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Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., is among the 99 professional anglers who will be fighting for the $100,000 top prize at this week's Green Bay Challenge B.A.S.S. Masters Elite Series event. / Photos courtesy of B.A.S.S. Masters Elite Series

Launch and weigh-ins

Boat launches will begin at 6:30 a.m. and weigh-ins will start at 3:15 p.m. daily at the Green Bay Metro Boat Launch, 102 Bay Beach Road.

Activities

There will be on-the-water demonstrations daily at the Metro Boat Launch, including the Experience Mercury ProXs Demo Tour, Nitro Boats Demo Tour, Skeeter Performance Boats Demo Tour, 2012 Triton Demo Tour and Yamaha’s 2012 Discover VMax SHO Demo Tour. There also will be fun for the entire family, including interactive elements as well as food and beverages from regional vendors.

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Move over average fishermen, the big boys just rolled into town.

The 2012 B.A.S.S. Masters Elite Series finally has made its stop for the Green Bay Challenge, the second-to-last event on the series’ eight-tournament schedule before September’s All-Star challenge.

The four-day tournament begins Thursday and continues through Sunday and is headquartered at the Metro Boat Launch in Green Bay.

Ninety-nine professional fishermen will take their jig-flipping and crankbaitin’ skills to the Lake Michigan waters to try and come out on top for the $100,000 grand prize and an automatic qualification into the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.

Need more on the Bassmaster Elite Series?: More headlines | Bassmaster Elite Series photos

This was a mystery lake that wasn’t chosen until May 24, and then was off limits to all elite anglers until Monday. Mike Iaconelli, B.A.S.S. Elite series fisherman and host of the television show “City Limits Fishing” loves the format for this tournament and said on the B.A.S.S. website that this will truly show who the best fishermen in the world is because everyone is on an even playing field.

“I don’t pretend to know much about it, but as of today (Monday) it looks to me like there’s man-made stuff, stained water, natural humps and reefs with clear water and a ton of rock to target. Regardless, I’m really looking forward to this tournament. Most of us have little or no knowledge about Green Bay, so it makes it fair. We’re all struggling to find the magic combination of spot and lure,” Iaconelli said.

Bret Alexander, who runs Alexander’s Sport Fishing Guide Service for smallmouth Bass, walleyes and muskellunge, has had a lot of success over the past couple of weeks on his smallmouth bass guides, and he’s been catching and releasing 50 to 120 fish a day.

He believes these fish are very agressive right now thanks to this string of warm weather, but said because of the warm weather, the fish are transitioning to their post-spawn areas in deeper water. Alexander think fishing slower will be key in this tournament.

More on fishing: Fishing news from around the state | Your fishing photos | Build a map | Read fishing reports | We're blogging about fishing

“The majority of the fish are done spawning now, so they are moving deeper or moving to some structure next to the drop-offs. Slow-rolling grubs or drop-shotting plastic baits have done really well for us lately,” Alexander said. “We’ve been staying away from jerk baits and crankbaits and it’s been paying off for us.”

People who can figure out that river fishing is the way to go, Alexander said, are the fishermen who will be around for the final two days.

“The guys that figure it out the fastest that the Fox River, Peshtigo River and Oconto River systems are the areas that are going to produce the biggest average of fish, they are the ones with the best chance to win. Guys fishing the Oconto and Peshtigo can average a 4-pound fish, and I think that is what it’s going to take to win this thing.”

After winning last week’s event on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, (476) trails Brent Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan., (494) by just 18 points with two events remaining. Other notables within striking distance include Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., (seventh place, 435), Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu, Ariz., (14th place, 399) and Iaconalli of Runnemede, N.J. (28th place, 357). De Pere native Travis Manson sits in 80th with 216 points through six events in just his second year on the elite tour.

Boundaries a main concern

Since the day the Wisconsin DNR and the B.A.S.S. national conservation director Noreen Clough announced there would be boundaries on the tournament waters, it seems everyone has weighed in on the matter. For the most part, it has not been positive.

The DNR decided tournament boaters cannot fish in Sturgeon Bay, cannot go past the first bridge on the Oconto River and also must stay outside of 200 feet from the De Pere Dam on the Fox River. They did announce, however, that Little Sturgeon Bay, Riley’s Bay and Sand Bay could be fished.

VanDam, a four-time Bassmaster Classic winner and seven-time Angler Of The Year, doesn’t like the restrictions. VanDam said on the B.A.S.S. Master website Monday afternoon that he is disappointed the DNR and local biologists have restricted the tournament and that because of their decision, this body of water will not get the respect it deserves.

“It will prevent us from showcasing that region as one of the country’s best fisheries,” VanDam said. “It also will cost that area thousands of dollars in lost tourism revenue since we won’t be able to show the fishery’s capabilities.”

Longtime host of “The Fishing Hole” and B.A.S.S. co-owner Jerry McKinnis also voiced his displeasure, calling it a “Boundary Box” and that the Wisconsin DNR has insulted not just the B.A.S.S. Elite anglers, but everyone involved in this tournament.

“Professional anglers, weekend anglers, conservation folks and the B.A.S.S. organizations plus the tourism people in the state of Wisconsin, have been totally insulted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources,” McKinnis said.

Alexander, however, supported the DNR’s decision but admitted the tournament should not be held in Green Bay, but Door County instead.

“This was a huge mistake, the tournament should have been held in Door County, and most likely Sturgeon Bay, but I think it was smart of the DNR to not let them transport these fish that far and take them out of their natural habitat,” Alexander said. “It’s a shame these fishermen won’t get a chance to see what this world-class fishery has to offer.”

jvancamp@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on twitter @jvancamp32.

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