Second-place finish at Sturgeon Bay

The 24th-annual Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament took place this past weekend in eastern Wisconsin on Lake Michigan and it was well-attended by Sunset Country anglers.
A big event much like the KBI and FFCBC, the Sturgeon Bay Open attracts teams from across the U.S. Midwest and Canada because of the monster smallmouth bass that are caught there each May.
With the exception of last year, when I missed it because of an FLW event scheduled on the same weekend, Kenora angler Dave Bennett and I have fished the Open together since 2006.
And although we’ve had some good finishes over the years, we had never been that close to actually winning the tournament until this year.
After spending a week pre-fishing, we had a pretty good idea of the areas where we should spend our time during the tournament.
Because of the late winter across North America, water temperatures were much colder than they’ve been in the past. And usually the fish are spread out in all of the bays that we fish in the Sturgeon Bay area, but this year that was not the case.
Instead, there would be large groups of fish in sections of these bays where the water was slightly warmer (usually wherever the wind was blowing into).
Each day, as the wind would change, so would the location of the fish. As such, the challenge each day was figuring out where the fish were.
On Day 1, we landed on a mega school around 9:30 a.m. and fished the same small area for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, our best six fish were the biggest we had ever caught at this event—weighing 33.42 pounds!
This limit included one smallmouth that was a hair under seven pounds while the rest were over five pounds apiece. Pretty incredible fish!
We went out on Day 2 in fourth place and felt like we had a good shot to win the tournament. Weather conditions were nice, with bright sun and light winds.
Once we started fishing, the wind died off completely, which made fishing super tough. The water is very clear there because of the zebra mussel infestation so when it’s calm, those fish become very hard to catch.
They can see you from too far away and are easily spooked.
Our hot spot from Day 1 dried up, so we had to start over on Day 2 to try and find some fish. After a short time, it was evident that the fishing was going to be much more challenging for everybody, so we ran to as many spots that were productive throughout the week as we could.
Slowly, we were able to put some nice fish in the livewell—the highlight being a six-pounder that swam in front of the boat and ate the tube jig I dropped in front of it.
Our six-fish limit on Day 2 came in at 29.52 pounds. That meant our two-day total of 62.95 pounds for 12 bass—more than a five-pound average per fish—landed us in second place.
Although winning the tournament would have been nice, we were ecstatic with the great finish in this 155-boat field.
The tournament winners—local anglers Scott Ourada and John Allen—are good friends of ours and have fished the KBI and FFCBC many times over the years. They also had fished the Sturgeon Bay Open all 24 years the event has taken place so they were due.
They took home a brand new bass boat, motor, and trailer, along with $7,000 in cash. A pretty nice first-place prize!
This week, I’m back on the road again—only this time with my wife, August. We’re headed out to British Columbia for a few days to fish for salmon and sturgeon, as well as film a couple of episodes of “Fishing with Gussy.”
It should be fun!