TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
The morning on Bear Lake was a little foggy causing the angler's to take off under a no wake order but it soon lifted & gave way to a absolute gorgeous September day. After the last fish hit the scales Rob Newhouse & Mike Anselmo were crowned the 2023 TOC champs Rob's fourth & Mike's third TOC title but their first together in eight years. Their fish weighed in at 14.80 lbs. which may not seem like a lot but it was impressive on a not so easy day out there. Doug Peterson & Jamie Gibson came in second with 14.13 lbs. anchored by Jamies big bass a 5.02 lb. hawg the circuit's biggest of the year. Steve Constant & Doug Richert were third with 13.35 lbs. while Pete Lukasik & Doug Bierman finished fourth with 13.21 lbs.
Check out the 2023 link for a recap of the season.
LAC COURTE OREILEIS
After some record setting heat a few days prior to the circuit's final regular season tournament the weather turned very chilly & very windy at LCO, the weather man got the temp right but was only 20 mph light on the winds. Despite two trolling motor breakdowns & two boats with battery issues everybody got thru it. The smallmouth bite was very tough but as always somebody figures it out & this time was no exception as Jamie Gibson & Doug Peterson weighed a decent bag of brown fish that tipped the scale at 14.99 lbs. to claim the derby title. Not far behind them for second place was team Schlapper/Blazer w/14.40 lbs & they also had all smallies. Third place went to the 2023 Anglers of the Year Joe Wilcox & Eric Hermansen (their second time) weighed 4 smallies & 1 largie for 14.38 lbs. Taking fourth place was the Minnesota team of Lukasik/Bierman who's mixed bag weighed 13.04 lbs. At fifth was Larson/Warren w/13.03 lbs. Pete Lukasik & Eric Hermansen tied for big bass honors at 3.92 lbs. Team Andrea defeated team Henck to win the 2023 Head to Head Tournament Champioship. So who were the big movers & the not so lucky losers, well team Schlapper/Blazer moved up 6 spots in the standings & earned a spot in the TOC which meant somebody had to drop out of TOC qaulification & that unlucky team was Bottolfson/Larson. At the half way point in the season team Grinnell/Andersen were at the top of the leaderboard with a 4 point lead over their closest competitor, after Balsam Lake they dropped to sixth but still sitting pretty comfortable as far as TOC qaulification goes, so they thought. Old LCO really threw them a curve ball as a terrible day of fishing coupled with battery problems & a 3 pound late penalty made for a very uneasy wait for the final stats to come in but as luck would have it they got the 12th & final spot in the TOC.
Weather wise the day couldn't been much better at Balsam Lake, fish catching wise well that depends on who you ask. There was some nice bags of fish brought to the scales & some not so nice bags but it did have the most fish & most weight so far this year. On a typical Balsam Lake Saturday in July the recreational traffic was very frustrating to cope with. But when it all came to an end Rob Newhouse & Mike Anselmo weren't complaining, their bag weighed 15.66 lbs. good enough for the win. Coming in at a very close second place was Todd Larson & Steve Warren w/15.54 lbs. Third place went to the very overdue team of Fox/Anderson who had 14.34 lbs. The leaders for the AOY race Wilcox/Hermansen took fourth place w/13.86 lbs. Coming in at fifth was team Henck who had 13.63 lbs. thanks to Larry's big bass winner a 4.86 lb. toad. That was the fifth time Larry has won that award which is a all time circuit high. So the 10th place weight of 10.81 (Durand/Leverty) & the 16th place weight of 10.46 (Simonson/Robarge) were only separated by a mere 35/100ths of a pound thats just a few fish scales or drops of water that was a 7 point swing that will probably get a least one of these 7 teams in the TOC or keep them out of it in the longrun. The AOY race has really taken a turn two of the five teams that looked like they had a shot of winning it stumbled & team Larson/Warren may have moved into contention. Wilcox/Hermansen control their own destiny with a 4 point lead over Team Andrea & a 5 point lead over Larson/Warren & Newhouse/Anselmo. The Head to Head championship match will feature team Andrea vs team Henck, the Henck boys are no stranger to the finals they will be fishing their sixth finals match & looking for their third title. As always the final tournament will have a lot of implications on who qualifies for the TOC, right now teams Durand/Leverty & Bottolfson/Larson are hanging on just above the cut line while team Cote sits in 13th but has a free ride to the TOC via his auto qualify due to their win at Red Cedar. Teams Fox/Anderson, Schlapper/Blazer & Constant/Reed all have a decent shot to move up with a strong finish & of coarse anybody gets in with a win (so just win baby WIN).
On a pretty nice day at Red Cedar Lake Wild Bill Cote & his son Billy pulled off some late hour heroics & came away with their first UNBC championship. They culled up three times late in the tournament & one of the culls was the the big bass winner a 3.67 pounder which Billy caught. Their bag came in at 13.68 lbs. which punched their ticket to the TOC. Followed up by the second place team of Randy Grinnell & Derek Andersen w/12.81 lbs. Third place went to Joe Wicox & Eric Hermansen who had 12.65 lbs. Chad & Cruz Constantineau took fourth w/12.60 lbs. Gary Constant & Paul Singerhouse had 12.40 lbs. for a very satisfing fifth place finish after a not so satisfing start to the season at Big Chetac. As you can see the weights were down which more than likely was due to just poor timing for the lake. Anything is possible but at the half way point in the regular season the points race maybe down to a five team race. Leading the pack is the 2011 AOY Champions of Randy Grinnell & Derek Andersen who have a four point lead over four teams that are tied for second place, the list includes Andrea/Andrea, Gibson/Peterson, Constantineau/Constantineau & Wilcox/Hermansen. The H2H winners & upcoming match ups will feature Gibson/Peterson vs Andrea/Andrea & Grinnell/Andersen vs Henck/Henck (Randy & Dewy you boys better eat your wheaties that morning cause facing them Henck boys is like facing KING KONG on that pond).
On a beautiful day at Birchwood's Birch & Big Chetac Lakes the U.N.B.C. anglers hit the water for their first tourney of the 2023 season it was a very tough bite but a way better weigh-in than their last visit there back in 2020. Water temps remained pretty cold which had definitely slowed down the expected spawn, althou there were still a few teams getting some off beds. Brothers Tim & Chad Andrea started their 12th season in the circuit on Saturday & came away with their first title which was well deserved. It's Tims first season being retired so probably more to come in the very near future. Their bag of five largemouth tipped the scale at 15.17 lbs. Placing second were Jamie Gibson & Doug Peterson who had 14.27 lbs. they had one largie & four bronzebacks which they picked off beds. Third place went to the underdog team of Todd Bottolfson & Brody Larson with 12.44 lbs. these boys claimed they landed on a spot which was loaded with bass after catching about 15 legals & culling up to their money winning weight they finnally moved on. Fourth place went to the very consistent team of Todd Larson & Steve Warren who brought 12.25 lbs. to the scale. Rounding out the winnig place winners at fifth place was Randy Grinnell & Derek Andersen with 11.69 lbs. Joel Blazer caught the big bass of the day a 4.18 pound largemouth hawg. Winner's & match ups for the H2H quarter finals are Gibson/Peterson vs Larson/Warren, Andrea/Andrea vs Fox/Anderson, Grinnell/Andersen vs Newhouse/Anselmo & Bottolfson/Larson vs Henck/Henck.