When you think about what a traditional bass fishery really consists of, and where such a fishery is located, the American Great Plains isn’t likely the fist place that comes to mind.
When walleyes get brought up, however, it’s a completely different story.
When the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe presented by Abu Garcia was added to the 2018 schedule, it was an event encompassed by a lot of question, speculation, and ultimately excitement.
Most big largemouth factories exist in Southern California, Texas and much of the southeast, and those types of venues generally occur during the early parts of the season. The schedule then shifts mid season to mostly northern fisheries that mainly consist of giant smallmouths.
Lake Oahe is different though. The amazing fishery in central South Dakota is a mecca among walleye and pike fanatics — and more recently the word about the bass fishery is out.
But how good is it actually?
Chase Parsons of Denmark, Wis., son of legendary walleye tournament pro and TV personality Gary Parsons, won a top-level FLW Walleye Series event on Lake Oahe in 2011. He says that while the bass-fishing Lake Oahe experience is relatively new in bass circles, the walleye crowd has known about it for years.
“When I won that event back in 2011, we had discovered a pattern that produced my winning fish by trolling a sizable bass-style spinnerbait through the tops of the flooded timber,” Parsons said. “We tried to keep the technique a secret, but we’d catch a big smallmouth for about every two to three walleyes.”
When the smallies would eat the bait, they’d instantly race to the surface and go airborne, and anyone within earshot could hear the spinnerbait clanging around.
“It was hard to keep the secret under wraps,” he laughed. “But it worked, and it showed us first hand what how great the Oahe smallmouth fishery is. Even as walleye guys we love to catch brown bass, but when you’re fishing for a big paycheck in a professional walleye derby, they were so abundant it was almost annoying. There are a lot of very big smallmouths in that system.”
Before this tournament began, Parsons believed Bassmaster fans would see multiple five-bass limits in excess of 25 pounds.
“The number of 5- and 6-pounders we’ve caught while walleye fishing is impressive,” he continued. “But if you look at the timeframe of this event, and the fact that it’s very unfamiliar to nearly everyone on tour, it might take a return visit for the Elite Series pros to really crack the code at Oahe.”
So far the weights at the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe presented by Abu Garicia are certainly impressive with a couple exceeding that magical 20-pound mark. But they have yet to meet the true potential Lake Oahe has been known for.