Pokegama Lake, Grand Rapids, MN
Pokegama is a great lake that is quickly becoming one of my favorite bodies of water to fish. There’s a lot of different reasons for this, but mostly I love the diversity that it offers us tournament anglers. With that though, comes choices to make, these choices are either hit or miss. The lake itself has a great abundance of big smallmouth bass, it also has an above average population of largemouth bass. The chain of lakes to the north connect with the upper Mississippi River. There you will find largemouth’s that are probably a little bigger in average size but a little harder to locate due to the abundance of rice, cane, reeds and lily pads. Sometimes I hear people say that to find bass up in the river it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. I agree and disagree with this philosophy because it seems that if you know what type of environment the big bass are holding in, you can find them pretty easily.
About two weeks before this tournament I had the opportunity to head up to Pokegama with my buddy Rich Lindgren, and do nothing but fish the river. I had a lot of confidence in Pokegama, but was clueless in the river, so this gave me a good opportunity to get dialed in, helping me to decide what pattern I was going to attack once tournament day rolled around. During the practice day we were able to locate good fish simply by employing a strong power fish style. Rich caught the nicest one, a easy four pounder, by flippin’ a texas rigged Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (Black and Blue). Leaving that practice I felt pretty confident in how to catch them in the river and figured that I could get a few key bites during the tournament. My game plan was to fish the lake a couple hours in the morning on tournament day, catch a quick 12 to 13 pound sack of smallies, and then head up into the river and work on those few BIG bites, and make some huge culls. I knew this lake would take close to 20 pounds, if not more to win, and thought that would give me the best shot at doing just that.
The day before the tourney I headed up with my wife Bri, and met up with another good buddy Corey Brant, to practice on the lake. Right away in the morning I caught a nice three pound smallmouth on a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig, tipped with a 2.75″ YUM chunk. I continued to check out some of my better smallie areas and Corey quickly caught another nice one in the three to four pound range. After confirming that indeed my smallies were right where they were supposed to be, we decided to check some weedlines and shallow water for largemouths. Just a few casts and I caught a nice 3 pound largemouth, then Core Dog hooked into a nice one, but was able to shake it free. We continued that pattern for an hour or so and pulled on numerous nice largemouths along the way.
With only a few hours to go I wanted to check one more area that I thought would hold good smallmouths. Did it ever. Corey caught a nice one going every bit of 4.5 pounds. Hmmm. Things to think about. Figuring the general rule that where there is one nice smallmouth bass, there is a lot more, and the fact that I had good sized largemouths going, started leaning me in the direction of staying on the lake, and avoid killing time running up the river. I figured I could weigh at least 15 to 16 pounds staying on the lake, with the possibility to weigh in 18 to 19 pounds. I figured I would let tomorrow dictate what I was to do. Fish for the moment right? Either way, I got off the water with some real good confidence of what tomorrow was to bring.
At the launch the next morning I came to find that my trim was not working. Making it real hard to get on plane. This was ok. I could still fish, I just threw any thought of running up the river out of the equation. The lake it is. I was lucky enough to draw boat number five and had an early start to my morning. I decided to actually run to my shallow largemouths first thing and leave my smallies until a little later. I generally would not do so a foolish thing but I had seen anglers go through my smallie areas all of practice and not catch anything. That gave me confidence that I had the right set up for the job. After ten minutes or so with no bite in the shallows, I decided to run to another laremouth spot that was also very close to one of my better smallmouth areas. My first cast and I managed to catch a two pound largemouth on a Amp Lures 6″ Mimi Worm. After a few more casts not resulting in anything but a couple small largemouths that wouldn’t bump anyway, I decided to go after my smallmouths. There I managed to catch what ended up being my biggest, weighing over 3.5 pounds. I also managed to catch two more in the two pound range before heading out. I saw a boat dock nearby and decided to give it a try, there I was able to fill my limit with a tiny little 12″ largemouth. Nothing spectacular. but a limit’s a limit! I decided to run to another smallie spot, where I ended up catching another good one that was right around three pounds. The weird thing, is that after catching one good smallie, I wouldn’t catch another one. Usually they hang out in packs and catching one can excite all of them into biting. Not so this time, the area would just shut down.
I again headed to another smallie area of mine and like the other times quickly caught a good one but than wasted another 30 minutes trying to rein act it. Through out the day I kept running to my largemouth areas, hoping they were ready to start biting and it was like they disappeared. Frustrated I decided to hit some deeper weedlines and was able to make a couple small culls for and ounce or two. Before I knew it time was out and I had to head back to weigh in. I knew I had a respectable bag, but knew I had no real shot of winning. I weighed in at 13.06 pounds, with my big fish being a 3.84 pound smallmouth. The winner won the tournament with 19.60 pounds and there was a good second place bag with 18.06 pounds. Both sacked up the largemouths in the river. Big fish for the tournament was a giant 5.75 pound smallmouth bass, AWESOME! I finished in 22nd place and am sitting in a tie for third in the Angler of the Year points with two tournaments to go, Lake Vermillion and Lake Minnetonka. Looking back I wish I would have stuck to my guns and headed up river once I had a good sack. I had pretty much all my weight by 9 am, and it’s not every tournament a guy gets a chance to truly go hog hunting for five hours knowing he has a good sack already. It takes a lot of the anxiety out of the situation. You live to learn though. Most of the top ten were fishing the river this year and were able to convert those quality bites into better than quality bags.
The next few weeks are going to be very busy for me. A lot of tournaments as well as guide trips, mix in practice and making plans for upcoming big events like the Minnesota Federation tournament of Champions and the BASSMASTER Regional Championship in Kentucky and I’m thinking time will just fly by. Lucky for me the boys at Mobile Marine Pros already have my boat all fixed up, running better than she ever has. They are truly the best at what they do. My next tournament is on Wednesday on Lake Minnetonka (aka Hog Heaven) I’ll give a full report when it’s done.