For those of us across Sunset Country who enjoy tournament fishing, the fall is prime time with events happening somewhere across the region every weekend into early October. This past weekend we had the Crow Lake Classic in Nestor Falls thanks to the Hanson family who hosted the event out of their resort on the lake.
Obviously, the tournaments are a little different this year with all of the restrictions around the Coronavirus, but they were able to operate the tournament with social distancing and mask wearing rules in place. We were not able to socialize as much as normal and we didn’t get the famous Saturday night dinner for all of the anglers this year but it was still a great weekend.
My wife Shelby and I first fished the tournament together in 2017, leaving with a fourth place finish I think. We had a good time, caught a bunch of fish and vowed to make the event an annual trip. We rented a cabin from Hanson’s and made a weekend of it. We returned in 2018 and finished second, learning a little bit more about the lake and having a blast once again.
Last year, we missed the tournament because of my Bassmaster schedule but it worked out again this year so we went to give it another try. We had been looking forward to the tournament for a few weeks so when we hit the road to Nestor Falls on Thursday to spend a couple of days scouting around before the tournament, we were excited. We shared a cabin with our good friends Bryan Gustafson and Breanna Becker, brought enough food for a week and had another fun weekend.
Usually in these tournaments we’ll often fish the same areas or even the same spots year after year. The tournaments are usually on the same weekends each year so the same spots can produce consistently but we have taken a little different approach to Crow. Although it is an inland lake, it’s still a big body of water and we have actually fished a different area of the lake all three years that we have fished. I can tell you there are bass all over the lake but since the lake is not charted particularly well, it can be time consuming to move around and cover a lot of water. I found some really good aerial maps of the lake, the best being on the Humminbird FishSmart app that allowed me to see where I could run around on the lake. All of the shallow rocks are visible on the map so I was able to drive my boat around wherever I wanted. In the past I would have had to drive slow to make sure I had a safe route that avoided rocks but it was really easy to use the aerial map to navigate and find fishing spots as well. There is a decent Lakemaster chart for Crow Lake available on the Ontario map card as well with most of the main reefs marked on it.
Our new area paid off this year and we won the tournament with a two day total of 30.56 pounds. We move around just to try and learn more of the lake each time we visit because we don’t get to spend a lot of time out there. This year we found a couple of spots that really paid off. We mixed it up, catching fish as shallow as six feet of water out to 30 feet on the deep side. We fished some weed beds, rock piles and deep points, not getting locked into one thing. The lake is loaded with fish, but it’s a challenge to catch the bigger ones. We caught all but one of the fish we weighed on a Ned rig, using Z-Man Hula StickZ and TicklerZ baits. The other keeper we caught came on a crankbait.
Past champions, Steve Hanson and Jamie Krukoski placed second with 29.25 pounds while Jess and Emily Swenson were third with 29.00. Jess and I grew up together, fished together a lot when we were younger and today he fishes many of the tournaments around here with his two daughters. They usually do well and I think it’s awesome. The big bass of the weekend was a 5.22 pound monster caught by Jason Cain and Karson Loughrey.
Thank you again to the Hanson family for making the tournament happen and providing us with a fun weekend on Crow Lake. There are several options for anglers this weekend with the Last Chance Classic out at Shoal Lake, the Crawford’s Camp Mega Bowl in Sioux Narrows and the Musky Cup in Nestor Falls. Good luck to all the anglers out there competing this weekend.