While out practicing for an ABA tournament a few weeks ago, I ran into someone fishing for smallies. In any state other than North Dakota this would be a normal occurrence.
But in North Dakota, for every 100+ walleye anglers you might find one bass angler.
We were both someone surprised not only to see someone fishing for smallies but just to see another bass boat on the water in North Dakota is a rare sight, so we started talking fishing.
He informed me about his bass club the Badlands Bass Bandits and invited me to fish their tournament at Lake
Lake Audubon is one of my favorite lakes to fish in the state. Not only because it’s the closest to my house (about 50 miles) but it is a great smallmouth fishery.
Bassmaster Magazine has even ranked the lake in the top 100 lakes in the country, at #71.
Practice and Preparation
With work and driving distance to bass lakes throughout the state, I have to be efficient with my practice days. The trick is locating fish during pre-fishing and then relocating them on tournament day.
I had a great practice! I caught quality fish on Watermelon Red Halo Craw Tubes, targeting weed lines in about 5 to 10 ft of water. If the fish didn’t grab the tube on the fall, they would grab it on the pause between hops.
The drive to the lake early on tournament day was filled with rain, hail, and some lightning. Fortunatley, by blast off time the worst had passed, leaving us with clear skies.
We fished the same spots I had located the week prior but they weren’t producing. We had to make a change, heading to a nearby windblown shoreline next to a main lake point.
I tied on a Strike King swim jig (sexy shad) with a white craw trailer (white) and got results immediately. About my 5th cast with the jig I had a fish on.
The bites were hard to detect, no bump, shake, or movement, the fish would just suddenly be there.
After trial and error, I was able to put my first keeper in the boat, and then another.
Swim Jig Tactics
The trick with the swim jig was keeping it low, just above the bottom a few inches. After the initial fall, I would bring the bait up and retrieve it 6 inches to a foot, with pauses in between.
Then occasionaly, when I went to lift the jig again, the fish would be there.
North Dakota has a no cull law which makes tournaments very difficult. I had 2 decent fish in the live well with another 2 pounder in my hand. I decided that I was going to gamble hold out for a nice kicker rather than weighing in 6 pounds.
With a 1/2 hour of fishing left we made a run to the main lake. I threw out the Watermelon Red Craw Tube again, and immediately caught my 3rd fish.
It was tempting to toss it back, in hope of finding that kicker, but with so little time remaining I decided to keep it.
I ended up weighing in with 6.5 lbs placing 12th out of 25 anglers.
After the results were announced the Bandits have the top 5 anglers of the day share what pattern/technique made them so successful that day.
Mostof their fish were caught on swim baits or tubes in 5 to 10 ft of water, others did well with a drop shot, and even a carolina rig.
In the end it was an awesome tournament. The Badlands Bass Bandits put on an awesome tournament and I was privileged to participate.