First Time in First Place
The third UPL Tournament of the season completed this past weekend on Lower Prior Lake. This was the first time Chris and Mike fished this lake as a competitive team. Chris had minimal experience with the lake the last time the UPL came to Lower Prior. Lower Pior is known for having very good numbers of panfish.
The prefishing strategy for this event was slightly different than previous events. Chris and Mike decided to divide and conquer in the early morning hours. The sun is much higher in the sky by 8 a.m. nowadays, and that would mean the primetime feeding window would be smaller during the tournament. Mike took the east half of the lake and Chris took the west. They worked varying depths of shallow and deep in hopes of establishing a consistent pattern. Both guys were able to ice fish early which gave them a feeling of confidence.
At 10:00 a.m. the team met up and started to work other areas together. Chris would drill and Mike would search with the Aqua Vu Micro Camera. During this time, the team was able to locate some quality pumpkinseed sunfish (Tip: Pumpkinseed sunfish often weigh more than bluegills of similar length due to their thick stature). If the team was able to find these fish during the tournament, it would be a huge help towards placing higher in the standings. The crappies that were caught by both team members were enough to count for the tournament, but not much over 8 inches.
The morning of the tournament came with a weird feeling. Mike had made an attempt to fix the screen on his underwater camera Saturday night that rendered the camera unusable. Additionally, Chris had some mechanical issues with his snowmobile that required a quick fix at the lake. This left the team feeling a bit distracted as the tournament start approached. In passing conversations with other teams, it seemed that everybody was on the same bite: quality gills and small crappies. Chris and Mike knew they would catch fish, but there was little hope of having the winning bag.
Chris and Mike were in the third take-off wave, and they made their way to a spot that Chris had found the previous day. The spot was a transition line between the deep basin filled with permanent fish houses and a small island in the middle of the lake. Mike drilled the first set of holes and Chris went to work on fishing. In a matter of minutes, he had three fish toward the limit. It took only the first hour of the tournament to have 15 fish for the weigh-in. The team had expected to catch a mix of crappies and gills in this first spot. What they hadn’t expected was to catch a good average of crappies. Their crappies were 9” or better with a 13.5” kicker that Mike was able to catch around 8:30.
The next few hours were spent trying to upgrade fish. The gills they possessed were much smaller than anticipated. This made the duo a little nervous about where they would finish over all. They were able to upgrade two fish in different spots on the lake before returning to their starting location. A few locals had moved closer to where the team was fishing, but no other competitors. They upgraded another fish in this spot before heading in for the weigh-in at 2 p.m.
Chris and Mike are the second team to weigh-in and their total for 8 crappies, 7 sunfish was 6.595 pounds. Their big crappie went .92 lbs, and the team felt like it might be enough to win the big fish of the tournament. Their limit was a respectable weight, but neither Chris or Mike felt like it was enough to win. The next several teams weighed in 8 gills and 7 crappies. This indicated that the crappies they found were small. The average of the next several teams was around 5.2 pounds. After 15 teams had got their totals, Chris and Mike were the only team to break 6 pounds. When all the teams were accounted for, only three teams broke the 6 pound mark.
Chris and Mike went on to win the tournament and claim big crappie honors with Mike’s giant fish from the morning. This is the first time the duo has finished in first place and the third event in a row that they have finished in the top ten. As a result of their consistent top ten finishes this year, Chris and Mike are currently sitting in first place in the Team of the Year standings with a 1 point lead. The last tournament of the year will be held on March 4th on East Rush Lake.
Presentation of the day:
-Clam Drop jig with a fathead Maki minnow
-15-19 feet of water