Wayne Lindgren of Zapata, Texas, topped a field of 132 anglers to win the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation’s Tournament of Champions held Thursday and Friday on Island Lake north of Duluth.
The 64-year-old Lindgren, formerly of Minneapolis, caught nine smallmouth bass for a total of 25.21 pounds to take the tournament. Winning brings only a trophy – no prize money – and the right to take part in the B.A.S.S. divisional tournament next summer on Lake Francis Case near Chamberlain, S.D.
Lindgren described the smallmouth bite on Island Lake as “real light.”
“I used a finesse approach,” he said. “I was throwing Lake Fork craw and craw tubes in 3 ½ to 5 feet,” he said.
Lindgren weighed in five bass – the maximum – on Thursday and four more on Friday. He almost had five Friday.
“I dropped (lost) a 4-plus-pounder,” he said. “What can you do? It’s fishing.”
A cold front moved into the Duluth area Thursday, and fishing was tough. Most anglers said they found fish only in shallow water, not much deeper than 5 feet.
“Everything’s shallow. There’s no fish in the deep water,” said Lance Jensen of Anoka, who weighed in a 4.37-pound smallmouth Friday.
Chuck Steinbauer of Brainerd, Minn., caught the largest fish on Friday, a 5.41-pound smallmouth. The largest bass on Thursday weighed 5.01 pounds.
Lindgren has caught 34 largemouth bass over 9 pounds in Texas, he said. But he found Island Lake’s smallmouth to his liking.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I’m used to fishing largemouth, but I love smallmouth. There’s a ton of big fish in this lake.”
The top local finisher was Jeff Wefel in 15th place with 16.99 pounds, followed by Doug Pirila of Proctor in 16th place with 16.28 pounds.
A total of 477 fish were weighed in and 468 were released alive. Average weight of the bass was 2.24 pounds.
Participants enjoyed staying in Duluth and fishing Island Lake, said Peter Perovich, president of Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation.
“It’s phenomenal,” Steinbauer said. “Pre-fishing, there were a lot of 3- and 4-pound fish. I’m going to come back here and play.”