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Owen Lake might be Wisconsin's best for bass

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Ted Peck
July 7, 2013

Wisconsin is blessed with an amazing cornucopia of angling opportunities. Too many to fish in a lifetime—at least on a regular basis. Life is short. So much water. So little time.

Bayfield County's Lake Owen is one of my favorite Wisconsin fisheries. Watching a three-pound smallmouth bass rocket up out of timbers 15 feet below the boat, inhale a topwater lure and continue three feet into the air before joining you for a serious tussle are an emotional overload any angler would love to experience on a daily basis.

This was exactly what happened the last time I fished Lake Owen. It happened not once, but at least a dozen times. This vision burned in my memory seems like yesterday. But it happened at least seven years ago.

With lakes belly full and no-wake restrictions in place all over southern Wisconsin, the north country is the best option this summer for those who live to fish.

Last week I vectored from a successful walleye trip on Lake Winnebago just a couple more hours up the road to the gorgeous country north of Hayward. Owen was the first stop on an odyssey which is still underway. I'm not coming home until the water goes down.

Wacky-rigged, Senko-style lures were an unknown presentation last time I fished Lake Owen. That's how long it's been. It came as no surprise that the technique that is so popular in this part of the state is also deadly on an ultra-clear north-country gem.

Owen is 1,323 acres of pristine habitat. You can see the lake's bottom at least a dozen feet down, with a maze of timber, rocks and a variety of weeds which practically scream FISH.

It took just three casts to hook up that first afternoon on Owen. At least 30 smallmouth and largemouth bass fell to a Chompers Salty Sinker rigged wacky-style on a No. 1 Octopus hook before it was time to find a place to crash for the night.

The Pike Lake chain is just 20 minutes down the Delta-Drummond road. Josh Tiegen lives and guides on this chain. He also guides Chequemegon Bay, the St. Louis River and Lake Owen.

Tiegen said there was a small tournament planned out of Otter Bay Resort in a couple of days. He was entered in the event and wondered if I would mind fishing there again the following day.

Otter Bay Resort has been operating on Lake Owen since the 1940s. Owner Terry Love said this place is the last resort operating on the lake. A couple of other facilities around the mostly undeveloped shoreline are now in private hands.

Tiegen has finished in the top three in this tournament multiple times over the past five years. We fished out of my Lund. He threw a small crawdad-colored jig with a crawdad-shaped plastic and did pretty well. At the end of the day I think the Salty Sinker caught more fish.

Since we were fun fishing, the tally didn't matter. We honestly lost count in less than an hour. Four hours later, our thumbs were raw from contact with bass lips.

Tiegen and his partner took second place out of 25 boats. Resort owner Love said more than 200 legal bass were checked in. The biggest was a largemouth just heavier than four pounds. A 10-fish stringer weighing 25 pounds took home the $500 top prize.

I can't imagine how a tourney angler could fish these waters and not land a limit of bass. There are so many bass in Owen that the DNR wants anglers to keep all the largemouth they catch. There is no size limit on largemouth bass in this lake.

After the tournament, Otter Bay Resort hosted a free fish boil. With a belly full of fish, this place was the obvious venue to spend the night.

I woke up at dawn last Sunday morning with Lake Owen screaming my name. The plan was to catch 20 bass, then head on down the road.

You would think catching 20 bass on a weekend the day after a tournament would be tough. It took me a little less than three hours. I didn't even see another boat until 7:47 a.m.

There is so much water and so little time that I might not make it back to Lake Owen and Otter Bay this year.

If you have a couple days and just want to experience some of the best bass fishing in the state, Lake Owen is sure to haunt your thoughts for years to come.



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