Posted 7/28/15 (Tue)
By John D. Taylor
Bass fishing -- especially tournament bass fishing – is typically far more of a “y’all” activity than an “Uffda” kind of thing: Uffda is for walleyes; y’all is bass, mint juleps on the veranda and “Dixie,” according to popular wisdom.
But Crosby’s Dick Roland is out to change that perception.
Roland is director of the North Dakota division, No. 127, of the American Bass Anglers (ABA), a group of anglers who hold tournaments in conjunction with the American Fishing Tour.
Since early May, Roland and other regional bass aficionados have been participating in seven bass tournaments, held in waters across the state, from Jamestown’s Spiritwood Lake to Lake Sakakawea, locally; although most of the events are within a couple of hours drive of the northwestern region.
On July 19, Roland and two other anglers competed in the fifth ABA tournament of the year.
The tournament was originally scheduled for Lund’s Landing on Lake Sakakawea, but due to high winds creating dangerous waters, it was moved to Kota-Ray Dam, about nine miles south of Ray.
Roland said there is always a bad weather, back-up location.
The tournament kicked off with a 6:30 a.m. boat launch, over which Roland presided.
He explained that anglers would have until 3:30 p.m. to catch three legal-sized bass, using artificial lures only. There was to be no culling, any bass caught as part of the three fish limit would either need to be released or placed in the live well immediately, anglers were not permitted to catch three fish, keep fishing and replace larger fish for those in the live well.
At the end of the event, all competitors’ fish would be weighed, and the anglers with the three heaviest fish, the cumulative weight, would win the tournament.
Jacob Nordhus and Heath Redman, two transplanted 30-something Kansans – Nordhus moved to North Dakota to work for Williston-based FCI Constructors, Inc. as a project engineer; Redman is an intern with the same company – represented the team Roland would be fishing against.
Since Kota-Ray Dam is a no wake lake, the two boats couldn’t exactly roar out into the open waters like they do on outdoor television, but trolling motors humming, Nordhus and Redman headed for a small cove on the north end of the lake, Roland stuck to the south shore.
The first bass of the day came to Roland’s boat when the fish nailed a pearl-colored, chartreuse-tipped “tube bait,” a soft plastic tube weighted and shaped to look something like both a baitfish or a crawdad, natural bass foods, in the water. The fish measured 13.5 inches; a keeper that was deemed too small to make much of a difference in the day’s scoring, so it was released – something the North Dakota team would later regret.
After cruising the south shore, working undercut edges and pocket water along the cattail-rimmed shoreline without more than a couple of small perch bites, Roland motored to another small cove, where he proceeded to catch two of the three fish he would bring to weigh-in on a square-lipped Ghost Minnow crankbait designed to look like the small rainbow trout found in the waters. Roland discovered this lure when he and son Cody fished a tournament earlier this year and Cody nearly beat him with it.
Meanwhile, Nordhus and Redman, in another arm of the lake, were having some good fortune.
Redman caught one bass more than 15 inches – big for Kota-Ray Dam – on a pumpkinseed purple flake SmackDaddy tube bait, rigged with a quarter-ounce bullet sinker. He’d drop this lure into the shady pockets among the cattails and nail fish. This bite continued, slow but steady, until about 10 a.m., Redman said.
Roland agreed. After he’d put the last of his three fish in the aerated live well, his boat couldn’t connect with another bass. Cast after cast yielded no bass. But a foot-long trout and a 6-inch perch were landed.
By about 2:30 that afternoon, everyone on both boats had enough sun, and since no one was catching fish, they decided to call the tournament early and head for shore.
The weigh in
Under the shade of a pavilion, the tournament quickly ended as Roland’s portable scales went to work. Nordhus had no fish to weigh, neither did Roland’s fishing partner, now regretting tossing back that first bass of the day.
When Redman brought his three bass to the scales, Roland’s eyes bugged out. He knew who’d be taking the prizes. Redman’s three bass – a 15-incher, a 15-plus-inch fish and a 13 incher – collectively topped the scales at 50.7 ounces. Roland’s fish, two 15-inchers and a 13-incher, came in four ounces short, 46.6 ounces.
Both anglers ribbed each other, discussing the day, their catch and lure ideas. Both agreed that presentation, getting the lure in front of a fish, was the ticket. Redman’s fish came from shadowy pockets in the cattails. Roland’s fish were taken on deep water drop-offs about 10 feet from shore.
Redman’s win earned him $196 in on-the-spot prize money and a plaque. It also helps qualify him to fish in ABA’s national tournament for national-level prizes, like boats and much larger purses. Plus, he said, he had a fun day of fishing.
Redman said he’d been quite involved in ABA’s Kansas tournaments. When he moved to North Dakota for work, he called Roland, who connected him to ABA tournaments.
Most state tournaments, Roland said, involve a small group of acquainted anglers who enjoy fishing competitively – if only to rib each other. Roland has been a part of this for many years, and his annual goal is to get into the nationals, held in the South. To do this he must participate in four state tournaments.
Why the national tournaments?
Roland explained how a Kansas schoolteacher last year placed second in the nationals and won more prizes, including more money and a boat, than the first place winner, who won a boat, because the teacher won daily championships, along with angler of the year.