My name is JT Russell. I am a junior on the Mckendree Bass Fishing team. My partner for this event was Brock Wilke. Brock and I have fished several times together, and it’s always a good time, whether fish catching is happening or not.
Recently, our team took two boats up to a tournament on Lake Wisconsin. The tournament was hosted by the University of Wisconsin, and was a two-day event. Brock and I had zero expectations going into the event, as neither of us had ever seen the lake. In addition to our lack of geographical knowledge, we had no practice days for the tournament. This meant that we would have to find our fish during the event. With Cabela’s School of the Year points up for grabs, it was important that we made the most out of our time on the water.
We left on Friday after school and began our trek up to Lodi, Wisconsin. We stopped on the way up in Hamel, Illinois in order to fill up our tanks. It was there that the adventure began. I went inside to get some lunch for the road. After purchasing my 12-inch tuna sub, I walked outside to find neither of our boats in the parking lot. Turns out, Coach Rinderer thought I was in Austin Chapman’s truck, and Austin thought I was in Coach’s truck. So there I was, left to hitch hike my way six hours north, with nothing but a Tuna Sub and my thoughts… (Not really, as they shortly came back for me.)
The trip that was full of surprises.
The night before the tournament, we headed to dinner at a well-known local establishment known as “Hookers”. On the way into the restaurant, we struck up conversation with a local, who provided us with information that might help us find fish, as well as information that would keep our boat in one piece, as navigating the Wisconsin River can be a treacherous journey.
Austin Chapman backs in for day one of competition.
Brock and I took off as boat number 14 Saturday morning. We decided to basically put the trolling motor down and just start fishing. We had little luck finding fish near take off and found ourselves fishing a rock bank that led into a small overpass. It was there we saw our first sign of aquatic life, as Brock hooked into a 13 inch “brown meat monkey”. Others may refer to them as a smallmouth bass; however, we’re just weird like that. As we fished around the bend of the overpass, we caught our first keeper. We knew at this point that we had found something. We stayed tight to the rocks and ended up catching three more keepers on a mixture of jigs and shakey heads on the same stretch of bank. Once we felt the spot was fished out, we decided to do some searching up river.
JT Russell and Brock Wilke working on a 5 fish limit. Temps soared into the 80’s… a change from the 3” of snow the area received the weekend before.
After idling through some questionable water, we found Brock’s Ranger stuck on a sandbar in about a foot and a half of water. I saw the look in Brock’s eye, and I knew that I was going swimming. I reluctantly hopped into the cold current of Lake Wisconsin and pushed the boat off of the sandbar. Luckily, we were only about 50 yards from a brush build up that looked as though it could hold some quality fish. It didn’t take long, as Brock caught our biggest keeper of the day, a 15 and a half-inch smallmouth that was feeding down in the current. We continued to catch short fish throughout the day, but could not upgrade our five fish limit. We weighed in just over eight pounds and found ourselves sitting in 7th place. Our other team of Austin Chapman and Curtis Lilly also found a few fish. They weighed in 3 fish for 5 pounds 9 ounces.
Coach busy trying to repair the problems while the guys are fishing.
… and Coach even helps out the hotel in an “emergency” situation!
Conditions looked to be about the same for day two, which was perfect for what Brock and I were doing. We pulled up to the rock bank that held the majority of our keepers on day one, only to be greeted by a sea of bank fisherman, several of them with two to three lines in the water. This made it tough to fish the spot with any efficiency, so we decided to leave the area and find new water.
JT Russell looking for another keeper.
We idled up to a spot known as, “Stoners Bay”. It was a local community hole and was known to produce quality fish. We had no luck within the bay, and we began to feel slightly discouraged. However, we kept our heads up and fished hard. We trolled up to a dock and it didn’t take long for Brock to get hooked up, as we boated our first keeper. His next flip also produced a bite, but unfortunately resulted in a broken line and a lost fish. I hopped up on the trolling motor while he re-tied, and it didn’t take long for me to get bit. I hooked into a solid green meat monkey, which measured just under 16 inches. Throughout the next half hour we were able to collect two more keepers from the dock.
In search of one more fish, we headed up to our spot that produced our biggest fish on day one. Within the first five minutes on our spot, Brock caught our fifth fish. After some high fiving and fish kissing, we set out to upgrade our limit. Throughout the day we upgraded several times, but not by a substantial amount.
We weighed in a solid limit of over nine pounds. This weight brought our two-day total to 18 pounds 2.5 ounces, which landed us in 6th place!
Austin and Curtis brought in four fish for seven pounds, bringing their two-day total to 12 pounds 9.5 ounces, resulting in an 11th place finish.
Overall, we were very pleased with our finish. We earned some solid School of the Year points that we believe will bump us up to second in the national Cabelas School of the Year rankings, which is phenomenal for our program and our school.
We left Wisconsin with bellies full of cheese curds and a sense of real accomplishment!
Spectators enjoyed great food at Fitz’s on the Lake.
Our team’s next event will be the Mckendree Spring Invitational on Vandalia Lake in Vandalia, IL on April 30.