PIERRE, S.D. -- "We're going to have to make quick work of this," Dave Spaid said as he pulled up to the boat landing on Lake Sharpe on Friday, May 5.
Spaid, a third-year regular on the PWT, and his friend, Carl Colson, both of whom grew up in nearby Blunt, S.D., explained they had a United States Fishing Association tournament the next day on Big Stone Lake and needed to pre-fish later that day. They were leading the circuit after three tournaments but neither had fished Big Stone before.
Yet they took time to give me a tour of the West Bend area of Lake Sharpe, and a fruitful tour it turned out to be.
Spaid already had fished 36 days this year. Many of those outings had been on Sharpe, where the walleye season never closes. Spaid guides on the lake and calls it "the jewel of our state."
If you want big fish try Lake Oahe; if you want a limit try Sharpe, Spaid said. Current regulations allow for one walleye over 18 inches daily. "Most of my clients just want to catch fish," Spaid said. "Iowans call this Little Canada."
As we motored into the lake Spaid explained his theory of tournament fishing. His advice deserves consideration, for he has claimed the South Dakota Governor's Cup three times and finished sixth in two PWT events on Lake Oahe.
"See those guys over there?" he said, pointing to a cluster of boats in the middle of the lake. "They're all jigging. That's too slow. In a tournament you want to catch as many fish as you can in the shortest amount of time. If you're confident in your ability you can throw back a bunch of 18-inchers and wait for something bigger."
PWT rules forbid culling, or throwing back smaller fish when a bigger one is caught. To keep or not to keep is ultimately the question.
"You need three hotspots," Spaid continued. "You can't fish the same spot each day. You must be able to read the water and make adjustments as you go."
A strong south wind whipped Lake Sharpe into whitecaps but the 20-foot Tracker cut a dry course. We started trolling a 7-foot deep flat with No. 5 Shad Raps. Spaid said he expected most fishermen in the upcoming tournament would focus on West Bend or the dam area near Pierre.
The Bad River, which flows into Lake Sharpe at Fort Pierre, was adding a lot of silt to the lake and clarity was poor in places.
Spaid said the walleyes had just finished spawning and were still sluggish. "When the shad spawn in June," he said, "the walleyes fill up on 'em and the fishing is really good."
Although trolling is effective on Sharpe our methods differed from those used on Lake Erie two weeks earlier. Instead of longlining with planer boards we simply let out about 50 feet of line and ran our lures directly behind the boat.
I had my doubts -- especially about the amount of line we let out -- until the first walleye hit my Shad Rap at 10:45 a.m. A smallmouth hit minutes later. It was the first of about 20 smallmouth we would catch. Nothing big, but plenty of action.
Soon we all were catching fish with regularity. Carl and I doubled and Dave added a nice 20-incher minutes later. We were in 5 feet of water where the wave action near shore had created a distinct mud line. The walleyes were hanging at that line.
Spaid, who qualified for the PWT championship in 1998, repeated one of his mantras. "Action creates reaction. Color doesn't always make a huge difference. The style of crank is what's important. Find what works and it doesn't matter what color it is."
Spaid likes to troll because it's an efficient use of time but he knows when to slow down. When he found a larger school of walleyes we exchanged our crankbaits for jigs and minnows and started casting. This resulted in another four walleyes in less than a half-hour, including an 18-incher by Carl.
Then it was time to head for shore. With their boat in tow Spaid and Colson rolled on to Big Stone Lake, where more pre-fishing awaited.
To reach Dave Spaid Guiding call (605) 224-5009.
Dave Spaid's equipment
Boat and motors: 20-foot Tracker boat with 225-hp Mercury Optimax outboard, 9.9-hp Mercury kicker and Pinpoint 3700 electric trolling motor.
Rod, reel and line: Berkely "Gary Roach" model extendable fishing rods with Daiwa SG27LC baitcasting reels and 8-pound Spiderline Super Mono.
Graph: Pinpoint 7520
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