Bass Fishing's "Tournament of Champions"
DULUTH - Hundreds of anglers descended upon the Island Lake Reservoir recently, in the hopes of chasing down every fisherman's dream.
"It’s all about that one-in-a-million shot to make the big tour and be on TV on Saturday," said Tim Allen, tournament director for the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation.
The Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation hosted its “Tournament of Champions,” where the top 12 finishers will represent the state at Divisionals.
"From Divisionals, they take the top guy out of that top 12 and he goes onto the Nationals from the Northern Divisional. And then the top fisherman out of the Northern Divisional, out of like eight states goes onto the Bassmaster Classic, which is the ultimate goal," said Wayne Lindgren, of the Gopher Bassmasters.
Besides the long-shot chance of qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic, there's little money involved, meaning pride and honor take precedent.
Allen said, "Ninety percent of these guys are really, really good. And 95 percent of the people in the field are alpha dog personalities so it's bragging rights. I'm better than you."
It's the first year the tournament has been held this far north and Island Lake presents a number of unique challenges to anglers, including adapting to the lack of one of the tournaments staples, the largemouth bass.
"It's all smallies (smallmouth bass). There's too few largemouth to pursue and smallies can be on and off. They're really hard to follow. They move and they start and stop and it's a challenging bite," said Doug Pirila, of the Duluth Bass Club.
In addition to the change in species, the unfamiliar waters and windy conditions can make it difficult to haul in that big weight. But, some anglers know it's out there.
"I’m thinking the top 20 maybe go 22, 23 pounds," said Lindgren.
Pirila said, "I think someone can get 30 pounds in two days. I don't know who's going to do it, but someone that's really good with smallies and can adjust. I've heard some that were close to 15 pounds on day one, so if you get 15 both days they'll win this."
The Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation tournament winner was Wayne Lindgren from the Gopher Bassmasters. He had a two day total weight of 25.21 pounds.
Two of Duluth’s Bass Club members, Jeff Wefel and Doug Pirila just missed out on the top 12, finishing 15th and 16th respectively.