Just got back from the last week's FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River out of Bismarck, ND. Caught quite a few fish during the early part of practice, then the river levels started to drop and the weather turned ugly. And the fishing started to get tougher as the week progressed. Still caught fish, but not as many.
I was primarily rigging and jigging in the upper stretches of the river and trolling leadcore and crankbaits in the middle and lower portions (main body of Lake Oahe near the ND/SD state line). We launched out of the Hazelton boat ramp which is approx 35 miles south of Bismarck.
Now this is where I am fascinated by tournament fishing. There is nothing better than to fish a body of water for a few days, fish the tournament, and then find out what actually worked. As I can attest, no one is really happy except for the winner.
As it turned out, I ended up fishing the tournament in two primary spots - Eckroth Bottoms (3-4 miles north of Launch) and Fort Rice (2-3 miles south of Launch). I decided to troll leadcore line with crankbaits (3 different crankbaits worked well for me - Bomber 24A's, Glass Shads, and the newly re-designed Lindy Shadlings). Over the years, in rivers, I have traditionally fished at or very near to the bottom with leadcore... Just ticking the bottom occasionally. This is where I learned something very interesting.
The winner was trolling leadcore/crankbaits in the very same two areas as I was. So, I had the right spot, the right technique, BUT the wrong pattern. He was trolling off the bottom by 2 to 3 feet and I was very tight to the bottom. This dispelled a long time notion that I had always adhered to - River fish are always tight to the bottom. Lesson learned and take it from me, keep your eyes and ears open to new ideas. Try fishing a few tournaments and take advantage of them to learn something new. By the way, I ended up in 27th place.. right in the middle. Bummer.