Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN
Today started the first tournament of the Denny’s Wednesday Nighters, held on the one and only, Lake Minnetonka. Also referred to as “Tonka”, this lake is known for it’s trophy largemouth bass and also has a few nice, but elusive schools of smallmouth bass. These are team format style tournaments and my partner for these series is my good friend Ryan Brant.
Going into this tournament we were very excited because we have really been getting dialed into the fishery and have some really good areas that have been holding both quality and quantity. We were real stoked when we drew boat number five and were pretty sure we could get to our areas without much competition. At take off we headed to a spot that has been holding some real nice fish and expected to put together a quick limit with a few nice ones and put ourselves into position to hog hunt the rest of the evening. Since these tournaments are only 4 1/2 hours long, time management is extremely important. As we pulled up Ryan was first to add a nice 3.5 pound largemouth to the livewell. I believe she was suckered on a homemade football jig. As time quickly started to pass, I was able to boat one that only went about 14 inches but still another keeper. We both missed a bunch of bites and just couldn’t get anymore bass to commit to our offerings so we opted to head out and start running some water. We arrived at an outside weedline that I had done so well on in practice and I started cranking the weedline with a Storm Wiggle Wart (Red Craw) with no success at all. Again we left disappointed. With a couple hours gone and a pathetic situation going on in the livewell, we decided to run some boat docks and try to scrap our way to a limit. Ryan quickly adds a two pounder into the well and I quickly follow. We decided to continue on and get our fifth keeper. A little way down and I set into a nice largemouth that was about 3.5 lbs, but it threw my bait at the boat. That was rough, but fortunately for me I was able to semi make up for it by boating our fifth keeper that went about 2 pounds.
We only had about an hour and a half to go and Ryan suggested a nice point not far from the row of docks that we were fishing. We pulled up and I quickly caught a good three pounder on a modified carolina rig. The next 3 out of 5 casts I was able to boat a fish, culling nicely two more times.
With about 45 minutes to go, and sitting with roughly 13 pounds, we decided to hit up my money spot in hopes of a nice kicker. We arrived and instantly we both missed a nice strike. With about twenty minutes left I got a nice bite and set into a great fish. I instantly yelled to Ryan for the net knowing this was the fish that would place us in the top three for sure and maybe even a chance at the top spot. The fish quickly surged to the top showing off her big ole’ belly, an easy 4 to 5 pound fish. After the initial leap, she surged back to the bottom as I played her to the boat. Ryan was eagerly waiting with the net as it started floating up from under the boat as if it was giving up the fight. Just as I was inches away from having her in netting position, she decided it was not over and again leaped from the water and shot straight back down just missing the net and that was it, the hook popped free from her mouth and left us with nothing but to watch her quickly swim out of sight. I swear to God I almost puked. After a few choice words and a toss of the fishing pole, we tried everything to get back on track and focus on trying to actually catch, not hook, but catch another one. We both did, but neither big enough to cull and time ran out. At weigh in we weighed 5 for 13.13 lbs. and finished in 12th place, three positions out of the money. The worst part was that we would have had second place easily had we boated that bass and would have won $700 dollars. Thats the bad news, but on the good side, we had a solid finish and are in good position for the team of the year race. The top two teams at the end of the season join the top eight from the Denny’s Super 30, and all ten teams compete for a first place prize of $10,000.
I’ve had my share of fish get off in a tournament but never in the last minutes and never that would have been that big of a deal breaker. I suppose I better get used to it because when I make it to the level that I am desperately trying to get to, I see those guys do it and instead of loosing a $700 dollar fish, they loose a $250,000 dollar fish. I couldn’t imagine.
Another good thing that came from this tournament was that we now have even more confidence that we’re on the right kind of fish to put ourselves in position of winning some good money. This weekend I will be heading up to the Whitefish Chain, in Cross Lake to start preparing for the next BASSMASTER Weekend Series event and than will be coming right home to celebrate my 28th birthday on June 30th, and than will start preparing for the Pan O’ Prag tournament on Lake Marion. Happy Bday to me!