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).

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).

Lewis Smith Lake FLW Tour Recap

Pro-Staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Gussy with a nice spotted bass caught on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait in practice.

Gussy with a nice spotted bass caught on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait in practice.

The second FLW Tour event of the season took place this past weekend at Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake. 175 pro anglers participated in this event and in the end it was California angler Brent Ehrler who took home the $125,000 first place prize.  I had a great experience at this event and ended up with a 71st place finish. Though I would have liked to have finished higher, I was happy that I ended up squeaking into the money (the top 79 places were paid). At some of these events, when you have to improvise your game plan in the moment, salvaging a decent finish can be considered a success. That’s how I feel about this one.

Practice

During practice I got on a pretty good bite–catching my fish on suspending jerkbaits like the Jackall Squad Minnow 115 and the Jackall DD Squirrel 79. The water temperatures were 47-50 degrees, which just screamed “jerkbait” to me. During the practice period the weather was conducive to fishing jerkbaits because it was overcast and there was some wind. I also looked shallow for largemouths and deeper for schools of spotted bass and though I did catch some of each I felt like the jerkbait program was my best strategy for a strong finish.

The Tournament

When the event started, the weather changed–it became really bright and the wind died. However, I managed to catch a decent limit the first day that landed me in the 80th spot. I caught all my fish on the jerkbaits but I only caught six keeper fish all day. I knew something wasn’t right, because during practice I was getting 12-15 fish per day. On day two, when things got off to a slow start, I started thinking about what I could do differently to trigger some fish to bite. I moved my boat out to deeper water and kept my eyes on my Humminbird depth finder, watching for fish. Surprisingly I marked several fish immediately. After trying several baits I ended up getting some bites on ice fishing jigs that are popular during the winter months with anglers in the north. For the rest of the day I was able to use a Northland Puppet Minnow and Rapala Jigging Shad Rap to catch my fish. I only brought a few baits down with me so I was a little bit limited on color options. I fished these baits vertically under the front of my boat the rest of the day and watched them on my depth finder the entire time. I was able to mark the fish, watch my lure and watch how fish interacted with the lure as I fished it. Over the course of the day I probably had over 100 spotted bass chase my lure that did not bite. I really wish I would have gotten onto this bite in practice so that I could have fine-tuned the color that the fish wanted and found more spots that were holding fish.

In the end, I was really happy that I figured out a way to put some fish in the boat on a tougher day two. There were a lot of good anglers that were not able to put a limit in the boat that day.

I get a few weeks off now before the next FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas. In the meantime I’m going to be headed home to take in a couple of weeks of ice fishing up in Ontario’s Sunset Country. Late March is the best time of the year to catch the biggest walleyes, lake trout and pike so I’m looking forward to pulling some giant fish through the ice!

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).

Gussy with a big striper that fell for a jerkbait during practice.  "These things fight so hard!"

Gussy with a big striper that fell for a jerkbait during practice. “These things fight so hard!”