My BASS fishing club held our second event of the 2011 season at Beaver Dam Lake in Wisconsin. I was excited to fish this event, as it was here that I fished and won my first event ever with Lakes Area Bassmasters. I knew that I wanted to target smallies, so I hoped to find a few productive spots in the main lake on Friday night before the tournament commenced on Saturday.
On Friday, my dad and I cruised around the lake, hitting a few obvious spots that looked good on a map and in person. Towards the end of the night, I suggested that we go to our spot from a few years ago to see if there were any fish in the area. It was probably my 3rd cast in the area and I hooked into a smallmouth that was easily 2.5 pounds. I quickly unhooked the fish and we decided that this was our starting point tomorrow. We spent a little more time fishing a largemouth area, with only small runts to give us some action, and decided to head to the motel.
On tournament day we headed straight to our spot. I was starting with a Rapala X-Rap on baitcasting gear with 30 pound braid main line and a 5 foot, 15 pound fluorocarbon leader. Immediately I started to catch fish. The culling bill in Wisconsin didn't pass soon enough, so I unfortunately had to make the decision to throw back 3 fish that were between 14- 14.5 inches. I threw these fish back before 6:30am, and I was confident that I would catch larger fish to justify my actions.
As the day progressed, I realized that I needed to start keeping 14 inch fish as I was struggling. The weather was terrible, with fits of wind and downpours. Eventually, we found a small channel that led to some home owner docks off the main lake. In this area, the water temperature was a perfect 62 degrees, which surprised us because the main lake was mid 50's. In this area, we found a handful of bedding largemouth. After both dad and I boated a keeper largemouth, I looked to my right and I saw a tail of a largemouth sticking out of the water. The tail was fanned out and about the size of my hand. After further investigation and my calling of "dibs", we saw that it was real close to a 5 pound largemouth. I spent about an hour trying to catch this fish. I threw so many baits, but couldn't entice this momma to bite. It was truly frustrating, but fun to see such a nice fish in shallow, clear water.
After sight fishing, we ran back to our starting spot and I ended up keeping a 14 inch smallie. Throughout the day, I had many follows from larger fish that I would spot near the boat, but I just couldn't trigger them to bite. Also, I caught a bunch of 13 inch fish that just wouldn't measure. At the weigh in, the largest bag was in the 10 pound range, with a 9 pound bag for second. After that, it dropped down and there were a lot of guys battling for position. I believe 3rd place was under 6 pounds, and I ended in 8th place with 3 pounds, 10 ounces. As you can see, if I would have kept those smaller fish from the beginning, I may have had a chance to place.
I am looking forward to my upcoming tournament with Tom Harkman from Tonka Tackle. We are competing in a Fisher's of Men event on the Clearwater chain of lakes. Tom had a chance to pre-fish last weekend, so hopefully we can put together a solid gameplan for Saturday's event. Check back next week to see how we finished.