It Pays to Burn

This past Saturday (9/9), I was able to fish the last FLW College Regional of the year on Lake Erie out of Sandusky Bay. This is the kind of tournament that was just a standard derby to me the previous year, 70-100 teams, Northern body of water, no biggie right? Well unfortunately for myself, with taking the previous semester off of school and spending some time to figure out what path I would like to go down, this was the only college tournament I was eligible to fish this year, and did I mention it was the last one? Do or die. Top 10 or miss a national championship appearance.

I’m not going to lie, practice on Lake Erie wasn’t super hot for me. The smallmouth bite wasn’t as consistent as I wanted it to be, and with little experience on Great Lakes brown fish, I opted to make a top 10 finish inside of my wheel house… shallow green fish. The day before our tournament, I took my 25 waypoints from Kelly’s, my spinning gear, and my pedestal seat and threw em out the window. I took my Ultrex from full deployment to making the prop break surface nearly. Here came the braid, the chatterbaits, the powerfishing. I know Lake Erie is a dominant smallmouth fishery and that is how this tournament would be won, but with my back against the wall, smallmouth is not how I would qualify.

That last day of practice put myself on a good bag in West Harbor and the Northern outskirts of Sandusky Bay for largemouth. I felt great, 15-16lbs was what I would need and I knew I could do it. But as our pre-tournament meeting rolled around at 6:30am Saturday morning, I found my prefishing plans crushed as Kevin Hunt insisted the tournament stay in Sandusky Bay due to dangerous winds and waves on the big pond. A very good call by a great tournament director, the main lake was absolutely rolling and even though it messed up 90% of competitors game plans, it was without a doubt the correct call.

So it’s now 15 minutes before take off, you just learned you can’t fish where you practiced, and now your restricted to a bay you’ve never fished… It’s time to adapt or die! By staying on the Mercury all morning and fishing efficiently, we were able to run into 2 different groups of fish. One group put nearly all of our over 14 pound limit in the live-well. By staying on the motor, we found a set of docks with great shade, grass, and a ton of shad. I flipped a 7’6″ Heavy 13 Fishing Envy Black rod with a Shimano Curado. 20lb Seaguar Invizx flourocarbon, 3/8oz and 1/2oz tungsten paired with a Venom Lures Junebug Dream Crawl did some work up shallow.

The importance of staying on the big motor all day was incredible. I had the worst tournament of my life this year on Grand Lake St. Mary’s and contribute that failure to not keeping an open mind and not moving around to find the fish that actually want to eat. Today, I was not going to stay patient and try to work everything out of one area. I opted for Mr. Thrifts strategy of covering a lot of water quickly and I could not of been more happy with the results. I made run after run across new water only hitting the high percentage areas and by about my 6th or 7th run I was able to find the 5th place bag I did.

So next time your stuck at 11am with 2 fish in the well, pull up your Minn Kota and start up your big motor. Have that go getter attitude and burn up some gas. I’ve always been a guy that wanted to burn one spot to the ground and catch every last fish there, but I can truly say this method of keeping on your big motor pays!

Thanks to all for your time,
-Kyle Waller