The 2018 tournament season was one I will never forget. From a win at my first tournament of the season, the Champions Tour Open on Mille Lacs that qualified me for the Champions Tour
Championship and the Bass Nation State Tournament I was all over MN and WI.
While traveling, one thing I never had to worry about was my gear. With the rod locker of my Skeeter full of Witch Doctors I knew I could conquer any body of water I went to!
The first tournament of the year brought me back to my old stopping grounds of Menomonie, WI and Lake Menomin. I spent five years at UW-Stout getting an engineering degree and fishing every chance I could so I have a lot of history on Lake Menomin. The fish were starting to move shallow and getting ready to spawn. We had a very late ice out this spring, but the water was warming fast in this shallow reservoir.
Going into the tournament I felt I could win the tournament fishing pre-spawn fish around laydowns and new weeds just outside of the spawning flats. I had three main baits that lead to winning the first tournament of the season. A 3/8 oz jig with a chunk trailer was the first bait, which I fished on a 7’2” MH Voodoo II bait casting rod paired with an 8.1:1 reel and 15 lb fluorocarbon.
The second bait was a Texas-rigged creature bait rigged on a 4/0 flipping hook with a pegged 3/8 oz Kenders flipping weight. I fished this on a 7’6” XH Shaman Flipping Stick, high speed reel and 20 lb fluorocarbon, which allowed me to wrench the fish out of the weeds.
The last bait was a 1/2 oz chartreuse and white spinnerbait, this is one of my favorite pre-spawn baits, especially in dirty water. Covering water and fishing as many different types of cover was the key to getting bigger bites. The bigger fish were still hanging out off the end of the laydowns so accurate casts and working baits slow was the key to get the win.
The Champions Tour Open on Lake Mille Lacs was my last chance to qualify for the Champions Tour Championship. There were a bunch of bug hatches prior to the late July tournament that had the smallmouth very spread out. Most of the field stayed south and fished largemouth while I had confidence in my areas where I knew loads of smallmouth lived. I started the morning out throwing a boot tail swimbait on a 6’10” M Shaman, paired with a high-speed reel and 10 lb fluorocarbon. Slow rolling this bait on top of a hump gave me an almost 4 lb smallie 20 minutes into the day. It really calmed my nerves down and lead to making a few very important decisions that landed me in 4th place, qualifying me for the Championship.
I also caught fish on a dropshot, which I used a 6’8” ML Shaman spinning rod paired with a 3000 size reel. Since I only use 6 lb braid and a 6 lb fluorocarbon leader when I dropshot for smallmouth I needed a rod that will load up and let the drag of the reel tire out the big smallmouth.
The Champions Tour Championship brought me to a body of water that I had never fished before, the Le Homme Dieu Chain in Alexandria, MN. The lake is full of weedlines, pencil reeds and docks. During practice I wasn’t able to get a bite shallow around the docks, but anytime I got to reed patch I would catch four or five bass. I had confidence in a pattern, everywhere I checked during practice I seemed to catch fish. I felt I could run and gun to my strengths and power fish this lake since the fish were starting to put the fall feed bag on.
During tournament day I used two main baits, a finesse jig and a flipping jig, I was going to attack this lake with my confidence baits. The flipping jig I put on a 7’ 2″ H Voodoo II, paired with a high-speed reel and 20 lb fluorocarbon. The finesse jig I put on my heavily used 7’2” MH Voodoo II paired with a high-speed reel and 15 lb fluorocarbon. I could get bites on the flipping jig then go back through an area I had just fished and catch them on a slower falling finesse jig.
I also caught a few fish on a Ned rig around the weedlines and a channel area that had current moving through it. There are so many fish in this chain I cannot wait to go back in June for the first
event of the 2019 Champions Tour.
2018 was a great year, I set goals after a successful 2017 and reached many of those goals. Now that the lakes are iced over here it is time to set new goals for 2019 and get to work.
See you on the water!