Across the historic Brainerd Lakes Area, few bodies of water are as storied as the Whitefish Chain. From its classic Northern Minnesota scenic views to the staggering numbers of bass that live here, the Champions Tour made its third ever appearance at Moonlite Bay on Cross Lake for the second stop of the 2023 season. The 63 angler field is no stranger to this place, as most of the competitors have previous experience in some fashion on these bodies of water.
However, this go round proved to be stingy as a cold front and storms pushed through on the last day of practice and into tournament morning making the bite less than ideal. Even so, this talented group of anglers recorded a total of 826 bass caught, including a 5-01 Smallmouth by Luke Gillund (YETI Big Bass Award) and a 4-08 Largemouth caught by Dean Capra. The first half was largely controlled by Brian Bengtson who punched mats with a heavy weight for largemouth in a condensed area. Perhaps the most dangerous man on the Champions Tour stayed close behind him as Noah Schultz used a Bagley Diving B2 crankbait to clean up on weedline schools. Legendary Minnesota angler Jim Moynagh and local favorite Jacob Novak also stayed within striking distance as the lunch break approached.
The anglers fished the east side of the chain in the afternoon session and the bite picked up as the sun started to shine and the temps climbed gradually. Chad Keller and Jacob Novak had schools fire and an absolute flurry of fish catches ensued as they shot up the Reel LiveWell App to battle for the lead. Schultz and Moynagh held their own, but the last hour of the day proved to be a struggle as recreational traffic increased and spots shrunk considerably.
When it was all said and done it was the young gun Jacob Novak with 61-03 who secured his first ever Champions Tour victory and an automatic spot in the Championship on East/West Rush in late August. Chad Keller, Noah Schultz, Jim Moynagh, and Brian Bengtson would round out the top 5 with Keller bringing home the Wenzel’s Major Mover award for increasing his weight the most in the second half out of all the anglers. Kevin Fassbind won the Moolah Cup for largest combined three fish for a total of 10-10 with Dean Capra just one ounce behind him. The top finishing Champions Tour rookie was Jake Panichi who ended the day in 8th place and boosted himself into 3rd for the overall Rookie of the Year race currently being led by Matt Holweg. Anglers were also given a points update with just one regular season event remaining to qualify for the Championship, which will feature the top 32 anglers in our standings after the event on Le Homme Dieu. For full results, more photos, and bonus coverage from the event on Whitefish head to the Classic Bass website.