How Big is Big? Records Fall at the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament
Jun 4th, 2013 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jun 4th, 2013 at 12:00 AM
A five pound smallmouth bass is an amazing sight. A six-pounder is a fish of a lifetime. But at the 2013 Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament in mid-May, seven-pounders made big news – that is until a real giant crossed the stage and pegged the scale to a record 8.45 pounds.
The winners racked up a record 67.13 pounds, nearly six pounds better than the record 61.29 winning catch in 2012. That was four and one-half pounds heavier than the previous record set in 2008. Winning limits of 12 bass averaging five pounds or more are now the “norm.”
Records fall almost every year at the SBOBT, the largest smallmouth bass tournament in the Midwest. Sturgeon Bay is located in Door County, north of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Tim Schneider, Silver Lake, Wisconsin, caught the biggest smallmouth he has ever seen, “Wow!” and “Wow!” was his double reaction. The 8.45-pound fish hit a tube jig in four feet of water. This was not a fluke for Tim who was on the winning team in 2005, and also won the 2012 fall Sturgeon Bay bass tournament and was second in 2011. “This is the best tournament in the country, and I’ve fished B.A.S.S and many other bass events,” he said. He did credit the tenacity and skills of the anglers, saying, “After sitting in 10th place after day one, we had a pretty good second day with 21 pounds, but dropped 40 places. If you’re not consistent here, you rocket to the bottom.”
The tournament had modest beginnings in 1991 with 24 boats and a 2.50 pound average. During the first five years, all bass averaged less than three pounds. The second five year span saw that average increase to 3.87 pounds. From 2001 to 2010, the average bass weighed 4.31 pounds. The numbers jumped to 200 or more boats for most years, but due to space, volunteers and efficiency, the tournament organizers settled on 150-boat fields in recent years.
Individual big bass records continue to fall. New one-day and tournament record weights such as the amazing 67 pounds by Darrell Greenwood and Steve Anderson from Carthage, Missouri, seem to reach higher and higher levels each season. Greenwood said, “The size of these fish is crazy; it’s like they’re on steroids.”
He fished the pro tour and was sponsored by Mercury and Ranger for 15 years before family and work occupied all his time. This is the only tournament he now fishes. “This is a first-class event, with tremendous respect shown us by other contestants. We’ve been near the top 10 before, but this was frosting on the cake.”
Anderson has been fishing the SBOBT for 18 years, most with Greenwood. “This win was an once-in-a-lifetime catch two days in a row. Darrell has always been a Ranger and Merc man. I’ve always wanted one. Now I have a Ranger,” he said after winning the Ranger Z118 with a Mercury 150 OptiMax and $7,000 for a $51,000 first prize.
In the 2013 tournament, a total of 14 six-pound bass came to the scales. Three in the seven pound range, 7.26 and two at 7.54, were weighed. And Schneider’s 8.45 pound bass may hold the record for years. But, as tournament director Ken Ellis said, “The way these records keep falling, nothing is sacred anymore.”
Ellis has been affiliated with the SBOBT for more then 20 years, and in 1998, as a contestant, finish second in the event. He said, “For years, we were waiting for a six-pound bass; than a seven; but never dreamed of an eight-pounder.” The impressive Sturgeon Bay fishery grew according to Ellis due to a strong catch and release ethic, an improving food source including some exotics like gobies, and the fact that the Green Bay walleye fishery flourished. “People keep walleyes to eat and release the bass,” he said.
Anglers come to this tournament from 11 states and Canada. The May event generates a $400,000 plus economic impact in the community. Ellis said, “I see us averaging about 150 boats in the future, which helps us move everybody quickly through the weigh-in process. Some years we achieve a 100 percent successful release, and are at 98 to 100 percent every year.”
The SBOBT with a team conservation fee, sponsorship fees, concessions, advertising and clothing sales has allowed the non-profit organization to contribute to many local causes including a college scholarship for fisheries and conservation students, purchased hunter safety course equipment and Mercury outboards for sheriff’s boats, and in conjunction with the local Rotary club, built a pavilion at Sawyer Park, tournament headquarters. “We’ve donated more than $250,000 over the years,” Ellis proudly stated. “Where can you go for a $500 entry fee and receive a 110 percent payback and a $50,000 first prize and do so much good for the area?”
Tournament partners include Ranger and Mercury as premium sponsors, along with St. Croix Rods, Strike King, Lucky Craft, Northland fishing tackle, Badger Sheetmetal Works, Flanigan Distributing Budweiser, Mills Fleet Farm, Crooked Creek Tackle Co., and Optima Batteries True Blue.
For information on the spring and fall tournaments, results, photos and much more, go to sbobt.org.