2014 Clear Lake Classic with Captain Dave Nichols
The Clear Lake Fishing Club conducted their 25th annual Clear Lake Walleye Classic, May 17 & 18 on Clear Lake. This event brings together 100 2 person teams in what has become a rite of spring for Iowa walleye anglers. This de facto state championship brings in anglers from all corners of Iowa and Minnesota including guides, veteran tournament fishermen and weekend hobbyists. The event includes one of the last remaining “shotgun” starts in tournament angling with 50 boats in two flights blasting away from the City docks in downtown Clear Lake each morning. This year’s event promised to be a competitive affair with a couple of large year classes of legal fish (14”to 22” and one over per angler) so many expected lots of fish to come to the scales. Clear Lake didn’t disappoint with over 58 5 fish limits bought to the scales on the first day. One of the great things about Clear Lake is that there usually is more than one bite going on in the lake and this year was no exception. Many teams choose to fish in the “Little Lake” or on the far west end. Two primary patterns emerged as many teams anchored up or slow trolled live bait rigs in various styles while others elected to troll crankbaits with either planer boards or long lined. Other teams fished the main lake body with live bait presented on the various main lake structures and the crankbait trollers working the basins. My fishing partner was my brother, Larry, and we choose to slowly troll or power drift live bait rigs. We had decided, based upon our prefishing, that we would “run and gun” the various structural elements of both the big and little portions of the lake. We also determined that we needed to keep fish only 16” or larger in this no cull event (weigh 5 with 6 fish allowed in the boat). The 16” decision was a good one but also caused a great deal of stress on day one when we had thrown back multiple legal fish that didn’t meet our standard and only had 2 fish in the live well at 1:00pm with a 3 o’clock weigh in staring us in the face. We continued to fish our plan and at 1:30 we pulled a main lake area and boated 3 fish in 10 minutes that met our standard. RELIEF! We tried, in vain to make our final fish bigger than a skinny-just barely 16” we kept in the morning but weren’t able to get it done and weighed 7.8lbs on day one…well out of the lead and the money! Day 1 leaders had fished the “grade” area on the west end of the lake and weighed an impressive 15.89lbs with a big fish of over 6lbs. Day two was clear and windy at launch with water temps still in the mid-50s. We continued our plan of attack and started the morning strong with a fish that went almost 18”. We caught over 3 limits of legal fish under 16” during the course of the day. The bite improved as the wind continued to pick up throughout the day and we were able to get our 5th keeper by noon. Our two day total was only good enough for 20th place. The event was won by Nate Guerdet and Terry Mitchell with a weight of 28.33lbs for 10 fish. 2nd place was taken by veteran tournament anglers Scott Aydelotte and Eldon Olson with a weight of 21.45lbs and third place was very close with 21.43lbs scaled by Brian Schmidtke and Brian Crosser.
It’s a great time to fish Clear Lake for numbers of walleye right now. Practice good selective harvest principles and don’t overlook the crappies or muskies as both offer great opportunity on one of Iowa’s most accessible natural lakes.