2017 D&R SPORTS CLASSIC

Posted on October 4, 2017

Well a couple things have happened since the last blog. First of all we got some salmon in! I only got to get after them for a day due to all the bass fishing going on, but man was it a blast. They were stacked up and the bite was decent. It is so late compared to years past, but the good part about that is there is no one fishing for them. Tons of room to drive around looking for the mega pod with the Humminbird SOLIX 15. It's so exciting when the screen is just lit up with a school of salmon and you know with any drop of your jig one could smoke it. I didn't get any great footage from that trip, but here is a little teaser on youtube.

Next up was the D&R Sports classic on Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell, where we were going to be fishing for a brand new Tracker boat! There is no other tournament circuit in Michigan that offers this opportunity or anything even close to it. Not to mention the qualifiers payout good too and the bonus money thrown around is crazy. Why this series didn't fill up with boats this year is beyond me. It is a great option no matter where you are from in the state.

We will start at the end and move forward since if you follow my social media you already know what happened. Shaun Ford and I won the tournament and the boat! I don't really know what to say about it other than winning was amazing and means a ton to us. Forget the boat, the trophies, and all that, it is just so tough to win one of these and that means the most. Things really have to go your way to win against 60 plus boats, especially over two days. We've had lots of high finishes with D&R so it was awesome to close the deal on the big one. Winning a boat is also something we can both check off our bucket lists. We can't complain about the timing either since we both have young children at home and some extra cash goes a long way. Now that we know how it ended up, let's start from the beginning.

Cadillac and Mitchell isn't a place we know well. We spent a couple days there last year and were there for a fall classic a few years ago that Aaron Feeback and Matt Gorham won with all smallmouth. Not knowing what the weather was going to be like and that it could be a largemouth, mixed bag, or smallmouth tournament. I headed up to pre practice for a day in mid-August. We had never used my boat there before so I had a blank GPS. The plan wasn't to fish much but to spend time looking at my Lakemaster maps and Humminbird Side Imaging. I knew there was a bunch of wood in Cadillac and I needed to find it in case things got cold. So I spent the first part of the day learning where all that was and also many weed patches out in the lake. Then headed toward Mitchell to do the same thing. There is a ton of water out there that is less than 13 feet deep on both lakes, so you don't always know where a subtle hump is going to be with a little bit of weeds on it. I got keyed into the depth zones weeds were growing pretty quick and the Lakemaster mapping was huge for that. Most of the stuff I could drive to and find it, but I did find a few sneaky places that weren't on the map at all. They all had fish and good weeds. Regardless I at least felt like I knew a little bit more about the lakes and the lay of the land better. I also was going to be able to spend most of the time fishing on our official practice day rather than finding the right areas.

After a cold first part of September I was really wondering if moving baits for largemouth and also smallmouth were going to be the deal, but then we were dealt an absolute scorcher the week of the tournament. Bright sun, little wind, temps in the 90's, and all was going to stay stable. We knew right then if we caught a smallmouth it would be by accident (we did catch a big one in practice accidentally), and that if the weeds stayed healthy this tournament would be right in our wheelhouse. We headed to Lake Mitchell for the first part of practice and the bite was absolutely ridiculous. I'm fairly certain if we had been actually fishing and setting the hook we could have caught over 100 that day. We did get around 60 bites for the day and were off the water by 2 o'clock after we checked Cadillac for an hour. It was good and it was bad, you could definitely tell when you were in an area with fish, but we had absolutely no clue what shapes, sizes, or colors of baits they wanted because they were munching on anything and everything. We had a couple areas we felt really strongly about, one because of numbers and one because of size. We also had a ton of places we knew we could just go catch them, and getting that many bites really helped dial things in. Especially on a fishery we didn't know that well.

Typically we don't get in the raffle for takeoff number one and two, but this time we did and scored take off number 2 for both tournament days. I also (along with 8 other people who purchased a Nitro from D&R) scored a 500 dollar gift card to D&R Sports at the banquet, just for fishing the series out of a Nitro from D&R. Anyway, we felt good about our chances to get a solid start the next day. We figured somewhere between 30 and 34lbs for two days would do it simply because it wasn't easy to get big ones. We also thought the pressure was really going to get to them if they bit like they did in practice.

We were of course the first boat to get to where we wanted to fish on day one. We had probably 15 bites there the day before, so we had high hopes. The first couple minutes produced nothing until we got to the most obvious piece of cover on it. We hadn't really caught them out of that type of cover the day before but the first pitch in there brought a 3lber aboard. We caught a couple other keepers in the area (one was tongue hooked so we didn't even bother putting it in the livewell) but it slowed down and we only caught a few more short fish. However, I knew a place close by that had the same deal and even though we never got a bite there the day before we had to check it. My hunch was right and we caught another 3lber out of the same type of cover there. The wheels were turning now that maybe they were in some different stuff than practice. Next place we hit was dubbed the "big fish spot" even though we only ended up catching one big fish there in the tournament. I think we finished a limit there or maybe we already had one. It's hard to say because we were catching so many fish and getting dialed in even more. Most of our fish were coming flipping a power shot, but the trusty sicko on a baitcaster was doing some damage too. I will say the Dobyns Champion 804C is probably the most awesome powershot rod around. It's got the length and just the right amount of tip, flex, and backbone. We both caught every powershot fish the whole trip on those rods. We did weigh a couple the first day on a punch skirt with a DX 795 but after the first few fish they weren't eating it right. The rest of the day was just a beat down, when we could get on some of the places we wanted to fish. There's no doubt the place was fishing small and the place we started on had the same boat on it the whole time for the next two days.  We thought they must have really been catching them, but I didn't see them go up to get a check so I'm a little puzzled at what was going on there. But we picked away at them the rest of the day, adding another fish over 3lbs mid morning and had two other solid keepers in the livewell.  We had a decent weight but we needed either a big fish or a couple more right around 3lbs. One of those sneaky spots I mentioned earlier kicked out a 3lber on our 2nd visit to it. We never got bit in practice there either but every time we checked it in the tournament we caught some fish and a few better than average ones. We went and did some practicing the rest of the day and found one more place that kicked out a 3lber. We were feeling pretty good at this point, not only did we have another 3lber, but another area if we needed it. When the weights settled we had 14.87 and were sitting in 3rd place, less than a pound behind the leaders (who always catch them there). We did have a blast though, we went through a ton of fish and probably around 35 keepers on the day.

Now the dilemma was where to start the next day. Neither of us were a fan of going back to our starting spot the next day. We elected to start on the 2nd place we fished on day one. It was between that and another place that was just "right", there was bait, weeds, little pressure, and better than average fish. Although we didn't catch any big ones there on day one, I just knew it was going to go down there on day two.  The start definitely didn't go as planned, the 1st spot never even produced a bite. Although I found out some of my buddies caught 15lbs off of it later in the day, bad timing on our part. We headed to the big fish spot next and cracked a nice one there. Alright we had all day to catch four more quality fish! I think we caught another 15 incher there and then headed to the place I had a feeling about. Right away we caught an above average keeper there, not one we wanted to weigh in but if it ended up being the "little one" we could still be ok. The bait was really moving so we chucked out a swim jig and cracked a big one next. Then we went on a tear with a Nemesis Baits sicko catching some smaller keepers and trading them all out for solid fish in short order. We were already building a solid limit at this point. We kept poking around and kept catching fish, trading out the solid ones for two more fish over 3lbs. We were feeling really good at this point, but knew we needed another good fish to feel like we had a chance. About 20 minutes later and we cracked one just under 4 and there may have been some man hugs at that point.  At the end of that magic hour or so, we knew someone was going to have to really catch them to beat us. It was only around 9:45 and  we kept on them the rest of the day. We caught more nice fish but despite catching 30 plus keepers again we never made a cull the rest of the day. But we were dialed in and it was a nice change of pace only having four rods on the deck instead of the usual  12-15.  

We didn't have any kickers but we had a good feeling about having enough weight to seal the deal. We had high hopes it had been a little tougher for everyone. Besides, the way the morning went, we felt like maybe it was our time. There were about 5 teams that had a legitimate shot at beating us, unless someone cracked a monster bag over 20lbs. Needless to say it was a nerve wracking weigh in, especially since we were one of the first teams to weigh in. Our fish hit the scales at 17.04, which ended up being the biggest bag of the tournament. A couple teams definitely gave us a pretty good scare, but in the end we remained on top and checked winning a boat, against some stout competition, off our bucket lists. It was an amazing feeling when we finally knew we had won and everyone's congratulations were much appreciated.

That's how it all went down, definitely an incredible weekend Shaun and I will never forget!