Each year the TBF holds an invitational tournament called Mr. Bass. Only the top angler from each TBF club in the state can fish this tournament, and Kris Hanes was this year's representative for Park City Bass Anglers. The two-day event kicked off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, May31, 2014. The anglers fished from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. both days.
This was Kris Hanes' first time on Winnebago, and he admitted to having a bit of nerves. He did say, though, that while he felt some nerves, he was excited to fish this storied body of water for the first time in a tournament. He was able to get out during practice with his observer, Adam Barnett. The duo found fish quickly after launching from Lang's Landing on Thursday, but they weren't the size Hanes was hoping to land. Friday's practice brought the same results. Hanes was expecting 18 lbs. per day to be the weights it would take to win the tournament, so he knew he would need to find bigger fish if he were going to place well.
With the late spring and then the quick warm up, the fish seemed to be in various stages. Hanes stated that while he was seeing surface temperatures from 73 to 78 degrees, he was still seeing fish on beds. The bigger fish still eluded Hanes as practice came to a close.
Hanes drew boat #4 for Day 1 take-off. Taking off this early in the fleet, he knew he would have a good chance of getting to his first spot before anyone in the rest of the field. That spot was fairly close to the landing. So close, in fact, that he had two keepers in the livewell before he even got his boat on plane that morning. After hooking into six short fish in a row on his jig, he pulled up his trolling motor and took off across Winneconne and Poygan to his next spot. It seemed this spot, also, had been unmolested by other anglers. His first cast lifted his hopes with a good-sized fish, but the fight was brief and the fish was gone. Hanes did notice, though, that fish were coming up to the top and quickly switched to a top water plug. This brought some fast and furious action and led him to his limit. At weigh-in on Day 1, Hanes had a 5-fish sack worth 9.81 pounds, landing him in 7th place.
On Day 2, conditions turned ugly, and Lake Winnebago showed its teeth to the Mr. Bass anglers. Hanes and the other anglers woke up to strong rain, thunder and lightning on Sunday. The storms seemed to subside shortly before the scheduled take off and would hold off until weigh-in time. The issue then, Hanes stated, was the wind, which blew a steady 20 mph by 10:00 a.m. He made the long run into Winnebago, where he was confident he could find the fish he needed. He learned about a cut from a fellow angler that could hold the right fish. He caught a couple keepers out of that cut, but again ran into largely the wrong sized fish.
When he came out of the cut he was fishing he was met with a wall of water. In a field of the best bass anglers in the state, Hanes was not the only one, he knew, that would be put off by this big water. The waves topped four feet, making for an uncomfortable and, actually, unsafe ride. Rather than run to any other spots on Winnebago, he opted to take the long, slow ride back to Winneconne. He stated he thought it best to get off the bigger water in one piece. He headed for calmer water, and his intuition paid off.
With two hours left, Hanes returned to his Day 1 starting spot. With only one fish in the box, he knew this was a make-or-break decision. He was quickly rewarded for his rough ride by filling his limit within twenty minutes. He stated that he still did not find the bigger fish, but made a great showing nonetheless. Storms started to roll in again after he weighed in, so he quickly covered the boat and left the 2014 Mr. Bass Tournament.
While his middle-of-the-pack finish was certainly not Hanes' best tournament finish, he did state that this was, overall, a great experience for him. He learned more about fishing bigger bodies of water and stated that he will get out on them more now and learn more about the Smallmouth bite out there. The Smallmouth out there, he mentioned, were definitely bigger, although he did not see the winning weights he expected going into the tournament. Hanes also stated that he met a lot of great people from different TBF clubs throughout the state, and that those anglers' advice did help him throughout the tournament.
Hanes looks forward to his tournament schedule this year. He will be fishing the Wisconsin River Series this year with his partner Dan Hofmann starting June 7th on the Stevens Point Flowage. He will also fish Angler's Choice tournaments as well as several Opens over the course of the summer. This schedule, along with his business, Point Blank Outfitters, promises to keep Hanes very busy.
Hanes would like to thank his sponsors, without whom, he would not be where he is today in his career: J's Archery from Antigo, WI, Rose Racing in Dorchester, WI, Gorilla Stix Rods, Secret Weapon Baits, Power Team Lures, and Bass Nut Jigs. Anyone wishing to follow Kris Hanes' fishing or guiding exploits may connect with him on Facebook.