Unraveling the mystery

One could argue that catching fish — the physical act of hooking, fighting and landing bass — is the reason our sport is so addictive. No doubt that’s a very fun part. Some might say that taking pictures of your catch and sharing on Facebook to make your friends jealous is even more fun. That point is certainly hard to argue against. I believe, though, that figuring out how to catch fish is the real drive within most anglers. After all, how many times have you caught a bass and then switched lures just to see if that, too, would work? Within every angler exists the innate desire to unravel the mystery beneath the water’s surface.

Elite Series anglers are going to have to figure out more than just how to catch fish this month … they are going to have to figure out where, exactly, they are fishing. June 28th marks the seventh stop on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail, and the first time in modern professional angling that a “mystery lake” is the playing field.

The concept was resurrected from Ray Scott’s first six Bassmaster Classics, where the venues were kept secret until the competitors had flown halfway to the lake. 

The final year of the mystery lake concept was 1976 because Scott realized that fishing fans should be an integral part of the world championship. In 1977, the bass fishing world said goodbye to the sport’s most intriguing unknown.

Well, fishing fans, after 35 years it’s time again to play detective … and things have changed. When Scott planned the mystery events, he would have all the anglers meet at an airport with exactly 10 pounds of gear in hand and transport them all at once to the venue. Today, anglers have wrapped rigs hauling thousands of pounds of gear to each tournament site. So, flying is not an option.

That said, the Elites will be fishing the Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wis., just four days prior to fishing the mystery location.  

The competitors get three days of practice. So, the 12 guys who make the final cut at La Crosse will have just one day to drive to the secret venue. Assuming anglers can drive 70 mph for seven or eight hours, there’s a radius of 500-ish miles to consider. Unfortunately, there are approximately 53,000 lakes within that radius, including a couple of Great Lakes and some of the best fisheries Minnesota has to offer. Naturally, then, one should turn to the rumor mill for answers.

Ish Monroe, winner of this year’s Power-Pole Slam on Lake Okeechobee, thinks he knows where it’s going to be.

“I’d put my money on the northern part of Lake Michigan. We were supposed to fish there a couple of years ago, so we probably owe them a tournament,” Monroe reasons.

“I think the lake will be either in Wisconsin or Michigan. Maybe Lake Winnebago near Fond du Lac,” guesses Kevin Short.

“I’m pretty sure I know just where it is,” says Gerald Swindle. “A buddy of mine fishes a charity tournament in a lake near Lake Minnetonka. That charity event has been held the same week for years. For some unknown reason, they were forced to move it this year. It was scheduled for the week of the mystery event and is only three hours away from La Crosse. Just sayin’.”

The B.A.S.S. brass is planning to announce the location on May 24 at 1 p.m. CT. So, stay tuned to Bassmaster.com for the unveiling. What will not be announced is how the Elite Series competitors will catch fish once they get there. I’m guessing if the crankbait bite is red hot, the competitors will pick up a spinnerbait at least once just to see if that, too, might work.