SPIRITWOOD LAKE - It certainly wasn't a day you would choose to go fishing. First it rained, then the wind kicked up. Lots of wind, the kind that produces whitecaps and rollers and makes a fisherman check his flotation vest frequently and make him wonder if he really is enjoying his time on the water.
As intimidating as the conditions were, it did little to deter Duane Lankford and Marty Mantz. Lankford, Minot Air Force Base, was leading the Badlands Bass Bandits circuit heading into the Spiritwood Lake tourney and wasn't about to surrender his lead regardless of conditions. Mantz, of Center, was right behind Lankford in the standings and more than eager to catch the season leader.
Ten boats were in the field. When it was all done, Mantz weighed the winning catch of three smallmouth bass at 9.98 pounds. Lankford had a tough tourney, weighing no fish in the no-cull event.
Eric Vossler, left, and Ryan Vetter, both Bismarck, fished the Badlands Bass Bandits stop at Spiritwood Lake June 16. The fishing duo says they have become hooked on bass.
"Lankford broke my streak of four tournaments in a row," said Mantz.
Mantz was referring to the Bass Bandits season opener at Nelson Lake, Mantz's home water. Since that time Mantz won at New Johns and now at Spiritwood.
"It was my first time up there," said Mantz of Spiritwood Lake. "We caught some five-pounders the day before the tournament. Then tourney day rolls around and the wind is blowing 40 mph. The conditions were totally different."
Late in the day Mantz finally whipped the elements and the rest of the field.
"I went into deeper water with a jig, and within 20 minutes landed three big ones and that was it," explained Mantz.
The biggest bass of the trio was 3.89 pounds, the biggest of the day, and helped Mantz move past Lankford in the club standings.
Matt Sullivan of Bismarck, a 10-year veteran of a professional bass fishing circuit in Florida and current Bass Bandits president, notes that several North Dakota bass chasers are doing very well.
"You've got Mantz and a couple of new guys in the club this year who have really caught on. I did fourth but helped some others along the way. It is fun to see new people that haven't learned so much about bass fishing, put them on fish and get them excited about it," said Sullivan. "We even enjoyed the storm together. Our group is about learning and sharing."
One of the newer members of the Bass Bandits, Eric Vossler of Bismarck, toughed it out in rough conditions at Spiritwood Lake.
"The bass were out a little deeper than they had been the last couple of weekends and we just couldn't pattern them," said Vossler. "Everything fell through today."
Did it ever. Vossler came back to the dock with a broken trolling motor, dead battery and broken fishing rod.
"It was just one of those days, I guess," noted Vossler. "That's why they call it fishing, not catching."
Despite the setback, Vossler said he remains hooked on bass.
"I tried it just for fun last year. I did a tournament as a guest and the first bass I hooked into, well, I was hooked after that," said Vossler. "I'm just learning everyday. There's not a lot of people on this circuit but the people who are a part of it definitely know what they are doing."
Ryan Vetter, Bismarck, was Vossler's fishing partner at Spiritwood. Vetter is a newcomer to Bass Bandits events.
"It rained most of the morning and then the wind picked up," said Vetter. "Some people were catching bass and some weren't. This is only my second one but it is kind of fun."
Sullivan added that the important thing for the Bass Bandits is that anglers get a chance to learn from fellow anglers.
"That's what our group is," claimed Sullivan.
The Bass Bandits next event is a doubleheader weekend, June 30 at Lake Audubon and July 1 at Fort Stevenson State Park.