ESCANABA, Mich. – The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour heads to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for stop No. 3 of the 2014 season on Green Bay’s northernmost inlets – Big Bay de Noc and Little Bay de Noc. Hosted by the Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tournament will feature the world’s best anglers as they compete August 29-30 for the largest payout in tournament walleye fishing.
“If I had to pick a time of the year to fish Bays de Noc, that’s the exact time I would pick,” said Wisconsin pro Korey Sprengel, who owns three major victories on the system. “Mid-to-late August is when the water is warmest, up to 70 or 75 degrees at times, and that’s when the fish are most active.”
Bays de Noc is known for its crystal clear water, which at times can cause walleyes to behave skittishly and spook. But August algae blooms often decrease visibility, which can be a boon to anglers.
“In the summer it gets just a little bit of green tint that brings the clarity down to around 6 to 8 feet and that really helps,” added Sprengel. “Without it, you can see down 20 feet in a lot of these places.”
Tournament anglers are restricted to Michigan waters and per state regulations, only two walleyes over 23 inches in length can be kept per day as pros and co-anglers fish together in a boat as a team.
“The thing about Bays de Noc is that it changes so fast,” said veteran Ranger-Evinrude pro Mark Courts. “You think you’re on a solid, steady pattern and then the next day you get to your spot and find the water has dropped 10 to 15 degrees. From that standpoint, it’s a gamble. If you go to an area and you were wrong about the conditions, that’s a lot of wasted time; there is a lot of water to cover.”
Sprengel and Courts agreed that there will be few secrets in terms of presentation.
“Most of the field will be trolling spinners and crawler harnesses and a few guys will troll crankbaits too,” said Sprengel. “The difference between Bays de Noc and Lake Erie is that unlike Erie, the Bays de Noc fish are more structure orientated. Most of your bites are structure related; the fish are either sitting on it on the bottom or suspending over it. When I say structure I’m talking about rock piles, shoals and points.
“That means in certain key areas you’ll see some jigging, snap rigging and blade baits. And casting small spinners and crankbits over the weeds can be very effective for those slot fish.”
Courts noted that historically the key to success on Bays de Noc is adjusting to the wind.
“An offshore wind can change the water temperature drastically. Those fish being cold-blooded animals, they can’t take that. You get a blow and almost instantly the walleyes are gone. You’re going to have to have multiple spots; there’s no doubt about it.
Sprengel plans to spend most of his prefish idling and scanning with his electronics to bank as many waypoints as possible.
“My Lowrance electronics will play huge in this event. I plan to spend more time graphing and driving around then actually fishing. I have two HDS-12s on the console and a 10 on the bow. On open-water fisheries like this, I will run traditional sonar on one console screen and mapping on the other; that allows me to be the most efficient. Other than my electronics, I would say my Ranger boat and Mercury Pro XS will be my most crucial pieces of equipment. You’re going to need a big-fish spot to contend and those areas are far away from those slot areas. It’s big water; there are going to be a lot of miles put on by a lot of guys.”
Sprengel and Courts both believe the eventual tournament champion will have a two-day total weight of approximately 50 pounds.
“There are an absolute ton of alewives in the system so the fish are really, really fat,” added Courts. “Unless we get a substantial cool down I think we’re going to absolutely crush them; it’s going to be a good bite.”
Anglers will take off from Ludington Park in Escanaba at 7 a.m. Eastern time each day. Weigh-ins will also take place each day at Ludington Park, beginning at 3 p.m.
Registration is ongoing for the Bays de Noc event. The deadline for guaranteed entry (by signing up with a pro or co-angler) is August 13. Registration can be taken over the phone at 501-794-2064 or online by visitingwww.nationalwalleyetour.com/tournaments/register/. For more information on rules and tournament payouts, visit www.nationalwalleyetour.com.