Fishing diverse tournaments


Living the Bassmaster Elite Series life has many enjoyable facets, and I’ve recently come to appreciate the diversity of fisheries we visit. Of course, my main focus has to be the competition species — one or more of the black bass family — but I have also enjoyed sampling species I’ll only see during the season’s Northern Swing.

While I have caught several northern pike, I’ve developed an unexpected fascination with walleye. That’s a species I’ve heard a lot about, but this is the first year I’ve had the opportunity to catch them.

I caught a few in New York when we were there for the Oneida Open and the St. Lawrence Elite, but I’ve enjoyed some more focused effort in South Dakota as we’re getting ready for the next event on Lake Oahe. I’ve spent some time on a lake not far from where the tournament will be held, and it’s been interesting to see how much crossover there is with bass fishing.

I was just using my Lowrance ActiveTarget to find the fish, and it seems like running little 3.3-inch swimbaits through a group of walleyes has been the best thing. I’ve noticed here that they’ll group up in little wolf packs of 15 to 20 fish, and I’ll just count that swimbait down and swim it through them.

It seems like I’ve had the most consistency along weed lines, but I’ll admit, I’m as green as they come in terms of actually trying to catch a walleye. But with my forward-facing sonar, I can see the fish. You find out what they are by throwing something they’ll bite.

This has helped me with my smallmouth fishing, because you learn what each species looks like on your sonar. Fortunately, walleye are pretty willing when you get those opportunities. That’s a good thing because, just like I’d heard, walleye is a tasty fish.

New York was the first time we kept some and prepared them. We loved it. I loved it so much, I actually commandeered a few other Opens anglers to catch enough for a fish fry. This is something I never would have experienced if it wasn’t for being on the road traveling like we are.

This has been a meaningful revelation for me. Now I get to see what I’ve helped others experience through my guiding on Toledo Bend. For over a decade, travelers have come to Louisiana to go on guide trips with me, but now that I’m on the other end of this, it’s so much fun.

I think, as guides and professional anglers, we take it for granted how much fun it is to catch fish. It’s easy to forget why people get so excited when they catch a nice fish. So catching different species and fishing away from home has given me a firsthand look at what my clients experience.

It just reminds you why we all fell in love with fishing.

Now pivoting to the final two events of the season, the theme of diversity remains strong. Lake Oahe and the Mississippi River couldn’t be much more different.

I actually have a little bit of experience at La Crosse; I’ve been to the Mississippi River for two different events. But I actually think Oahe sets up better for me because it’s going to be offshore smallmouth fishing.

Not that I’m great at smallmouth fishing, but I’m happy when I’m away from the bank. La Crosse is going to be a shallow, dirty one — close action.

I like that we’re finishing with two very diverse tournaments. I feel when we have diverse tournaments back-to-back or near one another, you see the anglers who are really fishing well, as opposed to seeing a guys that are really good at one thing.