By Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons and Rob Connors
About the Lake
With two events remaining, the 5th event of the inaugural NPFL season brings the anglers and their families to Wisconsin to Lake Winnebago presented by Hero Beverage Company. Located in the East-Central part of the State, Winnebago is around 138,000-acres and has 88-miles of shoreline. With an average depth of 15-foot, anglers will have several islands, shallow reefs and drop off type areas to fish. The Wolf and Fox Rivers are the lakes main tributaries and anglers can expect to find quality largemouth and smallmouth bass located throughout.
Not many professional trails visit Wisconsin, but that doesn’t mean the fishing is not good. Winnebago will be a good change of pace for the NPFL anglers and the ability to catch both smallmouth and largemouth bass will be welcoming for a lot of guys.
Local angler Jeff Barth is looking forward to being home and having some time to prepare for a tournament. As a retired Fire Fighter, Barth also owns a successful business which takes most of his time. With no pre practice before any other event this season, there is no better time to be ready to fish an event than on your home water.
“I am the most prepared for an event as I ever have been. My boat is organized, I had my electronics redone and I am ready to fish. I am going to either get them good or get my teeth kicked in,” laughed Barth.
Practically living on the lake, Barth expects a mixed bag on average will win this week with anglers finding success doing many different things. With all types of cover/structure, anglers can fish natural rocks and reefs, offshore, shallow, bridges, the rivers, or even current breaks.
“My phone never stops ringing with the business. I am always busy before these events and it feels good to get prepared and to sleep in my own bed and relax. As far as the fishing, I know this lake well, I have stuff all over the place.”
Knowing the lake is good as Barth can quickly eliminate dead water while others may have to fish areas to find out. However, having areas with previous success can also hurt a local angler. With only three practice days, it is impossible to fish everything.
“I have so much good stuff and I simply cannot fish it all. On this place with all the rivers and big amount of water, an angler could run 2.5 to 3-hours, and it may or may not be me. My advantage is I can run a lot of high percentage areas.”
Another local angler agrees with Barth that having the advantage doesn’t always work out. Jim Jones has fished Winnebago for more than 20-years and knows how it plays out when this caliber of anglers hits a new body of water.
“The thing with this field, mostly guys who have never fished out here, they will fish and find things the locals wouldn’t even think to fish. With no history on a body of water, there is stuff they will find that could play. My only advantage as a local is I can simply avoid dead water. Just because I know this place, it’s not that easy. I am looking to establish a pattern in practice and try and figure it out.”
Jones agreed with Barth that a mixed bag will prevail and most likely get the win this week. Although he has yet to fish in Wisconsin in 2021, Jones still lives only an hour and a half away and has years of tournament history on the playing field for the NPFL anglers.
“Based on the past, I’d say that the smallmouth fishing dropped off about 10 years ago but it’s getting closer to how it used to be. For largemouth, I believe they have gone down in the last few years but overall, they are both fishing decent now.”
Having only lived in the area and fished Winnebago for the last five years, Doug Chapin is technically a local. Chapin knows the lake in the now and predicts that it could be tougher than what some guys expect.
“I think this is going to look a lot like Pickwick but the weights will be lower. Half the field will struggle and half will do okay. Five or so guys will catch them good but I think it’s going to be an overall tough event.”
Like the others, Chapin agrees a mixed bag will win. The exception is, someone might find a wad of big smallmouth. The kicker? The wind. If the area you choose is offshore, you won’t be affected by pleasure boaters, but the wind will affect the game plan.
“When the weatherman says 5 MPH, plan on 10 to 15 MPH. Guys have to prepare to not be able to fish their stuff thoroughly because if the wind is blowing North to South, or South to North, there is no way you can stay on a spot. Someone may get them good one day but not find them on the same stuff the following day.”
How to Watch
Tune in daily August 19 to the 21st thenationalprofessionalfishingleague.com to watch daily LIVE Coverage, the LIVE Leaderboard, LIVE Blog, and daily on the water photo galleries of the anglers on Lake Winnebago.
See the 2021 Progressive AOY points race here!