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2008 Walmart BFL Great Lakes division preview
By:  Glenn Walker

One of the more popular tournament circuits in the upper Midwest is the Walmart Bass Fishing League, more commonly known as the BFL’s.  The circuit is comprised up of four single day tournament sand then a two-day super tournament in the fall, in which the top 20 percent of the field fish on day two.  These tournaments are a boater/non-boater format, in which you see some of the best sticks on the water!  At the end of the year, the top 40 boaters and non-boaters qualify to fish the regional tournament, in which anglers from other divisions come together to fish for a berth in the All-American.  This tournament is the coveted workings man’s tournament championship.  The regional in which the Great Lakes division anglers will go to is on Kentucky on October 2-4 and recently announced was that the 2009 All-American will be on the Mississippi River, held out of the Quad Cities in Iowa.

This preview of the five tournament sights, should give anglers, fans and the media an idea of what to expect from each stop on the 2008 Walmart Great Lakes BFL’s!

Be sure to check out my tournament journal following each stop of the BFL’s this season, seen only here at FutureBass.

May 3, La Crosse, Wisconsin (Mississippi River Pools 7-9)
2006 Bassmaster Classic Qualifier and renowned local favorite for tournaments on the Mississippi River, Jim Johnson, feels that the longer winter we had will push the spawn back by about three weeks.  More anglers will be looking for those fat pre-spawn fish and “smallmouth will have more of an influence to the outcome of the tournament leaders, because once you find them, you’ve found the mother load of fish” said Johnson.  This is because smallmouth typically school up by size, so if an angler finds on 3lb. fish, most likely they have found a nice school of them.  Jim thinks that it will take 18.5-19.5 lb. to win this event.  Take off and weigh-in for the event will be at Clinton Street Landing with takeoff starting around 6:00 and weigh-in beginning as early as 2 p.m.

June 9, 2007
Boater Winner/check weight:  Jeff Benson (18 lb. 10 oz.)/12 lb. 5 oz.
Non-boater Winner/check weight:  Josh Reynolds (15 lb. 6 oz.)/8 lb. 14 oz.

June 7, Winneconne, Wisconsin (Wolf River, Winnebago, Fox River, Butte Des Morts, Poygan)
The Winneconne system has started off with record breaking snow fall, high water and a late spring. By the time the BFL arrives to town, local tournament angler Jim Barczak expects to still see the water higher than it has been the last few years.  Anglers still might find fish on beds, but most fish will be in post spawn and moving towards their typical summer patterns (if there is such a thing on the Winnebago system).  Barczak is always a constant threat on the Winneconne system and has racked up numerous top ten finishes and wins and feels “as the populations of smallmouth continue to improve, he expects some anglers will come in with nice limits of chunky smallmouth.”  With the long winter and late spring that the Midwest has seen Jim see’s the 15 lb. plus mark for the winning sack.  Take off and weigh-in for the event will be at Chamber of Commerce Park with takeoff starting around 5:30 and weigh-in beginning as early as 2 p.m.

June 30, 2007
Boater Winner/check weight:  Steven Johnson (13 lb. 14 oz.)/9lb. 12 oz.
Non-boater Winner/check weight:  David Goodyear (12 lb. 6 oz.)/6 lb. 15 oz.

July 19, Wabasha, Minnesota (Mississippi River Pools 3-5)
Fellow FutureBass Pro-Staff member Tim Domaille puts in countless hours during the summer months on these tournament waters and has given us his thoughts for this event.  He thinks that it will take 18 lb. to win and 14 lb. to crack the top ten.  “Fishing should be great on pool four and five this year, with numbers and quality fish coming out of the grass and pad fields on both pools” commented Tim.  As on all Mississippi pools during the summer months, smallmouth can be caught on main channel wing dams and current breaks.  Take off and weigh-in for the event will be at the Wabasha City Ramp at Ike’s Park with takeoff starting around 5:30 and weigh-in beginning as early as 2 p.m.

July 21, 2007
Boater Winner/check weight:  Jim Mckie (18 lb. 4 oz.)/12 lb. 2 oz.
Non-boater Winner/check weight:  Mike Bonewitz (14 lb. 8 oz.)/9 lb. 6 oz.

August 9, Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin (Pool 9-11)
As anglers arrive in Prairie Du Chien there will be several distinct things going on this time of year on the river.  The slop fishing bite will be in full effect, as will fishing main river rock for schooling largemouth and smallmouth and the massive eel grass fields on pool 9 have also produced hefty limits for anglers.  About half the field will make the run and lock up to pool 9, where previous summer’s have shown that the overall quality of bass are far more grouped on that pool, than pool 10.  But don’t count out pool 10, quality fish can and will be caught on this pool as well.  I predict that 17-18 lb. will win the event.  Take off and weigh-in for the event will be at Washington Street Landing with takeoff starting around 5:30 and weigh-in beginning as early as 2 p.m.

August 11, 2007
Boater Winner/check weight:  Tom Welch (15 lb. 11 oz.)/12 lb. 2 oz.
Non-boater Winner/check weight:  Steve Knight (13 lb. 0 oz.)/8 lb. 14 oz.

September 13-14, La Crosse, Wisconsin (Mississippi River Pools 7-9)
A mixed limit of largemouth and smallmouth is typically how this event will shake out.  Anglers can target a mix of current swept areas, along with fishing the slop for big fall largemouth.  Johnson notes that “shad migrations through areas are also a dead giveaway to healthy bass highways.”  Finding the right type of vegetation, bait fish and then presenting the bait effectively, an angler will be able to catch some of the biggest bass of the year.  Johnson thinks that weights will be right around the spring time ones, with the cut being around 29 lb. and 36 to 37 lb. will win the event.  Take off and weigh-in for the event will be at Clinton Street Landing with takeoff starting around 5:30 and weigh-in beginning as early as 2 p.m.

September 8-9, 2007
Boater Winner/cut weight:  Dan Thill (35 lb. 13 oz.)/12 lb. 14 oz.
Non-boater Winner/cut weight:  Michael Syjud (31 lb. 1 oz.)/8 lb. 11 oz.

Good luck to everyone in their 2008 fishing tournaments and trips.  I look forward to seeing many of you on the water and at various tournaments.