18 Anglers, including 5 children, in a low entry fee, $360 payout MAJOR LEAGUE FISHING EVENT!!
On October 13, 2018, 8 boater teams and 2 kayak anglers took on Lake Holcombe in northwestern WI to battle for the James Gang Fall Invitational trophy and cash prizes. In an effort to promote getting kids out fishing, and to spread the intentions of THE IKE FOUNDATION, we decided to create a Big Bass Award and cash prize, strictly for the children 12 and under. The winner of the kids big bass award was to win a trophy, $90 cash, a Rapala decal, and a snapback hat from THE IKE FOUNDATION. This event had our lowest entry fee yet, at only $20 a child could join with their parent and have a chance to win the team weight trophy, the big bass trophy, and the kids big bass trophy. Also, just for showing up, we gave the kids 12 an under a participation trophy, a signed poster by Bassmaster and MLF champion Mike Iaconelli, and a Rapala Pro Staff youth t-shirt (thank you BASSU member discount!!) The kids were thrilled to receive these prizes, and I was even more thrilled to see their reactions!
FIRST PLACE TROPHY, CHILD'S BIG BASS, CHILD'S PARTICIPATION TROPHY, THE IKE FOUNDATION HAT PRIZE
10 AM = "LINES IN"
KAYAK ANGLER DEWEY LOR STARTS OFF HIS DAY WITH A QUALITY WALLEYE
The day is started as the anglers receive their PIN cards and they are then permitted to claim their starting locations. Cards were handed out beginning at 9 am. Anglers were allowed to travel anywhere within an hour to find their location, but were not allowed to cast until 10AM. Minutes into the day, Dewey Lor tried putting his teammate TouFue Moua on the board with himself, but the kayak guys knew this was a BASS tournament, and a quality WALLEYE will not count!
Since we lost our 1976 Evinrude 40 hp back in June, we had to clamp a 1969 Evinrude 6 hp in efforts to bring the 16' Lund Big Lakes back to mobility status. In 4 awful trips pre-fishing the main lake, I never had a single bass bite! Word from the other anglers was that they were biting very well in the rivers entering the flowage. So on this day, my partner Todd Steinhorst and I braved the wicked currents from the recent flooding, as well as the strong southern winds, and we went on a slow 4-6 mph voyage towards the Chippewa River. We had no idea what kind of waters we would be fishing, and we had very low confidence in what the outcome would be when we had virtually zero ability to cover water in tough conditions, would be losing at least 2 hours of fishing due to travel time, all while competing against boats up to 250 hp. As we headed up we enjoyed the fall color and figured we were just out to have fun and maybe learn a thing or two. about 70% towards our destination, Todd informed me that we already burned an hour of time traveling, so we stopped our voyage short and began casting shallow wood cover near a fast structure change and a current seam. No bites were found, and a lot of dead vegetation was hooked on every cast. Were not not feeling it, so we headed up to a creek inlet and were very happy with what we found - current, a deep channel, and excellent cover around the seams. We worked the area hard and were having no luck at all. I took a glance at MLF Scoretracker, and found that Beau & Chad were the first on the board, with a bass weighing 1 lb 2 oz. Beau is only 7 years old and was hoping to land a legal bass that could give him a shot at the Kids' Big Bass Award. Moments later, Shawn Malison & Jesse Goss landed a 2 lb 1 oz smallmouth and put themselves in the lead....
Shawn Malison & Jesse Goss jump out to a small early lead over Beau & Chad Ducommun with a 2 lb 1 oz smallmouth bass early in the event
38 minutes into the event, and 2 teams were on the board!
TEAM PIONTEK/STEINHORST FIND SOME FISH, DOUGLAS GETS ON BOARD, AND THE OTHERS TURN UP THE HEAT!!!!
11 YEAR OLD DOUGLAS S. JUMPS INTO THIRD PLACE WITH A QUALITY SMALLMOUTH BASS AT 2 LBS 1 OZ AND TAKES OVER THE KID'S BIG BASS LEAD
After Shawn & Jesse G. took the lead, they landed another nice smallmouth, but Team Ducommun came firing back with another small one, hanging right with them. Then the scoreboard sat idle for a long period of time, with 2 teams and 4 fish registered in total. During this drought, Todd and I spent a long period of time fishing around the creek mouth both deep and shallow with search baits and finesse lures, without any luck whatsoever. We had a feeling that the other two teams that were on fish were on the main river catching them off of the heavy current, so we worked our way into the main river channel and were slapped by MOTHER NATURE right in the face. High winds and heavy currents made controlling this light boat impossible and making it a nightmare when attempting to give the bass a good presentation of our lures. To get out of the elements, we made a screaming quick run across the river at full throttle (around 4 mph) and found ourselves a small bay with decent depth. We worked the shorelines, caught a few trees, but were still searching for bites. We checked the scoretracker live and found that Douglas and his dad Mike were sitting in 3rd place, and Douglas was in the lead for the kid's Big Bass Award. Douglas is a great bass angler at his young age and has whooped me personally on multiple occasions, including two tournaments and a filming of the Alex Fishing Show (coming out soon!) Todd and I found a unique area near the opening of this bay in which the screaming current of 3.5 mph had a current seam around some wood cover and shoreline irregularities that gave the bass some slack water to ambush right on the edge. It set up perfect, but after hours of no luck, I was honestly day dreaming and fishing with very little confidence. At this time, I cast in between 2 docks by some dead lily pads and I felt what I thought was a snag. Then it moved. I was not excited at all, because I assumed it was a northern pike after 4 bass-free sessions on this body of water. As I reeled the fish half way to the boat, I was stunned to see that I hooked a very respectable smallmouth bass on a Redhorse colored James Gang Bootykicker, freshly loaded with JBs Fish Sauce in Black Magic! We put the bass on the scale and it weighed 2 lbs 5 oz, as I proudly took the lead in the DAILY LUNKER contest for big bass of the day!
TEAM PIONTEK/STEINHORST DISPLAY THEIR PIN CARD WITH A 2 LB 5 OZ BASS
We found a little excitement as we drifted that current seam, since much of that shoreline irregularity looks similar. As we attempted to start a new drift through the same area looking for a current ambush pattern, Todd hooks into his first smallmouth of the day! We put the bass on the scales and we took over the lead and I was still holding on to the Daily Lunker award at this point.
Todd Steinhorst jumps his team to a small lead with this 1 lb 15 oz smallmouth bass
STEINHORST TURNS UP THE HEAT!
Nervous about the competition, we frantically checked Scoretracker and we were holding the lead as the other teams were sitting still. We did see that Todd's arch-nemesis Scott Wilczek was on the board, as he was using a secret weapon named Carson to try and topple Todd. Scott and Carson were trying to use a little Holcombe experience and a sweet 250 hp Skeeter to take us out, but since we believed we may have found a winning pattern, we fought with our General Lee boat looking for victory. We decided to continue running our pattern and re-cast the prime current seam, since most casts were "wasted" casts covered in dead grass, killing the presentation of that cast. Also with the 3.5 mph current, we were missing several prime casts in the time it took to shake the vegetation off of our lures. On our third float, we passed the 2 areas in which we caught the first two bass, and as we headed a little distance down river, Todd hooks up! And this one leaves no doubts! As I went for the Frabill to land it, all I could see was height on this fish! As we scooped it up, we knew Todd landed a special one. This fish appeared to be all of 18" or longer. Todd placed it on the scale, and the beautiful smallmouth weighed just 4 oz shy of 4 pounds!!!!!
Todd Steinhorst solidifies our lead and takes the Daily Lunker lead away from me with a gorgeous smallmouth bass weighing 3 lbs 12 oz threes hours before weigh-in
DUCOMMUN, WILCZEK, AND MALISON BRING ON THE PRESSURE ON THE UPPER CHIPPEWA RIVER
As we sat on top in full control of this event, we continued to work our pattern. Unfortunately, the bites came to a stop and the pattern no longer held. We made several more drifts down the seam with no luck. So we then made a short run farther up river, smashing small logs and firewood with our boat facing the fast current and floating debris. We found a few spots that looked like they had potential, but they failed to give us a bite as well. We decided that if we stayed on this pattern, someone would steal the win from us as we failed to produce a fourth or fifth quality fish. We gave our productive area one last float, then proceeded to find new areas with current seams down river in the direction of our weigh in. We also had to allow extra time to get back than the others with the lack of speed that we were running with our outboard. As time kept clicking, our lead remained. Beau and Chad Ducommun got on a roll and were right on us, pressuring us hard as we only had a 2 oz lead. During their rally, Beau landed a beautiful 2 lb 15 oz smallmouth to take over the kid's big bass lead. He also put a bonus pike in the boat for fun. During this time, Shawn Malison and Jesse Goss are back in the game after outboard issues and are one quality fish from the lead as well...
7 Year old Beau takes over the Kid's Big Bass Award with a very nice 2 lb 15 oz smallmouth bass late in the day as Team Ducommun runs down our lead
This picture sums up how Scott Wilzcek felt to register his first fish
when he was down by 8 lbs to us on a lake that he has experience on
Another James Gang MLF event, another quality walleye for Pro-Staff member Kevin Rogalski as he smiles big with a 24" girthy walleye Saturday
Gabe & Aaron Knutsen struggled to find bass, but had fun with some nice and angry northern pike, the biggest measuring 25"
Alayna and Pro-Staff member Mat Eichinger focus on fun in the bays near Pine Point, as they run into trolling motor issues at the start of the event
Working the main river currents, Shawn & Jesse G. are back in the hunt with a very nice 2 lb 2 oz smallmouth, only 1 quality fish from taking the lead from us
After sending an under-sized bass airborne, landing a quality pike, and his opening walleye, Dewey Lor gets the kayak team started late in the day with a very nice 2 lb smallmouth bass
ITS A BATTLE OF 3 OZ, AS THE EVENTS CLOSES DOWN, THREE TEAMS ARE DOING EVERYTHING TO LAND ONE SMALL FISH FOR THE WIN!!!!!!
After Carson took away our lead by 1 oz, 2nd and 3rd place are within ounces of each other to the finish of the event
Going into the final hour, the top three teams all can win this event with one small bass, and the 4th place team could jump over all of them with just one more quality fish. Shawn and Jesse have averaged around 2 lbs 1 oz on every fish they caught, so they are well within the victory as well. We felt that one 12" bass would give us the lead, and either 2 small ones or one more quality one (our average fish was 2 lbs 11 oz) would give us the victory over Scott and Carson. We were very worried about the very fast comeback brought on by Chad & Beau, as they were just 2 ounces behind us. We knew we were stuck in a rut of no fish and someone was going to catch them. We covered some bays and points looking for a bite, and may have missed a weak bite or two. We checked the scoretracker and it was still the same. Basically a three way tie with Scott and Carson being favored. We ran south towards the weigh in and worked some of my pre-fishing spots near birch creek where there was an abundance of baitfish last weekend and some others had some luck. This way we were close to the ramp with the 6 hp and we could fish until the final 5:20PM "lines out." As we arrived to Birch Creek, we saw that Scott & Carson had landed a bass and extended their lead. We knew we still had a chance, as Todd had a good bite while I was just getting us to move forward with the outboard as the lure ripped out of the fish's mouth. Team Ducommun was still stuck as well, and as we went into the final casts. In desperation we worked some lily pad edges and it was over. We failed to boat any more fish after the 2:30 PM flurry as we took second place. As we pulled into the ramp, the rest of the anglers were pulling their boats out and chatting about the event. To my surprise, all of the kids 12 and under made it the whole day, in heavy flood conditions with wind-burned faces. I made a final check on Scoretracker Live and found that Scott Wilczek and Carson Steinhorst sealed the deal with their final fish late in the day and are the 2018 James Gang Fall Invitational Champions with 10 lbs 7 oz of smallmouth bass on a very tough day! 7 year old Beau won the Kid's Big Bass Award with a 2 lb 15 oz smallmouth bass. And my partner, Todd Steinhorst, held off the field with his 3 lb 12 oz smallmouth that wasn't even closely challenged by the others as he claims the Daily Lunker Award for the biggest bass caught in the event!
Carson Steinhorst helps his team gain some ground, and then this second smallmouth gave Team Steinhorst/Wilczek a lead by just 1 ounce over Team Piontek/Steinhorst!
In the final hour of the day, Scott Wilczek boats a nice 2 lb 6 oz smallmouth that extends his teams lead. as he and Carson put us away for the victory!
CONGRATS TODD STEINHORST FOR THE EVENT'S BIGGEST BASS!!
CONGRATS BEAU D. FOR WINNING THE 12 & UNDER BIG BASS AWARD!!!!
NICE HAT BEAU!!!!
CONGRATS TO ALL THE KIDS THAT CAME TO FISH!!
THANK YOU to the kids and the parents that encouraged them to join this event! We had a blast with these kids and will try to expand on this at future events. I am glad that the participation trophies were well-received by the youngsters and they all really seemed to love the signed posters from Mike Iaconelli. My favorite picture of this event was the final picture at the tree by the ramp where the kids were displaying their trophies. Looking forward to more of this in 2019!!
CONGRATS TO GABE, BEAU, DOUGLAS, & ALAYNA FOR FISHING IN A BASS TOURNAMENT AGAINST ADULT TEAMS IN TOUGH WEATHER!
JAMES GANG FALL INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONS
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.