherman and the shallow flats on heavily fished waters get very tough. There are always a good number of big bass shallow but these fish simply see a lot of flamboyant baits like frogs, spinnerbaits, and big jigs. Swim jigs on the other hand can still be power fished and move water quickly, but also offer that finesse factor to get shy bass to strike.

Over the past year or two, I have experimented with all sorts of different swim jigs and quickly realized that they are not all created equal. I've found that a little tackle manufacturer out of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, has got it down to a science, Super K Swim Jigs. Their superb design of the bait starts with the perfect cone shaped head that insures the bait slips right through the grass. You can throw this bait anywhere! It also comes standard with a hand tied skirt and is offered in many bass catching colors. The best part of this jig is in the business end, Super K Swim Jigs come standard with a stout 5/0 Gamakatsu hook. Fish bite and don't come off!

Please feel free to visit Super K online and see for yourself just how many more strikes you'll get!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Denny's Super 30

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Today was the second tournament of the Denny's Super 30, held on Lake Minnetonka. This is a team format tournament, which consists of Myself, Ryan Brant and Corey Brant. Being that we all are in other tournaments we split up the events. The first tourney held last month was taken by Ryan and Corey and this month was Me and Corey. At the end of the year the top 8 teams qualify for the Shoot Out and compete for an additional 5 grand and even last place takes a check.

I was able to get out on the lake on Friday morning and all day Sunday. I found the fish to be scattered. I stayed away from any of my good water and instead looked for new areas, I just didn't want to stick any good sized fish a day before the tournament as I knew I would be fishing there no matter what.

I did find a new area that was holding some good smallmouth. It wouldn't be a winning spot but could definitel cough up a couple nice 3 pound smallies. With an 8 fish limit those could be crucial.

Most the bass seemed to be scattered anywhere from a foot of water to twenty feet, it was just hard to nail down a solid pattern. Although at the end of the day Sunday, both Corey and I where pretty confident in our game plan. The fishing was going to be hit or miss for everyone and it was just crucial to have a solid three pound average when we took to the scales. We knew we had a lot of water to fish and made the commitment to run and gun, spending no more than 15 minutes at any one spot without catching a keeper.

The weather tournament day was great. It was sunny and 80 degrees with a nice 5 - 10 mph wind. Corey and I managed to put a limit in the boat rather quickly but size was an issue. I did haul off and put a quality 4 pounder in the boat right away in the morning but all the rest where between 1 pound and 2 pounds. We made plenty of culls throughout the day. I was pretty much power fishing, while Corey was following up with more of a smaller finesse presentation. I think this is important at times. When some bass are active and others are not, having a one two punch like this can really be beneficial. Corey was catching fish all day but the size really wasn't there. None the less we where culling, even if it was only for an ounce or two at a time.

With about an hour left it was beginning to be crunch time for us to make a move. It was starting to cloud up so we made the decision to head shallow and try to pop a couple good ones. I was able to catch one more solid keeper a nice 4.8 pound largemouth, that ended up being our big fish and culled out a 1.7 pound peanut.

We weighed in at 20.3 pounds only good enough for 18th place, about two pounds out of the money. We did manage to move up a few more spots in the Team of the Year race though. In the end we where one big fish or two descent fish away from cashing a check.

Next tournament is the second stop of the Bassmaster Weekend Series held back on the Mississippi River. After winning the first event last month, I'm really looking to back it up with another strong finish. I'll have plenty of days to practice so if things go well it should be a great birthday for me! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Denny's Wednesday Nighter

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Tonight's tournament was the second time I've been on Tonka this season. With other tourneys I haven't even been able to get out on one of my all time favorite bodies of water. The sad thing is Minnetonka is one of the best bass fisheries in all the Midwest and it's only a half hour from my house. And I've only been out there twice?? Well, needless to say that will change now that summer is officially here. I'll be spending every available second out there sticking 5 pounders from the abundant vegetation that amasses the lakes interior.

Fishing these with me is my good friend Joe Perez from Mobile Marine Pros. We where able to get out and practice last Sunday. Fishing was poor for the most part. We fished deep, shallow and everything in between and just weren't able to put together a good pattern. The fish seemed scattered and inactive. We probably caught 10 at the most but I did manage a nice 4+ pound largemouth, but most all the rest where just peanuts. With limited practice we decided we would just go by the seat of our pants and hope some older areas worked out. We figured I would power fish from the front and Joe would size down and try to pick up the inactive fish with some well known Tonka finesse presentations.

At blast off we headed to one of my favorite deep spots. On my first cast I boated a nice largemouth weighing just shy of 4 pounds. That really gets the blood flowing, but we still knew we had a lot of work to do. On Tonka you have to almost always have nothing but a 4 pound average if you want a legitimate shot at taken first. We continued to work the area for the next hour and Joe did manage to boat a small keeper.

After fishing another hour with not even a bite, Joe recommended a very obvious spot, that I think most people overlook, including me. We caught a lot of small bass under the 12" mark and I did manage one small keeper on a drop shot.

With three in the box, I decided to try some shallow water that has worked well for me in the past. I managed to boat two more around the three pound range and unfortunately dropped another solid three after an awkward hookset.

With only 45 minutes remaining we headed to the first area we started. I did manage to make one small cull before time ran out. We only weighed 11.53 oz. and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. Dean and Ted Capra won the tournament by almost 3 pounds with a weight in the mid 18's.

The weather forecast calls for plenty of sun and temps in the 80's. The hotter the weather, the better the fishing! See you on the water!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Silverado Pro Am Bass Tour

Green Lake, Spicer, MN

Today was the first stop of the 2009 Silverado Pro Tour. For the past few years I have been looking forward to being apart of this tour as it's probably the top tournament circuit in the mid west. So naturally you can see why I have been so eager to get out and prove myself amongst the best bass fisherman this area of the world has to offer.

The first stop was to Green Lake, a clear and rocky lake that's chuck full of smallmouth bass. This lake also offers a fair amount of largemouth bass, but generally if your targeting them in a tournament your most likely missing the boat all together. What the lake lacks for in vegetation, it more than makes up with it's abundance of off shore structure and shallow rocky infested flats.

Being that I had only been to Green Lake for a total of maybe 10 or 11 hours last year, I knew I had a lot to learn. I was able to get up there around 5 pm on Wednesday evening and quickly launched my boat. I used what little time I had left in the day to just get a feel for the lake. The water temp was in the low 60's, making me believe that the smallmouth had to be in the heart of the spawn and with the full moon approaching figured I would spend all day Thursday searching out shallow area that held a good number of spawning fish. I was able to catch a few nice sized smallie's by burning a spinnerbait and also managed to catch a 4 pound largemouth on a jig. Remember what I said in the last paragraph? Now that's great. Just another thing to get in my head while trying to piece together a quality pattern.

Thursday brought sunny skies and relatively calm winds. Perfect for searching for bedded smallies. I found them pretty easy to catch and was able to mark anywhere from 50 to 60 beds. They could not stand a 3" Biovex Real Craw in their face. I rigged it on 8 lb. Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon and secured it on a Tacklesmith Banana Jig XL (3/32 oz). I also was able to catch a few by simply chucking a 3/8 oz. Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait (#10 White Chartreuse).

On Friday I was able to get out with Aaron Teal. He was my Am partner and was paired with me for this event. Aaron is one heck of a good stick, he understands how to break down water and has all the mechanics to fish both shallow and deep water.

I had my mind made up that I was going to use this last day of practice entirely to searching out some deep water areas. I wanted to find some good pre and post spawn fish that could give me a winning sack. It didn't take long and Aaron sets the hook on a nice 4 pounder. I worked with that and headed to another area that looked relatively the same and like clock work I caught a nice 3 pounder. I continued to do this all over the lake and the fishing was fantastic. I would simply pull up to these deep rocky areas and catch a fish, all around 3 pounds and a couple in the 4 pound range. Literally I'd catch one on my first cast, way point it and leave.

This left me in a pretty good position. I had both a shallow and a deep pattern that was catching good numbers and good sized fish. Even though the forecast called for high winds, I made the commitment to stay deep instead of joining the crowds by fishing for bedded fish. It was just icing on the cake when I found out I drew boat 47 out of 49 for take off.

Morning started out windy from the get go and the temp was in the very low 40's. The high was called for around 45 to 49, down from 75 the days before. The forecast also called for plenty of rain.

Catching fish was really not a problem at all. I easily a had a limit within the first hour and a half and a good one at that. The problem was all the fish where around the same size. All where right in the 2.5 to 3.5 pound range. I caught all my fish on a Tacklesmith Tungsten Football Jig, which worked perfectly for those deep water smallmouths. I never broke one off, it came through the rocks perfectly. Aaron was also catching them by employing various soft plastics.

The wind was definitely an issue though when it came to efficiency. When your fishing for schooling smallmouth it's important to stay on top of the school. They're so competitive that they almost get to easy to catch once you fire up a school. Usually once you hook into a good smallie off of structure like this you want to get your bait back down there right away. Usually I wouldn't even put the fish in the box before I would make my next cast. This proved to be a problem in that the wind was so strong it would blow me 100 yards away from the spot before I could even get the bass unhooked. Not to mention fighting wind like this all day really wears on the boats batteries. My Minn Kota 101 was able to keep up but my cranking battery was really taking a load being that I had multiple Lowrance Units on, running livewell to rejuvenate these deep fish and a constant bilge pump to get rid of all the water that was coming overboard by both the rain and the three foot waves. Seeing that my battery was really running low I decided it was important to get to the other side of the lake where if something happened I would be within trolling motor distance of the weigh in site. When points are critical a disqualification due to late weigh in can be devastating.

With an hour or so to go in the tourney, I decided to work a shallow flat out in front of the loading docks. I caught a few more that weren't able to cull on the Biovex Spinnerbait and did manage one more small cull by sight fishing a nice smallie off her bed.

I knew I had a solid limit but didn't know if it was worthy of collecting a check. I knew I didn't have the fish to win it but thought a top 10 was possible. After it was all said and done I was disappointed to find out that my limit of 17.53 pounds was only good enough for a 16th place finish. I didn't get a check but a top 20 is very important in the long run. It's not a sprint it's a marathon and after the first stop I'm in great shape at making the top 20 and fish for a brand new Ranger in the Shoot Out this September.

Up next is the Denny's Wednesday Nighter in a few days. Ahh finally, I get to get out on Tonka! I hope they're biting!

Also please check out the article on my win at the BASSMASTER Weekend Series, on the American Bass Anglers website.

Happy Fishing!

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