Strong Canadian flavour at Sturgeon Bay

A strong contingent of Canadian teams travelled south last week to fish the annual Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament on Lake Michigan.
Comparable to the Shaw Kenora Bass International and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, this event hosts a large field of between 150 and 200 teams on one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in North America.
The reason that anglers from Sunset Country travel for 12 hours to bass fish is the size of the fish in this Great Lake is off the charts. Five- and six-pound fish are common while four-pounders are average.
Consider this: a four-pound average would walk away with any of the big tournaments in our area (in fact, it’s never been done at the SKBI or the FFCBC). At the Sturgeon Bay Open, however, a four-pound average landed you in 74th place!
There is a trade-off—fishing on big water without any islands for protection so when the wind blows, the waves get big!
I travelled down to fish with Dave Bennett. This was our seventh year fishing this event and we always spend a week down there preparing for the tournament.
Our biggest fish of the week was a 6.54-pound monster that I caught in two feet of water a few days before the tournament.
We had our best practice ever for this tournament, and had really high expectations going into the weekend.
When the tournament started Friday morning, Dave and I were faced with a situation I have never experienced before. We were about a mile out from the take-off when my motor lost power. We stopped and trimmed up the motor to find that we had lost the prop.
Further inspection revealed that the prop shaft actually broke.
So we were in big trouble. We had planned to run about 30 miles north, so that was out of the question.
The good news here is that there is a lot of fish at this place. We used the trolling motor and fished an area close to town for a few hours in the morning and were able to put together a decent limit.
I run a Mercury motor on my boat and I can’t say how confident I am in these motors. They are the most popular motor across North America for a reason—because they are the most reliable.
Mercury, which is based in Wisconsin, came through huge for us and had a new lower unit and prop shipped up to us by noon on Day 1 of the tournament. We loaded the boat on the trailer, got the motor fixed, and were back on the water by 1:30 p.m. all set to run again.
If I had been running another motor, this would not have happened.
By this time, we were not able to make the big run to where we had planned to fish, but we were able to get out a few miles and upgraded some of our fish. We ended up with six fish for 25.74 pounds to finish the day in 67th place.
The leaders after Day 1 were Matt Rydberg from Sioux Narrows, who was teamed up with Minnesota angler Mark Courts. They had six fish for 31.16 pounds.
Things went perfect for us on Day 2. We were able to get to where we wanted to fish and ended up catching a monster limit that came in at 31.05 pounds to finish the event in ninth place overall.
Another Canadian team ended up winning the tournament. Peterborough anglers Chris and Cory Johnston brought in big catches two days in a row for a two-day total of 61.29 pounds.
It was pretty remarkable, really. This was their first time fishing this water and they showed up and won a small tournament the weekend before the Open and then followed it up with a win in the big tournament.
Hats off to these guys. They won a new boat and $10,000.
Rydberg and Courts ended up second, winning $11,000. Andrew Carlson and Troy Norman of Fort Frances were the other local team in the top 10 with an eighth-place finish.
Full results from the tournament can be viewed at