If you're the average BassFan, you may have never heard of Lake Oahe prior to today, when it was announced as one of the venues on the 2018 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule. The massive reservoir on the Missouri River in South Dakota is a renowned walleye fishery, but has never hosted a top-level bass event.
Former Elite Series pro Jami Fralick, a South Dakota native, has fished it throughout his angling lifetime. He predicts that it'll take a minimum of 18 pounds per day to win when the circuit arrives next summer.
"It's a really good smallmouth fishery," said Fralick, a Martin, S.D. resident who operates a flooring business with his father. "My dad fished a tournament there this past weekend and it took over 18 pounds to win. It's not quite the Great Lakes, but it's not too bad."
He said a major flooding event that occurred about 6 years ago ended up being the best thing that could've happened to the smallmouth population. It resulted in a major change to the bronzebacks' forage base that eventually increased their average size.
"It washed all the smelt through the system, and then lake herring were put in there to replace the smelt," said Fralick, who competed on the Elite Series from its inception in 2006 through 2013 and made three Classics. "Ten or 15 years ago, if you caught a 3 1/2-pounder, that was a big fish. But after (the herring were planted) it went from an average of 2 pounds to where you catch a lot of 3s, some 4s and a few 5s.
"Visually, it'll remind guys a lot of the Arizona lakes with a lot of bluff-type hills. It's kind of like Lake Amistad without the bushes."
He'll be happy to see the bass fishing in his home region finally get some exposure.
"It's exciting to have them come up here and fish. Back when I fished the Opens and they were draw tournaments, guys would ask me, 'Do you even have bass there?'''