Smallmouths win on Shoal Lake

The Sunset Country bass tournament circuit got underway last weekend as 73 teams took part in the 19th-annual Shoal Lake Big Bass Classic.
The two-day tournament is a favourite of many area anglers because of the great bass fishing the lake offers.
I’ve said it before that I truly believe it is the best bass fishery we have in Northwestern Ontario as far as numbers of fish.
Taking home first place on the weekend—and the $12,000 top prize—was the husband-and-wife team of Ted and Louise Stewner from Winnipeg.
The Stewners brought in 15.98 pounds on Day 1 to land them in sixth place. Then on Day 2, they upgraded their catch to 17.40 pounds to give them a two-day total of 33.38 pounds.
Their catch consisted entirely of smallmouth bass.
Chris Savage and I ended up taking second place on the weekend with a two-day total of 33.09 pounds. We actually were leading after Day 1 with 16.73 pounds but a Day 2 catch of 16.36 pounds left us a little bit short.
When you end up that close, you always second guess the choices you made over the weekend. But at the end of the day, second place is awesome.
Our catch consisted entirely of smallmouths, as well.
Third place went to the Winnipeg team of Scott Cook and Jerry Millar, who brought in the largest catch of the tournament on Day 2 to vault from 45th spot to third.
After managing just 13.50 pounds on Day 1, their Day 2 catch of 18.95 pounds included the largest bass of the tournament—a 4.61-pound largemouth.
Fourth place went to Devlin residents Bill Godin and Grant Swire while former champs Joe Pritchett and Hiram Archibald finished fifth.
The interesting thing for Chris and I this past weekend was the fact we could not catch any good largemouths at all, both during practice and the actual event.
Last year we won the tournament with largemouths, so we had good reason to spend a significant amount of time looking for them.
Alas, the combination of the low water this year and the weather apparently had them doing something different. Largemouths typically like shallow, weedy water at this time of year and the problem was a lot of the shallow bays that they inhabit were almost too shallow.
We started both days of the tournament largemouth fishing for the first two hours and caught only a small one each day.
Looking back, after we had such a good first day, we should have just focused all our efforts on the smallmouths again, but that is the game you play when you fish for largemouths.
If you get a big one, you are a hero, so we went for it and it stung us a little bit.
When we did decide to go after smallmouths, we caught quite a few fish on a variety of baits and techniques. We predominately used a #10 Rapala X-Rap to cover water and find fish and then once we located some, we would cast light jigs tipped with pearl Northland Slurpies Grubs.
All the fish we were catching were puking up three- to four-inch smelt minnows, so that tipped us off to the forage the fish were feeding on.
The tournament trail continues this weekend at Lake Despair, north of Devlin, with the 10-annual “Castin’ for Cash” taking place Friday and Saturday (July 9-10).
The weigh-ins at 4 p.m. both days at Lake Despair Lodge.

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