The Mystery Smallmouth at Lake Oahe
Pro bass anglers will compete for the coveted $100,000 first-place prize and Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points at the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe in S.D., June 29-July 2
The entire state of South Dakota has a population about equal to that of the city of Indianapolis. On June 29-July 2, however, the population around Pierre will expand by 107 of the world’s best bass anglers, as the Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe presented by Abu Garcia will be contested on the massive fishery.
This will mark not only the first time the Elite Series has visited the state, but also will mark the first time most of the field will have seen the lake.
Lake Oahe, which was ranked 20th in the Central Division of Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes this year, is a massive body of water. The Missouri River impoundment covers 370,000 acres, flowing from central South Dakota into North Dakota. If you take out the Great Lakes and Great Salt Lake, Oahe is the biggest lake by volume in the U.S., besting even Lake Okeechobee. So, there will be plenty of room for the Elite field to spread out.
Although Oahe is best known for its walleye, the smallmouth here are set to turn heads of even the most jaded smallmouth fanatic. The few local bass tournaments held on the lake are typically won with more than 20 pounds, and bass exceeding 5 pounds are landed with frequency.
Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk of Hayden, Idaho, is especially excited about the event.
“I have not fished the lake, but I’m stoked because it is the closest event we have ever fished to my house,” said the Idaho native. “It’s only 14 hours away!”
And because it is a smallmouth lake, Palaniuk has a lot of confidence. “I’m sure those fish will have little idiosyncrasies as far as the type of structure they prefer and the type of forage they focus on this time of year, but I’ll still go practice with the same 10 rods and baits that I’d start any smallmouth tournament with. Smallmouth are smallmouth.”
Another smallmouth specialist, Elite angler Seth Feider of Bloomington, Minn., believes Oahe is going to be off-the-charts good.
“It is in the middle of nowhere, and those bass have never seen a lure. I know it’s one of the biggest lakes in the nation, and we only have three days of practice, but I don’t think you’re gonna have to try real hard to find fish. I guess a guy could run 200 miles if he wants to, but I’m guessing you’ll be able to catch them just as good by the ramp.”
Palaniuk agrees, but adds, “Covering water to find bigger bass is going to be key, I think. This is the type of fishery where it’s not going to be your big fish that separates you from the pack. Instead, it will be your smallest fish that separates you.”
Daily takeoffs will occur each competition day at 6 a.m. CT from the Spring Creek Resort & Marina, and weigh-ins will be held at Steamboat Park in Pierre at 3 p.m.
The Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo will be held in conjunction with the tournament. The Expo will take place at Steamboat Park on Saturday and Sunday beginning at noon. The expo will feature boat demo rides, an aquarium, free prizes and the latest fishing products on the market. All activities are free and open to the public. For more information, visit Bassmaster.com.