ORR- Move over, Billy Bluegill, and make room for Buster Bass.Orr may want to consider getting a partner for their iconic panfish sculpture on Hwy. 53 after Adam Rasmussen’s incredible …
ORR- Move over, Billy Bluegill, and make room for Buster Bass.
Orr may want to consider getting a partner for their iconic panfish sculpture on Hwy. 53 after Adam Rasmussen’s incredible record-breaking take last Thursday in the Classic Bass Champions Tour event on Pelican Lake.
Rasmussen, owner of Rasmussen Outdoors guide service in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., obliterated both his 49 challengers and the all-time tour record with a jaw-dropping haul of 98 bass weighing in at 247 pounds, 10 ounces, 116 pounds more than the previous record of 131-07 held by Tim Schroeder.
Runner-up Matt Thompson was far, far behind with 32 fish and 105 pounds, 8 ounces, a total that would have won the previous two Champions Tour events.
“I’ve fished a lot of tournaments in my life, and to have something like that happen the stars really have to align. It was unbelievable. I still can’t get over that day,” Rasmussen said on Tuesday.
Picking Pelican Lake
For the Champions Tour and most of the competitors, this was their first time at Pelican Lake, but not so for Classic Bass owner and longtime tourney pro Scott Bonnema, who said he was introduced to the lake many years ago by famed anglers Ron and Al Lindner during a lull in a fishing retreat at Lake Vermilion.
“Ron came to me and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got time tomorrow, let’s go fishing. I’ll take you to one of my favorite lakes,’” Bonnema recalled. “So we drove over to Pelican Lake. It turns out that had been one of their favorite lakes for many years. And I kind of fell in love with it. We caught a bunch of big fish and had a great time. It was just an awesome lake.”
Bonnema had a hand in bringing a Student Angler Tournament Trail tournament to Orr last year. He suggested the venue to SATT President Jimmy Bell not only because he knew the young anglers would have a good experience there, but also because he was thinking about bringing a Champions Tour event to Pelican Lake and he wanted to see how the cell-phone-based scoring app Classic Bass developed would perform there. Catches are weighed, photographed, and immediately released back into the lake, with information and photos immediately uploaded to the app. Thousands of people from around the country watch tournaments play out in real time on the app, Bonnema said.
Both the SATT tournament and the app were resounding successes, securing Pelican Lake’s place on this year’s Champions Tour.
“I was excited about it since day one to have them experience what I consider one of my favorite lakes in the state,” Bonnema said.
The summer schedule of three qualifying events and a championship tourney was announced in March, and anglers quickly began booking spots at Pelican Lake resorts, with Oveson’s Pelican Bay Resort and Inn serving as the focal point for tournament activity.
“The community bent over backwards to help us,” Bonnema said. “I think they were a little bit overwhelmed when we came to town with the horsepower behind our event. The guys have their boats, they need fuel, they have to be able to charge their batteries in the evenings and do all sorts of things. We should have contacted a chamber of commerce person earlier so they could let the community know we were coming at that level. But it was a great event, and the community was great. I couldn’t tout that lake and that community any better from a resort perspective and visitors destination. It’s one of the finest in the country, in addition to Vermilion and all the others right there.”
Rasmussen also had high praise for the experience.
“It was a neat little town, and that part also kind of helped,” he said. “I had a pretty relaxing week. We had a cabin over at Island View Resort and got to hang out with some buddies and obviously do some fishing all week long. But the people in the area were great. It was just a fun, relaxing week, no pressure.”
Competitors began arriving early in the week to scope out the lake, an activity made more important due to the fact that electronic maps of Pelican Lake are less refined than those for other lakes.
“The electronics today is phenomenal. Most lake maps that we get, Lake Vermilion included, have one-foot contour levels now,” Bonnema said. “If there’s rocks in the shallows, we know exactly where they are. Pelican Lake is on the map, but if you look at an uncharted lake on a digital map it gives you generalities, but it does not show you the details of how far a point sticks out or how high a couple boulders might be where the rocks are. Pelican hasn’t gotten there yet. It just takes time.”
But it took no time at all for competitors to discover Bonnema had picked a gem of a location for the tourney.
“It was kind of fun, because the guys contacted me as the week goes on with practice, and they’re like, ‘This place is absolutely amazing,’” Bonnema said. “And I said, ‘Told ya.’ And they were just blown away with the fishery.”
With lackluster performances in the tour’s first two events, Rasmussen’s hope for qualifying for this week’s 25-man championship at Mille Lacs was to get the automatic entry that would come with a win at Pelican Lake. To accomplish that, he chose an unorthodox strategy.
“He specifically decided to look for offshore structure,” Bonnema said. “He said he found about eight areas and fished four of them during the day. Those were big expansive cabbage weed flats that had some big, isolated rocks and a couple smaller rock piles right in the middle of these areas.”
Rasmussen said he started the day with a goal of catching 250 pounds, and while others struggled with decreased bass activity due to cloudy skies and shifting winds, Rasmussen stayed away from the fray and immediately began reaping the harvest of his decision.
Tossing Ned rigs and Chatterbaits, Rasmussen hauled in about 100 pounds of bass, almost exclusively largemouth, in the first two hours of fishing. At the end of the first half of the day he was just one pound short of the all-time record and could have skipped the afternoon session altogether and still won the tournament.
“It was probably the single largest bass fishing beat down I have ever seen anywhere,” Bonnema said. “Not only did he smash what has been a five-year record, but he won over second place by 130 pounds. So that was an incredible day.”
And Bonnema suggested that with a nationwide audience tuned in through the app, and word getting out about the event in the broader bass fishing community, there might be more incredible days ahead not only for Pelican Lake but for the region.
“I believe as a result of this, down the road, you’re going to have some very large tournaments that follow the type of formats that we have looking at that region,” he said. “It could very easily entice some of the (Major League Fishing) programs and championships to come up there because it is such an incredible region with such incredible fisheries.”
And the Classic Bass Champions Tour will likely find its way back to Pelican Lake in a future season, too.
“No question about it,” Bonnema said. “It’s already on my radar.”