First, congrats are in order for MDJ, who won what might’ve been the purest test in recent Elite Series history, conquering over a hundred plus mostly grizzled hammers on a venue that was essentially new to all of them. He did it with a Ned Rig and a finesse worm, and outlasted his closest competitor by a margin of more than three pounds.
It was a hard-earned and well-deserved win, but it just wasn’t what I expected.
Based on the pre-practice reports of some Elite pros, plus the input of some trustworthy regional anglers, I fully expected this to be an absolute, power-fishing slugfest. One pro told me that during pre-practice he led a smallmouth to the boat, pulled the lure out of the water, and the poor fish continued to hunt for it for a few minutes.
I also heard that 15- to 17-pound limits would be common, and that there would be more than a handful of twenties, plus the occasional 24. Obviously, that potential was tapped, as Daniels, Casey Ashley and Clifford Pirch all topped 20. What surprised me is how many anglers – even among those who finished in the money – caught really small limits, or failed to catch limits at all.
I may have made the mistake of hearing what I wanted to hear from those pre-tournament reports, willing Oahe to be a lake where you can go anywhere at any time (when the water is soft) and catch a quick hundred smallmouths. By tournament time, I assumed, the biggest issue would be whether they were eating green pumpkin cigarette butts better than chartreuse dog turds.
I don’t know whether they just hit it wrong, or whether my predictions were so unrealistic as to be unfair.
I hope they go back again. Of course, I’m the guy who loved the Pittsburgh Classic for its last day drama, but I love a slugfest just the same – and I’m betting next time around Oahe will show out even better. If they return, I’m going, because the photo galleries were jaw-dropping and I still want to get a glimpse of that giant prairie dog.