Pattern: smallmouth bass eating crawdads on shell beds in 5 feet of water Baits: Strike King 1.5 crankbaits How it Happened: Despite finding strong winds when arriving Wednesday, Price and Mitchell remained undeterred and followed their gameplan
to near perfection. “We spent a bunch of time using the Side Imaging on our graphs to locate something different on the flats across the lake,” Price revealed. “In about 28 hours on the lake in three days, we only fished for about 13. The rest of the time was spent staring at the graphs.”
They found 5 spots Wednesday on the graph that looked like bluegill beds, but upon inspection discovered they were actually shell beds. Casting crankbaits to them yielded hungry smallmouth.
Key to every spot they fished were the presence of shell beds in 5 feet of water. “We held our boats between 6-7 feet of water, and cast up on them.” The 19.66 pound limit is the heaviest in Classic history, and also tenth heaviest in R & B History. It was anchored with the Native Pride Tackle Big Bass - a 4.70 pound smallmouth.
Pattern: largemouth bass on a rock pile with scattered weeds & smallmouth bass eating crawdads on gravel
Baits: green pumpkin tubes for smallmouth and homemade jigs for bass
3rd Place: Heath Wagner & Andrew Quillen
Weight: 16.59 Pattern: Largemouth bass relating to docks and boats Baits: Jigs
How it Happened: It took just an hour to boat a limit of smallmouth, but it was an important improvisation that got them on track, “We lost our first four fish on tubes with a ⅜ ounce weight on a spinning rod,” Wagner said.
4th Place: Cory Gaff & Bill Sutton
Weight: 15.83 Pattern: largemouth in canals and smallmouth cruising sandy flats
Baits: tubes and weightless worms
5th Place: Brian Miller & Jason Schwartz Weight: 15.57
Pattern: smallmouth bass in 4 feet of water with mixture of rocks and sand & largemouth bass in shallow weeds
Baits: smallmouth - chartreuse and red rattle traps; largemouth - jigs
Houghton Lake did not disappoint for the 2017 Megaware KeelGuard R & B Bass Circuit Classic. Of the 40 teams participating, 23 caught limits, and more than 40 fish exceeding 3 pounds were brought to the scales. And this occurred in what was considered a tough bite for Houghton standards!
Over $10,000 was given away over the weekend and over $1,000 in prizes Friday Night. In all, over $37,000 was given away during 2017.
On both Thursday and Friday they searched for new areas, but also revisited their 5 spots to confirm the fish stayed - they did. “We took the hooks off our crankbaits just to double, triple, and quadruple check they were still there,” Price said.
Their plan of attack on tournament day did not unfold as planned, Price recalled, “Our first two spots were total busts!” However, after 40 minutes on their third spot, their boat was loaded, “We lost a 4 pounder on our first cast,” lamented Price. “But we caught a limit and lost 4 other big ones.” By 10:20, they had finished their limit. All of their fish were caught with Strike King KVD 1.5 crankbaits,
At that time the bite fizzled, and despite moving around to other areas that produced in practice, they were not able to cull up until 2:30. “We came to one the first spots we tried in the morning and caught a 4 ½ pounder, which culled out a 3 pounder,” recalled an enthusiastic Price. “That fish won us the tournament.”
How it Happened: On Thursday in practice the team found a special spot that yielded monster smallmouth bass. Paulus, who has been fishing Northern Michigan lakes for two decades, lost the biggest smallmouth of his life that evening right at the boat. Selig testified, “It was well over 6 pounds.”
Friday was spent confirming the population of fish there, but also searching for more productive spots. “We had a lot of confidence that our smallmouth would hold,” Selig said, “but that spot was also going to have a lot of wind on it come tournament time, so we wanted back up spots.” It is fair to say their search was successful. “We found a rock pile with scattered weeds the size of a car holding largemouth,” but they did not know exactly how sweet this spot was until late Saturday.
Until 1:30 during the tournament, the duo made multiple drifts through their smallmouth spot, which sat 3-5 feet deep and about a 100 yards long. They used a drift sock to slow the boat. It did not take long to catch a limit, but the bigger fish bit between 10:30-12:00. All 5 fish in the livewell were replaced during those 90 minutes. In all, this spot produced two limits of smallmouth.
At 1:30 they went to their largemouth area and put on a clinic. Over two hours they caught 20 keepers including their two biggest fish of the day. “We just put down the Power Poles and had a blast!” recalled Selig. “There were way more fish there than we knew.”
On top of the high finish, they were also the highest finishing team with a KeelGuard. This earned them an additional $500.
Winnings: 1,500 + 500 = $2,000
“These fish would bite and run at the boat, and we couldn’t keep up. So, we put ½ ounce weights on a baitcast rod with a faster retrieve and were able to make better penetration on hooksets.”
They rotated through two spots and landed 17 keepers, “We never went 30 minutes without a smallmouth bite,” admitted Wagner. Both spots were home to shell beds and were between 3-4 feet deep with sparse weeds.
Quillen added several fish with homemade crankbaits. “Grinding them along the shells triggered some strikes.” The crankbait produced 3 of the 5 fish weighed. Winnings: $1,000
How it Happened: Three different spots produced two limits of fish. After spending considerable time in practice looking for deeper docks on the mainlake, they came across a sandy flat less than 2 feet deep holding smallmouth bass. This is where they began the tournament, and it took just 15 minutes to have 4 in the livewell by slinging tubes.
After overstaying their welcome, they ran to canals to target largemouth bass with weightless worms. They were able to cull 3 times.
Their third stop was a breakline with a mixture of different vegetation 9 feet deep. By dragging tubes, they were able to cull 2 more times.
How it Happened: The previous weekend the team led a 2-day tournament after 1 day on Houghton with nearly 15 pounds of largemouth, but when arriving Friday morning they were determined to find quality smallmouth bass. After scouring the flats they came across one spot that produced 3 quality fish on consecutive casts - their search was over.
They began the tournament here and had a limit in just 40 minutes. The smallmouth were tricked by both chartreuse and red rattle traps. After culling one time, they left to find bigger largemouth by flipping jigs in thick weed beds. Unfortunately, they were never able to cull. “We caught some 2 ½ pounders, but never one to cull,” Miller conceded. Winnings: $650
6th Place: The 2016 & 2017 East Season Champions, Mike Klavinski & Bear Griva, weighed 15.44 pounds and won $550.
7th Place: Aaron Krider fished solo and still managed a 13.56 pound limit of smallmouth bass to pocket $450.
9th Place: A 13.21 pound limit of smallmouth won Matt Kiefer and Landon Baker $250. In addition, they also landed the second biggest bass of the day to win another $150, making their day worth $400.
10th Place: A 13.04 pound limit awarded Duane Hartman and Mike Miller $200.
8th Place: 13.55 pounds of largemouth landed Lance Tresenriter and Chad Walter $350.