Canadian duo tops on Lake Michigan

In what has become a tradition for a number of Sunset Country bass anglers, seven teams from the region travelled to Sturgeon Bay, Wis. last week to take part in the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament on Lake Michigan.
Several Canadian teams have been very successful at this event in recent years—a 200-team tournament comparable to the Kenora Bass International and Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
This year, the team of Andrew Carlson and Troy Norman, from Emo and Fort Frances, won the tournament, taking home a brand new Ranger bass boat and $10,000.
Carlson, originally from Kenora, and Norman, originally from Dryden, brought in a solid catch of 26.29 pounds on Day 1 that landed them in sixth place.
Then on Day 2, they reeled in the largest catch of the tournament at 29.69 pounds. Their two-day total of 55.98 pounds put them 1.3 pounds ahead of the second-place team.
That six-fish limit on Day 2 included the biggest smallmouth bass ever weighed in during the 20-year history of the tournament (7.02 pounds).
The big bass on Day 2 earned them an extra $1,960 so they came back to Canada with some love for their bank accounts.
With the rest of the Canadian teams cheering them on as the final boat weighed in and came up short, Norman and Carlson erupted, cheering loudly and hugging each other.
They were very pumped up—and for good reason. They held off two local teams with a lot of history on the tournament waters.
Chris Cox and Jason Stangel finished second with a two-day total of 54.68 pounds (Cox is a professional tournament angler who used to fish the FLW Tour).
Third place went to Scott Ourada and John Allen, who are regular competitors at the FFCBC on Rainy Lake each July.
Other Canadian teams participating in the event included Norm and Dave Lindsay, who finished 14th. Dave Bennett and I finished 16th while Scott Dingwall and Doug Hartle finished 26th.
The top 40 teams finished in the money.
Bill Godin and Mike Salvador, the 2008 tournament champs, had a tough first day but rebounded on Day 2 to finish 47th. Bob Izumi and Derek Strub from southern Ontario, who finished third last year, ended up 55th this time around.
Terry McClymont, from Kenora, and Darrin Bohonis of Winnipeg were leading the tournament after Day 1 with 29.09 pounds, but only were able to bring two fish to the scale on the second day to finish 59th.
Ben Gustafson of Kenora and Bryan Gustafson from Fort Frances, fishing the tournament for the first time, finished in 81st position.
Dave Bennett and I spent 10 days fishing on Lake Michigan last week and had a great time. This may be the best smallmouth fishery in North America right now for big fish.
In a small one-day tournament the weekend before the Open, we took second place with a five-fish limit that weighed 28.91 pounds.
To put this in perspective, that is a 5.78-pound average! We had a seven-pounder that won big bass to go along with four other fish over five pounds.
Godin and Salvador finished third in this tournament with 28.83 pounds.
The fishing down there is different than the conditions we face on Sunset Country waters because Lake Michigan is so big. It’s like fishing on the ocean because there are no islands.
If the wind blows, which it did during a number of our practice days, it is common to see five- and six-foot waves.
The structure is different than our Canadian Shield lakes as well. Instead of obvious pieces of structure with sharp drop-offs, the fish relate to huge flats in two-10 feet of water.
The bottom is predominately sand, but there are small boulder fields on these flats that hold fish. One- or two-foot changes in depth is all it takes to hold smallmouths.
The water is very clear because of the presence of zebra mussels, so anglers need to keep their eyes peeled for slight changes in the bottom.
We caught fish on a number of baits, including spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and jigs tipped with a variety of soft plastics in black and brown that do a good job imitating gobies—an invasive baitfish that is the main forage of these giant smallmouths.
The best story I heard came from the tournament winners. When Troy hooked the big fish on Day 2, it came up by the boat and tried to jump.
Andrew saw the size of the fish, dropped his rod, and raced for the net. They got the fish in the boat and Troy admitted on stage after that they were both screaming like girls.
Andrew then turned around to pick up his fishing rod and it was nowhere to be found. I guess when he saw the fish, he threw his rod in lake and didn’t even realize it.
They were able to recover the fishing rod a short time later.
Congratulations, guys!
You can check out the full list of tournament results at www.sbobt.org

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