by Joe Haubenreich and Hank Veggian

Day 1 (Saturday, August 29)

Mike Elsea had been there before. At Shreveport-Bossier in April, 2019, Mike fought his way to the head of the pack and became the 2019 KBF National Champion. He did so as the first person to qualify solely through KBF Challenge Series events to take the National Champion title.

On August 29th, 2020, Mike Elsea surmounted new odds on Day 1 at the Lake Winnebago KBF SuperTrail. Elsea had no fish on the board until after 8:30, when he posted a 19.00″ bass that won his hour. Through the day, Mike climbed the board, stacking fish after good fish, culling two bass and ended up with a 2.75″ lead over Wisconsin’s Jeremiah Burish.

Mike Elsea described his fishing at the end of Day 1 as follows: “I’ve never been here before. I noticed that the pattern changed through the day. Wind and boat traffic were the major factors, even on the Wolf River where I fished. For me, boat control was the key. My Native Titan 10.5 handled it well because of its stability.”

“I caught a lot of fish on top,” Mike continued. “Pockets with eel grass and covered in duck weed were the key early in the day. Later in the day, I was pitching creature baits and Sinker Swim Tackle jigs around timber and lay downs.”

Heading into Day 2, Wisconsin’s Jeremiah Burrish was in 2nd place within 2.75″ of Elsea while Hernan Santiesteban (WI) finished holding the third position with 80.50″. Ryan Thompson (MN), who led at midday, was also in a strong position to challenge with 79.50”. But it was the defending Nation Champion Mike Elsea who wore the bullseye.

Day 2 (Sunday, August 30):

Fishing resumed with all eyes on Elsea, the Day 1 leader. But Hernan Santiesteban also had his eyes on first place. He quickly took the Day 2 lead after the first hour. By noon he had added to his lead, solidifying his hold on 1st place for Day 2 and the overall lead as well.

It wouldn’t end before a handful of anglers made dramatic surges. Colin Heathman, in 7th place at the end of Day1, battled to 2nd place overall on Day 2. Ryan Havlicek was also in the hunt, climbing from 9th to 4th overall by noon. Finally, Mike Elsea remained within striking distance: with three fish on the board at noon, he need only two 15.25” bass to take the lead.

Santiesteban rose to the occasion. Holding off strong challenges from Elsea, Heathman and Havlicek (as well as a late case by Allain), Santiesteban took First Place. A native of Miami, Florida, Hernan has been living and fishing in Wisconsin for 19 years. Santiesteban described his winning strategies as follows:

Heading into Day 2, conditions were first on his mind. “The air temperature dropped 10 degrees overnight. Water temperatures were still in the 70’s, and the foggy mist coming off the water looked really cool.  As the day progressed, I worried less that my spot would be compromised. Luckily, it was better than yesterday.”

He continued, describing the pattern he used: “I was fishing in clear water, so I downsized my bait and gear. I rigged with 8-lb test line and finessed the Smallmouth bite with 3- and 4-inch Senkos. I used a Ned Rig setup with a Texas style presentation. But I was getting cut off a lot on a bed of clams, and I had to go through a lot of that, pedaling up river to catch the bass I submitted.”

This was Santiesteban’s third KBF TRAIL Series event since becoming a KBF angler in 2019. He finished by saying he was looking forward to fishing local tournaments and KBF State Challenge Series, “to keep the competitive mind sharp.”

Sharp as a clamshell, one might say.

Here are the top 10 in standings for this two-day tournament:

  1. Hernan R Santiesteban (WI) 167.50”
  2. Colin Heathman 5 bass totaling 164.25’
  3. Mike Elsea (IN) 164.25”
  4. David Allain (WI) 159.50”
  5. Jeremiah Burish (WI) 158.50”
  6. Ryan Thompson (MN) 156.25”
  7. Martin Kwick (WI) 154.25”
  8. Ryan Havlicek 152.25”
  9. Alex Miller (PA)  147.75”
  10. Ovi Boeriu (IL) 136.75”

This Realtree Fishing KBF SuperTRAIL Tournament presented by Dee Zee at Lake Winnebago was hosted by the Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau —Make Time to Play (https://www.visitoshkosh.com/).

Bonafide Kayaks is the North-Central Region sponsor. Regional Coordinator Derek Akin and Nick Van Gompel, Tournament Coordinator, organized and planned this event.