BASS Nation Northern Regional Recap

Pro-staff Contributor: Rich Lindgren

Having fished several Northern Divisionals in the past and a few of them in this region with tough fishing, I was mentally prepared for a tough tournament long before I started driving down to Lake Monroe in Indiana.

It actually turned out to be tougher then I actually thought and the actual tourney days were more difficult than the practice days.  My first practice day I got out on the water sometime after 8am on Saturday, after driving through the night and catching a quick nap in the truck.  In summary I caught about 8-10 shorts that day fishing the end towards the dam on buzzbaits and squarebills, but actually had several bites and action, just no size.  I also spent a few hours scanning the mouth of Moores Creek with my Humminbirds, found lots of good structure and cover, but no bites.

Day 2 , I chose to spend the majority of the day covering Moores creek and look at all the shallow water.  By no means was it gang busters, but slowly started building a shallow pattern throwing buzzbaits, buzz frogs and flipping a 3/8oz Okeechobee Craw BassTEK Tungsten jig.  As the day went on, I took the pattern to other pockets and creeks and it held.  Between the fish caught and shook off that I saw, I would have had an easy 16lb plus bag.

A quality fish from 3rd practice day on a buzzbait
A quality fish from 3rd practice day on a buzzbait

On practice days 3 and 4, I focused on looking at as many pockets and creek arms as I could and looking for more water to fit my pattern.  As the week went on, the buzzbait bite seemed to fade and the senko and creature bait bite seemed to get better, plus shad balls seemed to be moving around quite a bit, not staying in the same pockets.  Also, I started finding bites in shallow clumpy grass as well.

All of practice was pretty much rain and clouds, the tourney forecast was all about bluebird skies, sun and little to no wind, so I knew things would get tougher and change.

Day 1 I drew out in 2nd flight with a Gary Adkins from Wisconsin, he was on a completely different deal fishing deep, but we had water in the same parts of the lake, so we opted to work together throughout the day.  I spent the first 2 hours and change running my best shallow water and we ended up both missing bites, I broke a fluoro leader on a senko and he couldn’t convert on a topwater fish.

Day 1 Take-off, blurry photo cred to Jeremiah Shaver
Day 1 Take-off, blurry photo cred to Jeremiah Shaver

The next 3 hours we spent working his deep areas with hardly a tap, both frustrated with things, we went to Allen’s creek to flip grass, Gary ended up getting a 3-02 flipping a sweet beaver in sprayed grass.  We got a few more bites there, but nothing that kept.  During that time I took control of the front of the boat and tried some more grass in that area.  From there I went to Ramp Creek where I had an isolated weed clump that I pulled on a good fish the day before.  First flip with a Rage Bug and I put a 3-03 in the boat.

We finished our day in Ramp and then a sunken brush pile just south of Ramp, no more bites or fish.  That one quality fish had me tied for 30th out of 96 anglers on day 1 and about 5 lbs back of the top Minnesota guy and qualifying for Nationals.

Day 1 Weigh-In, thanks to Rapala for the Alternate Team Jerseys!
Day 1 Weigh-In, thanks to Rapala for the Alternate Team Jerseys!

Day 2, I had Jesse Weener from Michigan, he was 2nd coming into the day.  He had caught 4 fish for around 9lbs on day 1.  We also agreed to work together.  The 2nd day, I chose to start in Ramp, fished several pockets and we each got a short on topwater, then finally in the back on a beaver dam I scored a 15 inch fish on weightless senko.  From there I ran into an isolated pocket where I had pulled on a fish on Tuesday and then actually spooked again on first tourney day.  Same thing, I ended up spooking fish with my buzzbait, mental note, planned to come back later to get him.

During the middle part of the day, we went to Jesse’s area which was around Cutright.  He was catching most of his fish on a drop shot (dream shot dirt color), fishing shallow around points and docks.  He ended up getting a pretty good fish on the first pass.  The nest pass, I got keeper throwing my senko to sandy patches and points in grass clumps.  Before we left Jesse got one more good keeper on a senko as well.

With a little bit of time left on my clock, I ran back that isolated fish, first cast with my senko, I put him in the boat and it was scramble time to get back to weigh-in.  Long story, short, ran out of gas about 2 miles from Four Winds.  Thanks to Ed Rounsaville from Indiana for picking us up with our fish, total life saver and yes, I am an idiot for running out of gas.

My 3 fish weighed 7-02 and I jumped up to 12th place, but I was actually 4th on my team still and 3-15 back from our leader and had to leap 3 anglers on the last day.  Also good news, the Minnesota team jumped from 4th place to 1st place in the team competition.

Day 3, I ended up with the Illinois team alternate and I got to run my water all day.  I stuck to my pattern, but threw buzzbait less and fished soft plastics more.  Even with that, it took me until almost noon to get my first fish in the boat in the back of a pocket on a senko.  It was only about 14.25″ and didn’t weigh much, so I knew I needed one more good fish to catch the leader to have a chance if he stumbled.  I kept with it and got another fish just before 2pm that I felt put me really close to the 4lb mark between the 2 fish, but in my head I really thought I needed one more fish to make it happen.

I fished hard to the bitter end, but it never happened, 2 fish was all I would end up with.  I made it back to weigh-in with plenty of gas and a few minutes to spare.  I was first flight and 2nd angler from my team to weigh in.  When I weighed the number was 3lbs 15oz to take the lead and I wasn’t certain whether I had enough.

This is what it looks like when you take the lead by a single ounce early in the weigh-in
This is what it looks like when you take the lead by a single ounce early in the weigh-in

I ended up with exactly that weight, while talking to Jon Stewart, I was pretty casual knowing that 2 more anglers that only need a fish or two were still coming to weigh and I was certain it wouldn’t hold.

About half way through the weigh-in, all the guys that were close to me had weighed except the day 2 leader had weighed and I was still in the top place for Minnesota.  Then word got to me that our leader had zeroed on day 3.  Honestly, I was couldn’t believe it at first, it definitely took awhile to set in and I didn’t want to get excited until all MN anglers crossed the stage.

Well it turned out to be official, my 6 fish for 14lbs 4oz over 3 days was good enough for 8th place overall and a trip to the BASS Nation Nationals in November on the Ouachita River.  My main setup for my fish in tournament was a 5″ senko stick worm fished weightless on a 4/0 EWG hook, 12lb SX1 Sunline Braid fished on a Dobyns Champion 702SF Spinning Rod and Shimano Reel.

My main setup for 5 of my 6 fish
My main setup for 5 of my 6 fish

This was my 6th divisional and it feels awesome to finally make it to Nationals and be part of a team that won back to back boats at the divisionals.  Assuming Italy sends an angler to this event, I basically have a 1 in 9 chance to fish my way to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.  I have been tournament bass fishing for about 20 years now and I have worked for this the whole way.

Next week is our Minnesota TOC state qualifier on Lake Vermillion, after that, I will be 100% focused on the Ouachita River.

Rich Lindgren is a tournament bass angler living in Lakeville, MN chasing bass all over Minnesota and its adjoining states. Bass blogger, podcaster and fishing promoter. You’ll see him fishing the Minnesota bass tournament scene representing krugerfarms.com and Dobyns Rods among others. You can like him on Facebook (facebook.com/bassinblog).

FFCBC & KBI Tournament Recaps

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The past few weeks have been pretty busy in my part of the World in Ontario’s Sunset Country Region.  For a bass angler who enjoys competing in tournaments, we have some of the best open, team tournaments in North America, with several community run events taking place over the summer months that offer large fields and good payouts on some fantastic fisheries.

The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (www.canadianbass.com) took place the last week of July on Rainy Lake.  My friend John Peterson from Bemidji, Minnesota and I have fished this event together since 2007 and have had several good finishes before finally winning the tournament last year.
This year we showed up and Rainy was like a totally different lake, with water about four feet higher than it was last year.  Most of the stuff we fished last year seemed to have too much water on it so we had to look around a bit to find some fish.  After a couple of tough days of practice we found a few areas where the fish were super shallow in a rock and weed mix that is normally out of the water.

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).

A big crowd was on hand for the final weigh-in at the FFCBC.

Over the course of the three-day event we brought solid catches to the scales for a total of 57.16 pounds and we managed to defend our title!
We caught most of our fish on a Jackall SK Pop Grande topwater popper by covering water, looking for active, biting fish.  We mixed in a few fish that we caught on small tubes as well, mostly fish that rolled on the topwater and didn’t bite.  It was a good follow-up bait.

Hoisting the trophy at the FFCBC.

Hoisting the trophy at the FFCBC.

This tournament has a competitive field that features a mix of tough locals and several pros from across North America.

This past weekend the Kenora Bass International (www.kbifishing.com) went down on Lake of the Woods.  My partner for this event, Chris Savage and I have fished the tournament together since 2000 and have been fortunate to win this big event twice over the years.

Big largemouths like this can be found on Lake of the Woods.

Big largemouths like this can be found on Lake of the Woods.

For the second year in a row we totally bombed on the final day of this three-day event after sitting in 2nd place after the first two days.  We brought in mixed bags of largemouths and smallmouths over the first couple days of the tournament and caught our fish on a variety of baits including wacky rigged Flick Shake Worms and Senkos, spinnerbaits and flipping Texas rigged Jackall Cover Craws.

Gussy playing to the crowd at the Kenora

Gussy playing to the crowd at the Kenora Bass Event

The first two days we fished the darker water in the south end of the lake and then decided to gamble on day three and fish the west arm of the lake where we have had success in the past.  We were fishing to try to win the tournament and it just didn’t work out.  Sometimes those decisions pay off, other times they don’t.  We ended up in 19th place in the 140 boat field.

These are both prestigious events that are a lot of fun for all the anglers involved.  I would highly recommend both tournaments for anglers looking to visit an awesome bass fishery during our beautiful summer months and fish a tournament at the same time.  Rainy Lake is probably the best topwater smallmouth lake that I have ever fished and massive Lake of the Woods has a mixture of largemouths and smallmouths spread throughout that are caught on a variety of tactics.

This week it is back to Rainy Lake again for the IFalls Bass Championship!

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).