GREEN BAY, Wis. — Travis Manson has good reason to believe this week’s Green Bay Challenge will provide greener pastures.
“I am definitely going to be able compete here,” he said. “I’m excited to see how this plays out.”
The Bassmaster Elite Series pro lives in De Pere, Wis., on the Fox River that flows north to empty into Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. Before he qualified for the Elite Series in 2011, he fished Green Bay 60 to 70 times a year.
“It’s hard now with our (Elite) schedule, but I’ve been out there a dozen or so times this year,” he said.
Many of his fellow Elite pros have never competed on Green Bay and don’t even know their way around the water. As the “mystery lake” stop of the season, pretournament scouting wasn’t possible. Like all other Elite pros, Manson was barred a month ago from bay waters.
So it’s his deep Green Bay history that’s his ace in the hole for a shot at the Challenge’s first prize of $100,000 and a coveted Classic entry. Those would be two firsts for the 32-year-old Manson, who earned his Elite entry through the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open circuit.
Manson is aware of the dangers of being labeled “local favorite.” He’s been dealing for weeks with the distractions of extra media and fan attention. Then there are the expectations — his and others’.
“I am feeling the pressure,” he said.
But he also looks at the tournament as a chance to learn more about his home water.
“This may open my eyes,” Manson said. “It will be neat to see how the other Elite guys fish Green Bay, what lures they use, what different things they might come up with.”
The competition waters extend up Green Bay’s east side to Little Sturgeon Bay, Riley’s Bay and Sand Bay, stopping short of Sturgeon Bay. On the western side of the bay, the competition boundary is the first bridge of the Oconto River.
Manson described the extreme lower bay area, near where the Elite field will launch at the mouth of the Fox, as stained water with mostly man-made structure: bridge pylons, concrete riprap, commercial piers.
“As you get out into the bay, it’s shallow with sand and clears up. The rocks begin as you go up the eastern shore. As you go farther, there are reefs and humps,” he said.
Smallmouth will be the quarry, he said. There are largemouth bass in the bay, but with the superior size of the smallmouth, there’s little reason to target largemouth.
“The smallies outweigh and outnumber the largemouth, 10-to-1,” he said.
He said wind can be an angler’s best friend or worst enemy.
“Wind helps a lot — the fish will bite better when the wind is blowing — but wind makes it challenging to get to those spots and maneuver. It can get rough out there, absolutely,” he said.
In a stiff wind, to hold his boat on what anglers call “a spot within a spot,” a pro could chose to deploy drift socks or large anchors.
Fishing fans are invited to the June 28-July 1 Green Bay Challenge. They can watch the take-off at 6:30 a.m. CT and the daily weigh-ins at 3:15 p.m. CT. Both will happen at Metro Bay Launch, 102 Bay Beach Road, Green Bay. On Saturday and Sunday, the Green Bay Challenge Family Festival will open at Noon.
All Bassmaster events are free.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive online coverage.