Lake Minnewaska, Starbuck, MN
I have been thinking about this event for a year now. Almost exactly a year ago on these exact waters, I had my worst bass fishing tournament of my life, nothing went good, seriously nothing. This lake really made me mad, I couldn’t find a pattern at all and I couldn’t catch fish no matter what or where I attempted to do it. The result was to be expected, my worst placing ever and I completely knocked myself out of the Angler of the Year standings, blowing my chances at qualifying for the TOC.
Now you can see why this upcoming tournament weighed so heavily on my mind, this lake really intimidated me. Sure I was determined to get some revenge, but when you spend days on the lake with nothing to show, it’s sets a bit of anxiety up for my return trip.
To offset some of this, I managed to put together a lot of practice time to help me better understand how this lake works. Wouldn’t you know it after my first weekend back I had one of my best outings of the year. I found two spots where in a matter of 10 casts, I caught 5 largemouth weighing over 23 pounds. If that’s not a confidence builder than I don’t know what is. The problem was the tourney was still a few weeks away. Will they stay there? That was the real question and one I wasn’t about to bank on.
Lake Minnewaska, known as a good largemouth lake also has an awesome population of good sized smallmouth bass. Last year I had a heck of a time trying to find them and on game day managed to drop three real nice ones. This practice I spent my share of time looking for these elusive ghosts and it didn’t take long to get tangled with a good one. Throughout the remainder of practice I managed to find a half dozen or so spots that were holding good sized smallies, but my one concern was that I couldn’t catch more than one, I wasn’t finding schools but instead single rogues that frequent these areas to feed. So every time I’d check these spots it was hit or miss.
Going into tournament day, I was pretty pumped. I had some areas that were holding really nice largemouth as well as smallies. When I got to registration I found out I drew boat 6 and really got excited. My original plan was to start on my two big largemouth spots, but with that early of a boat draw I knew I could get to one of the few “community” smallie spots and hopefully put a couple big smallies in the box right away. I was confident that no one was on my largies and thought it would be beneficial to roll the dice.
I even checked my starting spot right away in the morning the last day of practice and couldn’t keep the smallmouth off, I pulled on fish after fish and it took a lot to finally get them to spit the bait. I was amped and ready to go! I knew going to bed that night that I had given myself a chance to win this one, a far cry from where I was here a year ago.
Right away tournament morning I raced to my first spot. Nothing. You gotta be kidding me? They were just here! After about 45 minutes I raced to another smallie spot and again, nothing. I probably prefer to fish smallies all in all, but I don’t know why? There’s a reason they call them ghost fish, they’re known to just disappear.
After burning up a good two hours with nothing to show for it, I finally raced to my good largemouth. Maybe the smallies are being fussy, but I’ll get the largies going. Well I did just that, only I left these two spots with a limit of 12 inch fish. Not what I had in mind, but it’s a limit, we’re upgrading from here.
With the temp starting to climb up I decided to go get at those smallies again. This time I was met with a bunch of short strikes and saw a real nice four pound fish follow my bait to the boat. I did manage to land one 14″ and another 16″ smallie.
I knew of a few weedlines that were holding some quality largemouth and decided it was time to head there. It didn’t take to long to upgrade our limit to all 14″ fish and with only 45 minutes to go I decided to finish out the day on one of my largemouth spots where I had previous success. The bite was on and I made a few small culls and with only 20 minutes to go was caught between staying here or trying for that big smallie that followed all the way to the boat. Just then I bang a nice 3.6 pound largemouth and decided to stay.
Looking back now, I wish I would have left right then because one more quality fish and I’d of been way up in the money. Instead I weighed in with a 6 fish limit weighing 12.72 pounds and with a dead fish penalty ended with 12.47 pounds, good enough for 20th place.
My emotions after this one were a bit conflicted. On a personal level I was happy, I finished way better than I had done last year, saved face and moved up in the points. On the other hand, the competitor in me was more than disappointed. I had worked my butt off in practice, found good fish and wanted the win. I don’t fish these tournaments to place mediocre, I fish them cause I want to win them. That’s what it’s all about.