The 11th-annual “Castin’ For Cash” bass tournament took place last weekend from Lake Despair Lodge, with 57 teams taking part in the two-day tournament on the Despair chain of lakes that also includes Footprint and Jackfish.
This is a fun tournament for everyone because of the laid-back atmosphere at Lake Despair Lodge. All the cabins are full for the weekend and the fishing is pretty good.
It definitely has turned into an annual event for my girlfriend, August, and I, participating for our fifth time.
Last year we had a tough weekend and were not able to bring a limit to the scales either day. We did catch some nice fish, but ended up finishing one spot out of the money (in 16th place).
This time around, we learned from our mistakes last year and were fortunate to catch some big smallmouth bass en route to winning the tournament.
We spent two days practising for the event this year and decided to spend our time looking more in the weeds.
On most waters across Sunset Country, the hotter the weather,
the more smallmouths like to hang out in the weeds. With all the hot weather last week, our prediction was right.
We quickly found some nice fish in some large weed beds that we would exploit all weekend.
Another of the things we felt was important during practice was not to catch too many fish. While there are plenty of fish on this chain of lakes, there are not as many big ones as there are on Lake of the Woods and Rainy, so we spent a lot of time fishing baits with our hooks cut off—especially on topwater baits, where you have a good idea if a nice-sized bass has taken a run at your bait or not.
When we would see a fish or get a good strike, we would mark the spot on my Humminbird GPS and keep moving.
By the start of the tournament, we had found about 25 spots in two days where we had come across fish. The first day, we ran as many of these spots as we could and caught a number of nice fish.
The other thing we did in practice was avoid all of the places where we’ve caught fish before. We saved those spots for Day 2 of the tournament—and it paid off.
We fished several of the spots where we have caught good bass in previous years and caught the biggest bag of the tournament. We really felt that not catching these fish during the pre-fish was important.
When it came to catching fish during the tournament, we basically used three types of lures: topwater baits, fluke-style minnow baits, and small jigs. The new Rapala X-Rap Pop, which is being released this week at the ICAST Show in Las Vegas, put several big fish in the boat for us.
August caught a few on a soft jerkbait and we also caught some on small hair jigs and tubes—prototype tubes that Northland Fishing Tackle is planning to release later in the year.
The president of Northland Fishing Tackle, John Peterson, fished with my friend, Dean Howard, earlier in June on Rainy Lake and got a lesson in how deadly small tube jigs are.
Dean makes his own and it looks like Northland may start to manufacture some down the road.
Meanwhile, I’m very excited to head down to Rainy Lake to get ready for the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship next week. It is one of the highlights of the year for me—the tournament is top-notch and the lake is so fun to explore and fish.
Big thanks to Bill and Nell Godin for putting on another great tournament at Lake Despair. Everybody had a great time, and we’ll be back next year!