PACKED IN GREEN BAY
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Dave Rush and Matt Pangrac - Crochet photo courtesy of Cliff Crochet
Green Bay, WI - After spending a week where the majority of the field targeted shallow, grass laden backwaters on the Mississippi River, the Elite Series moves 200 miles northwest to Green Bay, Wisconsin for the seventh stop of the 2012 season on Lake Michigan.
For the 98 professional anglers competing this week, it wasn’t until B.A.S.S. announced on May 24th that the “mystery lake” would be Lake Michigan, that they knew where they were headed after a week in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Immediately, anglers familiar with the area pointed to the fertile smallmouth waters of Sturgeon Bay.
It appeared that a smallmouth slugfest was brewing, but when the Wisconsin DNR imposed boundaries for fishable water in the tournament, the outlook wasn’t nearly as optimistic.
To say that the boundary line stretching across Lake Michigan just south of Sturgeon Bay is disappointing for both Elite Series anglers and B.A.S.S. officials alike would be like saying that encountering an angry grizzly bear while hiking unarmed on a remote trail is a minor inconvenience.
“If we didn’t have the boundary, this would be a phenomenal derby and we would get to spread out. As it is right now, we’ll all be within a good three or four miles of each other,” explained Edwin Evers, who finished third on Lake Erie the last time the Elite Series visited one of the Great Lakes in 2008.
Many of the anglers that The BASS ZONE spoke with after two full days of practice, said that Monday morning was a wash, as strong winds made it nearly impossible to run. While the winds calmed for Monday afternoon and all of Tuesday, 20 mile-per-hour winds are expected for the final day of practice on Wednesday.
Here’s what some of the competitors had to say about the first two days on Lake Michigan out of Green Bay, Wisconsin:
“There are really not a lot of places that seem to have fish, so everyone is really crowded together. I think that you’ll have three quarters of the field fishing in one eight mile stretch.
“I like to move around and catch one here and one there, and I’ve got a few groups of fish that I’d like to get on, but I’m catching mine shallower than I typically do on a place like Lake Erie. I’d like to move around a little, but I don’t think that I’ll be able to do that if there are that many boats fishing the same areas. It’s going to be like a choo-choo train going around a track.
“I would say that the bottom 20 miles, where we are taking out of, is pretty unproductive water. I think that you’ll definitely see an individual catch 20 pounds. When you catch a few, there are some good quality smallmouth in this fishery. I think that someone will have a day where they catch five quality smallmouth that are four pounds apiece.
“I was hoping that I’d have an advantage with fishing a drop shot deep, but I haven’t been able to find any fish in that range. I brought a lot of stuff to fish out deeper, but I can’t get any of it to work. I can see some fish on the graph, but I can’t get them to bite.”
“It’s really crowded. There may be fish somewhere other than where I’ve been looking, and I’ve looked a lot of places, but it seems like there’s only about a four mile stretch where there are any bass.
“If we didn’t have the boundary, this would be a phenomenal derby and we would get to spread out. As it is right now, we’ll all be within a good three or four miles of each other. This is going to be a smallmouth deal. I’ve caught a few largemouth, but they don’t weight much.
“It’s fun anytime that you’re fishing Great Lakes smallmouth. The whole deal here is that it’s just so crowded. On Lake Erie, we’re able to spread out, but it’s not going to be like that this week.
“I don’t think that there will be a 20 pound bag. There will probably be some 17 to 18 pound bags, but 20 pounds will be a stretch. The wind is really not that horrible compared to Lake Erie. If the wind blows out of the northwest, it can get bad. The wind is just part of the tournament.”
“It’s been interesting. Yesterday was pretty tough. I did the whole dragging, drop shotting, and tube deal – and it didn’t work. Today I got on a deal where I caught a couple, but this thing is going to turn into a merry-go-round. There’s going to be about 90 boats in a very small section of the lake. No doubt, it’s going to be pressured water. I think that I’ll be fishing in sight of at least 25 other competitors on the first morning.
“For me, the fact that this was a ‘mystery lake’ and we weren’t able to come up here and practice didn’t really make a difference. It would have helped me some, but a couple extra days of practice up here wouldn’t nearly make up for the years of experience that a lot of guys have with this style of fishing.
“The boundary that they put on is probably not going to showcase the water that’s in this area. In the big picture, it’s probably a blessing for me, because people can’t get to the good stuff where the big fish live.
“This tournament will be 99% smallmouth. I did catch one largemouth yesterday, and I saw two today.
“The waves yesterday morning were big. I have decided that hell is not made of fires and hot places - After yesterday, hell is rough water. I’d rather get punched in the head by Chuck Liddell one time than go through that again.”
“My back is killing me right now after yesterday. I think that I shrunk an inch running through that water. It calmed down quite a bit yesterday afternoon, but it’s supposed to blow again tomorrow.
“The thing is that we are so confined to where we can fish, I really have no idea how this is going to shake out. Lake Michigan has giant smallmouth, but I have no idea if there are any in the section that we have to fish in.
“I don’t think that it’s very easy out there. This is going to be the ultimate challenge, not only the fishing, but also the stress of making a run. There’s absolutely no protection from the wind. This is going to be one of those deals where a guy who figures out something really deep is probably going to do pretty good.
“Everyone that I’ve talked to is crying the blues. With these guys, there’s no telling because everyone is so good. I don’t want to hear anymore whining, because they’re going to catch them. I’m going to say that it will take probably around 13 pounds a day to get a check. If you get a limit, you’re probably doing pretty good. There are some areas where the water is in the mid 60’s, and it’s in the mid 70’s in other areas.”