Sturgeon Bay bass tourney a real thrill

This past weekend, four teams from our region travelled to Sturgeon Bay, Wis. for a big smallmouth bass tournament on Lake Michigan—the Sturgeon Bay Open.
This is an extremely competitive event, much like the FFCBC and KBI, with a 200-boat field.
The fishing is a little different from what we are used to up here on our Canadian Shield waters, though. There are no islands within close proximity to Sturgeon Bay, so it is almost like fishing on the ocean—really big water.
There are large flats along the shorelines down there and the key is to find rock patches and sand patches on these flats. The water is extremely clear, so long casts to these locations are key.
Dave Bennett and I went down to pre-fish for five days before the tournament. It was our third time attending this event, so we have learned where to look and what to look for on the water.
We had a few 100-plus fish days in practise—and Dave caught one that was more than six pounds one evening.
The reason the fishing is so good right now is that there are fish coming from up to 50 miles away to spawn in some of the shallow bays where the tournament was being held.
There were not many bass spawning yet, but they were really close to areas where they will begin spawning in the next week or two.
We caught fish on a variety of presentations and baits on Lake Michigan last week. We found the key was to fish baits that we could keep near the bottom and imitate gobies.
Gobies are an invasive species to the Great Lakes, a small fish like a sculpin, that is a bottom feeder. Smallmouths really have taken a liking to them and eat them up.
Gobies are dark in colour, so dark brown and black tubes were our best bait. We also caught fish drop-shotting goby-imitating plastics and caught a few on spinnerbaits and jerkbaits when it got windy.
Like I said, the water is super clear, so long casts and light line were crucial.
We were not able to catch one fish that we saw swimming along. If they saw the boat, they swam the other way.
Dave and I ended up taking eighth place in the tournament and were very happy. We had nearly a 4.5-pound average over the two-day event on 12 fish, so it’s tough to complain about that.
Dave and Norm Lindsay, multiple winners at the FFCBC, took fifth (their third top-five in the last three years) while Billy Godin and Mike Salvador won the tournament.
It was pretty awesome that they pulled it off. Not only did they smoke the rest of the field, they smashed the old tournament record by four pounds!
For winning, they took home a brand new Ranger Z19 bass boat with a 225 Mercury motor and $10,000 in cash. Pretty sweet prize if you ask me!
Terry McClymont from Kenora and Darrin Bohonis of Winnipeg fished together, as well, and had a very respectable 23rd-place finish.
All of us are going back next year. The only downside to fishing on Lake Michigan is when it gets windy. Six-eight foot waves can form in no time.
We do not see anything like it up here, but it is fun to fish different places and it is a good warm-up for all the big tournaments coming up in Northwestern Ontario this summer.

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