Kentucky Lake FLW Tour Recap

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

It seems like just yesterday that I was hauling my boat down to Florida for the first FLW Tour event of the season at Lake Okeechobee.  That was early February and now six events later, a bunch of practice days and thousands of miles traveled and just like that, the season is over.

The last tournament of the 2014 season went down at Kentucky Lake, out of Paris, Tennessee.  After a good tournament at Pickwick a few weeks earlier, I was eager to get out on Kentucky for the three-day official practice.  Kentucky Lake has a reputation as being one of the best lakes in the United States, with big numbers of quality fish.  And it fishes much like Pickwick, where offshore structure fishing is the primary pattern.

My Dad with his first Kentucky Lake bass on the first morning of practice.

My Dad with his first Kentucky Lake bass on the first morning of practice.

After Pickwick, I left my boat at a friend’s place in Memphis and flew home for a week and a half.  My Dad returned with me to practice for the tournament and help me out with the big drive back to Canada.  He had signed up to fish the tournament on the co-angler side but was too far back on the waiting list and never ended up getting into the event.  We had a great time prefishing and exploring the lake together though!

A nice bass that fell for the bucktail jig

A nice bass that fell for the bucktail jig

Over the course of the three-day practice period I managed to get a look at about 70 miles of this gigantic lake!  I spent the first day in the south end, the second day in the north end, near the dam and on the third day of practice I ended up fishing relatively close to Paris, TN where the tournament would launch out of.

My Dad with a nice Kentucky Lake smallmouth in practice.

My Dad with a nice Kentucky Lake smallmouth in practice.

For the tournament, I made the decision to spend my time fishing close because I had found three or four good schools and I would be able to maximize my fishing time.  Each day I found a few good schools of fish but I actually felt like the ones that I found near Paris were the least obvious and might not get as much pressure from other anglers.

Throughout the practice I used a lot of the same baits that I used at Pickwick – a ¾ oz football jig, deep-diving crankbaits and 5-6” inch swimbaits.   I added one other bait to my arsenal that proved to be effective as well.  The weekend before our tournament at Kentucky Lake there was a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Chickamauga, another lake farther up the Tennessee River.  It was revealed online that several of the top finishers in that event were using bucktail jigs to catch their fish.

When I got down to Kentucky Lake I made up a few ½ and ¾ oz bucktail jigs of my own and throughout the practice they were by far my best bait.  It was pretty cool.  I was casting them out, letting them sink to the bottom in 10-25 feet of water and “stroking” them back to the boat.  The fish were smoking them!  I was fishing them on a G. Loomis NRX rod (7’3” MH 873C) with 12 pound fluorocarbon (Sniper FC) and a Shimano Chronarch CI4 reel (6.4:1).  This is the same rod that I fish my football jigs on and it is just very versatile, a pleasure to fish with really.

Bucktail jig/bass

Bucktail jig/bass

When the tournament started, the bucktail jig bite kind of died on me.  It was like the fish were not as aggressive.  I caught a couple of my weigh fish each day on it, but I probably caught more fish in the tournament on the football jig.  I ended up having two solid limits (17-7 and 18-4) and ended up finishing in 40th place, which earned me $10,000!

One of the fish from my Day One catch at the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour

One of the fish from my Day One catch at the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour

After a tough start to the season in those first couple events, it felt good to end on a strong note, cashing a check in the last four tournaments.  I ended up finishing 64th in the Forrest Wood Cup points race, which was pretty good considering I had a big hole to get out of after those first two derbies.  I’m looking forward to getting back out there again next year with my goal being to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup!

Huge thank you to my all of my sponsors who make it possible for me to live my dream and get to fish the FLW Tour, it’s been fun!

Hanging out with my buddy, Minnesota angler Jim Moynagh at the rules meeting for this event.

Hanging out with my buddy, Minnesota angler Jim Moynagh at the rules meeting for this event.

Giving legendary angler Jay Yelas a ride to his boat the morning of Day One of this tournament.

Giving legendary angler Jay Yelas a ride to his boat the morning of Day One of this tournament.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Big Bass on Pickwick Lake

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The fifth stop of the season on the FLW Tour took place last week at Pickwick Lake, out of Florence, Alabama.  After a week and a half at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for the annual Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament, then a week out in British Columbia with my wife to tape a couple of TV shows for my program, Fishing with Gussy, I showed up at Pickwick ready to wrap up a month on road.  I was hoping for a good tournament before I could head home to Sunset Country for a little break before the last event the last week of June at Kentucky Lake.

GoPro: Over the course of the three practice days, my buddy Brian Partak and I put in some long days, fishing from dark to dark.  Most of the guys fishing in these tournaments do that.

GoPro: Over the course of the three practice days, my buddy Brian Partak and I put in some long days, fishing from dark to dark. Most of the guys fishing in these tournaments do that.

Pickwick Lake is part of the Tennessee River and is a well-known bass fishery, much like Chickamauga, Guntersville, Wheeler and Kentucky Lakes, also part of the same system.  In my experience, fishing on these lakes is usually really good.  They all have a lot of bait and good numbers of fish.

A big 5+ that I caught in practice on the Jackall Muscle Deep 15 crankbait

A big 5+ that I caught in practice on the Jackall Muscle Deep 15 crankbait

Heading into this tournament, the predictions were that it was going to be an offshore, ledge fishing tournament so my plan was to spend as much time graphing around with my Humminbirds as I could in hopes of finding a few schools of fish.

Over the course of the three-day practice period I was able to find a number of schools of fish but the problem was that most of them were on high-profile, obvious spots that many other anglers in the field found as well.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for less obvious spots and did find a few that I thought had some potential, but the biggest schools I found were on the community spots.

Preparing to blast-off on Day One of the Pickwick Lake FLW Tour event. - FLW Outdoors

Preparing to blast-off on Day One of the Pickwick Lake FLW Tour event. – FLW Outdoors

I drew boat number 165 the first day of the tournament, not exactly a great start number in a tournament where getting on one of the popular community spots early was a good bet for cashing a check.
My strategy was to just fish whatever was open out of all the spots that I had found.  My first few spots produced a few smaller keepers (15” at Pickwick).  At around 10am I pulled up to a point facing into the current that I caught a couple of decent fish on in practice.  There was a shell bed on the point where it dropped from six to twelve feet of water.  I was throwing a ¾ oz football head jig on most of the spots that I was fishing and it was great on this particular spot because I could feel the shell bed and that was where I was getting most of the fish to bite.

Fishing on day one of the tournament - Photo credit - FLW Outdoors

Fishing on day one of the tournament – Photo credit – FLW Outdoors

This stop changed my day quickly.  I immediately started catching fish and put a decent limit together.  About half way through catching around 25 fish off of this spot I set the hook on the biggest bass that I have ever caught.  After an intense battle that included several jumps and a power run under the boat my co-angler Ralph Logan netted the 10 pound, 12 ounce monster.

10 Pounder - My big bass from day 1 - Photo credit - Joel Shangle (OutdoorsFIRST media)

10 Pounder – My big bass from day 1 – Photo credit – Joel Shangle (OutdoorsFIRST media)

I made a few small upgrades throughout the rest of the day and managed to put together the biggest five fish limit that I ever caught in FLW Tour competition.  My 24-8 total landed me in first place after day one and ranks right up there in the fishing accomplishments that I have had to date.

Day two went okay but I lacked getting a big bite.  My limit weighing 15-15 dropped me to 12th place but I managed to make the top 20 cut to fish day three, which was my goal heading into this event.  With little pressure on day three I fished to try to catch a big limit and came up short, bringing in 12-02.  I ended up with a 17th place finish, which is my best yet on the FLW Tour.

Waiting to blast-off on day three...the field was cut to the top 20 anglers heading out for the third day.

Waiting to blast-off on day three…the field was cut to the top 20 anglers heading out for the third day.

The ¾ oz football jig was probably my most productive bait last week at Pickwick but I also caught fish on deep diving crankbaits and swimbaits.  I was using two crankbaits primarily, a Rapala DT 20 and a Jackall Muscle Deep 15.  I was using the DT 20 on the deeper edges and Muscle Deep 15 in the 10-15 foot stuff.
I fished my football jig on a 7’3” G. Loomis NRX rod (NRX 873C), a Shimano Chronarch CI4 reel (7.6:1) and 12 lb Sunline Sniper FC line.

Pickwick is known for it's big smallmouths and though I didn't catch any during the tournament, I did catch a good one after the event.

Pickwick is known for it’s big smallmouths and though I didn’t catch any during the tournament, I did catch a good one after the event.

The last event of the FLW Tour season takes place next week at Kentucky Lake, one of the best lakes in North America right now.  The fishing should be really good so I’m looking forward to it!  It will be more offshore, ledge fishing, which I’m comfortable with.  Hopefully I can end the season on a good note!

Comfort Products who I fished with for a couple days following the tournament.  We caught'em pretty good!

Comfort Products who I fished with for a couple days following the tournament. We caught’em pretty good!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Back on track at Beaver Lake

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

After a decent tournament at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas a couple of weeks ago I was eager to get back on the water last week at Beaver Lake for stop #4 on the FLW Tour.

Last year at Beaver I had a good tournament and caught good numbers of fish each day en route to a 43rd place finish.  I fished the clear water end of the lake, up near the dam and was comfortable throwing a jerkbait and a variety of finesse soft plastics.

We were fishing Beaver the same week that we were there last year so I expected the conditions to be very similar, if not a little behind because of the cold winter we’ve had.  I was excited at this prospect because if anything, the cool water temperatures should help keep the fish “out” and the jerkbait bite strong.

This big smallmouth ate the jerkbait in practice.

This big smallmouth ate the jerkbait in practice.

On my first day of practice I visited many of the locations that I fished last year during this event and was quite disappointed.  In fact, I did not catch a bass that first day until 4:30 in the afternoon!  Once I left the area that I fished last year I found a few stretches that were holding some decent spotted bass.
On the morning of day two of practice (we get 3 days to practice for these events), I fished relatively close to the boat ramp area and ended up catching several big largemouths in the 3 and 4 pound range on a Jackall MC/60 MR crankbait in the Crawfish pattern.  This bait is a favorite because it casts really well, rarely snags and always runs perfect.  It’s in the same profile of the famous Wiggle Wart that many anglers love throwing on these Ozark lakes.  Anyway, it’s a great crankbait.  After catching these nice largemouths I spent the next six hours trying to duplicate what I did and try to put a pattern together but never really found anything else.  That’s the tough part about Beaver Lake, you almost just have to fish and figure things out on the fly each day.

Here is a big largemouth from practice, caught on the crankbait.  I have my life jacket on because it was literally just a quick stop and I caught the fish on my first cast.

Here is a big largemouth from practice, caught on the crankbait. I have my life jacket on because it was literally just a quick stop and I caught the fish on my first cast.

Once the tournament started my plan of attack was to basically throw the crankbait and a suspending jerkbait – a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 in the Ghost Minnow color.  With these baits I could cover a fair amount of ground and hunt down active, biting fish.  Though I didn’t end up throwing it a lot in the tournament and I probably should have more, especially on the second day when the wind died, I had a Jackall 5.8” Flick Shake Worm rigged on a 3/16 oz shakey head jig.  Not that many anglers use the Flick Shake on a shaky head, but it’s a great worm to use on it.

The wind blew hard the first day and it really helped the jerkbait bite.  My limit weighing 10-14 landed me in 47th place, only a pound and a half out of the top 20, yet only a pound and a half out of the money so there was some pressure to catch a decent limit again.  These events pay $10,000 down to 60th place, so my number one goal was ending up in the top 60 and making some money.

A nice spotted bass from my day 1 limit

A nice spotted bass from my day 1 limit

Without much wind on day two, the bite was a lot tougher.  I was fortunate to catch a limit early in the morning on the jerkbait but then I think I went about four hours without catching a fish.  I did pick up the Flick Shake a couple of times but I really felt like I just had to keep burning water and find a big bite.  I was one good fish away from cashing a big check.  As well, I was getting just enough follows and “nips” on the jerkbait to keep me interested.  As time ran out, I had to get my limit in to the scales.  After a couple of late day “culls” for ounces, my limit totaled 7-13.  Not what I was hoping for.

A nice smallmouth, which was part of my day one limit.  Behind the stage GoPro photo.

A nice smallmouth, which was part of my day 1 limit. Behind the stage GoPro photo.

I headed back to the room to get my things packed up.  As the weigh-in neared its finish I watched the results intently.  It was quite nerve-racking watching myself slip down the leaderboard 55-56-57-58.  When all was said and done, I ended up in 59th spot and earned a $10,000 check!

Next up for me is the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament over on Lake Michigan in mid-May.  Until then I get some down time at home in Ontario’s Sunset Country Region, which I’m looking forward to very much!  We’re still ice fishing this week but hopefully by next week the snow will melt off enough that we can do some shed hunting.  I’ll keep ya’ll posted!

A popular activity of the anglers at night - playing Cornhole (aka Bean Bags).  Here are super pros Jacob Wheeler and Dave Lefebre.  Lefebre is very intense with this game...and the best at it.  Wheeler and I did beat him and Blake Nick the last game we played though, so I guess that makes us the Champs until next time.

A popular activity of the anglers at night – playing Cornhole (aka Bean Bags). Here are super pros Jacob Wheeler and Dave Lefebre.  Lefebre is very intense with this game…and the best at it. Wheeler and I did beat him and Blake Nick the last game we played though, so I guess that makes us the Champs until next time.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Turning things around at Big Sam

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Heading into the third event of the FLW Tour season at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas I was excited to turn my season around.  After a couple of tough events at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Hartwell, I was eager to get back out there.

I fished a tournament at Rayburn back in October of 2012 so I had a good idea of the layout of the lake and areas where I wanted to spend my time fishing.

One of my Big Bites from Practice

One of my Big Bites from Practice

My practice for this event went really good, maybe the best I’ve ever had for a Tour event.  The first day I caught several fish but no big ones.  The second day I fished a different area and by lunch time had caught a few big fish between four and six pounds.  By day’s end my best five would have weighed over 25 pounds so I was excited to get the tournament started.  The last day of practice I looked for more areas like the ones I had found the day before.  My best spots were near the backs of small pockets where there was healthy, green weed growing.  If I could find the green weeds (hydrilla mostly), the water would be slightly clearer and there would be a lot of bait (shad) around.  My last day was not nearly as successful but late in the day I found one small bay that was loaded with fish.  I caught a few, shook a few off and left, eager to get the tournament started.

Big bass that ate the Jackall TN70 rattlebait

Big bass that ate the Jackall TN70 rattlebait

I was finding my fish throwing two different baits and once you found them you could catch them on nearly anything you wanted, at least that’s how it was in practice.  Rayburn is known as a good “trap” lake, and these lipless style lures are great for covering water.  I was throwing a Jackall TN70 lipless jerkbait in the red Crawfish color.  If the grass got a little bit thicker or shallower I would switch things up to a Chatterbait, which would sneak through the grass a little better.  Once we found them we could use a variety of Texas-rigged soft plastics or soft jerkbaits to pluck a few more fish.  This was how practice went.   I was throwing the rattle bait on a G. Loomis 7’11” GLX (GLX957CBR) heavy action crankbait rod.  It had enough power to rip the rattlebait out of the grass if I hung up on it.  This would trigger strikes as well.  I was using 30 lb. Power Pro braid on a Shimano Chronarch CI4 baitcast reel. (CH150CI4HG).

The day before the tournament, a day off the water for all the tournament anglers, the wind started to blow heavily from the south.  I knew this was not good for me because my best spots were exposed to this wind.  I knew the water temperature would drop off and the water would get dirty.  I tried to find some other places during practice that the wind might not hit me as bad but I just didn’t find anything like the good spots that I had.

As I suspected the big wind hurt my key areas so I knew I was just going to have to grind it out in the places I found and hopefully I would be able to put some decent fish in the boat.  The first day was a struggle and I was only able to get four keepers in the boat.  My weight of 8-7 put me in 108th position out a field of 175 anglers.

On day two the wind finally laid down so I knew I had to figure out how to get a few good fish to bite in my areas.  I was still confident they were there I just had to get some bites!  About my fifth cast of the morning I hooked a big fish on my Jackall rattle bait.  After a strong battle my co-angler netted a 7-7 monster that was huge for me!  I felt like this fish was going to change my whole season around!  I had to grind it out the rest of the day and was able to get a limit together, weighing 13-7.  This weight moved me up to 69th place and into the money, so I cashed my first check of the year and felt like a new man!

Gussy with his 7-7 big bass on day two of the FLW Tour event at Sam Rayburn, Texas. (Courtesy of Julie Huber - FLW)

Gussy with his 7-7 big bass on day two of the FLW Tour event at Sam Rayburn, Texas. (Courtesy of Julie Huber – FLW)

 

We get a week off then it’s on to Beaver Lake, Arkansas next week for stop number four.  I had a good tournament last year at Beaver so I’m looking forward to it.  Of all the lakes on the schedule this year, Beaver probably fishes more like our lakes up north than any other.  Last year I caught all the fish I weighed on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait and I’m sure throwing a jerkbait will be a good pattern again this year with the cold weather that has lingered around in that part of the country.

They have A LOT of tournaments at Rayburn so they have some great infrastructure set up.  This is a tank at Umphrey Pavillion, where we had our weigh-in that is a holding tank for the fish that are then "flushed" through a big pipe down to the lake.  Pretty cool huh?

They have A LOT of tournaments at Rayburn so they have some great infrastructure set up. This is a tank at Umphrey Pavillion, where we had our weigh-in that is a holding tank for the fish that are then “flushed” through a big pipe down to the lake. Pretty cool huh?

After the event I fished with some sponsor folks from International Comfort Products for a couple of days and we caught some nice fish!  Jay Martinez with the big one of the day!

After the event I fished with some sponsor folks from International Comfort Products for a couple of days and we caught some nice fish! Jay Martinez with the big one of the day!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Save Big with KrugerFarms.com at Northwest Sportshow

It is that time of year, like a ritual or right of passage, the annual Northwest Sportshow is upon us and means spring fishing is right around the corner here in the Upper Midwest!

The group at Kruger Farms is just as excited to kick things off as all of you are, to prove it, we are going to have some unbelievable deals in our booth. Virtually everything will be on sale and best prices of the year.  Just because it’s not listed on this blog, doesn’t mean it won’t be there or on sale, just too much to list!Northwest_sportshow_krugerfarms

You will find rods and reels from Dobyns, G Loomis, Shimano, Fenwick, Lew’s & Abu Garcia.  Hot tackle from Outkast, Keitech, BassTEK and others.  Plus gear from GoPro, SIMMS, SPY and UnderArmour.  So whether you are looking to treat yourself to some new rain gear or been itching to get a GoPro camera, make sure booth #428 is your first stop of the show!

Here is a quick highlighted list of deal:
Guaranteed Best Prices on Rods at the showFree Dobyns T-Shirt or Hoodie with purchase of new Dobyns Rod (while supplies last)
Abu Garcia Veritas / Revo combo for $179 (Reg $229)
Blowout prices on select Jackall & Sebile hardbaits $10 each or 2 for $15
Blowout prices on Shimano Curado Gs and some Stradic CI4 spinning reals
20% off all Fishing Line & Tackle!
Many more that can’t be listed!

Andy Young Hoisting the Hardware!

Meet Bassmaster Classic Qualifier Andy Young Friday, Saturday & Sunday (Booth #428)

Beyond the great sales, Kruger Farms has a handful of the Curado I series reels from Shimano, get to the show early if you want to get them before they are gone, plus all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday 2015 Bassmaster Classic qualifier Andy Young will be in the booth.  Along with Andy, other top fishing pros and experts will be in the booth all week-long to help answer fishing questions and pick out the perfect gear for what  you need!

Gussy FLW Tour Hartwell Recap

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

I have been a little slow to put this blog together because the last FLW Tour event I fished at Lake Hartwell was probably the worst tournament finish I have ever had.

For three days of practice, the weather was deteriorating every day and it made the fishing tough.

Casting a Jackall jerkbait on the main lake scouting for active schools of bass.

Casting a Jackall jerkbait on the main lake scouting for active schools of bass.

Unfortunately I was not able to put the pieces of the puzzle together to sneak out of there with a decent finish.  My strategy heading into this event was that I would try to spend my time fishing deeper water on the main lake.  Brent Ehrler won a Tour event there back in 2012 doing exactly that so I thought that would be a program I would be comfortable doing.  I love marking fish on my Humminbirds, then dropping something down and catching them!

Driving around looking for fish on my Humminbirds during a rainy day in practice.

Driving around looking for fish on my Humminbirds during a rainy day in practice.

I spent a lot of time over the first two days of practice doing that and just never was able to find any concentration of fish.  I could catch a few fishing docks and I was getting a few bites on a jerkbait, but it was really random, one here, one there.

Gussy checks from Lake Hartwell from Krugerfarms.com on Vimeo.

On my last day of practice I went into a different area of the lake, a creek arm with some dirtier water.  I ended up catching a couple of nice largemouths and better numbers of spots, fishing a jerkbait.  I decided this would be a decent area to spend my time during the tournament.

The first day of the event, it rained heavily and the wind blew, it wasn’t nice.  Being Canadian, it really didn’t bother me all that much, I mean I’m used to some cold weather.  I caught only five fish for 6-07, probably the smallest limit I have ever weighed in.  I think three were on a Jackall Soul Shad jerkbait, one on a Jackall Flick Shake and the other on a shakey head jig with a finesse worm.

The next day, with my back against the wall I really wanted to focus on trying to catch some largemouths, with a feeling that if I got lucky and got a few good bites, I could put a decent bag together.  Early in the day I caught a good fish, almost three pounds and figured I was on the right program.  Well, I went seven more hours without a bite and only weighed in that one fish.  I can tell you, a lot of things go through your mind when you’re not catching any fish, especially on this stage where I know I have a lot of people supporting me.

Looking back, and after talking to some of my friends that fished, I probably should have just picked up that Flick Shake and hit as many docks as I could.  It seemed like the other guys that didn’t have a whole lot going on did that and were able to get their shot at a limit each day and a check.

At the end of the day, I’m getting to live my dream of fishing at this level, competing against anglers that I idolized when I was a kid.  It’s pretty awesome.  So, I keep smiling and get ready for the next one I Sam Rayburn, Texas, coming up next week.  (March 27-30)

A Big Sunset Country Pike that fell for a dead bait rigged beneath a tip-up.

A Big Sunset Country Pike that fell for a dead bait rigged beneath a tip-up.

While I was home between tournaments, I spent quite a bit of time on the ice in Northwest Ontario’s Sunset Country Region, where winter is still in full effect!  We have an unprecedented amount of snow on the ground and plenty of ice still on our lakes (4 feet).
Fishing was still pretty good though.  We had great days catching crappies, walleye, lake trout and mixed in a few nice pike.

A group from Northland Fishing Tackle that was up in Sunset Country testing new ice fishing baits for a couple of days scored on some crappies.

A group from Northland Fishing Tackle that was up in Sunset Country testing new ice fishing baits for a couple of days scored on some crappies.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Downtime with Gussy between tournaments

After sticking around to fish at Okeechobee for a few extra days my trip back home to Ontario’s Sunset Country Region was a short one.  I was home for five days before I got back on the road last week to attend the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Alabama.

While I was home I had to get a TV show done for my program Fishing with Gussy.  We caught some beautiful crappies on Lake of the Woods.  The next day I hooked up with a couple of buddies to hit the ice for lake trout and walleyes.  We battled some super deep snow to get out and fish…it was a workout!

Lake Trout Matt Peters

Matt Peters with a nice lake trout he caught on a spoon. Matt is a good friend of KrugerFarms.com and we have ice fished together many times over the years up in Northwest Ontario. Had some great trips over the years!

PHOTO 2 (1)

Winnipeg Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien was along with Matt so he got in on the walleye action. While most NHL players went somewhere tropical over the Olympic break, Byfuglien went ice fishing at Lake of the Woods!

 

New Shimano Curado I

My experience attending the Classic was top-notch. I helped out Shimano in their booth & was on hand to witness the launch of the new Curado I baitcasting reel. This reel has gone through many transformations over the years but has a long history with bass anglers in North America. I even got to catch some bass on it at Guntersville the day after the tournament!

PHOTO 4 (1)

The day after the tournament my buddy Blake Nick took Bob Mahoney from Shimano and myself out on Guntersville and we caught some nice fish! It was cool to get to fish on this historic fishery.

Stripers and Bass

After fishing Guntersville I traveled over to Lake Murray, South Carolina to spend a couple of days fishing with some folks from International Comfort Products, one of the major sponsors helping me to fish the FLW Tour. Lake Murray is where the Forrest Wood Cup will take place later this year so I figured it would be a good place to spend a few days before we are able to start prefishing at Lake Hartwell this weekend. We caught some nice fish there on umbrella rigs, jerkbaits and crankbaits.

This week I’ve been busy prefishing at Lake Hartwell for stop number two on the FLW Tour, follow online this weekend at FLWOutdoors.com as the tourney starts on Thursday.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

How Amistad Was Won

KrugerFarms.com Pro Angler Andy Young has been one of the busiest guys in bass fishing the last week or so.  Fresh of his dramatic come from behind win on Lake Amistad for the Bassmaster Central Open series.

Andy Young Hoisting the Hardware!

Andy Young Hoisting the Hardware!

He was more than 10 pounds behind runaway leader Randy Allen when the last day began, which by most accounts left the rest of the field fishing for 2nd place. Then Allen weighed-in just one fish, and Young swooped in and claimed the win with his standard 13-ish sack (specifically 13-11).

His 39-06 total held off Elite Series pro Stephen Browning by a single ounce. It earned him more than $47,000 in cash and a slot in next year’s Bassmaster Classic on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell (provided he competes in the other two events on the circuit, which he confirmed that he will).

Here’s how Andy went about it…..

Practice
Young arrived in Del Rio fairly early, he took advantage of a slow period at work and ended up with about 9 days on the water before the event.  Not all of them full days or that productive as there were many unseasonably bad weather days in that mix.

He got an early start on his first practice day and quickly caught a 4-pounder from about 15 feet of water on an umbrella rig, so he began running that pattern in different areas of the lake.

Andy didn’t get a lot of bites, but once in a while he’d catch a good one. He targeted deep flats with his umbrella rig, close to where they dropped off to deeper water. The bigger fish were usually around brush piles or trees – something for them to hold on.  He also developed a secondary game plan that involved dropshotting rocky ledges at depths ranging from 20 to 32 feet.

Tournament Days
> Day 1: 5, 12-01
> Day 2: 5, 13-11
> Day 3: 5, 13-10
> Total = 15, 39-06

Young got only six bites on day 1, and one of those was a short fish. His bag was very solid considering the conditions, but it left him nearly 6 pounds behind Allen, whose stringer was anchored by a 10-pounder.

Young managed just four bites on day 2. He’d boxed only three run-of-the-mill keepers by mid-afternoon when he connected with a 6 1/2-pounder on the umbrella rig.

On day 3, Andy had a limit by 11:30 and one of those fish was a beauty – a 7 1/2-pounder that fell for the umbrella rig. Culling two times after that and each of them was very minor – a half-ounce here and a half-ounce there. But considering the margin of victory was a single ounce, those two little upgrades were key.

Pattern Notes
Andy started each day on his deeper drop shot fish, he had 5-6 areas that he rotated through.  He started on these fish, because he felt they were more dependable and he knew getting a limit each day would be huge.  Plus having fish in the well would help him dedicate to chase bigger fish later in the day.  So once his confidence and sun were higher, he would start rotation through his three flats with the castable umbrella rig to score larger fish and he got at least one every day!

Winning_Rig

This photo taken the night before the last day of competition at the BASS Open on Lake Amistad of the actual rig Andy Young used during competition. Notice the red money jig on the center wire, one of the keys to this set up.

Depth  and retrieve was an important factor for the umbrella rig; it was most effective when retrieved within a few feet of the bottom and added a few erratic jerks along the way.  Another important factor was the color of baits and jig heads used.  Young found the fish reacted best to a mix of pearl and watermelon ghost Big Bite Cane Thumpers.  The Cane Thumpers were attached to 1/8oz Outkast Money Jigs and the center jig was one with a red head which caught most of his fish, just gave the bass a little something different to key in on and the red seemed to help them commit instead of fall the artificial bait ball.

Gear Details
> Umbrella rig gear: 7’6″ heavy-action Dobyns 766 SSM flipping stick, Lew’s BB1 casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 65-pound PowerPro braided line, 1/8-ounce Outkast Tackle Money jigheads, 5″ Big Bite Cane Thumper swimbaits (pearl and watermelon ghost).

Dobyns_Umbrella_Rig

Dobyns Micro Savvy Flipping stick, with Cane Thumpers & Money Jigs on his umbrella rig.

> Andy prefers the Outkast heads because the 4/0, heavy-wire hooks are a little smaller than the standard U-rig offerings. “They don’t snag up on the branches and bushes as much and they hook the fish really well.”

> Dropshot gear: 7’4″ medium-action Dobyns DX743SF Champion Extreme rod, Lew’s Gold Spin 3000 spinning reel, 8-pound fluorocarbon line, 3/16-ounce lead dropshot weight (round), 1/0 Gamakatsu dropshot hook, with green pumpkin drop shot plastics.

The Extra Edge
>  “I think the biggest thing, with the weather being so bad, was me being from Minnesota and being used to it and having good Under Armour Base Layers. The cold didn’t really bother me. The other thing was having a simple game plan – I had two things that worked and I just kept doing them.”

Andy_Young_KrugerFarms

Andy with rugged shores of Lake Amistad behind him.

Andy Young is a krugerfarms.com pro angler, fishing the Bassmaster Open tournaments. You can like him on Facebook here for updates on his fishing experience.

Lake Okeechobee FLW Tour recap 2014

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The 2014 FLW Tour got fired up last week at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.  I was excited to get down to the Big O to start the year off for the third year in a row.  In 2012 I had my best FLW Tour finish in my first event, followed by my worst in 2013, so I was looking to get back there for some redemption.  The cool thing about Okeechobee is that you never know what you’ll connect with on any cast so it keeps you motivated to pay attention and fish hard.

I started out my practice checking out some areas where I’ve had good luck in the past on Okeechobee to try to get a feel for what the fish were doing.  I caught a number of fish that first day of practice, but most were not of the quality that I would need to do well in the tournament.  Over the next couple of days I covered as much water as I could looking for big bass, looking in some of the way back pockets as well as near the main lake.  My problem was I was catching some fish “in” and some “out”, but I was never able to get a solid pattern together on where I was getting to most quality bites.

A nice fish that fell for a Texas-rigged worm.  The new SPY "Gussy" sunglasses were great for being able to see the isolated clumps of grass that these fish were hanging around.

A nice fish that fell for a Texas-rigged worm. The new SPY “Gussy” sunglasses were great for being able to see the isolated clumps of grass that these fish were hanging around.

When the tournament started I spent my time fishing in the areas where I was getting the most bites during practice, basically hoping for a little luck that I would get some big bites.  This was a bad plan because I ended up catching a five fish limit weighing 10-03 on day one.  Not exactly how I wanted to start the season, buried in 130th place.  On day two I fished some different areas and did slightly better, bringing in 12-11, to end up with a 115th place finish.  Though I didn’t totally bury myself for a chance at making the Forrest Wood Cup, I did dig myself a nice hole to get out of.

As it turned out, I totally missed out on the hot bite going on last week at Okeechobee.  Many of the guys that did well in the tournament caught their fish in offshore hydrilla and eelgrass beds.  I got close to a few of these types of places but in the limited amount of time I spent fishing around them I never got lucky to connect with a good fish to kind of show me what was out there.

Big fish do live in Okeechobee, you just have to be fishing in the right places!

Big fish do live in Okeechobee, you just have to be fishing in the right places!

I spent five days fishing at Okeechobee after the tournament and finally dialed in what was going on.  The past few days have been some of the best days of fishing of my life, catching both big fish and numbers of fish so it feels good to leave on a good note.

Gussy with some big fish caught throwing a vibrating jig after the tournament on Okeechobee.  My setup for throwing these jigs is a G. Loomis NRX 7'3" medium heavy (NRX 873C), Shimano Core 100MG (6.3:1), 20lb. Sunline Sniper FC fluorocarbon.

Gussy with some big fish caught throwing a vibrating jig after the tournament on Okeechobee. My setup for throwing these jigs is a G. Loomis NRX 7’3″ medium heavy (NRX 873C), Shimano Chronarch CI4+ (6.2:1), 20lb. Sunline Sniper FC fluorocarbon.
GoPro Photo

Knowing what some of these guys were doing to catch their fish after the tournament I started covering some water with vibrating jig (chatterbait) type lures.  They go through the grass pretty good and work great for triggering strikes in the slightly stained water.  Once we found fish with the vibrating jigs we could slow down in that area with Texas-rigged worms and pluck a few more fish.

Wyatt Swartz of International Comfort Products (one of my sponsors) with a couple of Okeechobee pigs that he caught.

Wyatt Swartz of International Comfort Products (one of my sponsors) with a couple of Okeechobee pigs that he caught.

It felt good to leave Okeechobee with some confidence that I can catch fish out there and hopefully the next time we go there I’ll be a little more open-minded to cover all the options on where these fish will be.  It’s so easy to fish all the emergent vegetation there because there is so much of it, but when the weather is as good as it was for us last week, you have to know that there are going to be a lot of fish biting somewhere because the lake is full of them!

Next week I’m headed to the Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham.  I have never attended this event before so I’m looking forward to seeing the big show, then it’s on to Lake Hartwell, South Carolina for the second stop on the FLW Tour.

Stay warm!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Punchin’ big bass in Florida & FLW Tour Preview

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

It’s been a busy start to 2014 for me.  Between keeping the snow plowed out of my driveway at home in Ontario, taking care of a few ice anglers and a wolf hunter, and getting ready for the upcoming FLW Tour season, there hasn’t been a dull moment.

Across North America, the weather has been terrible this winter.  It has been the coldest I can remember back home and we have a lot of snow.  Because of the weather I have not been ice fishing as much as I normally would have but when we have been out, the action has been good for crappies, lake trout and walleye.  I had one wolf hunter in and he tagged out with a big male on his second day of hunting.

Ontario Wolf Hunt Results

Ontario Wolf Hunt Results

I have been down in Florida now for about a week, getting back into fishing mode in preparation for the first FLW Tour event of the season coming up the first week of February at Lake Okeechobee.  I came down to Florida early to break in the motor on my new boat and hopefully sharpen up my skills a little bit before I start competing against the best bass anglers in the World.  The weather at home also made it easy to hit the road a little bit early.

For the past week I’ve been hanging around the Kissimmee area, staying with a couple of friends from home who rent a house here for a couple of months.  I’ve been fishing most days, trying out a number of small lakes in the area.  I’ve had a few good days of fishing and a few tough ones, but it’s been fun to fish a bunch of new water.

IMG_0104

Gussy with a Florida Chatterbait Bass

The highlight of the trip so far was getting to see a GIANT bass that my friend Seth Feider from Minnesota caught this past weekend.  Seth fished in the BASS Southern Open on Lake Toho last week and stuck around for an extra day to fish a little lake that I really like.  Well, the luck was on his side as he caught the two biggest bass of his life in one day – a 13-4 and a 10-1.  His previous big fish was a six and half pounder from Minnesota.  Pretty awesome fish!

Seth Feider with a Giant Florida Largemouth Bass

Seth Feider with a Giant Florida Largemouth Bass

Seth caught his big fish punching matted vegetation with a heavy rod, heavy braided line, a big tungsten sinker and TriggerX Goo Bug.  The idea is to use a compact bait with the heavy tungsten sinker, generally 1-2 oz., to punch through the mats and drop the bait in front of bass that are hiding beneath them.  It’s a tactic that is proven to catch big bass on Florida lakes and lakes across North America that have a lot of grass in them.  You need the heavy tackle to pull fish back through the weeds.

Seth showing off his lunker & his punching setup

Seth showing off his lunker & his punching setup

I have caught a few good fish this week punching as well as casting swim jigs and chatterbait style baits to cover water.  I’ve been trying to spend as much time as I can fishing with baits that I think I may use when I get to Okeechobee, like the Jackall Cover Craw.  We are able to start practicing on Sunday (Feb. 2) and I’m really looking forward to getting out there.  The long-range weather forecast looks great for entire week of the tournament so it could be a major “whackfest” if the big females swarm the shallows to spawn.  My buddy, Brandon McMillan, a local stud who won the FLW Tour event at Okeechobee in 2011 told me that he thinks the fishing could be really good out there for us next week.  I can’t wait!

Gussy Prepping for the FLW Tour Opener on the Big O!

Gussy Prepping for the FLW Tour Opener on the Big O!

Look for the Okeechobee report next week and stay tune for many updates from this year’s FLW Tour!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).