Talked with Team Evinrude member, David Walker, about the Bassmaster Elite Tournament on Lake Michigan that starts tomorrow. Most may not know, but David grew up in Detroit Michigan. Before you start hollering home field advantage, that was 25 years ago, and he only fished for salmon. Lake Michigan is completely new to him.
I asked David what was the first thing he did after he launched his boat the first day of practice, being completely new to the water I was curious as to how does and Elite Series pro determine where to start, he chuckled, “I thought about the waves out in front of me”. David continued and said that for this lake, water clarity and rocks are the goal. The clearer the water and the bigger the rocks the better. So using his navigation chip and map work, David went in search of this combination.
David went on to say, “When you find contour lines closer together on your maps, you’ve more than likely found rocks. Long sloping banks and points are going to be sand or mud. Since it’s a smallmouth fishery, it’s important to stay on the biggest and most rocks you can.”
According to David, the primary patterns are going to be tubes and drop shots on rocky reefs. Water temperatures are running in the middle to upper 60’s, and the water on the off shore structure is extremely clear. An interesting note, even though it’s a ninety degree day he said he still has to wear a sweat shirt on the water, “With miles and miles of 60 degree water, when the wind gets up, it’s still cool on the water.”
We talked about the wind some, and how it plays into the patterns the professional anglers will be using. “The wind is always there, so the waves are always there. The bass are accustom to the wave action; it’s when the wind doesn’t blow that it gets difficult to catch them.” David expressed that sea anchors and drift socks are invaluable tools when fishing bodies of what like this. “We’re fishing too deep for Power Poles so these other devices are a must have.” According to David, the wind plays more into time management than it does the fish catching patterns. Since the bass are used to the wind as part of their daily lives, it’s the travel time through the wave action that effects how we as anglers build our game plans. “You have to trust your equipment, determine a time line, and go for it.”
David talked about how 3-5 foot waves are common on these Great Lakes, “When they get into that range, a trolling motor is just in the way, when I get back to the ramp my trolling motor batteries are good. I may have never put it in the water. When the waves get that big, the trolling motor prop is out of the water more than it is in, so I won’t even use it.”
David Walker is a very versatile angler, and highly experienced when it comes to ledge fishing; that’s how he won the Wheeler Lake season closer last year. I asked David, if he thought his experience as a ledge fisherman would help in this event, “fishing these reefs for smallmouth bass is quite a bit different than dragging a Carolina Rig or grinding deep diving crankbaits over ledges in southern lakes for largemouth bass. The baits and the way they are presented are different. But, in the aspect of positioning a boat and casting to open water, having the right mindset and being able to visualize what your baits are doing is going to help.”
As everyone knows already, the local DNR has placed restrictions on the tournament waters. Anglers are only allowed to fish a specific portion of the enormous lake. David is pretty confident that the majority of the field is going to be fishing within sight of each other. “Blast off is going to look like a Parade headed out across the lake. I’m guessing that out of the field of competitors 90% of us will be in the same three mile stretch of the lake.” David made mentioned that his morning commute will be about 30-32 miles one way. So for those of you that know the area, you can probably guess where everyone is going to be.
With so many anglers in one general area, David doesn’t feel that we’ll see a slugfest of smallmouth. “Sure, we’ll likely see two or three 25 pound limits brought to the scales, simply because they grow big here, but for an angler to repeat that every day of competition is going to be very difficult.” I asked David what he thought the winning weight would be, and he guessed around 18 pounds a day. The fishery is full of 2 to 3 pound small mouth, so he expects lots of limits pushing the 15 pound range but repeatedly catching above average limits is going to be difficult in a crowd. David stated, “I figure if you throw in a large smallmouth here and there, it could take 75 pounds total to win.”
This brings us back to the limitation put on the anglers. While David understands the concerns, “The DNR is very cautious of their fishery here, they even have fishing seasons.” Coming into the event, he felt like it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal, there was still a lot of the lake to fish, “however, now that I’m here, the productive water inside this zone is really limited and it’s going to fish small.” He went on to say that maybe things could be better by moving the launch site closer to where anglers are going to fish, thus opening the range to a greater portion of the lake. This might be something they look at in the future should B.A.S.S. consider going back to Lake Michigan.
For more information, tips and tournament angling news visit E Nation to follow David Walker or any of the E-Nation team.
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