View of Big Lake Winona from Huff Street.

The Winona State Fishing Club has seen many successes this year and are becoming more widely known over the country and in our community.

The club has racked up roughly $30,000 in winnings over the past few years, and had held a number one ranking in the nation for a while. Many of us don’t know what it takes to be a competitive bass fisherman, so I interviewed the president of our fishing club to get a better idea of what a tournament day looks like!

Here is his step-by-step breakdown of the day. The quotes, photos and gifs are contributed by Winona State Fishing Club president Cade Laufenberg.

1) Waking up before the sun rises

If take off is at 6am, anglers are usually up no later than 4:30am to make final preparations on the boat, eat and drive to the launch site.

“If things go smoothly, I love the morning anticipation. If there is anything wrong and I have to fix something or otherwise do something I didn’t plan on when time is running out before take off, and this happens from time to time, it can be extremely stressful.”

2) Waiting in line to put the boat in the water

“If you’re at the back of a 100 boat line, it can be a grueling wait for your turn. The anxiousness to get competition underway only amplifies the situation.”

3) Boat is in the water – now you can enjoy your coffee

“It’s nice to take a sip of coffee, and go through a brief run down in your head, or with your fishing partner of where you plan to fish today, how you plan to catch fish, and a series of possible outcomes and alternatives.”

4) Making last minute preparations

“After some last minute preparations and game plans are made, usually some casual mingling takes place among anglers. This usually means floating around in the boats looking for other anglers who you consider your friends.

Jokes are made, conversations are had to lighten the mood and you wish each other luck before take off.”

5) Going through the final boat check

“Finally, its time for things to get underway. The tournament director plays the national anthem, and begins to run boat checks and take off procedure. This means a last minute check of all boat equipment is necessary.

The live wells must be working properly, lifejackets must be on, and the boat’s running lights must be working in order to be authorized for take off. Once these things past the test, all is good to go.”

6) And the tournament begins!

“It’s blast off time! A short idle out to the end of the slow no wake, and then time to put the hammer down on the throttle. It’s an all out race to the starting spot, which is usually the best spot an angler has found in their week of pre-tournament practice.

Boats traveling as fast as 80 mph, ripping up and down the lake to try and get to their areas first, and its an adrenaline rush.”

7) The first hurdle and changing strategy fast

“You get to your starting spot only to find out someone else is already on it. This is a tournament angler’s worst nightmare.

Not only are you worried because you relied on catching fish there, but you also know that your fellow competitor will probably do well there. Luckily you have a strategy in case this happened so you go to your secondary spot. Nobody is there! Thank goodness.”

8) Catching your first fish of the day

“Spot number two had a ton of fish in practice, but they weren’t very big. At least you should be able to get your five bass limit here, you reason, and then you can upgrade elsewhere. Hold up! It’s the first bite of the day – and it’s a big one!”

9) Completely changing your game plan

“You’re taken by surprise that you caught a big one at this area. Now your game plan has completely changed. You decide to give this area a couple of hours on a hunch that there are more quality fish there.

After you finish here, you’ll re-prioritize your spots accordingly to fit what’s left of your eight-hour day.”

10) Moving to your next spot

“You grind out this spot for two hours and manage to pull two more big fish off the area. But it’s been over an hour without a bite and it’s time to look at other areas. You’re extremely happy with how this decision panned out, and it just goes to show how quickly things can change in this sport.

If someone was not on your starting area, you never would have started here and caught those big fish.”

11) Keeping your head in the game

“With six hours left in the day and only two quality fish needed to have a great chance to win the tournament, you’re on cloud nine. But it’s important to keep it together. Sometimes catching two fish is easier said than done.”

12) Hurdle number two

“Sure enough, suddenly it’s 12pm. Weigh in is at 3pm and you’ve still got only the three fish you caught earlier. You’ve stopped at several locations that you thought you could catch fish and failed to register even a bite. It’s time to make a change- both in area and fishing techniques.”

13) Changing up your fishing strategies

“You decide to run to the opposite end of the lake, and instead of fishing deep water for big fish like you had been, you’ll opt for shallow water where you think you can just catch some smaller fish to finish out your limit.

At this point you’ll take anything you can get.”

14) Getting your confidence back

“Finally at 2pm, fish number four goes in the live well. It’s not huge, but respectable, and is a monumental lift, breathing new life into you.

You were almost out of it mentally, but now realizing you’re one big fish away from potentially winning, you’re fishing harder than ever before.”

15) Showing those fish who is boss

“The next cast, you hook a giant. It gives you a huge fight, and you’re shaking the entire time. 45 seconds feels like hours. Finally it comes to the net and is in the boat.

You know you have a good chance to win now, and you’re moved to the point of screaming uncontrollably in a boat on a public lake with hundreds of people who can hear you plain as day. You don’t care.”

16) Weigh in

“Finally, its time to weigh your fish; your 5 bass limit totally 22 pounds is impressive, but now you must wait to see if anyone else can knock it off. One by one, anglers come to the stage with bags that look heavy, only to fall just short. It’s the same feeling you had on your way to the starting spot, hoping you’d get it.

The same feeling you had at the end when you hooked the big fish and battled it, shaking, to the boat. When you find out that nobody has beaten you, the feeling is indescribable.

Your day consisted of so much emotion, so much mental focus, and now you get to pour it all out on stage while you collect your trophy and check.

17) Resting and reflecting on your day

“At this point, you feel more energized and excited than ever before, but in a few short hours, you’ll be passed out. Fishing takes a lot out of you – physically, mentally and emotionally. But that is why it is so much fun, exciting, and addicting.”

-Lauren Reuteler and Cade Laufenberg

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Lauren Reuteler

Lauren graduated in 2018 with a BS degree in Elementary Education with a Child Advocacy Studies minor. She is from Champlin, MN and her hobbies include photography, traveling and hanging out with friends and family.