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Houghton Lake Top Bass 2005 Tournament Report

Details on How I Finished 2nd - Part 2: The Tournament
A Tournament Strategy Article
By Dan Kimmel

Part 2 - The Tournament
Houghton Lake Sat Jun 4, 2005

I was pleasantly shocked the next morning when I was called off as boat number 2. Larry was boat number 3. That doesn’t normally happen and boosted my confidence. The guys at Top Bass did their best to get us out quickly since we could see boats coming across the lake from the other tournaments as we launched.

I ran to East Bay and was amazed that no other boats zoomed right in on me. In fact, the nearest boat shut down several hundred yards away. Despite thick overcast and no ability to see bottom, my heart was almost hammering with excitement and a little anxiety.
Houghton L Top Bass Dan's Bass
Dan Kimmel with 2 smallies from his 2nd place 12.73 pound limit at the June 4, 2005 Houghton Lake Top Bass event.
I needed to calm down. The best way I know to do that is get to the business at hand.

I put the little GPS on the nose of the boat and headed right for the big log area. I started zinging out the little jerkbait with my Krystal Flash-enhanced Mustad Triple Grip trebles. Jerk-jerk, pause. Jerk-jerk, pause.

Nothing happened for a few minutes. I could feel the anxiety meter turning up a little. We’ve all been there – bass mysteriously vanish off a flat… then my fishing rod doubled over and started to buck. Just like that, my tournament had begun!

Within 15 minute, I put 3 keepers in the boat. They were all only 2 pounds give-or-take a few ounces, but it felt GOOD to get on the board like that!

My heart was beating fast, but getting into a strong ‘I-know-what-I’m-doing’ kind of rhythm. Confidence was going up and anxiety going down. I still had only 2 boats near. Only one was heading towards me, but keeping a respectable distance. It felt great to be alive!

I started moving out to the more isolated beds. I could begin to just make out a bed if I went right over it. I got close to another coordinate and landed a better bass close to 3 pounds. The other boat caught a couple nearby. A little nervy, but it’s best not to think too much about what you can’t control.

I turned my boat back out and saw a bed in the open. I even thought I saw the bass on it. I was only about 8 feet from the bed, but I tossed a tube to the center and spun the boat. By the time I was facing the spot, my line was moving. Got my limit fish then. That helped.

I had seen a couple bigger bass farther out in the open, so I turned that way. I hooked another on the jerkbait and culled up about a ¼ pound. The hooks got good and tangled in my net and I had to sit down for a few minutes to untangle. I knew the day had promise when I stood up finally ready to cast – the breeze having blown me much further out – and saw I was close to my farthest out waypoint. In fact, it looked like I had gone right over, so I probably had spooked the bass.

I turned my Ranger back into the wind and made a short toss of the jerkbait to re-tension the line on my spool. I was turning across my line so my jerkbait came back right in front of my MotorGuide trolling motor. My 2nd biggest smallie came out of nowhere and grabbed the back hook. It was a nervous fight because the bass looked bewildered about being hooked and I new I hadn’t got it good. Luckily, I boated the fish and culled my smallest. Things were looking up and it was still early.

By now Larry had come out and gone up shallower. The other boat had caught a couple more and one more boat was nearby. I went around checking every bed. Most I found, but a few I wasn’t sure about. Three never produced a fish despite not seeing anyone else catch one in those areas. I landed 2 more keepers that wouldn’t help and the pike started biting more.

I don’t like donating good lures to pike. I was getting tired of the flat. I like tournaments probably as much as any reason because I get bored easily. I can only take so much of the same lake or same flat so I told Larry – with the sun finally peaking out a little – I was going to run out and check a few of my deeper beds.

Off across the lake, my Yamaha HPDI 225 pushed me. The farther west I went, the more boats I saw. I pulled in to the first set of deep beds along some sand drops, noticing a bass boat with 2 anglers (other tournament obviously) about 150 yards back west giving me the old ‘we’ve already caught those ones’ look. I’m sure you know the look I’m talking about.

Not that I assumed these guys didn’t know what they were doing, but you never know, so I checked 2 of them real quick. Yup. Gone. Shoot!

I ran up into North Bay hoping for better luck… I pulled up close to the sand drop beds and noticed 2 bass boats – 1 with 2 anglers, 1 with 1 angler – about 250 yards away. They looked back at me, but I didn’t get the ‘look.’ I was more hopeful.

Even with the sun out, the beds were hard to see so I practically ran over the first one before I saw it. Nothing had chased my little jerkbait either, but I dropped a tube into the black circle anyway and snapped it off the bottom. I was very happy to see a decent smallie shoot up after the tube even though it didn’t bite.

Tossed out my marker 8 feet to the side and did my slow 50 foot circle. I lined up and tossed my Xtreme Bass Tackle tube back to the approximate location of the bed. Unlike the bass in East Bay, these bass were more sensitive. The bait had to get right into the bed and sit there. With it being over 5 foot deep, and only barely being able to see the bed from where I parked (I try to take wind, current and the sun into consideration – sun over the shoulder if possible - when lining up), I had to toss out farther than it looked to allow for water refraction.


After 6 casts, sure I had hit the bed at least a couple times, no bite. I decided to switch tactics to a slower falling (and harder to hit the target) leech-type bait – a Berkley Power Sandworm on a finesse Texas rig. It took me 3 casts to flutter the bait down right were I wanted it. I waited about 30 seconds and my line started moving away. I used 10 lb test red Cajun line – that I thought would make it easier to tell when the bass moved my lure. It seemed to work.

I set the hook and fought a better bass into my net. I culled my smallest bass quickly and moved to the next bed. I saw this bed just before I got too close by looking hard with the sun over my shoulder at the approximate location I expected it.

I tossed the Xtreme Bass Tackle tube out past the bed, swam and dropped it in. This bass was a little more cooperative, probably because I hadn’t been too close already. My line moved and I had another bass to cull with. I gained over half a pound with these two bass.

I was feeling better about my move now. I did manage 1 more bass off a bed nearby, but that was it. This bass was an overachiever only about 11 to 12 inches long on a bed too deep and dark to see into. I decided I had been away long enough and ran back to East Bay. It was getting a little cloudy again, but I could see better.

Despite this, I couldn’t find any more bass on any beds on the original flat. Larry had lost another bass, but that was it. I finished the tournament fishing sand drops near East Bay on the way back to the south MDNR launch ramp. I would cast the tube to the edge and bring it into dark nooks and crannies. I caught 2 more keepers doing this, but neither was big enough to cull with.

The ramp was busy and there’s not much room to park, so I trailered my boat as allowed. The weigh in was getting near the end by the time I headed towards the scales. Larry asked if I had more than 12 pounds and I said yes. He told me 11-something was leading so far, but I told him not to jinx me by telling me anymore. I like to be surprised anyway.

I figured some of these guys probably knew the lake better than me. In fact, Larry told me the guy who was fishing around me a good part of the day actually lived by the lake and fished there 40 or 50 times a year. I knew he was catching them too and assumed he might have a weight similar to mine, and that’s just one I knew about. I’ve fished too many tournaments to ever count on anything or get too excited until the final bag is weighed and places are announced.

I got in line and heard 11-something pounds was still leading. I knew I had more than that, but I looked at the bag right in front of me and it looked like he had me beat. Turns out he supposedly was fishing around all those beds nearby that I thought had been empty, or so the story goes. It was just far enough away that I’m not sure I saw him there. I saw a boat near the area for a while, I recall.

Before he weighed in though, an angler a couple persons ahead of him put 13.29 pounds on the scale. I knew I didn’t have that, so now I knew I was possibly waiting for 2nd place. Still nice of course. The guy ahead of me weighed and I was surprised to find he had just shy of 12 ½. I was pretty sure I had that beat.

They asked me quietly if I could beat 13.29 and I said no, so they announced I had a good sack, but didn’t build up the suspense that I might take over the lead. Just that I would be in contention for a high finish. My bag weighed 12.73 pounds and I took over 2nd. No one else was left with a decent sack, so 2nd is where I finished.

Larry had told me before the tournament that he was going to win, so I had to take 2nd. Being a married guy used to doing what I’m told, I guess I went out and took 2nd. I don’t know what happened to Larry, but we aren’t talking about that, if you know what I mean.

I’m pretty happy with the finish in my first Top Bass event and I think the guys do a pretty good job of running things. The payout was decent for the number of boats we had too. I could sure use the gas money (can’t we all). I would have liked to find one more 3 pound bass to have had a shot at winning, but I really didn’t have another one just waiting anywhere for me. Derek had found one on a bed in practice, but that waypoint had gone to Larry. It may or may not have still been there.

I never did ask Larry if he went after it. I don’t believe he did. Larry doesn’t like to leave fish to find fish anyway. Maybe it was there and would have been the difference and maybe it was long gone. Either way, the event is over. In the books, and I enjoyed it.

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