2011 Tournament Journal
Catch a Cure for Cancer
Starvation Reservoir – June 25th
Friday, June 24th (Practice)
I arrived at Starvation Reservoir on Friday morning and Todd and I hit the water at 6:00 AM. Weather was good with a slight wind which turned into a gale at about 10:30 in the morning…water temp was 62 degrees in the morning warming to 66 by afternoon. We had a pretty good idea of what the pattern would be so we began the day eliminating presentations and patterns we thought might have a chance to work. Always better to have two or three tricks in the bag going into a tournament…right? We fished an area by the boat ramp with no luck and we weren’t seeing any fish on the graph. Shortly thereafter, we moved above the bridge with limited success. The water has cleared up some on the Strawberry end but is still very dirty where the channel runs through the reservoir. If you want to know where exactly the channel is, this is a good time to go and see it. We did manage a couple of small walleye and one 13” perch in that area….but we were still not marking the numbers of fish we expected on the graph so we again moved…this time into Rabbit. We hit a couple of areas back in that area and again were not marking the numbers we were looking for. By that time it was already 10:00…so we motored up into Knights Hollow and did manage to find some good fish in that area. The weed growth in Knights Hollow is good…..we were finding weed beds down to 20 feet in some areas. The fish we found were shallow…but we did manage to boat over 30 walleye in a short amount of time…..and our total weight for the day was 10.5 lbs. (5 fish) We felt good going into the tournament and had a pattern we felt would hold since the weather was stable…so we stopped fishing for the day at 1:00. Just a side note…..we are using the Rapala digital scale this year with the Ardent Culling System and it is really an asset for nailing down patterns and finding the right size of fish. Now we know our weights exactly….and going by length alone is not a good practice. Several of the fish we measured and weighed were very different. It is possible that a 15 inch fish will weigh more than a 16 inch fish….we proved it.
Saturday, June 25th (Tournament)
We launched for the tournament at 6:00 AM…sun was already up and we headed back up into Knights Hollow. We caught a limit of fish rather quickly and began to upgrade around 8:30 AM. It seemed that by 10:00, the bite had shut completely off…and the wind was nowhere to be found. We were hoping it would come up and turn the bite back on…but it never did. It turned out to be an early morning bite and we were lucky that we found the fish we did when we did. We weighed in with 8.5 lbs…..the largest fish coming in at 3.5 lbs. Todd was using a chartreuse Bleeder Chain and leech when he caught that fish in 22 feet of water. This walleye proved to be the biggest for the tournament allowing Todd to claim the award and custom rod for biggest walleye. For the tournament we finished third….about 1.5 lbs out of first place. We anticipated sorting through several dozen fish….but we only managed around 15 fish total on Saturday, all ranging between 15 and 24 inches. All in all it was a fun tournament and always a great time to fish with Todd. We also managed to catch up with FOD and his girlfriend for a choice beverage, a good cigar, and some great conversation on Friday evening.
2010 TOURNAMENT JOURNAL
2010 Starvation Classic
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to fish the Starvation Classic again this year and I have to say that this is quickly becoming one of my favorite tournaments! Not only is walleye fishing at Starvation Reservoir absolutely great, but the anglers who fish the tournament are both great fisherman as well as just great people.
Todd Hall and I fished this tournament for our second time together. We began prefishing on the Thursday prior to the tournament and fought both cold front conditions as well as wind to find just a handful of fish. The bite was certainly "not on" but we knew we still had a day to figure out a pattern.
Friday proved to be as tough as Thursday because of the cold front. We again fought wind all day but did manage a few smaller walleye. We didn't catch a fish over 20 inches both days of pre-fishing which proved that the tournament could come down to ounces. We felt we knew where the fish were located, but getting the to bite was the challenge.
Plan: Fish the areas we knew the fish were holding in and be patient hoping that we would get a small feeding window at some point during the day.
Tip: Cold front walleye fishing can be a huge challenge. Lower barametric pressure can affect fish negatively, causing their air bladder to expand, push against their stomach, making them feel as though they do not need to feed. Larger fish have larger air bladders making them even more succeptible. The pressure is less intense as you move deeper...so to locate fish, look a little deeper and present your baits much more slowly.
We launched on Saturday to relatively nice conditions at 5:30 AM..with a 6:30 launch. We quickly moved into our first location in Saluratus and worked hard to just put a limit in the boat. None of the fish were big....but we did manage a limit by 10:30 and continued to upgrade in 1/4 inch increments throughout the rest of the day. After day 1, we sat in 3rd place with just under 12lbs of fish. The leader had 16lbs with second place coming it at 13lbs. Our largest fish Saturday was 23 inches.
We stuck with the same game plan on Sunday...fishing Saluratus in one small area which seemed to be holding active perch. We could actually see clouds of perch on the depth finder and noticed the walleye seemed to be laying on the bottom just below these clouds. We fished hard and had a small limit in the boat by 11:00...but had no big fish and the bite seemed to be off. At around 11:30, they began to feed and we began to upgrade...which included a nice 26" walleye to top off the day. We knew going in that we would not have the opportunity to pulll off a win but we wanted to at least jump one of the two teams in front of us. The larger fish proved to be the kicker which did indeed allow us to finish in 2nd place.
Starvation Walleye Classic Catch-A-Cure for Cancer - June 26 - Starvation Reservoir
This was my first year fishing the Catch A Cure for Cancer tournament and I must say that I will be fishing this annually moving forward. Jerry Schlief and his team raised over $10,000 for Camp Hobe and hearing some of the stories from the parents of children with cancer……this is something that must continue.
Air Temps: 80’s to 90’s
Wind: Light in the morning and gusty in the afternoons
Water Temp: Mid 60’s to low 70’s in certain areas
June 25th: Todd Hall and I began our morning at 5:30 AM on the water fishing the Saluratus end of the lake. We started by throwing slip bobbers in the weeds hoping to find some larger female fish moving through the shallow weeds. It seemed all that we could catch were small mouth bass so we moved down into the Knights Hollow area and did manage to pick up some smaller fish. We knew there would be fish there so we ran across the lake to the Strawberry end and again worked some of the shallow brush structure with slip bobbers. If I learned anything it was that the fish were not up shallow in these areas yet so we continued to concentrate a little deeper. Overall we had an average pre-fishing day and we learned the bigger fish would be tough to come by.
Game Plan: Go for an early limit of the smaller male walleye and upgrade as much as possible throughout the day. With a 6 fish basket, even 1 large fish would not overcome a nice limit. We knew the weights would be close and we just needed to spend time working through the fish we were on hoping for a bigger bite
June 26th: We launched at 5:00 AM for the 5:30 takeoff. The weather was perfect as the temps were in the low 60’s and not much wind to speak of. We worked the Knights Hollow end and managed to have a limit in the boat by 8:00 AM. At around 8:30, we got into a hot bite and were able to sort a few of our earlier fish. The school averaged around 13 to 15 inch fish but we were able to upgrade with a couple 17 inch fish. At 9:30 the bite completely shut off and we didn’t catch another fish for well over an hour. We decided to move to the other end of the lake and pull some of the rock ledges with cranks looking for a bigger fish. We fished these areas until 12:30 with nothing to show for it but small mouth. As the wind really came up, we moved into an area that is known for creating some smaller mud-lines and we managed to upgrade one smaller fish for a 17” fish. As we finished out the day, we moved back over to our original spot and pulled cranks over the weeds and caught one more upgrade. We weighed in at 2:45, one of the last groups to weigh, and I just knew from the crowd’s reaction to our basket of fish that we had to be in it.
Todd and I ended up winning the tournament with 9.15 lbs and proved to ourselves that a consistent basket was more important that finding one big fish. The winning tactic was pulling bottom bouncers in 12 to 18 feet of water over top of the emerging weeds. We did have to continue to clean our baits but overall it was an easy presentation to fish. We caught fish on everything from green and chartreuse to red…..pulling at .8 to 1.3 mph. We did have one little pocket that seemed to produce about half of the fish and our larger fish came out of that area.
The tournament was a fun one for both Todd and I to fish and we really enjoyed our time off the water meeting and catching up with everyone as much as we did our time on the water. We also donated our winnings back to the foundation so that they could be used to continue to support Camp Hobe. We really had a lot of fun and look forward to fishing the Starvation Classic together later this fall.
Big Mac Shut Up and Fish Tournament - May 22- 23, 2010 - Lake McConaughy
Nebraska Walleye Trail - I wish I could say that this was a great tournament for me but as most fisherman know, not all competitions go the way we expect and plan them to. I guess that is why we continue to fish.
Wednesday, May 19: This was my first day on the water and after a long day and night of traveling, I finally made it on the water around 8:30. As what seems to be typical this season, I arrived at the lake to find it raining hard with light winds out of the east and temperatures in the low 50's. I put in at Spillway Bay and stuck close to the dam area since I was fishing alone and the weather seemed unpredictable. As I worked the rocky points on the south side, I managed to catch several nice smallmouth but could not find a walleye. The water temperature was 48 degrees...very cold for mid May so I moved to the North sand points to see if I could find warmer water. It was a little warmer at 50 degrees but there were no small males on the sand flats at all. I continued to fish in the heavy rain until 2:00...and took the non-stop pumping of water by the bilge pump as a sign to get off the water.
On my way out I stopped up at Scuba Steve's Marine on the South side of the dam. My trim switch in my remote handle was going out and after a week of trying to get one in at all of the marine dealerships here in Salt Lake City, I called Steve and he said he would have one waiting when I arrived. Lo and behold, he had it when I pulled in on Wednesday and I just can't say enough about his service. Not only did he show me how to install it, but he also let me pull my boat into his garage to get it out of the rain so I could also change the prop. If you are ever in need of any marine work in Nebraska, I would highly recommend Steve! http://www.scubastevestoys.com/
TIP: When fishing in higher elevation locations, changing your boat prop to a lower ptich will help you increase your RPM's back to a normal ranger. On my boat for example, on the Missouri River I am able to get 5700 RPM's with a 23 inch pitch. Here in Utah, the most I can get with the same prop is 4800 RPM's. I went back to a 21 inch pitch at McConaughy and was able to get it back up to 5700 RPM's. Working the motor to hard is a problem and paying attention to prop size is paramount.
Thursday, May 20: My partner Carl arrived on Wednesday evening and he and I met up with the President of Hippy's Bleeder Chains, Jim Mayer, for a day on the water. We had breakfast and launched around 8:00 and worked up toward the west end of the lake. The water was warmer but we were still not managing to mark any fish. I wish I had known that morning that we had just worked the section of the lake that would eventually turn on and be the winning area on Saturday and Sunday, but because we were not marking fish we moved on. We eventually did mark some larger fish sitting in 28 to 34 feet of water on the south side and worked the area managing to catch a nice 6 lb walleye. Knowing the fish were there and they were larger, we moved on to search more water.
Fishing with Jim on Thursday was a real treat as he is always thinking and exploring ways to present lures in new ways. Carl even mentioned after the day was over how quickly the day seemed to pass and how having Jim in the boat was a nice treat. One of these days, I will get him to fish one of these tournaments as I know he would not only love the competition, but he would do well!
Friday, May 21: Carl and I worked the entire lake on Friday looking for active fish. The larger females we found on Thursday were still in the same area Friday so we focused on finding other fish, preferably smaller males, somewhere else in the lake. To our surprise, the only other place where we were locating any active fish was the Castle area which was being pounded by other teams. Usually on the Friday before a tournament we do very little fishing and more looking and this is the same plan we stuck to this time. We felt good going into the tournament even though it would be a tough bite with all the fronts moving through and that the fish we found were large enough that if we could manage two bites a day, we would be in it.
Saturday, May 22: Upon launch at 7:00, we motored up to our first spot...about mid lake on the south side and found that the fish still seemed to be there but were spread out. We worked the area hard and did manage one small walleye...and I personally missed two bites that I knew were going to cost me. As the morning progressed, the wind came up strong from the south making this area unfishable by 11:00 in the morning. I was running the trolling motor on 8 to 10 with the kicker motor pushing us forward and I was still unable to hold the boat in the 45 mph gusts. Needless to say I got wet sitting in the front of the boat and we knew that we needed to move so that we could actually fish effectively. We finally moved down toward the dam area and fished the rocks the rest of the day with no success. Not being able to slow down and work the area we caught fish pre-fishing hurt us and I knew we had just taken ourselves out of the competition.
Sunday, May 23: Knowing that we were not going to be able to work our way into the top 10, we chose to use Sunday as a learning day for future tournaments on this lake. We started in our first spot on the south side only to be blown off again early in the morning. I must say, the Nebraska winds always seem to blow and they can sure make it tough to fish any type of subtle live bait presentation. We then moved up to the west end only to find the entire field of anglers fishing the same small area. I am not exaggerating when I say that this area...maybe the size of three football fields had over 40 boats pulling cranks in it. The water was warmer here and the fish were sitting in the vegetation around 14 feet deep. We pulled #5 shad raps over the tops in 12 feet and weren't able to get any quick hits. This is where the tournament was won and the same technique used by almost all of the fisherman...but it was an early bite and we got there a little too late.
All in all it was a great learning tournament and I was able to spend some time exploring and understanding Lake McConaughy. I want to thank Kevin Jenney for his wonderful hospitality during the week and also Kevin Prauner for being a great source of info. I also must mention that we had a nice sized rattle snake try to get into the boat with us on Sunday which made me a bit nervous as I am not too friendly with snakes. I guess I am chalking this up to yet another humbling learning experience and moving forward with the season. Next up in Starvation in June.......one I am really looking forward to!
Minn Kota/Hummingbird Boysen Spring Challenge - May 1-2, 2010
April 27: First day of pre-fishing and boy did the wind decide to come up and blow. Having never fished the lake before, the wind and large waves made it tough to locate fish since you couldn't effectively fish over half of the lake. We did mark fish down by Poison Creek and up north across from the marina. We fished quickly just south of Tough Creek on the channel edge where the flat begins and picked up a 21" fish....so we moved on. We encountered at least 6 foot waves heading back to the Brannon Marina.....made for an interesting day.
April 28: Second day of prefishing and since we thought the fish were still in a post spawn pattern moving up the channel, we decided to fish the flat just outside of Badwater creek. We picked up two smaller male walleye within a few minutes and decided to again leave to look for more fish since we knew they were there. Even though we were picking them up on the flat edges, we were not marking many of them on the graph telling me they were working up out of the channel to feed and dropping back into deeper water. The wind blew again forcing us to get of the lake early making for a short practice day.
April 29: We woke up to very cold temperatures (28 degrees) and the snow beginning to fall. Since we had to cut our last two pre-fishing days a bit short, we knew we needed to get out on the lake so we launched in a blizzard. The weather was less than ideal but we did manage to run the lake and locate a few more fish telling us what we needed going into the tournament.
Game Plan: The fish were in a post spawn pattern, moving up the channel towards the north end of the lake. All of these fish were male and the larger female fish were suspended and would not eat. Part of this could have been due to the low presure fronts which moved through on a daily basis. We decided to fish the channel edge between the flats south of Tough Creek and Poison Creek and stay in 18 feet of water. We worked these areas as slow as we could (.3 to .7 MPH depending on the wind gusts) with a flasher jig and leech or a jig with a Hippy's Chain attached.
Tournament Day 1: We hit the first area of the channel edge and picked up a smaller fish almost immediately. For the next hour we didn't land a fish so we moved further down the edge to find more fish. We found them and weighed our first five fish by 11:30...all caught dragging a jig and leech. After weighing these fish, we moved back out there to catch two more allowing us to upgrade one smaller fish. We finished the day with 11.02 lbs and in 21st place. All fish were caught on a jig and leech as we could not get a bite on a minnow or crawler.
Tournament Day 2: We again hit the same channel edge just off of the flats south of Tough Creek and found fish again almost immediately. Most people were having trouble catching fish on day 2 since the barametric pressure continued to fall overnight but we keyed on the aggressive post spawn males and it paid off. We caught our first 5 by 10:30 and upgraded two before the end of the day giving us 10.88 lbs and moving us up a few places. Again, all of our fish were caught on a jig and leech or jig and minnow as it seemed the minnow bite was beginning to materialize midway through the day.
Tip: One thing we noticed about these fish was that they were very white in color. This means they are moving which causes their skin color to lighten. When a fish sits and doesn't move much, they get more gold in color. Paying attention to the color of the fish can be a huge key in knowing what they are doing and where they might be.
All in all Boysen was a very fun tournament and I feel good about getting into the fish having never even seen the lake before Wednesday. I also felt privileged to have fished next to Ron Seelhoff who has been a walleye fisherman I've followed since I was a very young man. He and his partner were class acts and a joy to watch and fish by. I also have to say that observing Chuck Craig and Doug Sholtz (2009 WWC Champions) was sure a pleasure. Again, two very nice guys and to say they fish hard is an understatement. I also wanted to thank Roger and Debbie Shaffer for their wonderful hospitality throughout the week and to my partner Todd Hall for putting up with me for that long.
2009 TOURNAMENT JOURNAL
Starvation Walleye Classic Tournament - Sept 12-13 - Duchesne, UT
Day 1: I fished this tournament with Todd Hall who is somewhat new to walleye fishing. This was only his second tournament. Saturday morning we started fishing above the bridge in the Strawberry arm of the lake and did not have good luck. We pulled cranks and Smile Blades until 11:00 am and caught only one walleye measuring just over 13". (I did catch a 27" brown pulling a gold Smiley which was fun but since it didn't help us we quickly released it and kept fishing for walleye.)
We started working up the lake around noon and hitting additional spots we knew held fish earlier in the season. As we worked these locations, we realized the bite was off and we would have to continue to look for fish to find a few active ones. At 1:30, we still had only one fish in the well so we moved into the Saluratus arm and finally found a few fish that would cooperate. With only a couple of hours left, we chose to sit on these fish and shoot for five good bites which we got. Luckily, as Todd started the engine with only 6 minutes to get back to the weigh in, I hooked into one last fish and was culling as we headed in. Close call, but we managed to get our limit and we weighed in with just over 6.5 lbs. Only 12 teams had limits and we finished the day in 8th place which we thought was pretty good since we managed to get a limit in the nick of time.
Day 2: We chose to go back to the active fish found on day one hoping to get an early limit. Our decision paid off and we had a limit in the boat by 8:30 am and were culling fish by 8:45! At 10:30 we picked up a 19" fish which was our largest for the day. However we culled through over 50 fish in the 15.5-16" range. The big fish weren't there.
Wind howled around 1:30 pm so we moved to a windy shoreline to pull cranks in the mudlines but the fish weren't moving in to feed. We finished the day with our 6-fish limit weighing in at 2 lbs which was enough to move us into a fourth place finish for the tournament. Since this was our first Starvation Walleye Classic, and we were fishing against skilled local anglers, we felt great about our standing. Our competitors have fished this lake for decades and finishing 4th amid this group is an honor. Many thanks to Duchesne city and the Starvation Classic organizers! We met some really great guys and it was a fun, well-organized tournament.
TIP We caught our fish on Bleeder Chains, Smile Blades, and plain hooks with 1/2 crawlers. Other guys who were catching fish near us were wondering what we were using because these three presentations proved to be the key for us in this tournament.
South Dakota Governor's Cup - July 18-19, 2009 - Lake Oahe, SD
July 9: With the tournament only a week away, I have begun preparations and planning. This week I've studied three maps: Google Earth (updated when the lake was low so the points and structure to 30 feet down are visible), Navonics Contour Maps, and the Lake Oahe map. Comparing the three is a key strategy because one map may show a hump or island while the other two maps may not. Fishing a spot on the spot is the goal! I have a binder filled with satellite and contour maps of each area to focus on. I am guessing the bite will be on flats, points, or gradual drop offs. I will look for the fish to suspend off of key structure and I am guessing the depths to be in the 5- to 25-foot range, keying most of the fish in 8-16 feet.
My teammate, Carl Heller, and I have only 3-days to fish the entire lake prior to the tournament so first we will concentrate on the Cheyenne area and then the Spring Creek area. Carl and I have decided on 47 places to hit prior to Friday afternoon when we willl then hit our identified "key spots" to make sure the fish are still there.
July 13: I spent over 14-hours on the road today driving from Salt Lake City, UT to Lake Oahe, SD. I enjoyed the stretch through Wyoming with the wildlife and beautiful green landscape. I also admired the Black Hills of SD. My Ford Explorer accommodates well my equipment and provides me a safe, comfortable ride.
July 14: We began our pre-tournament fishing on the water at 7:00 am and fished around the lower end of Lake Oahe. We live bait rigged all morning (with nothing to show for it) before we put the cranks on and started pulling from Chanty Creek west to Stoney Point. We had a good afternoon pulling cranks with several fish coming in over 19". Carl pulled in a nice 25" walleye on a red deep diving Reef Runner. The pattern seemed to be pulling over main lake points in 14' waters. As the Reef Runner came off of the edge into deeper water, the fish would slam it.
July 15: We pre-tournament fished today around the mouth of the Cheyenne as well as around Little Bend. First thing in the morning, we chose a spot holding a lot of baitfish and fish--it paid off. In this spot, Carl managed a 26.5" walleye on a live bait rig. Since we had several fish within minutes, we decided to move and not pressure them anymore. We worked our way up toward Charlie Creek and through this stretch pulled in a few fish on cranks. We ended the day pulling cranks again by Chanty Creek with little luck so the previous day's pattern wasn't working.
July 16: Carl and I fished only until 12:00 so as not to disturb the walleye to much. We repeated our Wednesday pattern to see if the fish were still there but only caught a couple. The fish had moved out of the area.
Saturday, July 17, Day 1: The tournament began at 7:00 am. Our boat was #15 so we launched early and headed up the lake from Spring Creek to the mouth of the Cheyenne--23 miles. As we pulled in, three rods went down and they were all small mouth with the largest being 19". We used live bait in the area and pulled out over 50 walleye in two hours. By 9:30, we had 6 walleye in the livewell, the smallest being 17.5". Around 10:00, we pulled up and went south to pull cranks for a larger fish. We pulled all afternoon and threw back two 19.5" walleye to keep these slots open. We never did find the big one we were looking for and had to settle for a day one weight of 11.91 lbs. This put us in the middle of the field.
Sunday, July 18, Day 2: Today we launched near the back of the pack and had to make the long run to the Cheyenne in three to four footers so it took almost an hour for us to get up there. We began fishing but soon realized the fish that had been there for the past three days had moved. At 9:30 am, we had no fish in the livewell so we moved across the lake to a point and flat holding some active fish. We put three in the live-well rather quickly but trying to maintain boat control in 3 footers was a challenge. We headed back to our first spot and put another three in the boat to give us our 6 fish to weigh. We then headed down the lake knowing it would take about two hours to get back in rough water. When we arrived at Spring Creek, we pulled Reef Runners to see if we could find a big one but again had no luck. We finished day two with 11.14 lbs.
Overall, it was a good tournament. We caught nice limits and just missed catching one of the larger fish we found pre-tournament fishing. We stuck to our plan which paid off in some regards, but we just weren't able to find the overs. The South Dakota Governor's Cup is the first and longest running walleye tournament in the country and we feel honored to have participated. Many thanks to Sean Brakss and the folks at Spring Creek Resort for an excellent fishing experience.