A booming bass bite: Local tournament circuit finds success on area lakes
Brian Krause and Paul Lewis say pre-fishing for tournaments can be a bit deceiving because they don't really know exactly what's out there.
Anglers don't want to over do it and push out fish on potential hot spots early in the week. What Krause and Lewis knew for sure is that Lake Minnewaska is a great fishery, one of the best they fish with a variety of species, Krause said.
"There's so many fish out there," Lewis added.
Minnewaska produced for them in a big way on Saturday as Krause, from Victoria, and Lewis, of Orono, won the second of three summer tournaments on the local Reel Team Bass Circuit.
The duo brought in 25.50 pounds with their eight-fish limit, including a 5.27-pound smallmouth that is the biggest fish caught on the two stops on the circuit so far this summer.
Krause and Lewis were hoping to catch a 3-pound average, and were thrilled to surpass that. The father-son team of Dick and Rick Moen took second with 24.29 pounds and Trent Glover and Brad Trousil of Glenwood took third with 23.85 pounds.
"We were just using small Sump'n Sump'n Jigs," Krause said. "You just got on a deep break and we probably caught the fish anywhere from 10 to 17 feet. We did catch some of them in shallower water, but the majority of the ones we kept came on that break line."
The two figure they boated about 40 total bass on the day, with that big one coming early in the morning in a spot Krause figured was worth a try from earlier outings on Minnewaska.
"We were going to go right by it," he said. "I said, 'Let's stop there, spend 20 minutes and try to get a kicker fish.' We ended up staying there for two hours because there were a lot of fish there. That's where the big fish came from. We had most of our weight by 8 this morning."
That big smallmouth provided a confidence boost for the duo from the get-go.
"You need that," Lewis said. "Everyone can catch the 2.50 to 3-pound fish, but you need that kicker fish to win. That was one of the first eight fish or so we caught."
The win netted them $1,700 and put them in good position to win a couple rifles at the end of the summer. Alex Pro Firearms sponsors the circuit and is donating two guns to the team that catches the biggest fish of the three tournaments.
"Brian and Paul are sitting pretty for that," Alexandria's Trevor Trousil said.
Trevor and Clarence Rasmussen of Alexandria are the tournament directors for the Reel Team Bass Circuit. The circuit's origins go back to the mid-1990s when it ran under a different name. After a brief disbandment, the Reel Team Bass Circuit got going in 2005 to offer anglers, many of which are local fishermen, the opportunity to fish in a few tournaments each summer.
"That's why we continue it on," T. Trousil said. "All the guys around here love fishing tournaments. The last four, five years we've had kind of a decrease in boats. It kind of cycles. We're getting a few young teams back."
Saturday's tournament on Minnewaska featured 32 boats at a $200 entry fee. There is room for more anglers with the field being capped at 40.
The circuit rotates between Lake L'Homme Dieu and the Alexandria Chain, Minnewaska and Lake Ida. Ida will be the final stop on this year's circuit August 5. The chain produced an impressive catch on June 3 with the winning team of Cody Rupert and Dustin Ziesemer bringing in 25.96 pounds to win it.
"We actually probably have some of the best fishermen in the state fishing this circuit," Rasmussen said. "It's really high quality."
Anglers around the weigh-in station at Water's Edge in Starbuck spoke of how hard it is to win these tournaments. Team after team brought in bags of smallmouths and largemouths that would be quite a haul for most anglers.
"This circuit is really tough," Krause said. "Probably 80 percent of the people have a really good chance to win every one of them. It's always fun because they're really good guys."
The bag limits show how competitive each tournament is. Seventeen of the 32 teams brought in a total weight of more than 20 pounds on Minnewaska. Ten teams did the same on L'Homme Dieu in early June with the big fish that day weighing in at 4.55 pounds.
"Of the three lakes right now, Ida is probably fishing the best of the three," T. Trousil said. "The Chain is actually the best it's ever been in 20 years. The weights out there are incredible. It used to take 19, 20 pounds on eight fish. Now, it takes 23, 24, 25 pounds to win."
Trousil added that the lakes on the circuit tend to go through their ups and downs. Both the Alexandria Chain of Lakes (2009) and Minnewaska (2012) have been on the Minnesota DNR's infested waters list for zebra mussels for years, but Trousil hasn't seen that negatively affect the size of fish being caught right now.
"A lot of people don't want to hear that, but the smallmouth fishing has gotten way better around here than it's ever been," he said.