2018 National Walleye Tour – Saginaw Bay

Stop #2 Cabelas National Walleye Tour June 14th and 15th.

Practice-

I was really excited when I saw this tournament on the schedule, after all it’s the Great Lakes and I love everything about the challenge of Great Lakes Walleyes.

I had done some research prior to this event, more than normal actually. This was due to the fact that none of us had ever fished a tourney  here before. This is what gets me out of bed in the morning, a clean slate, no history simply pre fishing at its purest form. Due to a cold spring it seemed like everything was behind a little bit. Many of the past tournaments this time of year made mention of the Charity Islands and other far away areas that were basically summer homes for the fish that spawned in Saginaw Bay.

My first day of practice I headed out to the charity island area, to get a lay of the land. My first impression was sterile and cold. We ended up catching 1 or 2 fish that day pulling Berkley Flicker Minnows over the series of humps on the north side of the Islands.

As practice progressed it was very obvious that there was millions of smaller fish to be had in the inner bay. 60 to 100 fish days were pretty easy pulling Flicker Shads, or spinners. The problem with all these bites was the fact that they were all 2 to 3 lbers. This quickly made me leave the inner bay, and search for tourney winning fish.

These adventures included 1 to 1.5 hr drives each morning, and started a cycle of 5 hr sleeps and long days on the water. 5 days prior to the tourney I launched in the Port Austin area. From there my pre fish partner Aron and I adventured further, all the way around the thumb pushing 70 to 90 miles away from take off. The first time in the area we eventually found success. I was pulling #11 and #9 Flicker Minnows along a steep breakline when we had our first nibble. A Double!  As Aron reeled his in slow and steady I couldn’t help but think this was a 5 to 7lb. Walleye.  I was also fighting the exact same caliber fish. When his fish finally came to the boat, I exclaimed dang it , it’s a Lake trout. The fish was very dark, and almost foreign looking. A couple seconds later the fish came off and I was left reeling in the 2nd part of our double. When my fish came to the boat, I looked and saw another Lake trout…..untill the fish got with 3 ft. of the boat, I finally realized it was one of the coolest 6 lb. Walleyes I had ever seen. The reason I didn’t recognize Aron’s fish as a Walleye was the fact that these fish have evolved to be completely dark, almost all the way around, literally the only thing white was a 1 inch strip on their belly’s.  Truly a special fish.

8 hrs later we had landed 5 fish, all in the 4 to 6 lb range and had a bench mark for a quality area. 2 days before the tourney we returned to this area, and the water temp had dropped from 56 down to 48 degrees. Our trolling pass was a flop…. no bites. I had a sense of disappointment , but instead of tucking tail and heading south I decided to put my brain to work. I asked myself, what do Walleyes like to bite in 40 something degree water….. Rattle baits! I snapped on a Rattle Bait and we proceeded to cast. within 15 mins I had one pick  it up off the bottom, I set the hook on a nice sized fish, and it was off. “Man that felt like a Walleye” I told Aron. 15 mins later I felt the most wonderful “tick” in the world. As I set the hook, I said “That’s a Walleye” and proceeded to reel in a 6lber! next cast… 5Lber. Let the Anticipation begin, we are onto something!

I was able to find 3 solid areas that were all holding fish, some of them we caught fish and others I simply used my Lowrance SideScan and confirmed the fish were sitting on the rock to sand transition. This was a great feeling, I was on tourney winning fish the only problem, was they were 70 plus miles from take off!

Day 1-

I had Jeff Sass as a Co and we were ready for an adventure. Jeff was from the Green Bay area, and had casted a rattle bait a lot. The weather report called for 4 plus ft. waves with wind calming down in the afternoon. I had made the decision that I didn’t care if it took me 3 hrs. to get to spot A  I was going.

The morning started off steady, Jeff and I had 3 or 4 fish in the box in the first hour. I made am move into the rock to sand transition area I had left alone where the back to back fish and happened in practice. We proceeded to upgrade a couple fish and catch some dandies.

After catching a solid bag, I made the decision to give ourselves plenty of time to get back, and to also save some bites for day 2 on that spot. I was excited knowing I hadn’t even touched my 2nd spot yet.

22.43 lbs. good for 7th place after day 1. Jeff and I were only 2 pounds out of the lead.

Day 2-

I got Paired with my travel partner Chris, and the plan was simple.  Go back to the primary area, whack 25lbs and cash a sweet check!

The water had warmed in the area, and day 2 ended up being a Drum catching festival for the ages! we must’ve caught 20 each. That Primary area only gave us 3 Walleye in the 3 lb. range.  I had let my partner Dustin start on my secondary area with an agreement that he would get 5 quality fish off of it then leave it alone for me as an afternoon emergency spot. As I started my pass on spot B it was evident that it was all Drum here also.

We scrambled back towards the launch and managed to put one more small fish in the box to salvage 10lbs on day 2. This was an absolute let down, I was on tournament winning fish and failed to make the decisions to capitalize on the opportunity.

As I watched Dustin weigh in, It was bitter sweet he had 21.3 lbs.  which he got in an hour on what I though should of been my secondary spot. I was super happy for him, but it was tough pill to swallow after the start I had.

I ended up in 17th Place which was a decent check, but not what I wanted at all. Brett King took the title with his partner Joe Okada a couple ounces behind.  I have always looked up to these 2 Great Lakes Hammers, and I can only dream to be hoisting a trophy on a Great Lakes tourney some day.

 

2018 National Walleye Tour- Lake Winnebago

The 1st stop of the 2018 Cabelas National Walleye Tour.

Practice:

When I saw that the tournament had been changed from our home water of Pool 4 on the Mississippi to Lake Winnebago, I was excited for the challenge. I love fishing Lake Winnebago, I’ve always had a great pre fish on this lake, but have never put it together 2 days in a row during the tournament.

Practice started off great, the Walleyes had finished spawning and were progressing back to their summer homes on the Lake. The team of Bill Shimota, Dustin Minke, Dewey Hjelm and myself quickly started putting a pattern together catching tourney grade fish. These fish were in the 3 to 5 lb. range and we were absolutely whacking them pulling Slow Death, small spinners , and pitching Berkley Ripple shads around the main lake reefs. Our other primary pattern was pulling Slow Death and flies in the mouth of the river. This was a standard thing, and it was obvious there would be a lot of people doing it come tournament time per usual.

The plan was simple, start in the mouth of the fox river, try to get a couple lottery bites, then head out to the reefs and catch as many 3 plus pounders you wanted!

Day 1-

My Co angler for the day was Drake Herd’s Dad, John Herd. I was very confident in our game plan, and had the feeling we were doing something just different enough to have a chance to do very well.

Our morning started with a great boat # and in essence the pole position for first pass at the river mouth. We pulled a combo of a single fly rig coupled with a down rod with slow death. The big bites didn’t happen, but the bright side was, I got to watch my partner Dustin Minke put on a clinic right next to me. We were catching smaller 15 to 18 inch fish that I was throwing back confidently, waiting and saving room in the live well for those big bites. After 3 hours of nothing worth keeping, I decided to head out to the reefs and start putting together a bag.

As we started fishing it had gone flat calm, never a good thing when fishing shallow rocks! The bites were few and far between, and the size was down from the previous days. With a couple hours left, it was obvious that it was time to start keeping fish of any size. The excitement of the day was how it took don to the last minutes to box our final keeper. It’s always fun to look back with a glass half full mentality and appreciate the little things, in this case the scramble to box 5 legal fish.

I was siting middle to bottom of the pack with a measly 9.19lbs after the weigh in.

Dustin was sitting in 1st, Bill and Dewey had respectable bags and were in good position to make a move on day 2.

 

Day 2-

I had made the decision to start on the reefs, after my lack of success in the rive mouth, this did one of 2 things. a) Dustin had the current seem to himself to hopefully win the tourney. b) I could rifle through a bunch of fish to hopefully have 15 plus lbs.

A serious Cold front had come in, and I was wearing every article of Simms clothing I had brought along.

The bite was slow and steady for Iowa Dave and myself, but we were boxing nice sized fish. It was a mix between the slow death and the small spinners, basically the #1 challenge was keeping the boat at a slower speed in the 1 to 1.2 mph range. The NE 20 plus mph wind made it difficult.

As the Day went along I was getting a sense of accomplishment, I was making moves fishing 2 different reefs, and kept resting and returning to the prime areas continuing to catch fish. With an hour left to fish, I decided to go back to the river mouth to try and put the icing on the cake with a kicker fish. With about 20 mins left to fish, we landed a 3.5Lber and I made the decision to keep it as your final fish.

When the Dust had settled, Dave and I weighed 14.94lbs, jumping me into 42nd place, which was respectable considering my day 1 weight.

The Team did great, and I was very happy for my partners. Dustin Minke took 11th, Dewey Hjelm 12th, and Bill Shimota 24th.

In hindsight, the lesson learned was: Have a better gauge on how good of a bite we were on. we all knew we were destroying fish in practice with the pattern that we were using. I could of easily weighed 13 to 15 lbs day 1 also, if I hadn’t spent the time in the River. It’s always easy to look back at a tourney and see what you could’ve done differently, but this one was unique in the fact that if I wasn’t fishing for the win like usual, I could’ve cashed a really solid check and made some great AOY points. That is, if I dedicated more time to the reefs on day 1.

 

2017 Cabelas National Walleye Tour -Championship on Green Bay

Green Bay- My favorite place to Walleye fish.

Practice-

Anytime I see Green Bay on the schedule , I get Butterflies in my stomach. At first those feelings were anxiousness knowing how many absolute Hammers fish those tourneys. There has been millions and millions of dollars won in Walleye tournaments  on the Bay of Green Bay.

This time I had a very thorough plan, I was going to cast , cast, and cast some more until I figured out the areas that held tourney caliber fish.

The first afternoon I arrived at the exit same time as my partner Bill Shimota. We decided to head out together in his boat as a bonus evening of pre fish. I clipped a Shiver Minnow on my line, and basically didn’t take it off for the next 9 days. We ended up searching some deep rock humps and caught 8 or 9 walleyes in about 5 hours of fishing. It was a start.

As Practice went on I had the Great Lakes excitement every morning I woke up. Going on 6 hours of sleep each night, it really says something about how fun the adventure is for me on this huge body of water.  I felt before this tourney I was pretty good at casting a glide bait, like a Johnny Darter, Shiver Minnow, or Jig Rap.  These 7 days of practice really brought me to the next level, of depth control and understanding  exactly how to work the bait to trigger the big bites I needed.

About half way through my 7 day Practice, I remember having a huge confidence boost. I watched as a number of my Walleye Tournament Idols tried their luck at casting structure.  Guys that have won major money trolling for Walleyes on the Great Lakes.  I don’t want to say they looked uncomfortable, but I didn’t see a lot of people catching the fish that were present on a lot of those spots . I realized I had been pin pointing productive casts on structure for years Muskie fishing.  The boat control being a key thing, controlling the drift, lining up the sweet spots, reading the side imaging, etc.  I was getting better and better every spot I checked .

When Practice was complete, we had a team meeting on the way to the rules. I took the liberty to look up every Green Bay Walleye tournament results available. The consensus was clear, if you had a 30lb. bag each day you would be in the top ten.  This was important information in the No-Cull tournament format. We came up with a simple plan to average 6 lbs. per fish. If you kept a 7 lber, you could keep a 5 lber.  If you kept a 8 lber, you could keep two 5 lbers.

I was very excited to get Day 1 started, mostly because I got to go cast for Walleyes again on Green Bay for the day !

Day 1-

I was paired with an older gentleman as a Co-Angler who, told me that he had never casted for Walleyes before. Not an ideal scenario, but I had plans on whacking them so, as long as he could net, we would be fine ! After a quick run, I started casting to what I knew was going to be a busy point. sure enough there was probably 8 boats on the spot, spread out casting and trolling. I wanted to pick off a couple big ones before I headed to my secondary secret spots that I assumed I would have to myself.

It was overcast and kind of windy, perfect Walleye weather. The fish were on fire right off the bat, so much that I actually wasn’t even telling my Co-Angler that I was hooked up, until the fish was close to the boat. I didn’t want to cut into his fishing time waiting with the net, so I told him to keep casting while I tired out the fish.

I ended up fishing that point quite a bit on Day one, I was catching quality fish upto 8 lbs. and was seeing a number of nice ones caught around me also. It was a slow day for my Co-Angler, which was to be understood . It takes a lot of practice to get the program down, keeping your bait off the mossy bottom, but staying in the strike zone. I had room for one more fish in the box around 1pm, when my Partner set the hook. I could feel his excitement as he fought the fish to the boat. That fish ended up being another 4.5 lber. Not the fish I was looking for , but a great confidence booster since it was only his second fish of the day.

I told him, he was doing great, and that I was saving a spot in the live well for his big one. We made another pass through the sweet spot , when he hooked up. This time the fish was a lot nicer, and he did a great job fighting the fish to the net. As I slid the net underneath the fish, I knew we were done. It was our second biggest fish of the day, a 7.5 lber! We were pumped and done for the day with our last fish in the live well.

After a nice easy ride in, we went to the scales with a Day 1 mission accomplished vibe. 32.58 lbs. had me in 15th or so place. Dustin Minke also had a solid day weighing 35lbs.

Blow Days-

The Great Lakes always have a weather factor , and this was no exception.

the next 2 days were called off due to small craft advisory. The format was switched from a 3 day with a top ten cut, to a 2 day shootout.

Day 2-

3 days after my solid Day 1,we finally got to fish again. The weather called for calm and sunny.

I was excited to get back to the zone, and start casting again for those beautiful Walleyes. On top of the normal excitement , I had been suffering from fishing withdrawals since I hadn’t fished for 2 days !!!

I had a Co-Angler who was super excited to cast for the day , a guy who fishes a number of the smaller tournament trails in the area. It was going to be a good day, I could feel it.

As we started our first drift, I hooked up on a real nice one, after a long battle we landed a 8lber!  Just the start we needed, to confirm the big ones were still there , and that we still remembered how to cast for them! As the day rolled on , I had 3 in the live well and things started  getting slow. No problem I thought, time for a change of scenery. I started going through the secondary spots I hadn’t fished in days. After a couple hours of nothing, we landed on a very active school of 4.5 to 5 lbers. It was time to get our limit, so we boxed a couple of those fish. After another upgrade, I decided to head back to the primary area for one more big one.

I had the area isolated down to 2 really good feeding zones, where it seemed that the more time that had gone by, the higher the probability  there was an active fish present. We made a short pass through that zone, when My Co-Angler hooked up.  Another exciting battle that went on for what seemed like a long time, after we had seen the fish and knew we wanted to keep it. We slid the fish in the net, shook hands and said to each other “That was a great day”

We were done at 1pm, and got to enjoy a Cadillac style ride in courtesy of the Ranger 620FS and Evinrude G2 combo.

I ended up weighing in 31.89lbs and was sitting in 3rd or 4th place, with all the Day 1 leaders left to weigh. As more and more guys crossed the stage , the story became a norm. Tough day, slow bite, fish moved, etc. This had me staying high on the leader board with only a few guys left to weigh.

When the dust settled, I ended up in 7th place with 64.47lbs, and Dean Arnoldussen Took home 1st with a whopping 75lb. bag courtesy of trolling Flicker Minnows.

I Belong Here-

I had an amazing feeling of accomplishment , 2 top tens in a row. and a 7th Place finish for Angler of the Year. This had me hungry for more, and more importantly dissecting what made me successful in both of those tournaments .

Seeing my name above and below a lot of my childhood idols, is another gift from God.  I’ve had a great time so far, and love how those peers and competitors have welcomed me into the National Walleye Tour family.

2017 Cabelas National Walleye Tour – Prairie Du Chien

Prairie Du Chien – 2 days of my life I will never forget.

Practice-

As this tournament approached, it was obvious that we would be dealing with super high water. Very Rare for mid June. With this super high water my team knew that backwaters would def. come into play. Generally this time of year on the river, any type of hard bottom area including wing dams will have fish set up on them as their summer home.

We were able to fish Pool 9, 10 and 11 so I decided to start in 9 in the flooded backwater area. Practice started off great we caught a number of decent fish upto 3 lbs , exploring areas that I should’ve had a canoe or duck boat in. One thing started to become glaringly obvious right away, Like most river scenarios 90% of the fish occupy 10% of the water.  When we found the right amount of current relief, the fish were always present.

As the week progressed we continued to scour the entire river system, Pitching jigs, casting crank baits, and pulling live bait upstream in key areas. The turning point for me that week actually happened at dinner one night in an old Bar. I was asked by the bartender if I was in town for the tournament, he asked me how practice was going, I told him pretty slow. I had caught one good 24 incher on a small wing dam and not much for size otherwise. He told me if I wanted big fish, I needed to get some Willow Cats. An hour later, the fine gentleman gave me the jist of how he liked to present willow cats on Wing Dams.

The next day I cut practice short, to drive to LaCrosse to get some Willow Cats. I decided I would return to the area where I had the 24 incher, and low and behold , my second cast with “Willy” I landed a 27 incher. My head started spinning, this changed everything! with 2 days left before the tourney I knew our team needed a lot more of these magic little morsels. We headed back to LaCrosse and bought the bait store out of Willow Cats, totaling around 400$ worth of them.

I was able to find a couple other decent spots, and left the big fish spot alone for 2 days leading upto the tourney.

Day 1

I was excited, but not overly confident. I knew the potential of the spot I wanted to fish, but also knew I might be competing with other boats, and that river fish tend to move. Bill Shimota had an earlier boat draw then I did, so he got to the spot first. As my Co angler and I spot locked out a bit from the current seam where Bill was, I knew that he was going to be catching instantly if the fish were still there. Within the first 12 minutes, we watched Bill Land a 5lber and a couple 4 lbers. After Landing those fish, Bill Said “I can’t do this to you anymore” and moved up for me to slide into the special zone.

My first few fish were 19 to 20 inches long, and I quickly decided to throw them back. This was due to the fact that it was a No-Cull tourney, and my partner just confirmed that the 4 plus pounders were still here. I knew if I gave it enough time , I would have some of those big bites.

The next few hours was really a blur, I know we landed a 26 plus incher, and some other great 23 inch fish. we definitely lost a couple big ones also. After finally putting my last fish in the box, I had a excited feeling, knowing that our plan came together almost perfectly.

When the final bag had been weighed, I was sitting in 2nd place basically 2 ozs. behind my friend Mark Courts. My friend who 2 years prior , we shared Angler and Co-Angler of the year honors together. It was a great story line for the Media, and they mentioned how I shared the stage with him 2 years before, and now we will be having a straight up show down on Day 2.

Day 2-

I slept amazingly well that  night , mostly because of how exhausted I was from 90 plus degree days all week in pre fish.  My Plan was very simple, Pray that I got my spot, and camp there until I had a massive bag.

I was one of the first boats out and was happy to see that nobody had taken the sweet spot. As we settled in on spot lock, I briefed my Co-Angler on the proper cast angles , and what to expect when the waves moved through.

It didn’t take long to put our first fish in the box, a nice fat 22 incher. Almost simultaneously we landed another nice 23 incher. The day was starting off perfectly. Adding to the excitement was the presence of Mike Law , the Camera guy. I can remember at one point he was flying a drone directly above us, when my Co- Angler caught a 23 incher. Talk about cool footage.

This day was a little blurry also, except for a few key big bites I remember vividly. One of those big bites, I didn’t feel the initially tick, but instead I felt weight. As I pulled gently up on  my rod, I confirmed it was a big fish, by an annoyed head shake. I gave the fish a little more time to position the willow cat in her mouth , and then set the hook. This one was big a 5 to 7 lb. fish. I played the fish in the current , and right about when we were getting close to net range, she let go. As I inspected the Willow Cat I noticed that the fish had completely folded the bait over the hook. No Problem, onto the next bite.

Another one of the bigger bites occurred a little further downstream than the normal cast I was making. when I went to get tight on the fish , again I was impressed with what felt like a 5 plus lber. After 30 seconds of heart stopping battle, my line started feeling weird and tight. I quickly came off spot lock and headed towards the fish, because I knew that she had now wrapped me around a tree. After 10 mins of trying to figure out how  to get her un-tangled I finally realized that the fish was gone and it was time to get back into the sweet spot.

Sometime around 130 PM we decided to put our 5th fish in the box. I knew I had a similar weight of 20 pounds just like day one. At 245Pm I decide we were going to make the short run in, to play it safe. I had my Co-Angler put the rods away, as I made the official “Last Cast”

What happened next I will never , ever forget .I made a long cast over top of the wing dam for the first tie all day. As my willow cat made the steady swing towards the back of the boat I felt a small tick. I told my Co that I had just been bit. As I set the hook, and reeled down to come tight on the fish I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. My entire Angling career was replaying through my head in fast forward as I thought of all the blessings that God has given me. I said to myself..”of course your hooked up to a 5 plus pounder on the last cast” .

The boat was deathly silent, The only thing I wanted to say to my Co-Angler was “Can you believe this is happening?” , but I couldn’t get the words out. As the Line Angle approached the boat in a steady ominous fashion, straight down slicing through the current. My Partner crouched at the back of the boat eager to get a shot with the net. As the line became straight down at the side of the boat, I steadily started pulling up on the fish. A split second before we could see the fish it gave one head shake and it was off.

I couldn’t believe it, either could he. I picked up the trolling motor and made a quick run in, playing back in my head what just happened . I came to the conclusion that this was some sort of a lesson from God to keep trying and it wasn’t quite my time. Or, I was going to win with the weight I had.

As I put my boat on the trailer , I was so delusional I scraped the dock with the side of my boat. A first for me!!!

As I waited to weigh in second last, I had more time to reflect on all the amazing things in my life. I was calm realizing I couldn’t do anything to change the outcome now.

I weighed in another 20.5lbs. and took the lead, with only one person left to weigh in. Mark Courts needed a similar bag to day one to win. he weighed 21.5 lbs. and claimed the victory.

Mission Accomplished :

My goal was to cash my first check on the NWT, and this was the 2nd biggest check available. It was so heart warming having all my peers, idols, and fellow competitors come up and congratulate me. It was an amazing feeling.

 

2017 Cabelas National Walleye Tour Lake Sakakawea

Lake Sakakawea The most beautiful place I’ve ever Walleye fished.

Pre Fish:

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.

Day 1:

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.

Day 2

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 !

2017 Cabelas National Walleye Tour Lake Erie

April 12th Lake Erie, aka Big Walleye Time!

Anytime I see Erie on the schedule I get excited because it’s basically a Walleye fishing vacation for the practice period.

This time Lake Erie was a little different. Weathe is always a conversation piece of any Great Lakes tourney, and this one was no different. 5 days of big winds, and rain had the entire lake a sloppy, muddy mess. Each evening of practice was spent observing the satellite image if it was available, finding any glimpse of cleaner water. The fishing in the western basin was so slow, it prompted me to try the 2nd last day of practice 75 miles away in the Detroit river, searching for any type of 30 lb bag. My fall back plan was to put myself smack dab in the middle of the biggest school of Walleyes I knew of , and pray 5 of them would find my crankbaits throughout the day.

The rules meeting confirmed how tough the bite was, it was obvious that a 40lb. bag would involve some Luck, and was almost impossible given the current state of the Lake.

As Day one of the tourney approached I realized that the weather would be conducive for the 75 mile run to the Detroit River. I’ve always been a sucker for an adventure, so I pointed the 250 HP Evinrude G2 NorthWest on full tilt boogey mode. 90 mins later I arrived in downtown Detroit, with hopes of jigging up 5 big fish.   The Water had muddied severely, and I knew it was going to be a different day.

After a few hours, a couple different spots and zero bites I headed to the gas dock with my tail between my legs. Back on Plane I blasted back to the reef area with 1.5 hrs left to troll. I was able to troll up 2 decent fish and lost another good one using Bandits high in the water column, in the 10 inch visibility water. As I heard bag after bag of one fish, or 2 fish cross the stage, I had a sinking feeling that I didn’t properly analyze how good of a trolling pattern I was on compared to the rest of the field. If I would’ve been able to troll for 6 hours, I would’ve had a limit for sure. I ended weighing 2 fish for 11.25 Lbs.

Day 2-

The second day brought some serious east wind, which was supposed to increase to 25 plus MPH by the afternoon. I decided to hide from the huge waves on the west side of the Bass Islands, knowing that Walleyes aren’t huge fans of Surging baits with water temps that cold.

There was a lot of tourney guys in the North Bass area, and we got in line praying for a couple big bites. The day flew by, with one good 28 inched, and a couple 3 lbers to go with it. the the time came to get closer to the landing , I headed through the Put in Bay channel navigating 6fters. I decided to stop at Kellys Island with what I thought was 30 mins left to troll. with an hour left my Lowrance unit told me I had 14 miles left to go to Huron. I started the journey in what was definitely the biggest waves Ive ever been in. The nice thing was I was able to trough the huge waves, having to angle into them just a little bit. It never ceases to amaze me what our Ranger 620FS boats are capable of, at no point did I ever feel uncomfortable , just annoyed by how much maneuvering I had to do.

57 mins later , we made it in on time just barely. I weighed 14.33lbs. for 3 fish and finished in 53 place.

Lessons learned: This was another example of knowing the field. A person can think that it is you against the fish, but in a tournament you can win by 1 oz and having an idea of what that number is to win can help make good decisions during tourney hours.

There is no gallery selected or the gallery was deleted.

2016 Cabelas NWT- Lake Winnebago

The 2nd tournament of the 2016 season was another lesson learned for me.

The fish were set up in a standard post spawn feeding frenzy, the only problem was finding quality fish in an ocean of white bass , catfish , drum, and puny Walleyes .

My pre fish started off pretty good, and by day 2 our entire team was on a rock solid pattern.

I was pulling spinners around in the basin, which seemed like a lottery , untill I started really dialing in on what to look for on my Lowrance electronics.

The piece of the puzzle that ended up being the most important was to get away from the Big schools of fish, and actually look for an area with limited fish, and more importantly small stuff, which ended up being juvenile white bass, a favorite food of big walleyes.

The last 3 days before the tournament I had amazing bags of fish , averaging 22 to 25 lbs a day for my 5 biggest .

I had narrowed my search down to 3 primary areas , one of which I called fantasy land , because there was huge marks in the area , and everytime I did a pass in practice I would get one or even two, 5 plus pounders .

Going into the first day , I would have to say it was the most confident I’ve ever been going into any fishing tournament. I knew where I was going , I had a few backup plans , and I knew exactly what I was going to be using .

Day one , brought a huge storm the night before and morning of the scheduled start time . I had heard many rumors about how inconsistent the fish in the mud were on Winnebago, but I was all in, and had to go see for myself .

As the morning dragged on , without a single quality bite, I started thinking about plan B. I had spent roughly 2 hours trying to make the fish I was marking bite , and finally a board went back , it was a good keeper about 22 inches. And ultimately that fish cost me the next 1.5 hours of my life ! The time had vanished into thin air , like anytime your not catching fish in a tournament. I pulled stakes and headed inshore bucking a wind that was gusting to 30. When the day was done , I had 4 fish , with a boring weight .

That night I had a long talk with my teammate Korey Sprengel , about what I did differently in practice versus the tournament.

I came to the conclusion that I needed to take a pre fish attitude to the tournament day. Drive around untill I saw what I liked , make a pass , and if they weren’t biting , keep moving untill I found an active school.

I started day 2 out in fantasy land, although this time , I only fished it for 90 mins , without a good keeper . , I headed inshore again looking for a school of fish to troll. I marked a few nice fish , set up for a short pass , and got a 21 incher . Second short pass, yielded nothing , so onto the next school.

I found another nice pod of fish and set up on them , yahtzee 23 incher . 30 mins later , another 21 incher . For the next 2 hours I kept short passing the small pod of fish I had all to myself, while amazing torrential rain filled my boat and activated the auto bilge pump .

We got our 4th fish , another nice 20 plus incher . And then it happened. My board got stopped in its tracks , I reeled down fast, grabbed the rod out of the holder, and my heart started pumping . This was a big one. A 5 to 7 lber that represented my number one goal in fishing (cashing my first check on the NWT). I got the fish coming towards the boat , and told my Co Angler, “this is the one we’ve been looking for ” . The battle turned into a nice steady pull, of a big walleye , I’m not sure I even took a breath for the 2 min battle, I knew exactly what this fish represented . As the board got closer to the boat , the fish all of a sudden started headshaking vigoursly , I bowed the rod towards the fish to absorb her all of a sudden crabby behavior , but it did not work, and she got away . My shoulders probably slumped down to my ankles , just as I felt a little tap tap on the rod , I reeled down fast and proceeded to land a 1lb sheepshead. ? ? ? The only thing I could think of , was that little twirp swam up on that walleye and was trying to join the crawler out of her mouth , thus the sudden headshaking. Later on in line for the weigh in , so asked Gary Parsons if he ever had sheepshead follow walleyes up, and he said “oh yeah all the time “.

So long story short, I only weighed 4 fish again and was completely deflated finishing in 50th place with a total of 22.86 lbs. Knowing that one fish would’ve cashed me my first check .

Overall , I did make a great mental step in tournament fishing, and that was to embrace the process that was successful in pre fish, confidently fishing new areas with the same solid presentation.

2016 Cabela’s NWT – Lake Erie

Lake Erie is by far the crown jewel of Walleye fishing. It has an unimaginable number of walleyes in it, and a 27 incher is considered average.


I arrived on Wednesday the week before the tourney, and got right into the fish all day schedule  (my favorite).
The bite started off rather slow for our team, as we began to get a feel for the progression of the fish, finding out how far along they were with spawn, and how far East some of them had already started heading. Hot patterns were developed early on, with Berkley Flicker minnows, Bandits, and down deep Husky Jerks being on the menu. As the weather stabilized and went flat for  a couple days, I really started mixing in spinners, and in the clear water they definitely held their own. I experimented with a number of blades and beed combos, and arrived at the most gaudy options I had…a pink lemonade type #5 blade with pink chartreuse purple white beads.


 One day before the tourney, I blew the power head on the beautiful boat that my friend Brett Kenner had borrowed me. In case I didn’t have enough on my mind calculating where how and when I was going to fish my first tourney as a pro. I stayed calm and confident, only because history has always shown that God will work something out for me, as I went through the list of possible borrow boats, rental boats, etc. Etc. My heaven sent guy appeared.  Dan Smith, who travels with our good friend Ryan Buddies, offered me his beautiful Ranger 621 FS, and not only borrowed it to me, but also drove a 6hr. Round trip to get it for me the day before the tourney.


DAY 1.
I decided to make the 30 mile run to what I assumed was the biggest school of walleyes in Lake Erie. It was a 3 mile long school that was 1 mile wide….we went 6 for 10 in one long pass the day the power head blew up. So my thought process was, if I could catch 20 fish from that school, I would have upper an upper 30 lb. Bag to start the tourney, and could adjust for day 2 if need be…


When I got to the spot I had an unsettling feeling as I slowed down to 20 mph to start looking for fish….the HDS unit had massive interference from the hummingbird graph that was also turned on…I tried calmly to source a different transducer, and played with the settings a little bit,  but was unable to think about turning the hummingbird off with so much going through my head….eventually I slowed way down and finally marked some fish, enough to try a pass. The screen was lit up with fish, but the water was dingy and I wasn’t able to get them to bite, so I headed further west, and picked up my first fish, a 27 incher. On a slick alewive flicker minnow.
Pulled the pin and started heading back to the reefs, and then the south passage, and eventually further east, where I decided to make a pull in some ocean water where I knew it was hard to mark fish anyways on the graph.
One pass and we had a couple 29 inchers to show for it. And that is how day one ended.


 DAY 2.
Made the simple plan to start off where I ended, was going to get upper 30 lbs. Going then head to the reefs to try and upgrade a couple to pre spawn status. I started off with 2 Berkley Flicker Minnows on my outside boards 50 ft back, and 2 spinner rigs on my inside boards. 30 back with a 1 oz. weight.


As the magical day progressed , I was unable to fire any lure, they where eating every one equally , except we did notice at the end of the day that we were going to weigh 4 of the 5 thanks to the slick alewive  Flicker Minnow.
I didn’t really get my money’s worth day 2, because Keith and I had zero pressure on us at all. After our weak day one weights. That said, we finally high fived after we caught a close to 11-lber , which was a 5 lb upgrade!
We were having so much fun, that I was able to capture a lot of it on GoPro, and will share that as I upload it.


 Went to the weigh in, and got to hear one of my favorite voices announce our huge bag. Chip Leer was very excited because we just weighed the 2nd biggest bag of the tourney… 46.58 lbs of Lake Erie Gold. I assumed it wouldn’t be enough to get me in the money, and as more and more people weighed in I was bumped down to 40th place–two spots out of the money.

I’ll take it for my first tourney on the pro side. I learned a lot, and so did our team.
Can’t wait for the next one on Lake Winnebago, I’ll be ready to carry on this day 2 momentum.

 

Guiding Pastor Phil Hoyer to a Muskie

Muskies are cool. Lake Vermilion is cool. My dad catching a muskie on Lake Vermilion is cool. In the summer of 2015, I was able to fish with my dad, Phil on Lake Vermilion for two days. The fishing was tough, as always, and the weather was beautiful. One day after a nice lunch with my good friends, the wind started to blow, the clouds rolled in, and nice little mid-day window opened up for us. About 1/2 way back on the retrieve, a beautiful muskie grabbed Pastor Phil’s custom Showgirl and gave him a great battle before letting us take her picture. It was one of the high points of my summer and a moment I won’t soon forget.

Muskie Success Requires Diligence

By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise

First-time muskie anglers often call upon a fishing guide for instruction and counsel when pursuing the “Fish of 10,000 Casts.”
The client angler typically says, “I’ve never been muskie fishing before and would like to go on a muskie fishing trip.”

The reply from Leisure Outdoor Adventure’s fishing guide Jeff Anderson’s mouth are, “No, you don’t.”

You see, muskie fishing isn’t about watching a bobber twitch above a hook and worm. It’s a commitment. You’re essentially looking for a fish. A single fish. The biggest fish in the lake and the biggest fish most freshwater anglers can aspire to catch.

Though there are days when multiple fish are caught, the lulls can be long. Yet oral coaching is constant with Anderson.

Before and during a trip, Jeff Anderson mentally prepares the guest angler. “This is not easy,” he states. “A 50-incher in the first ten minutes isn’t common.”

His assessment of novice anglers is to-the-point. “Beginners typically don’t cast as far and you constantly want your bait in the water.

“Successful muskie hunters keep a positive mental mind-frame and have to love the ‘chase’ of fishing. The catching part comes second,” he says.

“Catching a muskie will eventually happen, but the pursuit should be almost equally enjoyable. Almost.

“Sometimes it feels like you’re just casting into a puddle,” states Anderson. “The best muskie fishermen always believe they’ll get a bite.”

The next important facet entails effectively placing the lure where fish live. Then keep focus, maintain a hook-set ready position and be meticulous with figure eights.

Fellow muskie guide John Hoyer adds that if a fish follows, read its attitude.

“Keep the bait moving and your first move is down with the rod tip, down below the fish. Then go slower into the high outside turn and then if the fish doesn’t bite, pull it away and down again.

“A muskie can eat literally anything that comes in front of its face, but the best figure-eighters are the best at cat and mouse. Get away, and then give the fish a chance to eat it,” says Hoyer.

Once the fish hits, Hoyer advises to keep the rod buried in the water; line tension is imperative. “The fish will go ballistic!”

The landing net should always be ready and the fish should be kept in the water, in the landing net as the fish is carefully unhooked. Then comes a quick measurement on a big bump board and an even faster photo. The camera should be ready before pulling the muskie out of the net.

Hoyer suggests wetting the bump board and avoiding fish to boat carpet contact. Be sure to support the fish horizontally versus a one-handed vertical hold. Then the fish goes back in the water.

“Don’t worry so much about pumping the fish back and forth to release, they simply need to rest and breathe. If the fish can remain upright on its own, it’s pretty much ready to swim away. But make sure it does.”