GREEN BAY, Wis. — The "mystery lake" has turned into a nightmare for the Bassmaster Elite Series. The Green Bay Challenge, which begins here Thursday, has become a challenge that no one expected when B.A.S.S. scheduled this event.
"I chose every site this year, so there's only one guy to blame and that's me," Jerry McKinnis told the Elite Series anglers gathered for the pre-tournament meeting Wednesday evening. "But I got blindsided."
McKinnis, one of the owners of B.A.S.S., made a special effort to be at the meeting prior to the four-day event. He wanted both the anglers and the public to know what difficult, unforeseen circumstances this event will be held under.
The problem arose when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources put a northern boundary on the tournament waters. The anglers will be restricted to Lake Michigan south of a line that runs from the Oconto River on the west to Sherwood Point Lighthouse on the east. Off limits are some of the lake's legendary smallmouth bass waters, like Sturgeon Bay.
"When we found out what we were up against, we tried to change (the site)," McKinnis said. "But it was too late."
Essentially, the Green Bay Challenge will be a 98-man, 35-mile boat race to Little Sturgeon Bay, where boats will be bumping for four days, weather permitting.
Coming one week after one of the most successful tournaments in B.A.S.S. history in the same state – the Mississippi River Rumble at La Crosse – McKinnis wanted his frustration understood.
"I'm sorry Green Bay and Wisconsin can't take advantage of what we could have shown them," he said.
As a result, the competitors are presented with an unprecedented challenge.
"As bad as I hate to say it, the bay itself doesn't really have a good population of fish," said Mike McClelland of Bella Vista, Ark. "There is a very, very limited stretch of water that, if you're going to compete to win, you're going to have to be in. It's pretty unsettling."