YANKTON, S.D. —While prefishing on Lewis and Clark Reservoir in South Dakota about two weeks before the CITGO BASS Federation Northern Divisional presented by Busch Beer, Randy Burch received some disheartening news that could have discouraged him from competing in the championship event.
"I got a call from back home and found out my Dad had a stroke, and he ended up dying," disclosed Burch, a 52-year-old business owner who sells docks and boat lifts. "So, I dedicated this tournament to him and gave it 100 percent for him."
No one would have blamed the Ladysmith, Wis., angler for giving up under such trying circumstances, but Burch was determined to win the tournament in memory of his dad. His personal loss gave Burch the incentive he needed to win, as he caught 15 bass weighing 30 pounds, 9 ounces to take the overall champion honors.
Burch has qualified for 13 Divisionals and made the National Championship twice, yet he credited his teammates for helping him develop his winning pattern at Lewis and Clark Reservoir. "A lot of us were here for a couple of weeks and we found out the fish were really clobbering a swimming jig," said Burch. "Most of the guys on our team were throwing white jigs, but I was about the only one throwing black, and the only reason I did was because I had more confidence in it."
Several of his teammates had plenty of experience swimming a jig on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, but Burch had to rely on tips from them since he rarely fishes rivers. However, the Flambeau Bassmasters Club member refined his own river pattern during the three days of competition. "If the wind was blowing, I would fish the edges of the reeds and get a pretty good bite," described Burch. "But if the wind wasn't blowing, I would fish the current and catch them that way.
Concentrating on the riverine section of the lake, Burch presented his jig around bulrushes, lily pads, and logs about 1 to 4 feet deep. "I would throw it out there and wind it in just like you do a spinnerbait," said Burch of his presentation. He depended on a black 1/4-ounce Super S jig tipped with a bluegill-color 5-inch Kalin plastic grub that he retrieved with a 7-foot Quantum medium action rod and Quantum E 860PTxm baitcast reel filled with 14-pound-test Stren line.
The first competition day, Burch boated a five fish limit by 8:30 a.m. and finished with 10 pounds, 4 ounces to move into sixth place in the overall standings and the top spot on his state team. The Wisconsin angler never got a bite the next day until 10 o'clock, but he eventually caught another limit weighing 10 pounds to climb into second place overall and led his team again, with 20 pounds, 4 ounces. In the final round, Burch caught another limit weighing 10 pounds, 5 ounces to win the tournament for his dad and clinch his first Divisional title in 13 attempts.