TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
Burnett County's Clam Lake greeted the UNBC anglers with a chilly morning that warmed up pretty fast & other than it being a little windy it was a beautiful fall day for the circuit's Tournament of Champions. When the bass bite gets tough & you need to fish some finease stuff on a wimp stick there's nobody better at it than Todd Larson & Steve Warren & they proved it on Clam weighing in a hefty bag of largemouth that went 17.46 lbs.to claim the title of 2020 TOC Champs (their second TOC win). Coming in at second place was the very hot team of Tim & Chad Andrea for back to back second place finishes. They weighed 15.80 lbs. anchored by Chad's big bass 4.67 lbs.Tim lives just down the road from Clam Lake which proved to be just what they needed for a great finish to their season. Placing third was Jamie Gibson & Doug Peterson with 13.26 lbs. of dock fish. Coming in at fourth & fishing solo was Chad Constantineau his bag weighed 12.17 lbs.(he was also seen beating the docks). Being the time of year that it was most of the bass had migrated out of the rivers which pretty much knocked that option out of play & the top two teams really figured out how to catch the fish in the shallow weeds. So how did this year's TOC stack up against previous TOC's the past 12 years, the 47 fish caught ranks 9th, the total of 119.36 lbs. caught also ranks 9th but the 2.539 lb. average weight for the fish ranks the 4th highest. The wining weight of 17.46 lbs. is the 6th highest wining TOC weight.
2020 Recap & Records update to come.
Cool temps with lots of wind greeted the UNBC anglers at Hayward's Nelson Lake which apparently turned the bass off. The circuit has been to Nelson Lake five times in the past twelve years & this tournament had the toughest bite by far & the statistics prove it. Despite the brutal fishing Donn Schlapper & Joel Blazer put togather a 12.92 lb. bag to seal the victory, when they pulled up on their starting spot in the morning Donn's first bite was the big bass winner a 4.08 lb. dandy. A great weekend for the Schlapper family on Friday Donn's son Pat who got his start in the Up North Bass Circuit won the Bassmaster Nation's Northern Regional on Minnesota's Lake Vermillion & will be off to the national tournament on Alabama's Pickwick Lake in November with a chance to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic in March held at Texas's Lake Ray Roberts, so congrats to Pat & good luck going forward. Second place at Nelson went to the Andrea brothers Tim & Chad who brought 12.90 lbs. to the scale. Talk about having a good day when you really needed to these two teams were both sitting out of TOC qualification before the tourney & came up big. Third place was Troy Otsby & Matt Olson with 12.35 lbs. they were also on that TOC qualification bubble. Fourth place with 11.52 lbs. & winning the Head to Head Tournament for the third straight year was Gene & Larry Henck fishing out of Larry's brand spanking new Phoenix boat. Todd Larson & Steve Warren brought in 11.41 lbs. good enough for fifth place. The biggest mover in the point standings was Schlapper/Blazer who jumped up 8 spots from 13th to 5th & the biggest slipper was Foxy & Stacy who dropped from 5th to 13th a very tough day for these two but sure they'll be back next year in a big way.
Lake X beat out Spooner Lake by a 8 to 4 vote to hold this year's TOC. Favorites for the big tourney will be Newhouse/Anselmo who won the only previous derby held there & team Constantineau who's won the past two TOC's & don't count out Eric the river rat Hermansen who along with partner Joe Wilcox are this year's Anglers of the Year & are very HOT.
Thanks to the clouds & wind it made a very hot day somewhat comfortable at the circuit's past tournament on Webster's Yellow Lake. Because of the recent heavy rain's in the area it made the incoming Yellow River navigable & that played right into the hands of The River Rat himself, yes Eric Hermansen along with partner Joe Wilcox fished a river for the second straight tourney but this time around came out of it with the first place title after coming up a little short on the Minong Flowage. Their mixed bag of large & smallmouth bass weighed in at 17.52. lbs. anchored by Eric's big bass for the tournament a 4.52 lb. mutt. The only two guys that have been in the circuit from the very beginning Steve Constant & Doug Ritchert now fishing togather took second place (16.59 lbs.). They both have had prior victory's at Yellow before so after combining their spots it paid off with a pretty decent sack. The first two tournaments were a real stuggle for Steve Hirsch & Pete Lukasik but they bounced back for a third place finish after weighing in a 14.61 lb. bag of dock fish. Fourth place went to Todd Larson & Steve Warren who had 13.89 lbs. & fifth place was Rick THE STICK Simonson & Frank Brantner who had 13.38 lbs. As far as the biggest movers & lossers Constant/Ritchert moved up 9 spots in the standings to seventh place & Otsby/Olson dropped 8 spots down to eleventh. Yellow Lake really didn't dissapoint it was by far the best results of the season in every catagory, it is a very diverse fishery which allows the anglers many differant places to fish in a differant variety of ways.
The AOY race maybe all but over as the very hot team of Wilcox & Hermansen have now opened up a 10 point lead over Chad & Cruz. After a 19th place finish in the standings last year (some say that was caused by Eric's head not being in the right place cause of his recent marriage) these guys seem really focused on getting a AOY title. In the past there was a team who once blew a seven point lead at the last tournament so ya just never know & there aint no river for the rat to to fish this time around. The TOC qualifing race is very very close only 3 points separate 9th from 16th place which means there are 8 teams fighting for 4 spots & don't count out somebody on the bottom from making a big move also so there really could be a big shake up coming. Wilcox/Hermansen will be going against team Henck for the Head to Head Championship, the Henck boys will be in the finals for the sixth time in the past seven years & have won it the past two years. They have not necessarly been bringing in giant bags but they just allways seem to be going against the right teams at the right times & they just about allways have a limit they've had 53 limits out of 58 tournaments also have the longest 5 fish consecutive streak in circuit history at 21 & are on another current streak at 17 tournaments with a limit. When asked about it Gene says he'd rather be lucky than good.
A brutally hot day with no wind treated the anglers at the second leg of the season on The Minong Flowage. After a lot of complaining about the pre-fishing & what is a very tough bass fishery the Flowage showed out a little better than what most thought it would. One of the winningest teams in UNBC history who hadn't won since August of 2017 got their mojo back, former FLW pro Rob Newhouse along with his bass catching machine partner Mike Anselmo won the tournament with a catch of 13.53 lbs. anchored by Rob's big bass winner at 3.28 lbs. To cap off the weekend they took second place Sunday at The Hayward Bass Club's open tournament on Round Lake, so a very successful & profitable two days (great job boys). Second place went to the river rat himself Eric Hermansen along with partner Joe Wilcox brought a mixed bag of largies & smallies to the scale which weighed 13.18 lbs. There was a tie for third place between Leo Durand/Morey Leverty & Jamie Gibson who brought in ringer Adam Andersen their bags both tipped the scale at 12.33 lbs. It's a proven fact that over the years when Leo complains & whine's about the circuit's upcoming fishery he allways makes the money this time was no exception he cried so much it's amazing the dam held up & yet again he was seen at the Longbranch laughing all the way to the bank. Fifth place went to Jeff Fox & Stacy Andersen who had 11.03 lbs. The tournament's Head to Head winner's & semi final matchups are Wilcox/Hermansen vs Simonson/Brantner & Andrea/Andrea vs Henck/Henck. The biggest winner in the point standing was Newhouse/Anselmo who jumped 11 spots from 15th place to 4th & on the opposite end was Wiess/Strohman who dropped 10 spots to 14th place. As far as the AOY race goes at the half way point Wilcox/Hermansen hold a 2 point lead over Constantineau/Constantineau with Otsby/Olson 7 points back & Gibson/Peterson 7 1/2 out.
The day at Birchwood's Birch & Big Chetac lakes saw mild temps & light East winds making it feel pretty comfortable compared to the brutal pre-fishing weather the anglers battled the prior weekend. The weather might have been okay but the fishing sure wasn't the 61 bass caught weighed a total of 119.24 lbs. for an average of 1.954 lbs. per fish, all very low totals but not record breaking for the circuit. However there was one record broke & that was 12 year old Cruz Constantineau became the youngest angler to win a UNBC tournament, he & his dad Chad brought 10.99 lbs. to the scale for the win a low winning weight BUT a WIN never the less.Chad has won 3 of the last 7 UNBC tournaments(pretty good streak going). Second place went to Chad's brother Star Prairie Gary along with partner Brad Merkt they weighed in 10.93 lbs. with only four fish. Troy Otsby & his new partner Matt Olson took third place with 10.81 lbs. thanks to Troy's winning big bass at 3.52 lbs. Fourth place went to a couple of way overdue anglers Tom Wiess & Derek Strohman who weighed 9.73 lbs. Fifth place was Todd Larson & Steve Warren who caught 9.64 lbs. of bass. Would like to thank Dan Greife the Doolittle Park manager & the village of Birchwood for letting us hold our weigh-in at the park, with certain restrictions due to Covid 19 we were able to pull it off.
Quarter Final head to head matches at the next tournament will feature Wilcox/Hermansen against Otsby/Olson, Constantineau/Constantineau against Simonson/Brantner, Constant/Merkt against Andrea/Andrea & Henck/Henck against Hirsch/Lukasik.