High winds at Sturgeon Bay

The 25th-annual Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament took place over the weekend at Sturgeon Bay, Wis.—on Lake Michigan.
Some 171 teams participated in the event this year, which is a large community-run tournament much like the KBI and FFCBC that we have here in Sunset Country.
Although the ice went out early this year, lingering cold weather kept the water temperatures cooler than normal, so the fishing this year was different than most. I have fished this event almost every year since 2006 and it has become a regular on the schedule for me if I can make it.
There are few places on the planet where you can catch smallmouths as big as they get in the Sturgeon Bay area. Dave Bennett and I have fished the tournament for years and have caught several over seven pounds during out trips there.
We’ve also weighed in limits of fish topping a five-pound average. It’s unbelievable.
The one thing that can take the fun out of fishing here is if the wind blows. It is big, open water, much like being on the ocean, so it can get big and nasty.
Over the years, tournament days have been cancelled a couple of times because of high winds and that happened again this year. So we actually fished on Friday, then fished Day 2 on Sunday.
This year, I teamed up with California angler Cody Meyer, a friend from the FLW Tour bass tournament circuit that I’ve been fishing the past few years. Cody has become a good friend and is a great angler, so we were looking forward to fishing it.
We travelled up to Wisconsin after our tournament the week before down in Alabama, so there was a lot of time on the road for me last week.
We spent three days practising for the tournament and found the fishing to be much tougher than it normally is. The reason it is so good in May is that there are literally thousands of smallmouths from Green Bay on Lake Michigan that come into the smaller bays around Sturgeon Bay to spawn.
With the cooler water temperatures, there just weren’t as many fish up shallow as there usually are, so they became a lot tougher to find.
Having fished here so many times, I have a lot of memory spots that have produced in the past and we wasted a lot of our time checking those out while we probably should have been looking out in deeper water.
The first day of the tournament we did pretty good, bringing in a six-fish limit that weighed 24.49 pounds, which landed us in 14th spot.
The big catch of the day—and of the tournament—was brought in by eventual winners, Josh Keeney and John Berrens Jr., at 29.09 pounds.
They backed it up with 26.19 pounds on Day 2 to win a new boat and $10,000 cash.
Our second day was much tougher and we only managed to put 19.72 pounds in the boat. On most fisheries that is a good limit of fish but not at Sturgeon Bay, where four-pound plus smallmouths are plentiful.
We dropped to 32nd place but we were fortunate to hang in there and cash one of the last cheques, so at least we managed to get our entry fee back!
We caught most of our fish simply dragging tube jigs in eight-10 feet of water, over sand and gravel.
Several local teams travel down to this event every year and the top finishers among them this year were Dave Bennett and Mark Libitka of Kenora. They brought in the biggest catch on Day 2 at 28.82 pounds and jumped way up the leaderboard to finish fifth.
Meanwhile, I finally get some time at home for the next couple of weeks before I head back down south for the final two FLW Tour events of the season at Kentucky Lake and Lake Champlain in June.
I’m going to spend some time relaxing, fishing for fun, and preparing for these last two tournaments.
We have been accumulating points based on where we finish over the season, and I’m currently in third place with these two events left, so I have a good shot at the coveted Angler-of-the-Year title, which would be pretty awesome.
These are, by far, the two most important tournaments of my life so I’m going to be try to be as prepared as possible.