Michigan native Nate Wellman had a plan for the final Northern Open: Stay away from the salt, stay away from the shore and qualify for the 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series. It all came together for the 27-year-old pro.
Here, in his own words, is how he did it:
(1st place — 53 pounds, 1 ounce)
I had a long practice before the tournament. During those days, I learned three important things — stay away from the salt, stay away from the shore and fish slow. I was able to accomplish those things by fishing near the launch at Anchor Boats Marina.
It's up high, away from the ocean, and I think it served as a stocking area for keeper bass. Nearly every major tournament launches from the same ramp. I don't know for sure where the fish are released after the weigh-ins but I'm betting it isn't far from that ramp.
My toughest practice problem was to find offshore stuff. Basically I used my Lowrance StructureScan to zigzag around, well away from the shoreline where most of the guys would be fishing, and find small, isolated pieces of structure.
I found a total of about 17 places, none of which was much bigger than the top of my outboard motor. When local guys saw where I was, they looked at me like I had motor trouble or something. I doubt any of those spots had ever been fished before.
My best spot was a sunken log in 10 to 12 feet of water. It had two branches coming off it and there were rocks where the limbs connected to the tree trunk. The bass were right on those two places.
The log was alongside a big, shallow flat. My best bite was on low tide. I think the reason for that was that the low tide pulled the bass off the flat — it wasn't deep enough for them to stay there when the water was down — and positioned them at the next deepest structure point.
Every cast had to be on the exact spot or it was a waste. If you missed the limb-trunk intersection, you couldn't get a bite. I sometimes made 20 casts before I hit the sweet spot. There was no room for error.
The wind and waves made it very difficult to keep the boat in the precise place I needed so that I could make productive casts. If it hadn't been for my two Power Poles, it would have been impossible.
Most of my bass were caught on a Texas rigged Zoom Baby Brush Hog (black with blue flake) with a 3/0 Gamakatsu Wide Gap hook and a 3/16-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight, no peg.
My rod was a 7-foot Daiwa (medium-heavy) with a Shimano Stradic reel spooled with 10-pound-test Berkley FireLine Fused Crystal. I used a 12-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader that was 7 feet long. The reason for the long leader was so that I didn't have to retie it as often. I could just retie my bait and keep fishing.
I worked the Brush Hog as slow as possible, often pulling it 2 or 3 inches and then letting it rest for as long as a minute. I also let them eat it for 7 to 10 seconds before I set the hook.