Lake Sakakawea The most beautiful place I’ve ever Walleye fished.
When we saw this tournament on the schedule , our team knew it would be a wild card as far as how well we would do. None of us had ever fished this sprawling Missouri river impoundment. The early tournament preview spoke about how we were there too early , and that long runs would be mandatory to reach the fish returning from spawn up river.
My very first day of practice I started fishing about 80 miles from our take off area in Garrison, ND. The day started off slow, as I fished in the back of a number of creek arms. Later on in the afternoon I kept heading west further away from takeoff, in search of a completely different pattern. The scenery was amazing where “The Badlands meet the Missouri River”. The Last 2 hours of that day I pulled slow death at the bottom of some of the coolest rock formations I’ve seen. We started catching some quality fish unto 3.5 lbs.
As the rest of the week went on , Our team left no stone un-turned as we continued our search for quality fish closer to take off. Some of the highlights of that search was a Devils lake style Flicker Shad casting bite in the Little Missouri Arm , and a Jig and minnow pattern in the same area .
As we approached day 1 of the Tournament , we started noticing that the forecast was calling for calm winds both days. One of those days, we talked our partner Dustin Minke into going back up to New Town to check on the bite, knowing it had to be kept as an option. It was a task pre fishing up that way since it involved a 90 mile drive to the landing in the morning.
His plan was simple, cover water pulling #7 Flicker Shads, and #9 Flicker Minnows in the areas where we fished slower earlier in the week. I will never forget the excitement as the texts starting coming in ….26 incher , 27 incher, double 25s , etc. etc. We just answered 2 of the biggest questions in Pre fish .Where to catch them, and how to do it. Now the only question was could we get to the potential tourney winning fish during game day.
We had a sweet meeting the night before , where we decided that we were all making the 90 mile run. and that somebody could win this thing.
Brought flat calm conditions, my Co- Angler and I got to anticipate big biting Walleyes for a 90 minute 90 mile run courtesy of the Evinrude G2. When we got to the stretch the fish started biting immediately. with a no Cull format , the decisions had to be made immediately if it was a keeper or throw back. While trolling I had to calculate how long it would take to get gas, and how long it would take to get home, when it came time to start heading back, I wish I had a better bag, but knew one of my partners had to have gotten some key bites.
I ended up weighing 15 lbs. and was middle of the pack after the first day. My Partner Dewey Hjelm got those key bites , and was leading with 23.5 lbs. of fish. Dustin and Bill also had solid bags and were sitting in portion to cash good checks.
Brought the same weather , with some potential big wind in the afternoon. We set sail on the 90 mile journey again to make some adjustments and hopefully get a 20lb bag. The day flew by again with only 4 hours of fishing time due to the long run. I ended up scrambling at the end and catching a couple good ones pitching plastics to salvage a slow day of trolling.
Meanwhile, Dewey Hjelm started his day with a 31 incher, and added some other quality fish for another 20 plus lb. bag. When the chips had fallen , I ended up in 41st Place, a few spots out of the money. Dewey Hjelm However, ended up accomplishing my #1 dream in fishing , winning the Tournament with a sweet check for 88K!
Lessons Learned: The only thing that I took from this one was the fact that we all had good fish pitching at the end of our day after trolling. There was an opportunity to recognize that for day 2 , and stick to it the entire 2nd day. Hindsight is always 20/20 however, and I can’t be very disapointed at all after how our team did !