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).

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).

Christmas Gifts for the Bass Angler

Pro-staff Contributor: Rich Lindgren

Continuing on our series of blog about buying gifts for hungers and anglers, I will cover some great gift ideas for bass anglers that you need to buy for.

Stocking StuffersFishing lures always make fantastic stocking stuffers, so here are a handful of must have baits for any bass angler:
Just about any bass angler likes to throw a wacky rigged stick worm, the Big Bite Baits Wacky Stick would be a treat for any angler, as they have molded the o-ring inside each worm for more natural and durable wacky rigging.

Square Bill crankbaits catch bass just about everywhere in the country, the new Arashi Series from Storm is definitely worth a look, with there self-tuning line tie and great fish catching colors, they are a perfect gift under $10.

Storm Arashi Square Bill

Storm Arashi Square Bill

There is no arguing that the most exciting way to catch smallmouth and largemouth bass is to land them on topwater baits.  Hard to go wrong with anything from the great topwater selection at KrugerFarms.com, pick something that fits your budget and catches your eye!

Nice listSo if you have a fisherman in your life that deserves something a little nicer then what you can fit in their stocking, here are a few items priced $50 or less.

When I fish for bass, it often means all day excursions in the boat and sometimes in extremely hot conditions, so it is important for me to have a lot of fluids packed in my boat and I like my drinks chilled.  The Arctic Ice packs are a great gift idea and they will thank you for years to come as this stuff just lasts so much longer than bags of ice and they are reusable.

Arctic-Ice-Alaskan-SetsOn those same long hot days, sun protection is as important has hydration.  To protect my neck, I rely on an Under Armour Neck Gator to shed the heat rather than constantly bathing in sunscreen that I will eventually forget to reapply.  Plus, this doubles as a nice neck warmer on those cooler days, it is a very versatile piece of gear.

Fishing line is something that should be changed out at minimum at the beginning of every season, so high quality line like Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon or FX2 Braid are great gifts as well.

very very Nice listFinally, if you need an extra special gift for somebody on the Very, Very Nice List, here are a couple if bigger ticket items!

Surprising your loved one with a new fishing rod will sure to get their attention on Christmas morning.  You really can’t go wrong with any rod in the Dobyns lineup, the have designed each rod with great attention to detail and balance.  Match your budget to the series and then pick a seven-foot rod in a medium heavy and that will be a do it all workhorse rod in their line-up.

My absolute favorite new reel of 2013 is the the Shimano Chronarch CI4+, if you have a bass enthusiast in your life this will make their eyes light up when they pull back the wrapping paper, an instant home run for sure!

Shimano_Chronarch_ci4_reelLastly, most of us bass fishermen, fish when we can, not when the conditions are perfect, so quality rain gear is a great asset for sure.  Check out the rain wear from Under Armour, all their stuff has excellent construction, very lightweight and breathes well.

Finally, hopefully this is helpful to you all and a Merry Christmas from us all at Kruger Farms!

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).

Tournament Recap: International Falls Bass Championship

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The ninth annual International Falls Bass Championship took place over the past weekend on Rainy Lake and the Rainy River.  The IFBC has a unique format that puts anglers on the water for two days—one day is spent on the U.S. side of Rainy Lake and the other is spent on Rainy River.  Fishing two bodies of water in two days is a stiff test for anglers because it is much harder to put together two strong days.

Gussy while prefishing for the IFBC.

Gussy while prefishing for the IFBC.

My buddy Scott Dingwall and I have fished this event since the first year in 2005 and have been fortunate to win the tournament three times.  I missed the event last year because of a conflict with an FLW Tour event at the Detroit River, but Scott represented, fishing with our friend Kalan Wagner from International Falls, and finished in third.

Since we’ve fished the event for several years, we have compiled a number of spots on both the river and the lake where we knew we’d like to spend our time.  I spent three days prefishing for this tournament—one day on the lake and two days on the river.  Traditionally, we are a lot stronger on the lake than we are on the river, so I thought I would try to put in as much time on the river as I could.  Part of the reason the river is such a challenge for us and other anglers is that it is constantly changing.  In the three day span last week between prefishing and the tournament day, the river dropped about two feet, leaving some boulders that I caught fish on in practice completely dry and out of the water.

As things turned out, I ended up having five great days in the International Falls area.  The weather was great all week, which has been tough to come by this summer, and fishing was excellent on both bodies of water.

We were happy when we learned at the tournament rules meeting that we would be fishing the lake on day one of the tournament.  The weather looked a little bit better on day one, with bright sun and light winds forecasted.  Over the years, one thing we’ve learned about Rainy Lake Smallmouths, on both the Canadian and U.S. sides of the lake, is that they love sun and heat—when you get these conditions a lot of big fish move into shallow water.

We had a great first day of the tournament, catching one of our best limits ever on the lake at 17.50 pounds.  We caught our fish on a variety of baits, including a Jackall SK Grande popper, a new prototype Northland Impulse tube (green pumpkin) and a Northland Bugaboo Jig.  Once the sun got up, we casted our jigs at as many shallow boulders as we could, plucking fish off here and there to cull up to our final limit.  We ended the day in third place and had a little bit of catch up to do on the river.

The next day on the river we felt like we would likely need to catch 16 pounds or more to win the tournament.  Our friends Dave Skallet and Mark Fisher from Minnesota brought in a monstrous 19.40 pounds from the lake on day one, so the ball was in their court.  In second place after day one were local River studs, Nathan Brigham and Brett Myers, who are typically really strong on their home water.

On day two, Scott and I had a great day on the river, catching 15.20 pounds, to take the lead when we weighed in.  Unfortunately we came up a little bit short in the end—getting beat by the local boys by about a pound to end up with a 2nd place finish in the tournament.

Tournament winners, Nathan Bringham and Brett Meyers.

Tournament winners, Nathan Bringham and Brett Meyers.

We caught all of our fish on the river on the Impulse tubes rigged with ¼ oz Gamakatsu jigs—again plucking most of our fish from boulders along the river bank.  During practice I caught quite a few fish on spinnerbaits, crankbaits and topwaters; but during the tournament, the fishing was a little bit tougher and we had to slow things down to get bites.

The IFBC is one of the premier bass events in Minnesota, you can find all the information you want on this event at the tournament website – www.ifallsbass.com.  Maybe you could join us on the waters during next year’s tournament!

 

Storm has a Winner with New Arashi Series!

Storm Arashi Review

Pro-staff Contributor: Rich Lindgren

When Storm recently released their new line of Arashi crankbaits, it definitely passed the eye test for baits that would require some serious consideration from bass anglers.  But just as with most new bait introductions, the rubber really hits the road when you can actually get a bait into the water and try it for yourself.  Besides the cool looks, attractive colors and bait profiles, I was most interested in their new self-tuning line tie system.

Last week I picked up a pair of the Square Bills in both the 3 & 5 sizes.  But, as excited as I was to test these baits, I didn’t have a ton of time to get out in the boat. Because of my excitement, I tied one of my new Size 3 Square Bills in the Moss Chartreuse Craw color to my Dobyns Champion 705CB, and threw it in the back of my vehicle in case I had a few moments to water test these from shore.

Late last week, I was able to squeeze in about an hour of time to hit a heavily pressured pond not too far from where I live.  This pond has fairly dirty water, just a little grass, some wood and rock, and a mixture of bottoms.  It sees quite a bit of fishing pressure and the fish seem to get smarter every time I go there.  I figured this would be a pretty good first test—not everybody that reads bass fishing blogs has a big fancy boat with access to unpressured fish, but everyone can usually find small waters.

I started out with a few short casts just to get a feel for how the bait runs and to watch it in the water; I was very interested to see how the self-centering line tie would actually work.   The bait ran well in the test casts, so I started firing around and searching for test panel participants.  On my 3rd or 4th cast across a little shallow rock shelf, my rod bowed up under what felt like a solid fish.  After a few cranks of the reel, the bass came to the surface and, to my pleasure, the hooks kept it buttoned through several aerobatic attempts to throw the lure.  It ended up being a chunky fish that was probably just under 3lbs.

Fish and Arashi Square Bait

I fished this crankbait for around an hour and caught several more fish. I put it to the test—running it over rocks, mud, sand, scattered grass, old pipes, culverts and other random objects in this dingy pond—and it never hung up for more than a second.  It showed great deflection characteristics; climbing over obstacles in its way, and always quickly returning to a true path no matter how quickly or slowly I worked the bait.  With the rotated hook hangers, high-quality VMC hooks and circuit board lip, this bait has all the features of a high-end Japanese crankbait that would normally set you back $15. Instead, Storm delivers it all for about half the price.

I set up this bait on my Dobyns 705CB, paired with a Shimano Curado G6 and spooled with 15lb fluorocarbon—it seemed perfect for this crankbait. It casted like a rocket, I could feel everything that my bait climbed over, the soft action of the rod ensured all bass took the bait, and there was enough backbone to bury the hooks and keep the fish on all the way to the bank.

I am anxious to continue trying these baits this coming week in my next BFL tournament on the Mississippi River, but I already know this bait is a winner and will have a place in my tackle box!

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).

Rod Lure Setup

Tournament Recap: Kenora Bass International

Pro Staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Carrying our big catch to the scales on day one.

Carrying our big catch to the scales on day one.

The 26th annual Kenora Bass International tournament took place this past weekend on Sunset Country’s massive Lake of the Woods.  The KBI is one of the premier open, team bass tournaments in North America. Since 2000 my good buddy Chris Savage and I have fished the tournament together.  We have been fortunate to have some great finishes over the years, including wins in 2000 and 2008 to go along with four 2nd place finishes.

This year we came out of the gates swinging—bringing in the largest catch of the tournament on day one, which weighed 19.78 pounds.  Our mixed bag of three largemouths and two smallmouths was one of the largest we have ever weighed in at this tournament, so we were obviously really happy with our start.

A big "cull" on day one-- changing a two-pounder for a five-pounder.

A big “cull” on day one– changing a two-pounder for a five-pounder.

We were challenged a lot more on day two.  After hitting all of the spots that produced on day one we did not have any big fish (anything over three pounds) in the boat.  But years of fishing this water and having a lot of spots to fall back on helped us round up five decent fish by the end of the day.  Our day two catch of 16.63 pounds actually increased our lead over second place to a little more than two pounds.

We were confident heading into the third day, and felt like if we could put together 16 pounds or so, we would have a good chance to win the tournament.  We couldn’t be conservative because there were a lot of good anglers right on our heels.  Day three ended up being a train wreck for us.  We caught a limit fairly quickly in the morning but they were all small fish (around two pounds each).  We stuck to our largemouth program for most of the day, trying to get those couple of good bites but it just didn’t happen.

I think it was a combination of us running out of fish, other angler pressure and the fish simply not biting in our area that lead to our demise on day three.  At the end of the day we finished in 9th place—which is still a solid showing at this competitive event, but we were obviously disappointed with the way we landed there.  That’s fishing though.

Over the three days we caught our largemouths on a ½ ounce Northland Jungle Jig with a five-inch Impulse Dip-Stick worm, and our smallmouths on a Jackall SK Grande Popper.  We weighed two or three smallmouths each day of the event.

August and her cousin Tara, the only all-female team in the tournament, with a big smallmouth on day one. They ended up in 54th place.

August and her cousin Tara, the only all-female team in the tournament, with a big smallmouth on day one. They ended up in 54th place.

The eventual tournament winners were Bill Godin and Leroy Wilson.  These guys have a history of winning tournaments around the Sunset Country Region and were able to bring in big catches of smallmouths each day of the event.

A huge Thank you to the tournament committee and volunteers for making another great event happen.  There was a huge crowd (over 1000 people) at the final day weigh-in so that was pretty awesome.  For bass anglers out there looking to take a trip to fish in one of the best bass tournaments in North America on the famous Lake of the Woods, this event takes place every year during the second week of August.  You can find all the information you need for this event at the tournament website – www.kbifishing.com.

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).

Pulling into the dock for day two weigh-in.

Pulling into the dock for day two weigh-in.

Stick Worm: The Most Underappreciated Lure in Bass Fishing

Pro-staff Contributor: Michaela Anderson

One of the first baits I learned to use when I started bass fishing was a stick or cigar style worm. At first glance the bait doesn’t look like much, or like anything I had ever witnessed fish eating before–but it catches fish. For a stick style bait, I prefer the Trigger X Flutter worm. This bait can be fished using a variety of methods and in all types of cover.

Rigging your Stick Bait

One of the easiest ways to fish a stick worm, and often the most effective, is weightless. I’ll usually Texas rig the bait on a VMC Wide Gap worm hook or wacky rig it on a VMC Wacky Hook. If you’re not familiar with these rigging styles, we’ve got you covered.  We explained how to Texas rig in Rich’s blog earlier this year. Or, if you want to wacky rig the bait, all you have to do is put the hook through the middle of the bait.

Flutter Worm Blog

Wacky rigged flutter worm.

I like to skip docks and work shallow vegetation, like reeds and lily pads, with a weightless Flutter worm.  This bait is normally overlooked by other fisherman who would rather throw something heavier like a jig.

A weightless Flutter worm can also be deadly on weed lines. You can throw the bait out, let it slowly sink to the bottom, and let it sit a minute or two before moving it.  We call this “soaking.” If you have to let it sit still for a long time we call it “soaking the dye off.” This takes a lot of patience but it works well. Also, it’s great for kids because they can catch fish by simply throwing the bait out and leaving it be.

Pairing Stick Baits with Jig Heads

Another way to use a stick-style bait is on a jig head. There are many jig head options and many sizes to choose from. When selecting a weight it is important to keep in mind the speed at which your bait is falling. You do not want your bait to fall too quickly because many times fish will eat the bait when it is falling.

Jig heads work extremely well when fishing cover on the bottom like rocks, weed lines or brush. With a jig head you have more contact with the bottom and are able to feel the structure better. You want to choose a heavier weight in windy days or in areas with fast currents because it will make it easier to keep contact with the bottom. A VMC Stand Up Shaky Head Jig is great to use in almost all situations—around docks, bridge pilings, rocks, weeds or laydowns. This jig allows you to rig the flutter worm weedless works really well when you’re fishing in cover. Or if you are fishing rocks or shell beds, the VMC Rugby Jig allows you to drag a worm across the bottom without getting stuck as much as other style jig heads.

Flutter Worm Blog

Picking your Stick Bait

Personally, I use a 5-inch Flutter worm in most situations. I will us the smaller 4-inch worm on a drop shot rig or shaky head if I am getting bites but the fish are not taking the bait all the way.

The color you should use will vary depending on the lake, but one of my favorite colors is green red flake. I tend to use more natural colors like pumpkin or green pumpkin in clear water. Then adding colored flake, like red or purple, will help in stained water. For really muddy or dirty water, I like a black with blue flake or something with chartreuse to catch the fish’s eye.  If you’d like to learn more about color selection, you can check out Rich’s take on the topic here.

This is a bait that all bass anglers should have in the arsenal. I have one tied on at all times because, when fishing gets tough, my go-to tactic is to “soak” a Flutter worm. Make sure you try some of these techniques next time you’re on the water!

Michaela Anderson is a college angler fishing the FLW, B.A.S.S. College Circuits and select FLW Walmart Tour events representing krugerfarms.com, Trigger X and the University of St. Thomas. You can follow her on Twitter (@MichaelaFishing) and like her on Facebook (facebook.com/MichaelaAndersonFishing).

Co-angler Report – Lake Chickamauga FLW Event

Pro-staff Contributor: Michaela Anderson

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to fish as a co-angler in the last FLW Tour event on Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tennessee last weekend.  This was a great opportunity to fish with the pros and get a taste of what tournaments will be like once I move beyond college fishing tournaments.

Prefishing

Mich 3On the first day of prefishing I fished with Gussy. We fished a lot of different areas and tried a lot of techniques. We were able to catch some small fish around laydowns and a few keepers in the grass, but once we moved out a little deeper we caught better fish. In a few spots, where we marked fish, we were able to catch a few on drop shots. While fishing a point where we had graphed fish, out of nowhere a school of giant bass started busting shad on the surface. We turned the trolling motor on high and hustled over there. I threw in a big topwater bait and had one smack it away, then Gussy threw in a big fluke and caught at least a six-pounder.

During the following two days of practice I was able to fish with Terry Bolton. He is an awesome ledge fisherman and I knew I was going to learn a lot. During our two days of practice together we did a lot of idling and scanned a bunch of ledges. If we didn’t graph fish we went to the next ledge. There are a lot of ledges to look at so it took up a lot of time. There were some key features we were looking for: old creek channels, rocks or shells, points or anything different that helped narrow down our search. The key lures we used were football head jigs and big 10-inch worms on the VMC rugby jig. We also threw deep diving crankbaits like a DT-20—which caught fish—but the slower presentations on the bottom produced bigger fish. Towards the end of the day, we decided to try something different and hit a point with shallow grass and a few brush piles. On my second cast with a size 7 Rippin’ Rap, I caught a chunky five-pounder. We also caught a few nice fish out of the brush piles.

Tournament Fishing

For the first day of the tournament I was paired with Dale Hightower.  In the morning , we fished a rocky bank and jetty that had some grass. Then later in the day, we flipped some laydowns and docks. It was tough to fish the rock bank and jetty from the back of the boat because we were paralleling the bank so it made it difficult to cast. However, I was able to catch two keepers off of the front face of the rock jetty. There was a little hole that I slow rolled the Rippin Rap through—keeping it a little bit above the bottom.

Mich 1The second day I fished with Rodney Thomason and had a ton of fun. He didn’t want to battle people for spots on ledges so he had found some grass that had grown to the surface and some lily pads. I had not seen lily pads or grass that tall all week, so I was excited to try something new. I caught some small fish on a Trigger X Flutter Worm and he caught a few on a frog but we couldn’t connect with any keepers. Rodney had at least one monster bass blow up on a frog, but it just pushed it away and didn’t eat it.

I picked up a few lessons as a co-angler in this tournament.  Both boaters I fished with did not want to be fighting for a spot on the ledges and fishing right next to other competitors. Because of this, they taught me that there are still fish to be caught shallow—even when everyone else is deep. It is tough to be a co-angler in these events, because it is totally dependent on your draw and if you are put around fish, but it was a great learning experience and I hope I will be able to fish a few more events next year!

Michaela Anderson is a college angler fishing the FLW, B.A.S.S. College Circuits and select FLW Walmart Tour events representing krugerfarms.com, Trigger X and the University of St. Thomas. You can follow her on Twitter (@MichaelaFishing) and like her on Facebook (facebook.com/MichaelaAndersonFishing).

Lake Chickamauga FLW Tour Report

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Gussy prefishing on Lake Chickamauga

Gussy prefishing on Lake Chickamauga

The final event of the 2013 FLW Tour season took place this past weekend at Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee.  For many anglers on the tour, this was an important event, because after it was finished the 35 anglers with the most points after the six-event season qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup—the annual Tour Championship where anglers fish for a first place prize of $500,000.  My chances of qualifying for the Cup were eliminated earlier in the season after a couple of bad tournaments.  So I went into the event with the goal to cash a check and end the season on a good note.

I had spent a few days at Chickamauga in late May before the lake went off limits, which helped me because I had a good idea of what I wanted to do when I got back for the official practice.  I planned to check out some places where I had caught fish earlier—both shallow and deep—hoping that would give me a start on things I should focus on during the week of the tournament.

Over the course of the three day practice for this tournament, I found a few different areas that held fish, and had a reliable dock pattern that would put a few extra fish in the boat after I was finished working over my “spots.”  The best place I found was a small ledge that had a shell bed on it.  In practice I caught a couple of big fish off of it on a ¾oz football jig.

Gussy with friend and fellow pro-angler, Blake Nick at the rules meeting.

Gussy with friend and fellow pro-angler, Blake Nick at the rules meeting.

When the event started, this ledge was my first stop and it paid off when I caught a five-pound largemouth on my third cast of the day.  I caught this fish on a Jackall Muscle Deep 15 crankbait in the chartreuse shad color.  I was throwing this bait on a 7’11” G. Loomis GLX crankbait rod (GLX955CBR)Shimano Chronarch reel (CH200E6) and 12 lb Sunline Sniper FC line.  I could get this bait to touch the bottom in 14-16 feet, where the fish were and put a few of my biggest fish in the boat during the tournament with this set up. Over the course of the event, I also caught a few of my weigh fish on a football jig, a drop-shot rig and by pitching a jig around some docks—all using G. Loomis rods and Shimano reels.

After a good catch on the first day (18-05), I sat in 21st place.  My goal on day two was to improve my position and try to make the top 20, which would have allowed me to fish another day.  I ended up having a little bit of a tougher second day and brought in 13-14, to finish in 26th place—earning a check for $10,000.

Overall, my experience fishing the FLW Tour this season was awesome!  I learned a lot and look forward to giving it another shot next year.  I feel like the experiences I had this year, both good and bad, will help me down the road.  Huge thanks go out to all of my sponsors for making it possible for me to fish the FLW Tour this year, as well as all the people that supported me through the ups and downs of the season.  It’s been fun!

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).

Here was the biggest fish Gussy caught at Chickamauga--it was over six pounds.

Here was the biggest fish Gussy caught at Chickamauga–it was over six pounds.

Grand Lake, OK FLW Tour Report

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

The fifth stop on the 2013 FLW Tour took place this past weekend at Oklahoma’s Grand Lake.  I arrived in Grove, Oklahoma the day before practice started, and while I drove over a bridge on the lake I was shocked to see the high, dirty water.  There were literally thousands of logs and pieces of debris floating down the lake—a result of heavy rains accompanying the nasty storms that have gone through Oklahoma recently.  Fishing this type of water was going to be a new experience for me.

A look at the flooded shoreline of Grand Lake.

A look at the flooded shoreline of Grand Lake.

During my first morning of practice, things started out pretty well.  It didn’t take me long to start catching some nice fish by flipping a ½ oz jig in some of the flooded bushes and wood along the bank of the lake.  Over the course of the day, I caught several good fish and figured I was onto a solid program that would carry me through the weekend.  But, the next two days of practice were not as good as the first.  I wasn’t sure if I had simply found a good area on the first day or if the pattern was not as solid as I thought.

Heading into the event I figured that 13 pounds per day would likely be enough to get a check at this event, based on what I saw in practice and what some of the other anglers were saying.  But as it turns out, I was way off on that prediction.  I brought in 12 pounds the first day of the tournament and found myself sitting in 94th place.  On day two, I did a little bit better and caught 13 pounds but it didn’t help my final standings.  I ended up with a 99th place finish at this tournament.

Even though I ended outside of the money, I still had some success with my techniques.  I caught most of my fish with a jig on a 7’5″ G. Loomis GL2 flipping stick matched with a 7:0:1 Shimano Core 100 and 20 lb Sunline Sniper Fluorocarbon.  I also caught a few fish with a Jackall SK-Pop Grande on a 6’8″ Shimano Crucial topwater rod  matched up with a 7:0:1 Shimano Chronarch reel and 30 lb Power Pro Super Slick line.

Gussy with a big fish he caught during practice.

Gussy with a big fish he caught during practice.

Obviously I’m disappointed with where I finished, but I am taking some positive notes from the experience.  I lost two big fish during the first day of the tournament, they just jumped off on me, so I ended up weighing a couple of small fish that day.  I’m not trying to give you the “woulda, coulda” routine, but I know that if I would have landed those two fish I would have been flirting with getting a check and a happy finish.  So I feel like I was on the right program with my technique but maybe needed to find a better location.  I’m taking the positive out of all of these events and hopefully next year when I’m faced with similar conditions I’ll be able to adjust a little more quickly.

There is one event left on the 2013 FLW Tour Majors schedule coming up in a couple weeks at Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga.  I’m looking forward to getting on the water on Chickamauga and trying to put together a solid game plan to end the season on a strong note.

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).