2021 JAMES GANG BASS INVITATIONAL
18 ANGLERS PARTICIPATED IN THE OLD ABE MLF EVENT IN 2021
The Event Begins......
The long-awaited 2021 James Gang Bass Invitational was an exciting event for us, since we were forced to cancel all of our 2020 events due to COVID scheduling conflicts. The 18 anglers that showed up on May 22 at Old Abe Lake in NW WI made up for it, with positive attitudes and smiling faces in incredibly comfortable fishing weather. I chose CEO Alex James as my fishing partner, hoping that the soon-to-be 13 year old could finally land himself a Kid's Big Bass Award in his final event before he would no longer be eligible. I began the early spring by scouting new areas to us in the Cobban Bridge area, using our side-imaging to mark ledges and visually look for eddies from the current that is pretty consistent on this body of water. We have fished this flowage many times during the 2000's, but felt the last 5 years that the fishery was losing its ability to produce quality fish. Several outings from 2015-2019 were terrible outings, failing to hook into or even see a single legal bass in all of our trips. Word around the area the last few years was that Old Abe was alive and well, full of the girth smallmouths that attracted us anglers. We thought we would give it a go and prove or disprove what the fisheries status really is.
6 AM equals "LINES IN"
All of the anglers showed up early, giving us the ability to start the event 30 min early at 6AM. We were hoping to see a hot morning top-water bite, as the water temperatures were hinting that we were around the annual spawning season for the local smallmouth bass. Our strategy was to run up river to the previously scouted Cobban Bridge area, as we assumed the bulk of the field would hammer the dam and islands areas close to the boat ramp. To our surprise, not a boat was in sight when we launched our boat! We decided to improvise and simply start fishing at the boat ramp. I began throwing a James Gang Spitter Pop, a heavy duty, hand-carved wooden popper for top-water success. Six minutes into the day, our FISHDONKEY app began blaring a donkey noise, as Doc Gilles registered the first 12+" smallmouth bass of the tournament, weighing in at .75 lbs. This fish put Doc & his partner Todd Lundquist in the lead. His lead would be passed up moments later, when David Xiong boated a 15 oz fish at 6:25 am to take the lead over Doc.
DOC GILLES & TODD LUNDQUIST START THE DAY WITH THE LEAD ON OLD ABE LAKE
ALEX FINDS A POTENTIAL WINNING PATTERN EARLY
JAMES GANG FISHING CEO ALEX & I had prepped our rods with multiple James Gang Fishing lures, as well as a Strike King Rodent 3" and a Strike King Rage Craw in Ned size. Alex had discovered a unique way to rig the Rodent a few years ago while catching nice largemouth on Rock Lake by Bloomer, WI. He found that a VMC HD weighted swimbait hook, with the hitch hiker screwed into the bottom of the front point, gives the rodent a keel shape, resulting in an aggressive walk-the-dog presentation. Even though he knew he had that trick to rely on, he started off by dead-sticking the Rodent (soaked in JB'S FISH SAUCE Pinch O' Garlic mist) in 2' deep spawning areas. It created a reaction quickly, as he began catching quality smallmouth bass on beds right at the boat launch area. at 6:26AM, Alex had landed his first legal bass, a 1.38 lb smallmouth that put him in the lead. 3 minutes later, the FINDONKEY app woke up the lake as Brent Forsman and his 14-year-old son Matthew began finding a strong pattern for themselves, taking over the early lead and the temporary BIG BASS lead with a 2.13 lb smallmouth.
TEAM FORSMAN GOES WILD!
14-YEAR-OLD MATTHEW FORSMAN AND HIS DAD TAKE A COMMANDING LEAD
Brent Forsman and his son Matthew went on an absolute fish-landing frenzy the following half hour. With every check of the FISHDONKEY app, their lead grew, fish after fish, with some quality bass in the 2+lb class. By 6:53 AM, Team Forsman was feeling comfortable with just over 12 lbs verified with the lead. Most of the field was at 1 lb or less. Then 12-year-old Alex began producing a quality fish, as he took his time working the prime areas producing a strong fish here and there. At 6:32AM, he boated fish number 2, a 2.25 lb bass once again on a Baby Rodent.13 minutes later, a Rage Craw Ned in black and blue was fired up near a log, and as his line tightened up he gave the bass a perfect hook-set, and a fight was on. I reminded him to keep pressure on the fish and make sure he doesn't point the rod at it. As I scooped up his girthy giant of a 16+" bass, the weight pushed him to the top of the BIG BASS lead, at 2.81 lbs! Alex single-handedly put us halfway to the Forsman's weight, and high above the other 14 anglers in the field when the first hour of fishing was complete.
BRENT FORSMAN IS PUTTING HIS TEAM ON A GREAT PATTERN
THE REMAINING FIELD COMES IN TO PLAY
CODY SCHEIDLER PUTS THE PRESSURE ON ALEX WITH A 2.44# SMALLMOUTH BASS
As the Alex vs. Forsman show fizzled out for a few hours, the remaining field began registering some fish, including several in the 2 lb class that made it appear that Alex would not retain the lead for 8 hours. We really believed a 3lb bass would be needed to win the Daily Lunker Award for the biggest bass of the day. Just before 8AM, Jon Small and his son Wesley made us very nervous as they put themselves on the board and nearly took the BIG BASS lead with a very thick 2.56 lb bass. 17 minutes later, Cody Sheidler and his partner Shawn Malison put a bass in the boat near 2.5 lbs as well. A little over an hour later, James Buresh and his son Cody put a very nice 2.63 lb smallmouth up towards the top for Big Bass. Team Buresh jumped up the scales at 6.45 lbs and were in contention with as as we tried to gain ground on the Forsmans. Sneaking in the background was a team from Cumberland, slowly edging their way up the entire time, as Jonathon Howell and his partner Dustin was nearly tied with the Buresh team trying to run down the top team with us and Team Buresh.
DUSTIN & HIS PARTNER JONATHON HOWELL OF CUMBERLAND WORKED THEIR WAY UP THE LEADERBOARD THE ENTIRE EVENT
BRENT & MATTHEW BACK IN THE GAME, BUT SO IS ALEX!
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.