Stop #2 Cabelas National Walleye Tour June 14th and 15th.
I was really excited when I saw this tournament on the schedule, after all it’s the Great Lakes and I love everything about the challenge of Great Lakes Walleyes.
I had done some research prior to this event, more than normal actually. This was due to the fact that none of us had ever fished a tourney here before. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning, a clean slate, no history simply pre fishing at its purest form. Due to a cold spring it seemed like everything was behind a little bit. Many of the past tournaments this time of year made mention of the Charity Islands and other far away areas that were basically summer homes for the fish that spawned in Saginaw Bay.
My first day of practice I headed out to the charity island area, to get a lay of the land. My first impression was sterile and cold. We ended up catching 1 or 2 fish that day pulling Berkley Flicker Minnows over the series of humps on the north side of the Islands.
As practice progressed it was very obvious that there was millions of smaller fish to be had in the inner bay. 60 to 100 fish days were pretty easy pulling Flicker Shads, or spinners. The problem with all these bites was the fact that they were all 2 to 3 lbers. This quickly made me leave the inner bay, and search for tourney winning fish.
These adventures included 1 to 1.5 hr drives each morning, and started a cycle of 5 hr sleeps and long days on the water. 5 days prior to the tourney I launched in the Port Austin area. From there my pre fish partner Aron and I adventured further, all the way around the thumb pushing 70 to 90 miles away from take off. The first time in the area we eventually found success. I was pulling #11 and #9 Flicker Minnows along a steep breakline when we had our first nibble. A Double! As Aron reeled his in slow and steady I couldn’t help but think this was a 5 to 7lb. Walleye. I was also fighting the exact same caliber fish. When his fish finally came to the boat, I exclaimed dang it , it’s a Lake trout. The fish was very dark, and almost foreign looking. A couple seconds later the fish came off and I was left reeling in the 2nd part of our double. When my fish came to the boat, I looked and saw another Lake trout…..untill the fish got with 3 ft. of the boat, I finally realized it was one of the coolest 6 lb. Walleyes I had ever seen. The reason I didn’t recognize Aron’s fish as a Walleye was the fact that these fish have evolved to be completely dark, almost all the way around, literally the only thing white was a 1 inch strip on their belly’s. Truly a special fish.
8 hrs later we had landed 5 fish, all in the 4 to 6 lb range and had a bench mark for a quality area. 2 days before the tourney we returned to this area, and the water temp had dropped from 56 down to 48 degrees. Our trolling pass was a flop…. no bites. I had a sense of disappointment , but instead of tucking tail and heading south I decided to put my brain to work. I asked myself, what do Walleyes like to bite in 40 something degree water….. Rattle baits! I snapped on a Rattle Bait and we proceeded to cast. within 15 mins I had one pick it up off the bottom, I set the hook on a nice sized fish, and it was off. “Man that felt like a Walleye” I told Aron. 15 mins later I felt the most wonderful “tick” in the world. As I set the hook, I said “That’s a Walleye” and proceeded to reel in a 6lber! next cast… 5Lber. Let the Anticipation begin, we are onto something!
I was able to find 3 solid areas that were all holding fish, some of them we caught fish and others I simply used my Lowrance SideScan and confirmed the fish were sitting on the rock to sand transition. This was a great feeling, I was on tourney winning fish the only problem, was they were 70 plus miles from take off!
I had Jeff Sass as a Co and we were ready for an adventure. Jeff was from the Green Bay area, and had casted a rattle bait a lot. The weather report called for 4 plus ft. waves with wind calming down in the afternoon. I had made the decision that I didn’t care if it took me 3 hrs. to get to spot A I was going.
The morning started off steady, Jeff and I had 3 or 4 fish in the box in the first hour. I made am move into the rock to sand transition area I had left alone where the back to back fish and happened in practice. We proceeded to upgrade a couple fish and catch some dandies.
After catching a solid bag, I made the decision to give ourselves plenty of time to get back, and to also save some bites for day 2 on that spot. I was excited knowing I hadn’t even touched my 2nd spot yet.
22.43 lbs. good for 7th place after day 1. Jeff and I were only 2 pounds out of the lead.
I got Paired with my travel partner Chris, and the plan was simple. Go back to the primary area, whack 25lbs and cash a sweet check!
The water had warmed in the area, and day 2 ended up being a Drum catching festival for the ages! we must’ve caught 20 each. That Primary area only gave us 3 Walleye in the 3 lb. range. I had let my partner Dustin start on my secondary area with an agreement that he would get 5 quality fish off of it then leave it alone for me as an afternoon emergency spot. As I started my pass on spot B it was evident that it was all Drum here also.
We scrambled back towards the launch and managed to put one more small fish in the box to salvage 10lbs on day 2. This was an absolute let down, I was on tournament winning fish and failed to make the decisions to capitalize on the opportunity.
As I watched Dustin weigh in, It was bitter sweet he had 21.3 lbs. which he got in an hour on what I though should of been my secondary spot. I was super happy for him, but it was tough pill to swallow after the start I had.
I ended up in 17th Place which was a decent check, but not what I wanted at all. Brett King took the title with his partner Joe Okada a couple ounces behind. I have always looked up to these 2 Great Lakes Hammers, and I can only dream to be hoisting a trophy on a Great Lakes tourney some day.