Dozens of professional bass anglers invaded Door County the past two days to try to cash in — literally — on the hefty smallmouths the area is known for.
Despite predictions by some that it would be just an “average” Bassmaster Elite Series event due to DNR restricting competitors to an area south of a line from Oconto to Sherwood Point, the leading angler Thursday had a 20-pound basket on five fish.
The bulk of the field has been heading full throttle to the shores of southern Door County, where many are targeting bass in 5 to 15 feet of water.
Many pros struggled to weigh enough bass to contend for the $100,000 top prize as the field was cut to 48 heading into this morning’s run north. The top 12 will fish in Sunday’s final.
In recent weeks there’s been plenty of backlash from bass pros and amateurs alike on online message boards over the restrictions, but B.A.S.S. deserves some of the blame for not picking the right host city: Sturgeon Bay.
Sure, Green Bay is the bigger media market, but let’s face it, Bassmaster has its own TV show, website and magazine where the bulk of the “press” will be.
Had tournament leaders chosen Sturgeon Bay, anglers would likely have been able to fish the entire Door Peninsula — even Washington Island when the season opens in that area today.
Enough people complained to government officials that DNR secretary Cathy Stepp released a statement Thursday that more or less seemed to hint that mistakes were made and they’ll be corrected should Wisconsin be given another chance.
“We look forward to working with them again as we improve the consistency and parameters of hosting elite tournaments in the state,” Stepp said. “It’s our first year on the Bassmasters tour. We’re quick studies and we’ll work very hard to make Wisconsin a prime destination for the tour in the future.”
If the opportunity comes to showcase the area’s terrific smallmouth fishery again, here’s hoping B.A.S.S. officials are also quick studies, and choose a port closer to where anglers want to fish.
Fear the Deer
We should be hearing about James Kroll’s recommendations for Wisconsin’s deer management program sometime in the coming week.
Many believe it’ll be long on criticism of the state’s handling of chronic wasting disease and the sex, age and kill population model, and could include some thoughts about improving the public and private land hunting experience.
I’d also expect him to recommend phone or online registration of deer, at least outside of the nine-day gun deer season; perhaps even after opening weekend. The DNR relies on data the deer hunters bring in to key registration stations across the state the first two days of the gun hunt.
Kroll and his team brought up DMAP — Deer Management Assistance Program — a lot during the public forums, so I’d guess the odds are pretty good they may recommend some form of that to try to get more hunters, landowners and DNR staff working together.
DMAP is a site-specific private property program in which landowners or hunt clubs cooperate with biologists on trying to bring a local herd to a certain agreed-upon goal.
You can see how one state describes it at www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/deer/dmap.asp.
Rather than biologists working one-on-one with thousands of private landowners, I’d envision the department creating a series of YouTube videos on various habitat and forest management topics, as well as a dedicated website with files on creating forest openings, types of shrubs and trees to plant to attract wildlife (and tips on protecting those plantings when young), food plots, benefits of balancing a herd, and more. The possibilities are almost endless.
Salmon and trout action continued to be very good most of the week, with a little slowdown in some areas toward the tail end.
Best action varied by port and often by the day, with some fish found fairly shallow after two days of west wind and other anglers staying in the 80- to 180-foot range.
On the bay, some nice perch have been caught at times on the weed beds around Sturgeon Bay and the rocks and mud from Larsen’s Reef to Chaudoir’s Dock, but not everyone is scoring.
Meanwhile, tickets for the 30th annual Kewaunee/Door County Salmon Tournament are now available. Get them by July 15 if you want a chance at one of two valuable early-bird prizes.
Check out some of the products offered by new and repeat sponsors at www.kdsalmon.com, where you’ll find links to their websites.
Coming up next Saturday is a “1-2-3 … Go Fish!” Great Lakes Challenge tournament at Algoma. Get an entry form by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following week is Kewaunee’s Offshore Challenge team tournament. You can download an entry form at kewaunee.org/2012_Offshore_Entry_Form.doc.
Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Email him at email@example.com.