On the Minnesota/South Dakota border lies a long-fabled legend of a lake named Big Stone, and this natural source that starts the Minnesota River hosted the first Champions Tour event of the 2023 season. 65 anglers, the largest Champions Tour field ever took to the tumultuous border waters in search of some of the biggest bass in the entire state of Minnesota.
What started as a hot muggy day with light winds changed dramatically just after the lunch break as a pop-up thunderstorm parked on top of our anglers and caused an hour and a half weather delay. With a shortened afternoon window to fish weights were lower than expected but the competition was every bit as fierce as advertised with fresh faces and Tour veterans both slugging it out at the top.
Joel Willert kept a slow but steady pace throughout the first half, often making multiple casts to the same piece of cover and catching multiple bass off that one spot. His persistence and patience had him sitting atop the Reel LiveWell App at the mid-day break by over ten pounds.
It only takes one hookset to put yourself back in the game on Big Stone and if there was one guy to do it, it was Matt Thompson. But that “one” big hookset became a pattern as he began racking up the giants after the weather delay including two over five pounds and a 6 pound, 7 ounce monster that overtook Chad Smith’s 6 lb 2 oz bass, and gave the “Yeti” another Big Bass award presented by YETI Coolers, his Moolah cup victory for three biggest fish was a staggering 17 pounds, 9 ounces, and he also secured the Wenzel’s Farm Major Mover award for increasing his weight over 31 pounds in the second half.
Matt Thompson wasn’t the only one putting the pressure on Willert though, as Champions Tour Rookie Matt Holweg, and legendary Minnesota angler Jim Moynagh were also hot on the leader’s tail as Willert did just enough with only three fish in the second half to secure the victory, a $13,000 payday, and an automatic entry to the Championship on East/West Rush Lake where 32 anglers will compete to win a brand new Skeeter Boat and Yamaha Outdboard. Willert’s final total for the day was 22 fish for 48 pounds, 1 ounce. Thompson secured second place with 45 pounds even, and Moynagh rounded out the top three with 44 pounds, 3 ounces.
The next stop for the Champions Tour is the Whitefish Chain, in Crosslake, Minnesota, which will host the 65-angler field on July 20th, followed by a special Champions Tour Pro/Am event the very next day on the same body of water. For results, photos from the event, and more information on the Champions Tour you can check out https://www.classicbass.com/ .