FLW Green Bay Pre-Fishing 7/16/11-7/20/11
I had high hopes going into my last “major” tournament of the year. I was not teaming with anyone for this tournament so I knew that I had to have a strong pre-fishing plan to cover as much water as possible in an efficient manner.
To cover as much water as possible I was able to get at least one of my friends to fish with me each day. This allowed me to double the amount of lines (3 baits per person) I could use. This is critical when fishing Green Bay as the walleyes can be anywhere in the water column and this allowed me to have baits from close to the surface to the bottom.
The consensus was 25 pounds a day would most likely be enough to make the top 10 cut. This turned out to be right on. Because I was not fishing all four FLW events points were not important. I needed to find fish that would produce a five-pound average. Fish smaller than 22 inches need not apply!
Saturday, July 16
My friends Mark Michael and Chad Setterholm joined me as we launched out of Bay Shore Park on the eastern shore. The launch was packed and there was a big group of boats working the Vincent Point area. We stay out of the group and worked areas north and west. There was plenty of activity but most were Drum with a couple of small walleyes mixed in.
The highlight of this area was hooking into a trophy Muskie. I was running an 1-1/2 oz. bottom bouncer with crawler harness and a number 7 Hildebrand blade on the inside rod. I had a perch or drum short hit the bait so I reeled it in to check the crawler. We were fishing in 20 feet of water. With about 10 feet on the line counter a Muskie that was in the 50-inch range slammed the harness. I had the Muskie to the surface and close to the net three times. He eventually made a run and was threating to tangle a bunch of my lines so I thumbed the spool. Soon after he busted off and was gone. It would have been nice to get a photo but I had more important things to do, I needed to find big walleyes!
We then headed over to the area just south of Geano’s reef. This area had at least 100 boats fishing from Little Long Tail point up to Geano’s. I don’t like fishing in big crowds but we started on the 20 foot break and caught a 21” walleye and then a ton of drum. We knew there were fish in the area but we wanted to get away from the crowd so we headed out to the S.O.F.A. off of Geano’s reef.
What is the S.O.F.A.? I watched shark week on the National Geographic channel over the winter. Scientists tracked Great White Sharks to an area in the middle of the ocean north of Hawaii. They thought the area was too deep for life and could not figure out why the Great Whites would winter there. It turns out the sharks were feeding on giant Octupus. They ended up calling it S.O.F.A., which stands for the Strategic Off Water Feeding Area. Although the area off from Geano’s is not really deep (23’-27’) it reminded me of the S.O.F.A as it is in the middle of nowhere. One thing is for sure the walleye’s are there because there is plenty to feed on!
We marked plenty of bait fish and walleyes. It did not take long until we started catching nice walleyes. In a little over three hours we caught 12 walleyes between 22” and 28”. Our biggest was 8-03 and our best five probably weighed a little over 30 pounds. We didn’t even spin on these fish to work them again! The good news is these are tournament winning fish. The bad news is the tournament does not start for five more days. Finding the potential winning fish on the first day of pre-fishing is often the kiss of death. Oh how I wished the tournament started tomorrow! Even though most of the boats were fishing to the south and west of us I was also concerned about fishing pressure, which could make things tougher during the tournament.
Sunday, July 17
Feeling pretty good after a great day on Saturday, we decided to launch out of the tournament launch in Oconto. I wanted to see what was going on up north so we headed to Green Island, which is east of Marinette. The wind was out of the south, which is perfect for Green Island. There were 6-7 boats working the south face of the island and so were a bunch of seagulls, pelicans and cormorants. The area was loaded with alewives both alive and dead. We worked the area hard with no success so I ruled out that area for the tournament and we headed to the weeds just north of Oconto.
After several passes it was clear the walleyes were not in this area. Because I was not working with anyone else and I had to make a choice of fishing north or south I decided it was best that I put more time in down south. I dropped Mark and Chad off and headed south. I tried several new areas with only one walleye to show for the day.
Monday, July 18
I shared the boat with Mike Manthe. Even though I had no luck at Green Island I did want to try the north eastern shore of Door County. You won’t catch as many fish in this area but the ones you do catch are big. We launched out of Egg Harbor and targeted reefs southeast of Chambers Island. Everything seemed right but we could not get bit, it is probably too early for the walleye migration to reach this area. There were also thousands of dead alewives and huge schools hanging outside of the reefs. I took that as a sign that if walleyes were there it would be tough to compete with the easy meals that waited for them. A big storm chased us off the water so we loaded up and re-launched at Bay Shore Park.
We headed back over to the S.O.F.A. and worked areas close to where I had caught them on Saturday. It took us a little while to find them but when we did it was on! We caught 8 between 23” and 26-1/2” in about an hour and a half including a double of 26 plus inchers. Our best 5 were probably in the 27 pound range. There were a couple concerns though. First, due to a lack of wind and hot temperatures the surface water temperature rose to 79 degrees. Second there were a lot more boats in the area. This was no secret!
Tuesday, July 19
I shared the boat today with fellow Madisonian Don Doran. In the past I have made the mistake of not knowing an area good enough. Because the S.O.F.A. is so large I decided to spend all of Tuesday working this area. I was careful not to fish any on my waypoints. At noon we only had one 21” fish. We started working a new stretch close to where I was catching them and we got into them again. It was like a broken record as we caught 7-8 with the top 5 again in the 26-27 pound range. Even though the fish were coming easy I was getting more concerned as it seemed 80 percent of the field was fishing the area and more were fishing close to where I was fishing.
Wednesday, July 20
I decided I had learned all I needed to down in the S.O.F.A. so I decided to fish between Oconto and my primary area. We spent a lot of time driving around looking for bait fish in areas similar to my primary area down south. We found an area that was loaded with bait fish. It was also loaded with drum! We lost two good fish and caught one nice walleye. I was hoping to find a backup area but I just did not have enough time. This was a short day as we had the rules meeting at 4 and I had a ton of work to do so we were off of the water by 1 PM.
I was really optimistic but I was also very nervous. Catch my next blog entry will cover the tournament days to see if I could stay on them.