Team “Ryan” Puts in Impressive Performance at Potholes Open

Todd and Mac Ryan dealt with the typical adversity that Potholes Reservoir presents but were determined to have a different result this time.  Read below as Todd describes the ups and downs and adjustments made to garner a successful tournament result.  It’s a great story on how to keep an open mind and adapt while competing.  


Talk a bit about your prefish.  How did it go?  What was your strategy for your prefish?  Looking back, what was the critical part of your prefish?  

Last year, I moved back to the Tri-Cities and this year I’m taking my dad fishing with me in all the team tournaments since he really likes to fish and we work well together.

For pre-fish, we decided to stop over at Moses after a dismal performance during the NW Banks tournament. Learned a few things during that event that actually helped during the Open as we had made some decisions to stick with our game plan (not change) during the event even though it was a late winter and everything said to go with our secondary plan. The NW guys are amazing so we figured we have nothing to lose so why not see what we can do.

As we were fishing, we would run into top 5 caliber teams so felt we were making the right decisions but the overall results told us we should have not tried so hard to make something work that wasn’t. More on this later…

After a quick dinner at Bob’s Café, I spent some time on Google Earth loading waypoints and getting an idea of known areas. At this point, we hadn’t been on Potholes this year and since the weather had been pretty bad with wind and rain storms through the areas figured we’d start with known and then work on newer places.

We decided on spending the day navigating the western side of the dunes and spending time utilizing the GOA information reviewed recently. We caught a few fish and then would move to a newer area with no major time spent other than a keeper here and there and then move again.

During the week following, I spent time on Google Earth again trying to locate areas that made sense from the pre-fish that were similar but on the Crab side of the dunes. Wanted a combination of known areas in more detail and also new areas to try. We fished again on Friday and found some very good water but it was shared with many boats. When we quickly boated one or two fish, we left and looked for other areas with no real success.

Tournament Strategy

Anything you care to share about your strategy for the tournament day?

Our strategy for day one was based on the theory that since our pre-fish was frontal conditions with storms in the area and now we were facing clear skies as well as a late start we would have to be very willing to adjust if needed (remember our NW disaster?). We were boat 51 out and upon arriving at our first area we found only one boat and a couple of carp hunters right on top of it.

We fished around for about an hour without a single bite and began covering water. I tried several presentations of different color, action, size, weight, direction, etc… with no success. I moved out deeper since we thought maybe the condition changes pulled the fish back and after no bites I moved right up on the bank inverting the focus.

Here we go again…

Now, there was no way I was going out again without a fight and looking at my dad he made only one comment… “Trust your instincts”. With that, I smiled, lifted the trolling motor, and we ran to the complete other side of the fishery.

We started over abandoning our pre-fish and going back to how we would approach this as a new day.

Working through several known areas quickly, dad caught a small keeper around 12:30. This gave us an idea finally about where we should go and we quickly traveled to what we felt would be a good area. Two casts later, I felt a bump and ended up boat flipping a 5lber. Using that info, we moved down 50yds and hit our big fish at 6.53lbs about 30 minutes later. The rest of the day, we moved around on the big motor and narrowed in on what we felt was the best pattern for us.

We tried to not beat up our areas too much since this was a two-day event with lots of competitors but knew we needed 20+lbs to have any shot at the top 10. We weighed in and had 20.72lbs.

We ate and then I spent a few hours on my laptop studying the waypoints on Google Earth to see if there were similarities in catching locations that could be applied to day 2. We did find that our catches were based on locations near deeper water (relative) and the principles of the GOA information applied if in just different areas that we’ve found before. I loaded up an SD card with similar locations that I felt maybe other teams had not fished and placed those onto my Humminbird’s the following morning.

Day 2 started way earlier and while loading our cover, I ended up hurting my back. No excuses as it made us really focus on efficiency and sequence of fishing from spot to spot and minimizing any unnecessary travel also due to a shorter day 2 (12:30 weigh-in).

Upon arriving at our first spot, there were no boats in sight and we found each location housed one fish relating to the wind that was now coming from the North. We did find that boat positioning was more important than we previously thought as our fish wanted a certain presentation direction. Our pace resulted in either a keeper or missed fish every thirty minutes up to around 10 am.

After about an hour of no bites, we did make a change as described during day one but not as drastic. This ended up in a couple of keepers and one largemouth following the bait to the boat that could have maybe added about 1lb to our overall weight of 18. 32lbs total for the day.

I’d like to tell you a wild story about how we lost the tournament winner at the boat and could have won but really that’s all the weight we had or could find for the weekend.

Recap of the day 

Give a recap of how the day went?  

The event went well for us with the major key decision being adjusting to the conditions as they are and not trying to make something work that isn’t. Every time we made a decision and followed through we were rewarded with a key fish or piece of information that added up through the event.


Any special baits or other equipment that played a key role?

We tried several new baits and found really nothing that has worked previously to be successful.

To be honest I was kind of surprised by that so the key role for us would be being open to change.

Alpha Angler Rods, braid with Shinsei leaders, Hobbs and Hogue/ GOA info, and other equipment subtleties I feel contributed to our performance. We did see a difference in horizontal vs. vertical presentations, with the latter being more productive.

This was the first time I ran my Fury 4 blade, 24P on my Triton (21TRX w/250 Pro) and my findings were that the top end was down about 1mph from my Tempest 25 with identical RPM’s (5850, two guys, full fuel and gear) but the hole-shot was great. Prop was run with wide open vents and never blew out even when navigating around the dunes at slow speeds.

Influences, motivations

Looking back, what do you feel were some of the key influences (other anglers, ideas, situations) that contributed to the win.  Could be something you just figured out or something we learned way back when.  

There’s a laundry list of contributors but I have to give credit to Russ Baker in showing me around Potholes previously during a couple of tournaments and allowing me to see his approach.

Another contributing factor would be that Shawn Bongers and I worked together during previous tournaments with good success. In addition, reading information and talking with Jake Boomer about other fisheries was helpful in applying some of those concepts here.

One of the points I’ve read on the GOA website (Boomer’s Article) is you weigh what you catch so during NW we walked up and handed Chase our one little smallmouth and had to hear Willie call it over the PA system. I have to admit it felt a little better walking up to the scales this time.

The GOA information of breaking down the water and also tracking/waypoint management has helped additionally. This was probably the most I’ve utilized Google Earth/GPSBable/Humminbird PC and certainly feel it made a strong difference.

Lessons learned

Knowing what you know now, are there things you think you guys could have done better or executed better?

We ended up placing 6th out of the 131 teams and if were to do it again, I would have tried a few different presentations and locations a little sooner. We’re still always learning and next time we may fall flat but it did feel good to fish this tournament with my dad and to do so well.

Anything else?

Anything else you want to add that you feel is important?  

Just want to thank GOA for sharing information the way you do. I think it’s great to have an information resource like this available.

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