Smallmouth fishing in South Dakota

The past few weeks around home have been fun but we’re back on the road again this week for the eighth stop of the Bassmaster Elite Series season at Lake Oahe in Mobridge, South Dakota. I was able to do a lot of fishing over the past few weeks at home so that was good. I got to fish both the FFCBC and the KBI – the two events where I got my start in competitive fishing and even got in a day of blueberry picking. It’s been fun.

The tournament this week is one I’ve been looking forward to since the schedule was announced last year. Lake Oahe is a smallmouth lake and one that not many anglers in the field have a lot of experience at. I like fishing lakes like this because it really evens the playing field and you just never know what’s going to happen. Oahe is a massive body of water with a healthy population of smallmouths so it should be a good tournament. We finish off the season next week at the Mississippi River, out of Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

For our Elite Series events we only get three days to prefish before the tournament so it’s going to be challenging at Oahe to cover water and find the areas where the fish are. Even though it’s supposed to be a really good smallmouth lake there will definitely be areas that are better than others. We are not allowed to get any fishing information for our tournaments, except for publicly available knowledge that we can find on the internet so you watch a few YouTube videos and find what you can online and that’s what you get to learn from.

Jeff Gustafson saw this bison along the shoreline at Lake Oahe, South Dakota. He has been enjoying the sights while pre-fishing, before his next Bassmaster Elite tournament.

Oahe is located in central South Dakota, about an eight hour drive from northwestern Ontario. It’s beautiful country and a different part of the U.S. than I have visited in the past. My first day on the water was not that productive for bass but I did see two bison, so that was interesting. I had never seen a wild one before. They are big animals. I also saw several mule deer from the water, as well as a group of what I think were wild horses, just running together along the lake shore. On the way to and from the boat ramp you have to watch for pheasants on the road. They are everywhere. So a bunch of new wildlife that we don’t get to see at home.

Getting to travel and see all of the different parts of North America that I do is really one of the best parts of my job. In addition to all of the wildlife, the landscape is much different than what we have in Sunset Country. There are very few tress around the lake, instead there are rolling, grass covered hills that just seem endless. It really is beautiful. The downside is the wind seems to blow here every day and it’s big water so it makes getting around inconvenient.

Hopefully I can put a few more pieces of the puzzle together before the tournament starts on Thursday. My main goal is to have a solid tournament and lock up a spot in the 2023 Bassmaster Classic. The top 40 anglers in the Angler of the Year points standings qualify for the Classic following the tournament next week in Wisconsin. I’m currently in 18thplace so I’m in pretty good shape but there is pressure because I still need to catch some fish. You can follow all the action this week on the Bassmaster website,