Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Okoboji Lakes

I often get asked, "Where is the best place to fish in Iowa?"  In recent years my answer has been very quick, the Okoboji Lakes.  It doesn't matter whether it is ice fishing or fishing from a boat, these lakes are my number one place to visit.  It is a 4-hour drive, so unfortunately I only get up there 3 or 4 times a year,  I do wish it was much closer.  

This past weekend was one of those trips.  The hopes of catching a big Spirit Lake smallmouth, a giant Largemouth from the Okoboji Lakes and some giant crappies and bluegills was the plan.  That plan did not go as planned, and that's fishing.  The wind kept us off Spirit Lake for most of the weekend, so no giant smallmouth bass.  The panfish did cooperate on the West Okoboji, we found several schools of fish relating to deeper docks in the spawning mode.  Making accurate casts was vital, often times "shooting docks" were the only way to get a bite.  If you have never "shot a dock" for panfish, you need to get with me for this awesome fishing technique!  Other times pitching your jigs between dock poles had to be done to catch fish.  It made for a fun yet challenging way to fish.  Bluegills and crappies were had, which some were used for a group meal of tacos on Saturday night.  As for the largemouth bass, which grow HUGE in this chain of lakes, I didn't catch a giant, but a few good ones on this trip were fooled.  Casting a Strike King swim jig with my Lew's Custom Lite combo seemed to be a good way to entice some nice largemouth.  There are always a lot of ways to catch fish, this weekend turned into a lot of moving trying to hook up with that one "big one".  It is always great to out to the Okoboji Lakes, although this trip was plagued by wind and my inability to find bass quickly, the panfish were there to save the weekend.  It was great to get out with friends and catch a bunch of fish, even better enjoying them at the cabin.

Another BIG GILL for dinner

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

6th Annual Iowa High School Bass Team Championship


2024 TEAM CHAMPIONS: Indee Bass Club- Gable,
Colton, Carter, and Jackson

It is hard to believe that it has been six years running this event.  It all started with an idea over a conversation at lunch, and now in 2024 there was 150 kids fishing in a single event that gave away over $4,000 in prizes to kids.

The whole idea for this event was to give kids from all over the state a tournament that they could fish if their school/area didn't have a fishing club.  The idea must have been a good one!  

With a few phone calls to some of my sponsors the event was created in 2019.  The first event saw 28 boats participate, in 2020 there were 26 boats, in 2021 there were 20 boats, in 2022 there were 32 boats, last year was 49 boats and this year we topped out at 75 boats.  It has been an awesome run seeing all these kids being able to fish and enjoy some time on the water chasing bass.  I couldn't have done these events with out the help of my personal sponsors and event sponsors, along with the many friends of mine that help me run the events on tournament day.  For this year I must give a huge thank you to Randy Toale, Jackson Toale, Chad O'Brien and Keith Donnelly for making things go very smoothly this year.

This two part event tests each boat on their own, as well as the top two boats from any given school system.  This year we saw a record of 24 different schools participating and 150 kids.  Ankeny HS was able to take home the first place trophies for the top boat.  They had a limit of five bass that weighed 12.15 pounds.  Coming in second was an Independence boat that weighed 9.64 pounds.  In third place was a boat from Johnston HS, they had 9.17 pounds.  Coming in at fourth place was the Charles City/Waverly Shell-Rock Boat weighing 8.94 pounds and rounding out the top 5 spot was a boat from NE Goose Lake HS weighing in 8.75 pounds.  Complete results can be found on the tournament website HERE

1st Place Boat: Ankeny HS- Darin and Tyson
The second part of the event is always a suspenseful one for the anglers and crowd gathered.  The "TEAM" portion of the event adds the top two boats from each school for their combined school weight.  This year the weights were very close at the top ten boats and no one...not even myself had a true idea of the 2024 Team Champions.  As things were added up and checked twice, it became clear.  The school from Independence, 2023 2nd Place team rose to the top with a combined weight of 16.37pounds.  Cedar Falls, the 2023 Team Champions came in second with a combined weight of 15.67.  In third place, for the second year in a row, was the team from Wilton HS, they weighed 14.54 pounds.

Prizes were given to the top 3 teams, the Champions receiving the CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS.  On teh individual side of the tournament, the top 18 boats (36 anglers) recieved prizes for their catches.  The Big Bass was given a special trophy and loads of X-Zone Lures and Rod Gloves.  All in all the total amount of prizes and trophies ended up being over $4,000 this year.  

This amazing event could not happen with the HUGE support of our presenting sponsor, the Cedar Falls SCHEELS store.  SCHEELS was also present to give all students prizes for entering the event.

WOW...quite an event, and one that will not be forgotten any time soon!  Time to start planning for 2025!

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

TBF HS/JR State Tournament at the Okoboji Lakes/Indee Bass Club Event #2

Cal and Ranger with four of their WINNING bass

The Bass Federation (TBF) held its annual State Tournament this past weekend at the Okoboji Lakes in Northwestern Iowa.  This event was a perfect opportunity for the Indee Bass Club to double up on tournament opportunities with one long trip.  Anglers would be competing in the State event and the club event at the same time.  Six teams made the long trip to Okoboji, four high school teams and two junior teams.  The day before the event the weather was horrible.  Temperatures were in the low forties, on and off rain and the constant twenty mile per hour winds with gusts much higher.  A few anglers gave it their best during this weather to come up with a plan of attack to bring in their five best bass the next day.  That night students and captains gathered for the pre-tournament meeting.  Here, all students received about $200 worth of fishing gear just for being part of the tournament.  A Lew's reel and an AbuGarcia rod was part of that large prize package, as well as many other small gifts.  It was a great time seeing all the anglers and coaches in one area talking about the sport of bass fishing.  The meeting was held with directions and announcements for the next day's tournament.  It was an exciting way to end the day.

Tournament day brought cloudy skies but temperatures were pleasant throughout the day, and no rain at all.  Most teams found the bass willing to bite during the cloudy day.   The team of Ranger Reed and Cal Sweeney caught their limit of fish using bladed jigs and deep crankbaits.  They weighed in five keepers weighing 14.22#, a new Indee Bass Club record to win the club tournament.  They finished 13th in the state out of 45 High School teams in the state competition.  Coming in second was the partnership of Gable Eddy and Jackson Beatty.  They also had a limit that weighed in at 9.07 pounds.  They caught their fish using jerkbaits and craw style baits.  They finished 33rd in the state standings.  Coming in at the third spot in the club tournament was Christian Simmons and Aiden Svoboda.  They caught two bass using crankbaits that weighed 7.43 pounds.  They ended up placing 10th in the Junior division out of 18 teams.  In the fourth spot for the bass club was Wyatt Mether and Carson Hanoway.  They weighed in three bass that weighed 5.61 pounds, placing 35th in the state event.  A big thank you to the adult boat captains that made this trip possible for the student anglers; Todd Reed, Avery Fuchs, Dave Wilson, Steve Bley, Cyrus Butters and Garry Anderson.

The Okoboji Lakes are known for their big bass, making this an exciting place to fish.  Christian and Cal both weighed in largemouth bass weighing over four pounds in this event, something club members have never done since its beginnings in 2017.  Although the weather didn't cooperate the day before the tournament, tournament day was awesome and the kids had an experience they won't soon forget.  To find out more about the Indee Bass Club visit them on their website, Facebook or Instagram pages.  As always, this free club is made possible by our great sponsors;Colony Heating/Air Conditioning, BankIowa, Klever Concrete, Tim Reed State Farm, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Shay's Minn Kota, Rick Wendling Memorial, Cy & Charley's, SCHEELS of Cedar Falls, Lew's, Strike King, The Rod Glove, Hank's Bait and Tackle of Waterloo, Hot Rod Baits and X-Zone Lures.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

What was the BEST BAIT in April?

 As April comes to a close I reflect back on my time on the water.  There were some good days and few days where I was left scratching my head when loading the boat.  It is fishing, and Mother Nature was not very kind this April.  The weather patterns were like no other year I can ever remember.  The temperature swings definitely had the fish on the move, which caused me to try a lot of different techniques to try and catch fish.  No matter what we as anglers are thrown, and no matter what the weather may be, we have to figure out a way to trick the fish into biting.  We have to solve the question, "What are they biting on?"

On to the bass...April was, as stated a mess for weather and trying to get anything consistent going.  I did try a lot of different baits this past month, but overall the two main baits that kept catching fish was a jig and chunk combination and a Strike King spinnerbait.  I was able to work the jig and chunk on a 7ft 3in MedHvy power/fast action Lew's Speed Stick with a SuperDuty reel.  The SuperDuty reel has a flippin switch, which is something I have used for decades with pitching baits at shallow cover.  The Spinner bait setup was a 7ft medium power, fast action Lew's Custom Lite, really smooth action, great drag and the rod is so "lite".  These two combos and baits are no surprise for spring time bass fishing, but it does show that no matter what the weather may be, they still catch bass.  Typically a spinnerbait is considered a cloudy day presentation, however in the spring when the sun comes out the bass get active.  On these days the bass have a hard time not chasing down a spinnerbait.  When the bite is slower, perhaps on a cooling trend, then the jig and chunk really shined.  As stated, I tried many baits through April, crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits and finesse baits, a lot of baits will catch bass this time of year.  I did catch several smaller bass on stickbaits, but the larger bass all came on the jig or spinnerbait.   Each spring is a little different, keep your mind open every year to those baits and make sure and use plenty of your confidence baits as well.   

Strike King Slabalicious

On to the bait that caught the most fish in April.  It was by far the Strike King Slabalicious.  This plastic bait caught so many crappie for me and others fishing with me in April.  There was not a day where I couldn't find some hungry crappie, whether on the rivers or on a lake.  This bait is fantastic for vertical fishing as well as casting towards structure.  It is basically a mini version of a paddle tail used in bass fishing.  It has a lot of action that allows the crappie to feel and find it.  It also travels through the water a bit slower due to its unique tail, making it an "easy" meal for a nearby crappie.

May certainly has some better weather in store...we all hope.  Either way, get out there and enjoy the water when you can, be safe everyone, and if you can get a kid out there with you.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

2024 Indee Bass Club Kick-Off Tournament

Gable and Jackson with the WINNING fish from the Wapsi
 This past Saturday marked the first day of tournament action for the Indee Bass Club in 2024.  The Wapsi River was the site of the event that saw seventeen anglers take to the water on a chilly morning.  The water level was normal, the water temperature was normal but the recent weather was up and down every other day.  Fish like steady conditions, which made this day on the water a bit tougher than most expected.  However, like all bass tournaments, some boat was destined to find them, and when hey did, they caught them!  

Coming in as the Wapsi Champions were Jackson Beatty and Gable Eddy.  These boys caught five keeper smallmouth bass that weighed 10.05 pounds.  Jackson also caught the big bass of the tournament which weighed 2.66 pounds.  Jackson Toale, their captain, led them to a few areas that had the bass feeding up on crankbaits and Hot Rod Baits Tubes.  The two students caught 8 keepers throughout the day, most fish coming from two small areas on the river.  Coming in second was EJ Miller and Kayden Donnelly, captained by Brian Miller.  This duo brought in four nice largemouth bass to the weigh in, they weighed 6.46 pounds.  EJ and Kayden caught their fish on spinnerbaits, Texas-rigged crawdads and 4-7foot diving Rapala crankbaits.  In third place was Ranger Reed and Cal Sweeney, captained by Todd Reed.  They used bladed jigs and spinnerbaits to catch their two keeper bass.  The two bass weighed in at 3.21 pounds.   In the fourth place spot with one keeper bass weighing 1.97 pounds was TeJay Ratchford and Evan Hoyle.  They were captained by Dan Sweeney.  A bladed jig was their best bait on the day.  Rounding out the top five was the boat captained by Dave Wilson.  Aiden Svoboda, Will Clark and Clinton Junk brought in one keeper that weighed 1.46 pounds.  Full results can be found on the Indee Bass Club website.

The club, which is FREE to all Independence students was able to give away about $800 worth of fishing gear, awards and gift cards.  All students walked away with some new fish fishing gear with the help of our sponsors; Colony Heating/Air Conditioning, BankIowa, Klever Concrete, Tim Reed State Farm, Buchanan County Wildlife Association, Shay's Minn Kota, Rick Wendling Memorial, Cy & Charley's, SCHEELS of Cedar Falls, Lew's, Strike King, The Rod Glove, Hank's Bait and Tackle of Waterloo, Hot Rod Baits and X-Zone Lures.  

The club is operated by Coach Todd Reed, Keith Donnelly and Garry Anderson, weigh-in helpers include Dan Sweeney and Randy Toale.  The students next event will be the The Bass Federation Student Angler State Tournament at the Okoboji Lakes April 27th.  If you want more information about club or want to help them with an event, check them out on Facebook, Instagram and their website.

Jeff Heinze helping with the weigh-in on the WINDY day.