By RALPH BARTHOLDT
Not too hot and not too cold. Perfect for bass fishing.
Lake Coeur d’Alene.
The lake however looks different through the polarized lenses of a bass angler. Instead of docks, beaches, resorts with grand vistas from cushioned seats, to a bass angler pushing to hook a lot of big fish, the lake is divided into an expanse of dead water — where bass don’t hang out, to coves, channels, bays and points hiding submerged habitat, contours, depths and strata — where bass live much of the time.
“Lake Coeur d’Alene is getting the reputation as being one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country,” said Dave Bertsch, president of Idaho Bass Fishing, which sponsored a state qualifier tournament on Lake Coeur d’Alene last weekend that drew 40 top-notch competitors.
“There are so many different types of water from the Chain Lakes to the Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe rivers, and the north and southern end of the lake,” Bertsch said.
The big body of water is ideal for angler competitions like the Idaho Bass Nation State Team Qualifier Tournament that took place Friday through Saturday. Anglers struck out from Harrison at 6 a.m. and returned each day by 3 p.m. to weigh their catch.
Boaters fished for five fish each day, and their co-anglers, who fish from the back of the boats, fished for three hefty bass that were kept in live wells until the weigh-ins. After that, the fish were released back to the waters where they were caught.
“Catch and release is a big deal to us,” Bertsch said.
Of the 297 bass that were weighed, 296 were released alive into the lake. The winning two-day total weighing 39.18 pounds was caught by Harrison Bertsch. With a weight of 22.08 pounds, the top co-angler was Lane Robinson.
Harrison Bertsch, who is the principal of Lakeland Jr. High School, landed the biggest bass weighing in at 8.8 pounds. The top 10 anglers in each category — boater and co-angler — will advance to the Bass Nation Western Regional competition next spring.
Dave Bertsch, also a bass angler and Harrison’s dad, didn’t compete in last weekend’s event.
“It’s a little bit of an athletic competition,” Dave Bertsch said.
Anglers get up early, around 4 a.m., and are on their feet on the floor of a boat most of the day, casting on average 1,500 times.
“You would think old guys would do well because of their knowledge,” Bertsch said. “But they don’t seem to.”
Younger guys have more stamina to haul butt for two days chasing bass.
State qualifiers who win the Western Regional Tournament will advance to nationals in hope of winning a chance to compete in the Bassmaster Classic.
Last weekend’s event included a Sunday tournament for high schoolers. The Idaho high school bass nation teams competed for the chance to go to the high school national championship on Kentucky Lake in 2019. The winning team of Alex Torok and Jared Hoffman will move on to nationals.