Sturgeon Bay Open cut short by strong winds

The 21st-annual Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament took place on Lake Michigan two weeks ago and it has become an annual trip for several Sunset Country anglers.
Nine teams from our area travelled down to Wisconsin for the tournament to sample some of the excellent smallmouth fishing that area has to offer.
We have world-class bass fishing here on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, as well as countless other waters, but this place is unique because of the size of the fish. Six-pound bass are common and seven-pounders are caught quite frequently.
We can catch huge numbers of fish in our lakes here, but we seldom see fish of this size so that’s the big draw.
The downside is that we are fishing on massive Lake Michigan and there are no islands to hide behind if the wind blows. So when it does get windy, we are faced with waves we do not see around here.
Over the past number of years, Canadian teams have fared very well at this event, including wins in 2008 by Bill Godin and Mike Salvador and 2010 by Troy Norman and Andrew Carlson.
This is not a small event, either. This year, the field consisted of 165 teams but for the past decade, they have filled the field with 200 teams. First place is a boat and $10,000 in cash.
Beyond the wins, Canadian teams also have littered the top 10 over the past five years.
Things were a little different this year, however, as the Canadians, as a whole, had it “handed to them,” with the highest finishing team being Terry McClymont and Darrin Bohonis in 12th place.
Most of us went down for the week to pre-fish and things were different from past years because of the late spring we have had. The temperatures down in Wisconsin had been well below normal in the weeks leading up to the event, so the water was about 10 degrees colder than it typically is.
The fishing still was pretty good for us in practice, but high winds moved into the area the day before the tournament and it really narrowed down the areas we could fish.
On Day 1, we were faced with 25 m.p.h. north winds which whipped right into Sturgeon Bay, where we blast off from. Six- to eight-foot waves were piled up, making running difficult.
Dave Bennett and I made it to where we wanted to fish—a small rock pile in Little Sturgeon Bay—but the five-pound smallmouths we were catching in practice apparently decided to move to the other side of the bay.
We stuck it out in the little area where we found the best fish in practice and came up way short with a six-fish limit that weighed 20.98 pounds.
Had we been on Lake of the Woods, this would have been a pretty good catch but not at this place. We were in 48th place at the end of Day 1.
We awoke on Day 2 to 30 m.p.h. north winds, with gusts up to 45 m.p.h. The tournament committee decided to cancel the second and final day of the tournament, leaving us without the chance to redeem ourselves.
This was the right decision, however, because as the day wore on, the wind speed increased even more so the lake was nasty. There was real potential for people to get into big trouble on this water.
So the leaders after Day 1, Green Bay anglers Ted Boehm and Jesse Van Laanen, who brought in a six-fish limit weighing 33.24 pounds, took home the first-place prize.
These guys actually are pretty good friends of mine and make an annual trip to the Kenora area every fall to deer hunt with me. I spoke with them after the tournament and they filled me in on their day.
After making a pass by their first spot and not catching any fish, they moved on to spot #2 and caught a five-pounder on their first cast. They were fishing in the middle of some heavy wind, though, so they decided to throw out their anchor to hold them on the spot.
They spent four hours catching big bass one after the other on their way to the winning catch, which also included the big bass of the tournament—a 6.60-pound smallmouth.
They caught all of their fish on small tube jigs.
Dave and I had a great week, we just didn’t get on the right fish during the tournament day. That’s the way it goes. We’ll be back to try again.
We did manage to catch a couple of beautiful brown trout during our pre-fishing, along with a few big walleyes. I even caught my first carp so overall we had a good time.
Although the bass season in Sunset Country is open right now, it is a catch-and-release only season until the end of the June.
Our first tournament locally is the Shoal Lake Bass Classic, which will take place the first weekend in July.
If you are looking to get into a fishing tournament before then, there are a couple of walleye events going on in the coming weeks—the Emo Walleye Classic this coming weekend and the Shaw Dryden Walleye Masters on June 18-19.

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