The fishing was extremely tough during the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Divisional at Monroe Lake, so Kurt Denning took the slow route to victory.
“There was only one bait for me, and I was fishing it brutally slow,” said Denning, a 38-year-old high school teacher from St. Meinrad, Ind. “I fished a Yamamoto Senko (green pumpkin or green pumpkin/watermelon) between 4 and 16 feet of water and let it fall straight to the bottom. If they didn’t hit it, I would pick it up and throw it again. I did a little shaking with it on the bottom but not moving it a good distance.”
The fishing was so tough at Monroe that no one in the entire field caught a limit during the three competition days. Denning won the event with only seven keepers weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces.
The Shallow Minded Anglers club member targeted stump rows to catch his fish each day. “In practice the fish were up on the stumps I could visually see,” he said. “But when the sun came out and the tournament started, they disappeared up there.”
Denning missed out on the early morning light because he had to take a 1 1/2-hour ride each day through the idle zone up lake. “Maybe the fish were there at daybreak but of course I couldn’t be,” said Denning, who caught four keepers the first day.
After talking to Day 1 leader Stacy Moore, who also fished on the upper lake the first day, Denning decided to take the slow ride again on Day 2 and fish submerged stumps. “Luckily enough on Day 2 I got one good bite (4-pounds, 4-ounces) and figured out where I thought they had gone.”
Friday he decided to return to his primary area again even though he only caught the one keeper the second day there. “I caught a couple of short fish right out of the gate, and I thought they were biting a little better,” Denning said. “Then I also stuck a good one in about my first 15 minutes of fishing, but then I fished and fished and my partner caught two. So I just went fishing, and I got lucky enough to stick another one.” Denning then got lucky enough to stick two more keepers and clinch his first divisional title.
Winning the divisional and finishing as the top angler on his state team also earned Denning a berth in the Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship (BNC) to be held on the Ouachita River in Louisiana Nov. 6-8. Other state winners qualifying for the BNC are Ian MacDonald of Illinois; JJ Patton, Iowa; Jesse Weener, Michigan; Rich Lindgren, Minnesota; Danny Ryan, Ohio; Troy Diede, South Dakota; and Randy Burch, Wisconsin.
Minnesota won the team championship for the second straight year with 104-14 while the host Indiana squad finished second with 94 pounds.
Dailus Richardson and Trevor McKinney of Illinois won bragging rights and a trophy for finishing as the top high school team in the tournament.
Brad Gravenhof of Rochester, Minn., caught a 7-pound, 1-ounce largemouth the first day of the tournament to earn the $500 Carhartt Big Bass award.
Image courtesy John Neporadny/Bassmaster