2013 Aurora Bassmaster Club Tournaments - A Season in Review

A detailed look at each tournament Wil fished in an exciting Angler of the Year race that went right down to the wire until the final tournament of the season.

The Aurora Bassmasters pride themselves in “Being more than just another fishing club”, and have become well known for their conservation and research projects, their community involvement and their dedication to engage today’s youth on a path that includes the outdoors and fishing. However as a member of this club since it formed in 1995, I can tell you- that we definitely like to fish and love to compete in our club tournaments!

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to capture the Angler of the Year (AOY) title on occasion and at the start of the year I had my sights set on the title as one of my main goals.  I find it quite interesting that even though I have been a tournament junkie ever since I competed in my first tournament on Canal Lake in 1986, I am still so pumped every time I fish one regardless of whether it’s a big championship event or just a fun clubby. What has me kind of intrigued though is that instead of the club tournaments becoming less important to me as years go on, they are increasingly more so. In fact I find this to be the case with so many club tournament anglers I speak with – who like me, thoroughly enjoy competing in these smaller events and also place them high on their priority list. 

In 2013 the Aurora Bassmasters would fish some lakes I liked and a couple not so much ... but I knew it would be another fun and challenging season fishing with a great group of friends and anglers. This multi-paged article takes a detailed look at nine out of 10 club tournaments I was able to fish this year. I try and hold nothing back – so the tips, techniques and tackle used are all revealed for the reader.  Whether you fish clubbies or not, I hope you can sit back, read this piece at your leisure and then possibly even catch and release a few more bass next time you’re out on the water.

Club Tournament Details:

Each tournament is worth 100 points if you win, 95 for 2nd, 94 for 3rd and so on down the line. Out of 10 tournaments, your top six count towards the AOY race and the angler with the most points at the end of season wins the title. The title comes with a nice trophy for the year, a plaque and free entries into all 10 tournaments the following year. We fish all events as individuals- boater vs non boater ... except for one team event, called the day-of by the tournament director. Each month during tournament season we have draws during our club meeting to determine who you will be fishing with at each event. Cost to enter is $40 each. Payouts are 1st- $150, 2nd-$100, 3rd- $50 for up to 10 boats. If we have 11 or more boats we pay out to 4th at $209, $125, $75, $50. Big fish is included in the entry fee at $5 per angler and we have an optional $10 greedy bucks pot where all those entered have a shot at winning that pot on top of their regular prize money. In addition to shooting for AOY title during the year, the Aurora Bassmasters are somewhat unique in that they also pay the $200 entry fee to the top 12 placed anglers who will be fishing the following year’s OBN Hank Gibson Provincial Qualifier Tournament. So the incentive to fish as many of our events as possible each season and to do well in them is definitely not just about taking home a bit of a paycheck at each tournament – it’s so much more.

2013 Aurora Bassmaster Club Tournament Season

Lake Eugenia: For our first tournament of the year on June 25th - I would do something I have never done before… prefish Lake Eugenia! For many years now … off and on we would make this lake our first stop. A few of our members also made a routine of pre-fishing the day before; grabbing a hotel room in nearby Flesherton that night and then fishing the clubby the next day. This year I was able to get the time off work- so thought I would give it a try… and I’m really glad I did. I drove up and pre-fished with long time friend, former Aurora Bassmaster president and OBN Youth director, Herb Quan. I’ve know Herb for more than 25 years; he actually was one of my first students in the bass fishing courses I used to teach at Seneca College. He’s won my amBASSadors Cup before as well- a bi-annual tourney I used to hold for the students and is still one of the finest non-boaters I know.

We covered a lot of water on Eugenia that day, including intentionally exploring plenty of the lake neither of us had ever fished before. We had seven other Aurora Bassmasters attend this little pre-fishing event, so we decided to have a little fun tourney in the afternoon … no fishing docks … just one bass per boat limit … $10 bucks per head ... Biggest bass wins the pot!
I used part of the time to visually check out some new shorelines – where some potentially productive docks could possibly be for the next day … but for the most part we fished the main lake.

Thanks to a stiff breeze, the conditions were ideal for spinnerbaits and my trusty ½ ounce Terminator whacked a pile of 1 ½ pounders. We enjoyed our best success on the edges of shale to sparse weed. Here a defined edge could be seen from a distance and working that spinnerbait along the edge often produced a smallmouth or largemouth bass. Although this was clearly an identifiable pattern the problem was that these edge-oriented bass weren’t of the winning caliber I was after. As we weighed in- my biggest bass was 1.99 lbs – surprisingly bigger than all the others … except for one. Des Barnes had a whopper tipping the scales at an even 2.00 lbs … so I was foiled by buddy Des! Of real importance however was that pre fish made me more and more convinced I should concentrate my efforts on docks the next day when the real tournament began.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed a great supper thanks to Rick Lewis who had a bunch of Pork Loin Roasts all marinated that he cooked-up on the club’s BBQ.  Sitting around our plugged-in boats and having a couple of cold beers afterwards was great but we still hit the hay early enough to be in top shape for the tournament early the next morning. Before we launched, Des had a pleasant surprise for us. Right near the launch he arrived early to make everyone (22 anglers) fresh and warm Mexican Breakfast Burritos! Holy Moly what a treat that was Senor Desmond! A great way to start off another exceptional day on the water!

My non boater for the day was Len Graves- father of one of Ontario’s top tournament anglers – Barry Graves. Both father and son joined our club last year. It was the first time Len and I had been paired together but we hit it off right away. At the point where we started, two other competitor boats all converged at once but after awhile I went down the shore and began to fish docks. It took about ½ an hour before my first bite … but it was a swing and a miss! My second fish picked it up and I set hard … and although it was on for a couple of seconds - it too came off. Finally on my third fish, I allowed it to hold on a touch longer before setting hook – and that was the ticket to land that plum largie in the four pound range.

I continued down the shoreline skipping my unweighted Trigger X Flutter Worm rigged wacky style on a G-Lock Gamakatsu Worm Hook. That bait was rigged on a medium heavy Rapala Shift spinning rod and reel, with 10 lb test Suffix 832 braid and an 8 lb Suffix Floro leader. The color of the Flutter Worm was green pumpkin with purple flake and I would cast it into every nook and cranny I could get it into below docks, boathouses and around boats. A bass would come here and there and by 9:30 I was fortunate enough to have my limit. I kept on plugging away and it became quite clear that docks with pontoon boats and especially those big pontoons themselves … were magical. At one point Len was actually calling me out with each new pontoon boat and ready with the net before I even made my cast back in to the bass’ lair!

Wil Wegman

Throughout the course of the day we fished docks about 80 % of the time and I was able to cull here and there fairly regularly. I tried a couple of other colored Trigger X baits and got bit on them as well. I even picked up another very well known brand and made an attempt to skip it under a dock- but the bait just didn’t have the weight of the Trigger X to skip as far back under the dock. When not dock fishing, we did the open water deal with spinnerbaits and got fish that way as well.

Perhaps the highlight of the day came near the end when I skipped my bait under a pontoon boat. Only problem was the bait skipped overtop the gas line of the outboard first so the bait was left dangling less than an inch below the water’s surface on the other side. Almost in slow motion I could see a nice 3lb largie come up and grab the bait … so I dropped it just a touch then gingerly set the hook. The thrashing began but I couldn’t get the bass under or over the obstacle- so I quickly moved in with my electric, reached down and grabbed the bass. This made up for the ones I lost first thing in the morning!

At weigh-in there weren’t too many outstanding sacks but Paul Godino had a decent one at 12.15 lbs. His big fish came in at an even 4.00 lbs. Then it was my turn and my weight of 15.56 gave me the win. I was hoping for Big Bass as well… but alas the same result as yesterday was my destiny – a 3.99 pound largie – just shy of Paul’s four pounder … foiled yet again! Still, a win was a great way to start the season and I definitely had no complaints.

Wil Wegman Bass

Severn River: On Tuesday July 9th our Aurora Bassmasters had an afternoon tournament (2pm-8pm) out of the Severn River. Our club tournaments have 8-14 boats and every angler fishes as an individual boater or non-boater... each person retaining his own 5 fish limit.  I wasn’t able to pre-fish this event and the last and only time I was ever there before was 4 or 5 years ago. That was for our club Classic, which I just happened to win. I fished a section off the river then that only one other boat fished all day – and that was Des Barnes, who came 2nd.

Anyway, this year’s tournament started off kind of harry, because I discovered upon arrival that my drain plug was missing and all the spares that others had didn’t fit. Even the marina had trouble finding one; but we got one close enough after I wrapped some electrical tape around it. So, with fingers crossed that the plug would do its job, we were good to go, just in time for the 2pm blastoff.  This year, I guess word had spread about where I caught my fish before and in front of me about 8 or 9 boats were headed to the same large section off the river to fish. Two other boats stayed in the main river and both of their boaters had pre-fished the same area we were headed a few days ago! What did they know – that we didn’t? Were there no big fish left there? Hmm- maybe fishing memories was gonna bite me in the butt once again– wouldn’t be the first time.

The main boat house where we had culled our limit of fish from a few years ago- just happened to be where one of our club members started. In fact the entire section where we caught fish before was pre-occupied by fellow Aurora Bassmasters this time… So my non boater and president of the club, David Meadows and I headed south, picked a shoreline and just began fishing! Before I knew it I had a limit of small smallmouth and one good largemouth that came from a very non-descript dock. “Of all the great looking docks along this shore, I can’t believe that bass came from the crappiest looking dock!” Dave commented rather correctly.

Fishing completely new water, I soon realized that I was absolutely falling in love with these shorelines! Their outstanding mix of rock, weed clumps, pads, docks, boat houses … and in some special areas even current and deep water nearby; where enough to turn my crank- even though I don’t think I threw one all day!.   When I saw that current pushing up against a wall of coontail, I would get that Trigger X Fluttering Worm in there and just know I’d get bit. I soon began culling … getting rid of my smallmouth and replacing them with the bigger and heavier largemouth. I even went way back into some hard to get at shallow back-bays to fish docks and weeds- something I usually refrain from doing … but it paid off nicely. David was having a little tougher time connecting … and when a big 5 lb plus largie came up and spat the hook- my heart sank for the guy. It came from beneath a blue boat – so naturally he joked we’ve got to be on a blue boat pattern.

Throughout the evening we stuck to fishing shorelines- from one great looking shore to the other … some that had already been fished by others … but I convinced myself there were still fish to be had so I didn’t let it bother me. I was culling 2 ½ lb fish all night and loving every second of it.

Huge Bass

Trigger X Flutter Worm

Above: Wil uses the Trigger X Flutter Worm Wacky style but instead of hooking thru the centre of the worm itself, he slides a piece of shrink wrap tubing overtop first. This results in far less worms being torn off and fewer littering the lake’s bottom

At weigh-in, I saw some decent catches come in and even the odd report of amazing numbers of bass that were caught by my fellow members. I was really impressed by Gary Janes and his sack of bass – all caught on topwater with Storm Chug Bugs! Yet, I was pleasantly surprised that no real sacks appeared to top what I had in the well and when it was my turn- those scales settled on over 14 lbs. Driving home after a win is a great feeling at any time but making that drive twice in a row is especially satisfying.

Balsam Lake: On Saturday July 27th we were scheduled to fish 9 Mile Lake in the Muskoka’s near Bala. Like everyone else in the club I had never fished it before, so it was a great excuse for some fun pre-fishing with my buddy Brian Ogden. Brian is also a long time member of the club but doesn’t fish many tournaments anymore- preferring just to fun or pre-fish with fellow members. I love visiting new lakes and the challenge of trying to figure them out is one of the greatest thrills in life that I know of. After a two hour drive we were astounded by the sheer volume of cars crammed into the tight quarters around the public launch at 9 Mile.  There was seemingly no parking to be had anywhere as no parking signs were everywhere! After a search for the owner of the Nine Mile Lake Marina next to the public launch, we were able to secure parking (@$15) and then we were off. Our first section of the lake produced right away and bass after bass after bass was caught by each of us. All were in the 10-13 inch range though.  We had heard the same story from Carlo- another Aurora Bassmaster who was here prefishing a few days ago for our club tourney.

After a morning of catching lots of largemouth … which appeared to decrease in size as we got away from the cottage-built-up-area of the lake; we ran into another Aurora Bassmaster- Lidio Godino who was also prefishing.  His results were very similar to ours. It sure was a nice looking lake though- much like a river system and pretty well every shoreline had fish on it. Problem was the bass were all stunted – much like you would see in a poorly managed farm pond.  The best thing for this lake would actually be some harvest of those smaller bass by locals and a commitment to be sure to let those precious bigger ones go.

After pre-fishing results and parking were considered, the club decided not to fish 9 Mile and would go to Simcoe out of Beaverton instead. When we got there though, winds were quite strong so, being the flexible club that we are, we headed over to Canal Lake- about 20 minutes away. As we pulled up to the marina- the Port Perry Bassmasters were there ahead of us- so not wanting to rain on their parade, we all decided that Balsam Lake, another 20 minutes further would be best.

As we were about to blast off- it was announced that this would be our one surprise ‘team tournament’ … something we do every year. So, instead of fishing against my non boater, Tom Tsatskas would be my partner for the day and we would try and bring in our five biggest bass. We found the smallmouth far more cooperative than the largemouth and a couple of my usual spots netted us a few fish. Then we tried some of Tom’s and those too produced. We began culling in new water and did enjoy some great action. So, although plenty of fish were boated we just couldn’t land that kicker fish that would shoot us above the others. When all was said and done, it was a really tight tournament, with the winners (Cam Mitchell and Carlo Puiatti) weighing in 11.74 (with a 3.30 pounder for big fish) and Tom and I had 10.24 for fourth place. I was disappointed with that showing at the time yet little did I realize that for the next several tournaments my mid-season slide would become even more pronounced!

Sparrow Lake: This used to be an outstanding bass fishery, but in my mind has declined dramatically in recent years. For ten years, I ran my amBASSadors Cup Tournaments here because I knew most of the students and alumni would come in with a limit so they all had fun.  None the less, this has been a fairly regular stopover for our club and would be again on July 30, 2013. Last year, I placed third and had fun … but this time around it was simply a tournament I would rather forget about. Congratts to Dave Miller however, who does have fond memories of this clubby- with a five fish limit of 13.44 lbs.

Sparrow Lake

Wil did get weigh-in some bass at the Sparrow Lake Tournament but a few were nowhere near the 12 inch minimum!

5.) Bass Lake: Mary Lake was new body of water for us and lies near Huntsville and was our next stop but it conflicted with the 4km Sun City Swim I was signed up for on Lake Couchiching August 10th (for details on that swim please visit www.wilwegman.com ). So on the evening of August 13th the Aurora Bassmasters were at it again on Bass Lake near Orillia. When we were here last year, I managed my first win on this little lake but with the intense wind out there today I knew fishing those same mid-lake spots effectively would be next to impossible.

Long story short, I just couldn’t get it together and caught only a couple bass- placing 8th with 5.71lbs. Carlo Puiatti weighed in just 4 bass but his 11.98 lbs was good enough for the win.

6) Lake Joseph: On September 8th Lake Joe near Mactier became another new lake for our club. Known as a very good winter lake trout lake, Joe also has a reputation in some inner circles as a tremendous smallmouth fishery. I experienced this open water bass action for the first time a couple of years ago for a writing assignment. With several days of 15-18 pounds for 5 fish during that fun family trip, (article and photos available on my website) I had high hopes that at our club tourney anglers would have a blast there. My hopes were tempered however the weekend before when during a prefishing trip with my son Izaak; we found just one spot reminiscent of those great catches a couple years ago.  Still, within a half hour period Izaak and I enjoyed tremendous top water action on our Skitter Pops and Storm Chug Bugs so I still was pumped to fish this gorgeous Muskoka Lake.

Despite a severe cold front and major winds, that hot spot from a week prior was our first stop for non-boater Rick Lewis and I, but try as we might, no keeper fish were present. In fact spot after spot revealed the same sad scenario. I lost one 3 lb plus smallmouth on a spinnerbait and that was it … a Big Goose Egg for both of us was the net result at day’s end. Rick is a very good angler and former AOY for the club who usually fishes as a boater in his Ranger so it was nice to have an opportunity to at least fish with him for a change.  Unfortunately fishing was extremely slow for almost everyone … and even the winner- Cam Mitchell who figured out a deep water pattern, weighed in just 4 fish and 6.42 pounds for the win. This lake is much better than these results though and worthy of a re-try.

7) Go Home Lake (between Mactier and Parry Sound) on Sept 21st was yet another new lake for all of us and therefore another great excuse to visit before our tournament. Prefish a week prior showed that this was a mix between the bordering Georgian Bay type of water and Muskoka type lakes- so it was a very interesting fishery. Smallmouth seemed to dominate and my trusty Storm Chug Bug provided some good action shortly after my arrival.  From there I threw a Terminator spinnerbait across a nondescript weed patch that two pound smallies couldn’t resist. Aquatic plants weren’t overly abundant in this lake, yet I soon found out that wherever I found them, I found bass.  So- much of my prefish was spent driving the lake, looking for weed patches; possibly catching a couple bass there and then marking those spots on my Lowrance HD unit. The problem was that I couldn’t seem to exceed the two pound average-even in a secondary deep-water pattern off shoals that I found later in the day. That was a good bonus back-up pattern despite the fact these drop shot fish were only 1- ½ lbs.

Upon getting set to leave, I noticed on my graph a great looking edge that went from 12’ to 23’. “Hmm, look at all the baitfish here … and some bigger marks too!” I remarked. With the wind now picking up, I chose to drag a tube- long lining it like I would do in Simcoe or Erie.  “I really hope there are bigger bass out here” … I said, and just then my rod doubled over. The big bronzeback made a half decent attempt at a jump about ¼ km away which brought a big smile to my face as I hit Enter-Enter on my Lowrance HD Unit.  Landing the 4 ¾ pounder and seeing other good marks on the graph was enough to convince me I had at least one spot and technique to cull those two pounders come tournament day. I tried duplicating the pattern elsewhere- but no luck. 

For this tournament my non boater was Sid Haynes who had never been on the lake before so we ran to an offshore hump, then a couple of weed patches that helped me round out a small limit before I reached that deep water - offshore edge. It took awhile but I finally hooked into a decent fish in the low four’s, but just as it was nearing the boat, one spectacular jump was all she needed to break free. We kept trying though and Sid got a decent 2 ½ pounder- but that was it; other spots provided fish, but just no size. With just 6.38 pounds for five bass I was quite disappointed and I knew 6th place was not good enough for this year’s tight Angler of the Year race… especially when last year’s AOY Dean Hornick put it all together here for 11.33 pounds and his first win of the season. He was able to catch largemouth in some of the back bays adjacent to the main lake. Ironically enough I tried many of those bays in pre-fish but each time my baits came back empty- so my must tip my fishin’ cap to Dean for putting that pattern together.

8) Lake Couchiching: On Sept 29th was our 2nd last tournament of the year. The AOY race was heating up with no less than 5 or 6 of us still having a shot at the title.  I had some vacation time in September so was fortunate enough to have a couple of days worth of pre-fishing to devote to this fish factory in between lots of fun fishing in many other lakes.  Even though I have over 25 years of experience fishing here, I knew Cooch can be one of those lakes where I’m just as likely to crash and burn as to fill the boat - so it wouldn’t be easy. In pre fish I had a tough time with the smallmouth- catching a few good ones on a Rapala X Rap but not really establishing much of a pattern. So, I began to focus more on deep weedline largemouth and slowly but surely things started to come together.

When I fish deep weeds in late summer and fall, I love throwing deep diving crankbaits and for me the Rapala DT 16 and DT 20 are tops.  These became not only key searching tools, but also key big fish lures during my pre-fish there.

One thing I learned early in prefish was how critical the angle of my cast was in relation to that weedbed. I love fishing weedlines as efficiently as possible – covering as much of the open face of the weedline as possible. This means bass hidden anywhere within it can dart out and grab that crank if I cast parallel to that edge with my DT 16’s or 20’s. Typically then, those parallel casts are in my mind, the most efficient and it would stand to reason- most productive. But- sometimes those darned bass just don’t see things the same way us humans do.  So- it likely wasn’t a conscious decision at the time but I found myself casting from deep water directly to key spots at the edge of the weedline.  After catching a couple of largemouth that way I refined it a little more and was able to pick out key features within the weedline that seemed to hold those ambush oriented bass. Interestingly enough- not all the bass were up tight against the weed edge, but were holding in the deep water well in front of it as well.

When I found one particular weedline in Cooch that had over 20 feet of water a long cast away from the outside edge of those underwater water plants, I was hoping the same pattern as elsewhere would prevail … and much to my delight it did. Within a 200 metre stretch I landed 3 or 4 bass in the 3-4 pound range on deep cranks. Then I came up to a point where the weeds had significant wind pushing up against the side of them.  I made a super long cast with that deep crank and brought it out about 10 feet from the weeds when suddenly the bait just stopped dead.  

At first I had no idea the fish was as big as it was until it made a half-hearted leap for the surface and both Brian and I gasped in amazement. The vivid memory of that big beautiful largemouth swimming with the crank in crystal clear water 30-40 feet from the boat was one I won’t soon forget. As it got a little closer Brian remarked,”Oh my … I think that will go over 6!” I carefully lipped the bass at it came alongside my boat and promptly put her on my Rapala Lock N Grip Digital scale.  It jumped between 6.9 and 6.10 pounds and easily became my Personal Best largemouth from Cooch and the biggest one I had caught in several years.  I was ready for the tournament two weeks later; confident that the deep weedline bass pattern would hold until tournament time!

Rapala Scale

For tournament day Kevin Gittens our club treasurer was my non boater. Although I had a little wind to contend with in pre-fish, it was nothing like what Cooch had for us on September 29th.  Some of it was barely fishable but some of my open water spots were a non-starter. We tried at the top end of the lake for smallmouth and Kevin did get a couple … and later, despite trying I simply couldn’t hold on my largemouth spots. A move to more fishable waters was in order and that trusty weedline where the 6+pounder came from.  Fortunately I soon found out that the fish were still here. Although the average size of the bass I was catching where nowhere near those from prefish … I was still beginning to fill my limit with 2 pounders- thanks to my Rapala DT 20 and a big 5” brown tube jig.  That brown tube was matched inside a ¼ oz darter jig head with an ultra-sharp Gamakatsu hook. The same pattern prevailed as in prefish whereby I had to cast directly at the weed edge instead of parallel. Kevin too was getting close to his limit- so all was good with the world.

Once my limit was filled and the weedline was fished in its entirety, we tried for a kicker fish in much shallower- smallmouth water. Kevin caught a nice three pounder to round out a decent limit.  Back to the start of the weedline and I upgraded slightly several times to finally weigh-in with 11.47 lbs.  That weight was good enough for 2nd and Kevin had his best tournament of the year with 9.54 lbs for 3rd. Dean Hornick … who also struggled at the start of the day found an even more productive weed patch in the afternoon however that enabled him to come in with 13.75 pounds of largemouth for the win. He had clearly made a statement with his 2nd win in a row that he too was vying hard for the A O Y title.

Two Bass

Lake Simcoe, Oct 5: Our last tournament of the year and it would determine the AOY race once and for all.  After winning Cooch, Dean had a fairly comfortable lead with 571 points total. Cam Mitchell in 3rd place, with 566 was only two points behind that Wegman character in 2nd with 568. Coming down to the wire for the very last tournament with three anglers in close contention has happened before but having a fourth wild card with Carlo Puiatti in 4th and 565 points made this AOY race about as close and exciting as we have ever had. Even in 2nd place however, most of the scenarios showed that to truly secure an Angler of the Year title, I had to win Simcoe.  That’s exactly what I convinced myself I had to do … but so did all the others, including Dean himself. Being fortunate to each live so close to Lake Simcoe, both Dean and I were each able to spend some valuable prefishing time out on the big lake prior to our last event. Although Dean was focussing strictly on what he is best at- catching big sacks of largemouth, I was spending at least some time trying to find the big smallmouth this lake is world renowned for. Trouble was that I learned they were very hard to come by- so I found myself chasing largemouth more and more instead.

I love deep crankin’ largemouth and often use the DT 20 in depths where the DT 16 may seem more at home. I like that bill kicking bottom and stirring things up. What some anglers may not realize either is that the DT 20 has a metal weight in its bill, which enables the angler to stop cranking to allow the bait to just hover - and only very slowly begin to float up.  Some days, this pause makes all the difference in the world and that’s when bass engulf the bait! Other times the DT 16 in the same areas works wonders and bass actually are turned on when the bait is stopped and begins to quickly rise up. That’s why I have both baits always tied on.  I use medium heavy 7’ Rapala rods, Shift baitcasting reels and 12 pound straight Suffix Floro for deep crankin’.

Bass

Bass

Once largemouth go deep, Wil relies on his Rapala DT 16’s and 20’s to help him locate and find tournament winning bass

Way back in early September while fun fishing, I was having a very difficult time locating any decent largemouth in the traditional areas of Cooks Bay. I have about 20-30 waypoints of ‘what used to be’ deep water largemouth honey holes – but they were all proving to be very disappointing in 2013. So, one day, I decided to forget all about those electronically saved, sweet-bliss memories and create some new ones.  It took hours and hours of searching until I finally hit pay dirt ... Lush green weedgrowth in an area of varying depths ranging from 10 feet to 24 feet- with good edges that seemed to hold good bass. Subsequent visits right through September convinced me these bass were here to stay for the fall season. I just needed a couple of other back-up spots for security and found one just days before our tournament while pre-fishing with Brian. It was one of those infamous spot on the spot type of deals that I really didn’t fully understand until tournament day- I just knew in prefish it showed great potential.

Tournament day was supposed to be filled with high winds and although it was kind of windy at the start, it was nowhere near as bad as they had predicted.  In fact through the course of the day the wind even kept dying down instead of gaining speed- to the point where, by mid day it was so flat and calm that an eerie fog had begun to roll in across much of the lake. 

I was paired with Mike Otani and began the day casting my trusty Rapala DT 16’s and 20’s.  Although I caught some on these … the big brown tube jig came through in spades and I had a decent limit of largemouth within an hour or so off of my number one spot. I credit the 20 pound test white colored Suffix 832 braid to helping me land those largemouth that were hitting just like small perch would. Not only could I see that white line very clearly on this dark, dreary, rainy day to detect the lightest of bites, but the no-stretch qualities of the braid helped me feel those hits as well. Unlike many anglers though that use short floro leaders with braid, I prefer long ones and used an 8 foot leader of 10 lb Suffix floro.

At about 11 am I was in the process of culling two 2 ¼ lb clones on my balance beam and asked Mike which he thought was heaviest. We agreed the one on the left was smaller- so I tossed it into the lake. I kept fishing and when action stopped I thought I should weigh all my fish and put cull tags on all before I left for the next area. As I grabbed my fifth fish, I was aghast when it apparently had shrunk to the size of a 1 ½ pound peanut! OMG- I had culled the wrong fish! I instantly recalled last year’s AOY race at Lake Dalrymple when Rick Lewis was culling and threw his fifth bass right in the lake instead of the livewell. He lost that tournament and the AOY race because of that one fish and now I may have done the same thing. I was determined not to think of that though and knew I had plenty of time left. Still I felt like a real bone-head making such a rookie mistake!

As I drove to the next spot, I was convinced there were bigger bass waiting for me – so I raced north for one of my two smallmouth spots that produced in pre-fish. We spent half an hour I allotted myself on each but no fish. “Ok let’s hit another largemouth area I found the other day – but we’ll have to go slow in this fog,” I remarked to Mike. Once we got there the fog was like pea soup and if it wasn’t for the GPS on my Lowrance HD I would have never found that small offshore area. My second cast produced a decent 2 ½ pounder that was my biggest ‘relief fish’ of the day. I quickly tossed the peanut back into the lake and replaced her with the new fish … “Whew- what relief!”I said.  

Wil Wegman with Bass

Despite rainy, foggy conditions they were much better than the high winds that were forecast for the last club tournament of the year. This plump largemouth and four others like it provided Wil with a good limit.

More fish came from the same area and once again it was key to not cast parallel but directly at the edge that was holding these fish.  The difference between here and Cooch and even my first spot today though, was that bass were very concentrated in a small area.  I did want to return to that first productive section to help my non-boater out … but by this time, that fog was so thick that I knew travelling down there would be very risky with all those boats dotting the waterscape.  We tried other spots along the edge without anything so returned to see if any new bass reclaimed that spot on the spot. To cap the day I was able to cull twice with moments to spare.  In the end ... having caught about 30 bass that day, and culling many that were just a tad over three pounds – I had no complaints with the limit of largemouth I had – but I knew if those big smallies were - on I’d be toast!

For a club tournament ... this was the most tension filled weigh-in I can ever recall being a part of.  Cam Mitchell had a good sack, backed up by a gorgeous 5.43 lb largemouth for a 13.88 lb total. Bob Kendall also had a good sack anchored by a smallie weighing 4.94 lbs. Carlo’s 8.44 pound bag set him back – and much to my surprise Dean had a tough day as well with just 8.56 lbs.

I thought about my fish as I was carrying them up to be weighed and knew there was no kicker fish amongst them.  I just hoped the average weight of each would be enough. Then my bass were put in the basket and on the scales ... 15.84 Pounds! Yelled the weigh master – Wegman wins and takes Angler of the Year!

Top three standings in 2013 Aurora Bassmaster AOY Race

Wil Wegman ...579 points with a total of 73.56 pounds (based on top 6 tournaments)

Cameron Mitchell...572 points with a total of 56.51 pounds(based on top 6 tournaments)

Dean Hornick ...571 points with a total of 61.19 pounds (based on top 6 tournaments)

For complete standings and more information on the Aurora Bassmasters please visit www.aurorabass.com

Last modified on Friday, 26 August 2016 12:22
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