2017 Competitors (Back Row L-R): Jesse Piontek, Alex Piontek, Steve Piontek, Kevin Rogalski, Jaz Duncan, Doc Gilles, Dan Weideman, Crystal Smart, Mat Eichinger
(Front Row L-R): 2017 CHAMPION CHANG LOR, Kevin Martinek, Gavin Duncan, Tyler Theide (NOT PICTURED): (Jon McMillan, Bob Martens, TouFue Moua)
Gorgeous Sunset the on the Eve of the First Annual James Gang Bass Invitational on Red Cedar Lake, Wisconsin
Rods are rigged, boats are ready, its GAME TIME!!!
It was a great turnout for our first ever James Gang Bass Invitational on Red Cedar Lake, WI on May 27, 2017. 15 Anglers competed in boats ranging from 200 horsepower deck boats to 14 foot aluminum boats to kayaks. The 15 anglers competed in a Major League Fishing event, in which the winner would take home $300 cash, and the angler who landed the heaviest bass of the day would win a $75 "DAILY LUNKER" Big Bass bonus. The list of anglers ranged from amateurs, FLW BFL anglers, CWBA Opens anglers, and to contestants of state and national championships in the KBF Kayak Bass Fishing series. The date picked for this event was based on the typical average water temps and fishing conditions for this time of the year being about prime for the easiest catching of the year for this chain of lakes. But about 6 days before the beginning of the tournament, the area received a very cold rainfall and tornado activity that plummeted water temperatures. This post-poned the smallmouth bass spawn and really created a funk for the largemouth bass that were staging and trying to prepare making their beds. What was a highly-anticipated scoretracker-lighting beatdown, full of top-water action and high-numbers of fish catches on power fishing techniques, turned into very slow reaction-bite presentation tournament, many closed-mouth topwater misses, and an absolute negative feeding pattern for both the power fisherman, as well as the finesse anglers.
Anglers were up hours before the start time of 6:30 am, to make the long road trip and prepare their equipment and launch at the Waldo Carlson County Park on Red Cedar Lake. The 5 kayak anglers chose to launch at Hemlock Lake, and use their kayak advantages to their fullest with the ability to navigate very shallow water and attack the lily pads and spawning flats with their favorite pre-spawn tactics. The aluminum boat anglers launched at the Red Cedar Lake county park (Waldo Carlson) and spent their day focusing on Red Cedar and Balsam Lakes.
STEVE PIONTEK rigging his fishing equipment on the eve of the James Gang Bass Invitational
ALEX PIONTEK headed to the boat with his Mike Iaconelli "IKE DUDE" rod, in high hopes of winning his first adult tournament
May 27, 2017 - 6:00 am James Gang Bass Invitational morning Launch
KEVIN MARTINEK gives a "thumbs up" as he is fully prepared and ready to bring his ace top-water skills in search of the $300 and 2017 trophy. KEVIN ROGALSKI takes a seat and has a plan to attack the smallmouth bass, and beat Kevin Martinek and the rest of the field with his outstanding finesse fishing skills
DOC GILLES is not waiting around for the others, as he cranks his 15 hp Mercury to full-throttle and hammers down on Red Cedar Lake. His opponent in the front of the boat, DAN WEIDEMAN, is an experienced clear water angler, and is very excited about his odds at winning the James Gang Bass Invitational trophy
KBF National Qualifier TOUFUE MOUA, prepares his kayak with high-quality electronics, a custom rod holder, and a Power Pole Micro to keep his position in 8 foot of water or less. Small Craft Outfitters Guide and KBF tournament angler CHANG LOR arrives with his awesome Feel Free kayak mounted on the roof of his Subaru. Moments later his kayak is fully rigged and launched in time for the 6:30 am start time
FLW BFL Angler JAZ DUNCAN has his 40 horsepower Mercury running and is ready to leave the dock with his future star angler son, as Doc and Dan leave in the background
THE TOURNAMENT BEGINS......
As in all Major League Fishing tournaments, the anglers are very anxious to see who scores first, who gets momentum, and who gets behind in a hurry. In this event, we all had a gut feeling that we would all light it up fast with the 2 day warming trend possibly turning the bite around, or all struggle due to the low water temps. But only on his FIFTH cast, Steve Piontek was the first angler to register on the Scoretracker. His firetiger spinnerbait landed him a 1 lb 10 oz largemouth bass, and he would sit alone on the Scoretracker for quite sometime. Alex Piontek, Steve's 8 year old grandson and CEO of James Gang Fishing Company, felt that his "Papa Steve" had the tournament in the bag already, and quickly became nervous that the $300 prize would be out of his own reach. We had to explain to the little tournament angler that in MLF formats, the tournament can be won or lost in minutes, and no weight is safe enough until the end of the day.
STEVE PIONTEK is the first angler to ever score in a James Gang Bass Invitational. His 1 lb 10 oz largemouth bass propels him to the lead (which he mistakenly registered 1 lb 7 oz.) After a quiet start he remained the only angler on the scoreboard, until Mat Eichinger got into a groove and managed two quick fish in a row to take the lead.
MAT EICHINGER lands another fish, a 1 lb 8 oz smallmouth, to steal the lead from Steve Piontek early in the morning on Balsam Lake. He changed lures frequently and managed to land one on a topwater prop bait, and followed up with another fish on a suspending jerk bait.
DAN HAS HAD ENOUGH!
The Scoretracker Live standings remained still for quite a while, With Mat leading Steve by a small amount. The scores and sizes were low, so in this day it appeared at any point, a giant bass of 4+ pounds could totally take the tournament over. The smaller 1-2 pound fish were seeming to be the only ones willing to bite on occasion. The 3-4 lb largemouth were making themselves VERY present in the clear shallows, circling in defense of their future bedding areas. We went through many sight-fishing finesse techniques, with 100% failure on about 30+ bass sightings on Balsam Lake. Becoming frustrated we quit on the big largemouths and decided to pursue skinny smallmouths on the James Gang Bass Jerker on gravel and hanging near laydowns. Shortly after working the shoreline, Steve felt a solid bite on his firetiger spinner once again. I threw a cast right where his fish was with my Ghost Minnow Bass Jerker and hooked up with a fighter. I was extremely excited to finally land a fish - a 1 lb 1 oz beauty - but unfortunately this black crappie was not eligible in the tournament. Measuring 12" even on the bump board, it tied my personal best crappie and was something to laugh about. I then checked the score tracker and found that Dan Weideman put his clear-water experience to use and boated a bass at 1 pounds 7 ounces. He was on the hunt and not backing down. Shortly after he landed a beautiful smallmouth bass out of Red Cedar, weighing in at 2 pounds 10 ounces. If you look at scoretracker it shows 3 fish at a smaller average, his 2 fish totaled 4 lbs 1 oz, but he thought Doc and he were fishing in Europe and were measuring and taking pictures in kilograms. We took their numbers at lunch and converted them into real weights and found that Dan had taken the weight lead, as well as the big bass lead shortly before halftime.
1 lb 1 oz Black Crappie - caught on a James Gang Fishing BASS JERKER in "Ghost Minnow"
Clear-water fishing expert DAN WEIDEMAN with a gorgeous 17" smallmouth bass on Red Cedar Lake, weighing 2 lbs 10 oz to take the mid-day total weight lead and the momentarily "Daily Lunker" lead.
CRYSTAL SMART registers early in the day on Balsam Lake with a solid 1 lb 5 oz Largemouth Bass. JB's Fish sauce was a factor in the catching of this fish.
Trash Talking between the Piontek boat and the Eichinger boat on Balsam Lake after CRYSTAL SMART releases her legal Largemouth Bass right in front of the Pionteks
STEVE PIONTEK working his perch colored suspending jerkbait, while ALEX PIONTEK works his weedless swimbait, and JESSE PIONTEK is running his favorite lure, the Bass Jerker suspending jerkbait.
END OF PERIOD 1 - LUNCH, SCOREBOARD UPDATE - PERIOD 2 BEGINS
The anglers check-in at lunch, dish up some delicious venison hot dogs and sloppy joes, prepared my MAT EICHINGER and CRYSTAL SMART. The anglers enjoyed their lunch, as Mat updated the score board as the scores came in from Jaz Duncan, TouFou Moua and Chang Lor. The topic of discussion was primarily the super tough bite, and the fantastic weather.
James Gang Fishing Company CEO and Lead Lure Designer ALEX PIONTEK enjoys a mid-day lunch break and talking with the anglers
PERIOD 2 BEGINS.......
Late in period 1 , I managed to boat two legal smallmouths, 1 crappie. and 2 pike on my Bass Jerker suspending jerkbait. To my surprise, the smallmouths were on their beds and spawning, which in typical years on this chain would have been weeks ago. I decided to start period 2 with the jerkbait. I got on a fast spree of fish, and boated 4 smallmouths in about 10 minutes, of which 2 were legal for the tournament. I shot up the leaderboard and overtook Dan Weideman, and even though I did not feel like I was safe on the leaderboard at all, I was fully committed now as I had landed 9 fish in a short time on my favorite presentation. I felt like the chance was there to now pull away from the field and catch fish at a very fast pace as I usually do when the jerk bait bite was on. But after my 10 minute flurry, time kept ticking away fast and the bites just were completely non-existant. I kept checking the scoretracker live nervously, and to my surprise everytime I remained the leader for hours. As time was winding down and the bites never came back, I had to scrap my confidence lure. Even though Scoretracker live showed me winning with little time left, I knew the kayak boys had poor reception and at any point they could light it up with heavy Hemlock Largemouth and destroy me with one fish. And even at my lead, ANYONE IN THE FIELD could over take me with only one to two quality fish in a row. I put the jerkbait rod away, even though I was in the lead, and we called an audible. We headed back into the area that was loaded with big largemouth bass, knowing the only way I would hold everyone off was to land a big one or two to seal the deal. Alex threw on a Stanley Baby Ribbit, dipped the feet in chartreuse dye, and on his first cast had a nice 1.5 lb or more largemouth on for about a second and a half. He paused, then set the hook well like a frog guy is supposed to do (he has caught many on the KVD Sexy Frog at 6 years old) but the bass managed to throw the lure and ruin Alex's day.I then threw on the James Gang Fishing DUNKIN' FROG, red buzzer, same color body Alex was using with dyed feet. I got a 2 hits right away that didnt hook up, both appearing to be under-sized largemouth that wouldn't register anyway. I then switched to the trusty finesse worm, and in the last hour, all I managed was 2 small pike. I ran out of time, and refused to check Scoretracker Live the last hour in fear. As we idled through the no wake channel, I checked to see that Chang Lor overtook me, and I had not yet seen what the other kayak boys had done to me yet. When we met up at the awards ceremony at Waldo Carlson County Park, Jaz Duncan registered two nice smallmouth in the closing minutes. He figured his pattern out right when time ran out and was about to give us a beatdown. He finished the day with the heaviest average fish. Kevin Martinek was disgusted as the bass were smashing his topwater with closed mouths and he only managed to get 2 of them in the boat. He figured he had around 18-20 fish nail his lures, and almost all of them did not hit it to feed. If they would have, Kevin would have owned this tournament with his #1 confidence lure. Small Craft Outfitters Guide and KBF tournament angler Tyler Theide managed to put together a pattern in the closing minutes as well, registering a 1 lb largemouth and catching multiple under-sized ones as well. TouFue Moua headed out after he lost a 4 pound and a 2 pound bass, in which the 4 pound class fish was a guaranteed victory and a big bass of the day. Mat Eichinger managed 3 more fish in the second half and ended up with the highest number of fish for the event.
JAZ DUNCAN'S last-minute heroics are not enough to win the event, but he did manage to end the day with the highest average weight
KEVIN MARTINEK had fun with these two tournament fish, but left very disappointed with the high number of bites and low hook-ups that the spawning fish game him.
AND THE WINNER IS...CHANG LOR!!!!
CHANG LOR weighs in the biggest bass of the day, and near the end lands a smaller legal one that puts him over the tops and WINS him the first ever JAMES GANG BASS INVITATIONAL!!!
17" largemouth bass caught on a buzzbait, one of Chang's favorite lures. The fish weighed 2 lbs 11 oz, beating Dan Weideman's big bass by only 1 ounce for the "DAILY LUNKER" award of $75. Chang also beat Jesse Piontek by 1 lb 3 oz to take home the victory trophy as well as the $300 prize pot. CONGRATULATIONS Chang on winning a very tough event!!
James Gang Fishing Company CEO and Lead Lure Designer ALEX PIONTEK with the James Gang Bass Invitational winner, CHANG LOR
Dinner, Awards presentation, Drawings, and Payout.....
When the event was over, the anglers got together at Waldo Carlson County Park and held their awards presentation. James Gang Fishing Company CEO and Lead Lure Designer ALEX PIONTEK joined MAT EICHINGER in presentation the awards and the prize drawings. CHANG LOR won the $300 first prize, as well as the $75 DAILY LUNKER Award. JAZ DUNCAN won a $50 James Gang Fishing Company Tackle Kit. MAT EICHINGER won a James Gang Fishing Company Dunkin; Frog. The winner of the JB FISH SAUCE Stick and Marinade kits was STEVE PIONTEK. The winner of the HANG OUTDOORS painted crankbait kit was JAZ DUNCAN, and the drawing grand prize winner of the SMALL CRAFT OUTFITTERS guided kayak trip was KEVIN ROGALSKI. We celebrated with more plates of venison, took a group photo, handed out the prizes and awards, talked a little fishing as the kids played in the playground, and then we all hit the road after an exhausting day of non-stop casting. Thanks so much to all the anglers for your great attitudes and sportsmanship to each other. Also we appreciate the honesty and integrity shown from all in our scoring system.
A special thanks goes to HANG OUTDOORS and JB's FISH SAUCE. Please check them out on Facebook. They both make outstanding products!
A VERY SPECIAL thank you goes to SMALL CRAFT OUTFITTERS Guide Service. To book a trip with Kayak Guides TYLER THEIDE and 2017 James Gang Bass Invitational Winner CHANG LOR, visit their website at www.smallcraftoutfitters.com or call 507-400-FISH (3474) These guys are experienced tournament anglers and will get you in premium Feel Free Kayaks on great bodies of water at peak fishing times.
If you are interested in competing in this tournament in 2018, contact Tournament Director Mat Eichinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Jesse at email@example.com for more information. Enjoy the following pictures and send us your fish catch pictures on James Gang Fishing lures!!!!
CORRECTIONS: STEVE PIONTEK 1 bass - 1 lb 10 oz. DAN WEIDEMAN 2 BASS 4 lb 1 OZ - 2 lb 0.5 OZ AVERAGE - TYLER THEIDE - 10th place - 1 bass - 1 lb 0 oz
James Gang Fishing proudly supports THE IKE FOUNDATION and FISHERS OF KIDS ANGLERS ACADEMY. Support kids in the outdoors! For more information check out www.theikefoundation.org and www.gofundme.com/fishersofkidsanglersacademy.
Jesse James is an avid fisherman that loves smallmouth bass fishing, loves spending time with his family, with other family-orientated people, and loves seeing children fish. A huge fan of BASSMASTER Elite Mike Iaconelli, like Mike, he is known to be a little strange, and obnoxious, but only to have fun and make people laugh.