Brandon Lester - Lessons Learned

In this column I will share with you a lesson I learned from either an event, a practice day or just out fun fishing.

The AOY tournament on Bays de Noc and Lake Michigan was a tournament I had looked forward to for a long time. After realizing at Lake Cayuga that I was in fact going to qualify to fish the Bassmaster Elite Series AOY Championship and stand a good chance at qualifying for my first Bassmaster Classic I was very excited to head north and see how I could fair against the northern smallmouth. Before heading up there I did my usual internet research and looked the place over on Google Earth to find some starting spots that I wanted to try during practice. Everyone knows that the Great Lakes are absolutely huge bodies of water and being from Tennessee I will admit it is very intimidating when you look out at Lake Michigan. With that being said, I decided before I left that I was going to fish for those fish the same way I would fish for smallmouth at home and look for the types of structures that I know smallmouth in any part of the country relate to.

On the first day of practice I started fishing in Little Bay de Noc. I struggled for the first few hours trying to figure out what depth and what type of cover the fish were relating to. About lunch time I found a spot that was absolutely loaded with big smallmouth. My first cast to the area yielded a 4-12 smallmouth. The next cast I shook one off and I moved about ten yards and caught another one over five pounds. I knew the place was special, but the problem was the place was only about a mile from the takeoff site. It was also the most obvious piece of structure in the whole bay. Nonetheless it gave me confidence that the right size smallmouth lived in Little Bay and I had two more days of practice to find every school I could find. I ended up finding five different places that I felt had schools of smallmouth on them and they were all big - really big. Every day in practice I would catch at least one over five pounds if not bigger.

The first day of the tournament I went to the obvious school I had found and luckily I was able to get on it. Dean Rojas and I shared that spot all day and we both had banner days. I ended up with 24-2 and had the Day One Big Fish with a 6-4 beast. That day and really that whole event taught me two lessons that I'll always remember.

First - obvious places are not always bad. A community hole is usually a community hole for a reason. It would have been easy for me to write that spot off as being "too obvious" but them someone else might have caught the 24 lbs. of smallmouth and not me.

Second - a smallmouth is a smallmouth. I don't care if you’re in the North, South, East, or West. I caught every smallmouth that week fishing for them the same way I would if I were on the Tennessee River or my home lake of Tims Ford. Smallmouth love rock and hard cover and that's what I targeted. Sometimes the most subtle little pieces of cover in the right places can hold a school of big smallmouth. Throw baits that mimic what they feed on and they will bite – period.

Like I said this was my first time to fish a tournament on the Great Lakes but looking at next year’s schedule I know it won't be my last. I'm looking forward to getting back and chasing those big old brown fish.

Many of you all know I build my own custom fishing rods. The rod I used at Bays de Noc was the MHX HM DS-822 blank. It is also a great blank for shakey heads but I used it there for dropshotting a little Jackall Crosstail Shad on a 1/0 Mustad Ultra Point drop shot hook. Check out and for more information about custom rod building. If you have any questions please reach out to me at >a href=""target"_blank"> or on my Facebook page at @ProAnglerBrandonLester.

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