South Dakota

South Dakota was another of the states that pleasantly surprised me. The stereotype I heard most often was that South Dakota is boring and flat. Oddly enough, the only other thing that people associate with South Dakota is Mount Rushmore, so clearly the topography has to change at some point. My favorite parts about South Dakota were the Badlands, which are unlike anything I have ever seen, and Bear Country U.S.A., one of those drive-through parks with animals, including bears. Lots of bears. Bears that walk alongside your car and make you second-guess not having bought the insurance that the person at the rental car desk told you about. There is also a large play area where dozens of bear cubs hang out and roughhouse.

As for the fishing, I fished with Karl Palmer on a dammed up part of the Missouri River called Lake Sharpe. Both Lake Sharpe and the upstream Lake Oahe are absolutely gorgeous, and both are renowned fisheries. The temperature reached 106 degrees, but the ceaseless Midwestern breeze and lack of humidity made it feel more like 85. Fortunately, the near-constant action I had had in North Dakota followed me to South Dakota. I caught 22 walleye, with the biggest three being 17 inches, as well as two freshwater drum, the bigger being 19 inches. Karl is a fellow history buff and I had a great time talking with him while reeling in fish after fish.

Update August 2019: For my annual out-of-state trip in 2019, I chose smallmouth bass on Lake Oahe in South Dakota with Shane Cowan. Shane regularly produces trophy smallmouth bass, and our trip together was phenomenal. I caught more than 100 smallmouth bass over two days, with the biggest being 19 inches and 4 pounds, 3 ounces, beating both the length and weight minimums for a South Dakota Trophy Fish Award. I caught an additional five that met or exceeded the three-pound weight minimum, for a total of six trophies. Shane is a fantastic guide. He knows all of the best spots and the appropriate tactics to get the big fish, and he was a blast to fish with.

The six trophy smallmouth bass meant that South Dakota became the 39th state in which I have caught at least one trophy.