Smallmouth Heaven

DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) It's become the top destination for Smallmouth bass anglers from across the country, and home to an annual tournament for nearly three decades.

Mother Nature though, won out today forcing the two-day Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament to launch tomorrow on the waters of Green Bay.

"Safety comes first, you know as an organization we don't want anyone getting hurt out there over some fish," says JJ Malvitz, Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament President.

For angler Joe Leiterman, who owns Green Bay-based Crooked Creek Tackle, an extra day in Door County is a bonus.

"A lot of guys use our stuff so it's nice to come out here and be able to supply them tackle right on site. A lot of guys have deer camp, this is like their deer camp, it's the camaraderie, everybody is always meeting up, it's just a friendly atmosphere," says Leiterman.

Leiterman and his partner are one of 130, two-man teams hitting the water in the tournament's 27th year, with more than $100,000 in cash and prizes on the line.

"This was a community founded tournament and it's like no other tournament in the Midwest or Canada where it's an open tournament, you and a buddy can grab your boat, come out here and fish this tournament and we have some individuals who this this tournament, that's their job is to fish bass tournaments, so you get every end of the spectrum which is really unique," says Malvitz.

Just a decade ago, a 4-pound average would land anglers in the prize money.

This year, five bass each day averaging nearly six pounds will be needed to win.

"Over the years Door County has become a smallmouth fishing destination, couple years ago we had a fish that was caught that was just a couple ounces under the state record and that was the catalyst to get the national recognition from B.A.S.S. as the number one bass fishing destination in the entire United States," says Malvitz.

"To be fishing and knowing at any given time you can hook into an 8-pound fish, there's not a lot of people that get that opportunity, which explains why people come from all over the world to fish this fishery," says Leiterman.