I really did everything right to have a good chance to win this event. Sometimes you just can’t beat Mother Nature. The one thing I can say I learned was to have something in the boat to match a mayfly when you fish the Mississippi River in the early summer!
When I arrived in Green Bay, I was very tired. I had a four- or five-hour drive late on Sunday night following the Mississippi River event, and by the time I got everything set up it was after midnight. That’s why on the first day of practice I slept in a little bit. By the time I woke up to get on the water, the wind was blowing 25 mph right down the bay and that had the waves anywhere from 4 to 7 feet. As I headed to the launch ramp I saw five or six boats coming back. So I called Kelly Jordon, and he said, “You can't really fish the south side.”
With the south side of the lake pretty unfishable, I called Todd Faircloth. Todd, who won on the Mississippi River, was getting a late start as well, and we met up and headed to the north side of the lake. The late start was a blessing in disguise. By the time I got the boat on the water it was 10 a.m. and the waves were starting to subside. I motored around and graphed for a while in the 20- to 30-foot range. As the day went on, I started looking shallower and found some smallmouth.
By Day Two, I really started figuring things out. I had over 200 bites in practice, and I actually caught 100 fish from 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds. A lot of them were actually bed fish. Smallmouth on beds are pretty good about biting again after getting caught, which is why I went ahead and caught them. I put them back quickly and nicely and asked them to bite again in a few days. I found some schools that weren't spawning as well. Most fish were in a transition phase between spawn and postspawn. The fish were grouping up in six- to seven-fish schools with some going 2 1/2 pounds or more. I realized they were moving out of the spawning areas, which lead me to focus on secondary points on the way out. On the last day of practice, I caught a 6-pound smallmouth!