Mixed bag usually wins KBI

When anglers hit the water this week for the 2013 edition of the Kenora Bass International, there will be several strategies being employed by teams to try and win the three-day event.
Lake of the Woods is a very large, diverse fishery and the options really are endless for teams as they try to find the area of the lake that’s holding the winning fish.
There are areas of clear water, dark water, shallow and deep. There also are two different species of bass—largemouths and smallmouths—which have different attitudes and habitat preferences.
Although the numbers of smallmouths in the lake are much greater, largemouths will grow larger in size. And in this tournament, it’s all about bringing in the five biggest fish that a team can each day of the tournament.
Weather obviously plays a big factor during the event, as well. High winds can affect where teams are able to travel and fish while temperatures can influence where fish are located and how they bite.
If the weather is hot and sunny, the general rule on Lake of the Woods is that more smallmouths will move really shallow and become active. Cloudy, cool weather, on the other hand, seems to be better for largemouths because they will be more likely to roam around rocks and weeds in open water.
Although the 2012 tournament was won with 15 smallmouth bass (five per day), history has proven that over the past 15 years, largemouth play a significant role in winning the KBI.
It only has been won three or four times in the past 15 years on just smallmouths.
My expectation is that the largemouth trend will continue in 2013. High water typically has one of the biggest positive influences on largemouths on Lake of the Woods, especially if the weather gets hot, which will help to push these fish under lily pads where anglers can catch them with weedless frogs.
There also are more and more anglers fishing for largemouths every year, which increases the likelihood that a team is going to catch them big.
One thing that anglers need to understand, however, is that largemouths are isolated to specific areas of Lake of the Woods, so as more anglers target them and catch them during the practice period leading up to the event, they can get tougher to reel in during the actual tournament.
Chris Savage and I rarely will catch a largemouth in practice—we’ll actually cut our hooks off and just feel for bites around our key areas because we don’t want to burn any big fish before the tournament starts.
Look for a team that finds a population of largemouths in a non-traditional area to make a run in this year’s KBI.
Smallmouths will win the tournament straight up if a team can find an area with big fish that is not seeing significant angler pressure. Last year’s champs, Aaron Weibe and Peter Tully, did this—fishing in the south-central part of the lake, a non-traditional area, and increased their catches each day of the event.
At the end of the tournament, it’s most likely going to be a team that can bring in mixed bags of smallmouths and largemouths that will win the tournament.
Being able to catch a kicker largemouth or two each day in the four- or five-pound range, then filling in the rest of your catch with three-pound smallmouths, likely will be the winning approach.
Catch the weigh-ins each day of the tournament down at the WhiteCap Pavilion, or watch on Shaw Community Channel 10, to find out who will employ the winning strategy for the 2013 KBI.