Different types of waters are facing Lima area bass anglers over the next couple of weeks as they fish regional competition on the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) tour.
Limaland basser Jay Ellis, of Celina, is one angler who will be fishing both lake and tidal waters as he qualified for a pair of regionals through the Buckeye and Hoosier divisions of the BFL. He will be fishing tidal waters on the Chesapeake Bay (Oct. 11-13) out of North End, Maryland and then will be fishing big lake water on Kentucky Lake, Oct. 18-20 out of Gilbertsville, Kentucky.
Ellis is not the first Limaland angler to fish two regionals in one year. Veteran Dick Shaffer, of Rockford, has done it in the past as has Kyle Weisenburger, of Ottawa. Those two have advanced to the All-American national tourney by finishing in the top six of regional competition.
Ellis knows it will be a challenge fishing two kinds of water, but having qualified for five prior regionals, he said, “I am able to focus on going further and not being satisfied with just making it to the regional.”
As for the Chesapeake, he won’t set a plan until he sees how the water looks.
As for Kentucky Lake, he has fished it before and knows it will be dropping for winter pool.
“My wife and I will travel to Chesapeake Bay, then travel down to Kentucky Lake the following week. It will cut into my practice time a little. Qualifying for both regionals was my goal at the beginning of the season,” he said.
In addition to Ellis, Shaffer and Weisenburger, three other Lima area bass pros and two co-anglers will be fishing regional competition. Three area anglers who qualified for the regionals cannot compete because of prior commitments.
Cody Seeger, of Bellefountaine, and Greg Burwell, of North Baltimore, who are veterans of regional competition will fishing the Chesapeake event among the pros while pro Wilson Burton, of Findlay, will fish the Kentucky Lake regional. Co-anglers Ron Weisenburger, of Continental and Kyle’s dad, will be fishing his fourth regional during the Chesapeake event while Mike Kokoska, of Findlay, is making his initial regional appearance at Kentucky Lake. Those fishing the Chesapeake regional qualified through the Buckeye Division while those fishing Kentucky Lake qualified through the Michigan Division.
Michigan Division pros Zach Maisch, of Lima, and Alex Newman, of Wapakoneta, will not fish the regional because of prior commitments. Vickie Maisch Rumer, formerly of Lima and Zach’s mother, qualified as a co-angler for the regionals, but will not fish it.
Shaffer, who has qualified for 31 regionals over the years, has taken his usual realistic approach.
“I plan to practice Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. If I haven’t figured it out by the end of practice, I probably won’t,” he said.
The last time he fished a regional on the Chesapeake was about five years ago and “it had a lot of grass. I’m hoping there still is a lot of grass.”
Weisenburger, who has qualified for regional competition for 10 straight years, has fished tidal waters since he qualified for the All-American by placing in the top six at a regional on the Potomac River. He has fished the Potomac in three tourneys.
“I really like fishing there. Fishing a tidal body of water is much different from a traditional lake style fishery. In tidal water it is all about timing and water movement. The tides make current that positions the fish and triggers feeding. A tidal fishery makes you move around a lot more due to water fluctuations and find the high percentage areas at specific times,” explained.
He has never fished the Chesapeake, but plans on getting in five practice days.
“I am really excited to get to break different parts of this body of water down and practice with the tides. Doing well at the regionals is always about staying consistent so my plan will be to find a pattern that is consistent for multiple days. With the All-American being at the Potomac River next year I want to find a way to make it back,” he said.
Seeger, who finished second in the Buckeye Division points standings for the third consecutive year, and Burwell have never fished the Chesapeake, but like Weisenburger have fished the tidal waters in the Potomac.
“I hear that the Chesapeake Bay has a lot bigger tidal swing but I will have the full week to practice,” Seeger said. “Fishing other regionals has help me because I know what to expect day to day and helps manage your fish. I plan on trying to find patterns that suit the way that I fish and go from there. What I think will be a big help to me is that I seem to be pretty good at breaking down water quickly. I just need to find the right areas. I am a pretty versatile fisherman.”
Burwell said, “Guys that understand the tidal water and have patience are going to do well because you might fish until 1:30 and not get a bite but in 20 minutes have the winning bag. The guys that understand the timing of the tide and timing of the fish are going to dominate,” Burwell said. “It’s just going to be fish management to the finest whoever wins and qualifies for the All-American. A reaction bite definitely will come into play especially when that tide is slack or topped out the water has to be doing something or it’s really tough to get bit.”
Co-angler Ron Weisenburger has never fished tidal water, but is “excited to fish new water.” He will be pre-fishing with Kyle and then will draw a new partner each day of the tourney. “I’m hoping to do really well and qualify for the All American tournament,” he said.
Despite a historical amount of rain since July in the Chesapeake area, the usual habitats are still there, according to FLW Tour pro Bryan Schmitt of Deale, Maryland. He indicated the grass, wood and lily pads all should be players in the tourney.
Schmitt said that local knowledge of the fishery will be a key factor for this tournament.
“Knowing how to deal with unusual circumstances with tidal waters will be important,” said Schmitt. “It’s an excellent fishery full of big bass. Even with the seasonal transitions, there’s still going to be some strong limits weighed in.”
As for the Kentucky Lake regional, Burton fished it during the 2016 regional, but boat problems hindered his fishing choices.
“I’m ready, and plan to head down Sunday Oct. 14th (his birthday) and begin practicing Monday morning. I will plan to pre-fish from sun up to sun down until the tournament registration meeting. I plan to key in on a few of the areas I have fished before and will work to find shallow flats,” he said “I believe top water will win the tournament and plan to throw it a majority of the time.”
Burton and Kokoska live in the same neighborhood and Burton got him into trying the BFL circuit.
Kokoska has used up most of his vacation time and will be limited to a day of practice. Although he has not fished the lake before, he said he has fished many Southern waters.
“I grew up in Texas and Florida and am comfortable and confident in fishing Southern waters. I’m in communication with people in that area who have fished the lake and have done research and at videos online,” he said.
The top 12 anglers through the first two days of each regional advance to the final day of the tourney. The top six boaters and co-anglers at each regional will advance to the 2019 BFL All-American, which will take place May 30-June 1 on the Potomac River in Marbury, Maryland.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter alsmithFL