There’s no shortage of water to fish on the Wolf River Chain of Lakes in central Wisconsin when the Great Lakes Division of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine swings into action June 15.

The Wolf system offers anglers a variety of options to locate plentiful largemouth and smallmouth bass. From Lake Poygan and Lake Winneconne through the Wolf River and down into Lake Butte des Morts, the Fox River proper and Lake Winnebago, you can usually have enough space to find your own water to fish.

Tournament details

Phoenix Bass Fishing League Presented by T-H Marine

Great Lakes Division

June 15

Wolf River Chain of Lakes

Winneconne, WI


About the fishery

Winnebago is the deepest body of water on the chain (with a maximum depth of 21 feet). Anglers can find decent concentrations of smallmouth bass offshore. Other lakes on the chain offer some similar opportunities, but Winnebago is your best bet for finding larger amounts of smallies.

Butte des Morts and Winneconne are significantly shallower (with average depths of 9 and 6 feet) and smaller than Winnebago, though they do offer some unique opportunities in the form of grass, riprap, boat docking channels and other cover and structure.

Don’t forget about fishing the rivers. Current can be key on this system and there’s no shortage of eddies, along with plenty of backwater with a variety of cover for anglers to target.

“I think it’s going to be a wide open tournament this year,” said Bass Pro Tour pro Matt Stefan, a Wisconsin resident . “We’ve had such a warm spring, the spawn is pretty much done, and the fish are likely going to be in their summer mode at tournament time. Look for offshore smallies on Winnebago, and in the rivers some summer current fishing.

“There are a lot of areas with boat channel complexes, meeting points, or the bays where the complexes are in – look for the bass to pull out into those bays. They’ll be on the main lake, but near the channel complexes.”

Ample water on Winnebago, the Wolf River and other lakes in the system provide an abundance of water to fish.

What to expect

Stefan advises anglers to be prepared to move around a lot. Huge mega schools of either smallmouth or largemouth bass are not commonplace on the Wolf River Chain, but the bass are plentiful.

“You can get into areas where you can find them grouped up,” Stefan said. “When fishing this system, you need to move around. Certain lakes can randomly start firing – Winneconne, Poygan, Butte de Morts, any one of them. Generally rivers fire early, but usually aren’t a big player. It could be different with the warm spring.

“If I chose a wild card, an angler can find a group of smallies on Winnebago. You can absolutely catch a big bag there, but usually don’t catch all of them in one location. You may need to fish 20 man made rock piles to fill your limit.

“It’s a great fishery, you can catch a lot of fish. A 13 or 14 pound bag is good, and the winner will likely weigh in the 15-18 pound range. I’d suggest a variety of power fishing techniques and just fish your strengths, you’ll find something worthwhile out there.”