Lake Marion, Lakeville, MN
This was my first year participating in the annual Pan-O-Prag Bass Tournament, held on Lake Marion, in Lakeville, MN. Marion is a small lake located just South of the Twin Cities, right off 35W. Even though this lake gets a tremendous amount of both fishing pressure and recreation traffic, it still coughs up some big bags of fish every year. This was a team tournament and my partner was fellow Gopher Bassmaster, John Haynes.
I was able to get out and practice twice for this event. The first time John joined me and we did pretty good. Not a lot of fish, but the quality was there. I was catching them all on a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig, tipped with a 2.75″ YUM chunk. Most of them came shallow but they were all very scattered. Some came off docks, some off rocks, some in the weeds, and some weren’t even by anything at all. Leaving after the first practice day we were a bit frustrated but happy at the same time. It was one of those practices that you wish was actually the tournament, because we caught a winning limit of bass, except we didn’t really have a pattern for how we did it.
The second day of practice was a complete joke. It was the 4th of July and my Wife Bri was joining me. We arrived to a very long line that took over an hour to launch and then came to find that my engine wouldn’t start. Frustrated, I decided to fish for a while with my trolling motor but after a half hour I figured it would be best to load up and drop my boat off at the shop to get fixed. Although I did manage to catch one fish that was just shy of four pounds on a 4″ Bass Pro Shops Tube (Clear with Blake Flake), with a 1.8 oz. insert weight and a 4/0 Gamakatsu EWG hook..
At take off for the tournament, we drew an early let out and knew we would have a great shot at getting to some of the better areas that held some quality fish. We decided to hit a row of docks that had some nice vegetation around them and on my second flip, I caught a nice three pound largemouth. Being that this lake is not that big we were quickly surrounded by other boats and I decided to get out of there and go check another area before that was also tapped.
We got to our area and I instantly got bit, but when I set, there was nothing there. John lobbed his Lake Fork Ring Fry (Green Pumpkin) to the same area and instantly set the hook on what turned out to be another nice fish that went all of three pounds. A hundred yards down and I got bit again, and again added another three pounder to the livewell.
Knowing we were on to a great start, we decided to go back to the area where we first started and see if we can still get some bites. We arrived to see that there were still four boats working that area. I knew this would be an issue at this tournament. I usually don’t like fishing in crowds, but I knew it was going to be this way so we decided to stay. Talk about calling the right shot. My first cast and I caught another nice three pound fish. I came across a nice looking boat dock and even though I watched two other boats fish it, I decided to give it a try anyway. After working the dock all the way around I decided to skip my jig up underneath the start of the dock, right where it meets the land. My first skip missed the mark by two feet, but I instantly got a peck from a couple bluegills. Looking closer I noticed the traditional honeycombs, meaning that there was a bunch of bluegills spawning. Wherever there are spawning bluegills, there are hungry bass close by. I skipped my jig again, this time perfectly under the dock and out came another three pounder. Good call Douglas!
Sitting with five nice three pounders in the livewell, we just needed one more for a limit. (Pan-O-Prag is a six fish limit) We went about an hour without catching anything and with the sun starting to come out and the wind picking up we decided to go throw a frog and flip some plastics back in the slop. We wasted about an hour and a half back there. I know that past tournaments have been won out of the slop on this lake, but I’m going to have to spend more time back there to figure out the real good areas. Although when we were on our way out, I had the trolling motor on 100 and made a desperation cast with a Scum Frog (Black) and caught our limit fish. Not even a two pounder, but it was a limit.
We went back out to the main lake and was met with some real strong winds. I did manage to catch a couple more but none big enough to cull. We headed back to the weigh in and ended up with 16.26 pounds, good enough for a strong 6th place finish! Pretty sweet! First time fishing this event with limited practice and walked away with another much needed paycheck. It goes to show, when in doubt, go with your strength. Good things will happen more often than not.
I would also like to thank my buddy Ryan Brant for letting me borrow his Ranger Commanche for this tournament while my boat is in the shop. I owe you big time!