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.”

Brad Dirkman wins Cabela’s National Walleye Tour on Leech Lake; Laporte’s Jay Carroll is crowned co-angler champion

Three years ago Brad Dirkman of Underwood led the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament after the first day, but only weighed three small fish on the second day and fell to 10th place.

He was in the same position after day one Friday night of Cabela’s National Walleye Tour on Leech Lake.

This time Dirkman decided to play it safe on day two and it worked, as his total of 25.93 pounds won the pro-event and earned himself $63,127 in cash, bonuses and a new Ranger BMT boat and trailer.

Dirkman fished the first day on Walker Bay and did well with five walleyes weighing 18.35 pounds; and on the second day he weighed in five more for 8.48 pounds.

Under tournament rules, pros and co-anglers can keep two fish over 26 inches per day, and the other three must be between 15 and under 20 inches.

Tommy Skarlis, a former Walker resident, finished the pro-event in second place with a cumulative total of 25.93 pounds. Amazingly, he achieved that weight despite catching only seven keeper walleyes over the two days.

On day one, he managed only two fish, but they weighed 13.92 pounds. The second day he put a 12.01-pound limit in his live well — rising from fifth — to earn $23,628 with boat and motor bonuses.

The second-heaviest limit of the day belonged to longtime Nisswa guide Richie Boggs. After catching 8.53 pounds on day one, the veteran pro sacked a whopping 17.16-pound stringer and rose to third with a total weight of 25.69 pounds.

Rounding out the top five are Cabela’s pro Kevin McQuoid and Ohio pro Mark Brumbaugh. McQuoid started the day in third place with a solid slot program and slipped to fourth after catching a 9.87-pound limit. Like many others, McQuoid fished Walker Bay for his overs and had a milk run of spots for his slot fish. His cumulative total was 25.66 pounds, a weight that was achieved with just one over. If not for a .50-pound penalty for an expired fish, McQuoid would have finished second.

Mark Christianson of Walker was sitting in second place after day one with a 16.52-pound basket, but fell to 17th place after only bringing in two fish on day two for a total of 19.84 pounds, which did earn him $4,872 in cash.

Carroll crowned co-angler champion

Laporte angler Jay Carroll was crowned co-angler champion after catching 10 walleyes over two days weighing 32.12 pounds. This was Carroll’s first time ever cashing a check in a tournament and it was a big one at $6,926. His 19.94-pound day-two stringer was the heaviest of the tournament.

Carroll was almost speechless when he was announced the winner. “I’m speechless. I’m just happy to be here. This is just phenomenal.”

Finishing second in the co-angler was Cal Clausen of Veradale, Wash., with a two-day total of 30.11, which was good enough for $3,701 payday.

John Hoyer of Orono took third with 24.72 pounds and won $2,611.

The third qualifier of the 2015 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour season is slated for July 24-25 on Lake Michigan’s Green Bay in Green Bay, Wis.

Information provided by Brett Carlson, courtesy of Cabela’s National Walleye Tour.

Courts and Hoyer Win Angler of the Year Awards for Cabela’s National Walleye Tour

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Published September 22, 2015

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (September 22, 2015) – After the dust settled on the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) championship event at Devils Lake, North Dakota, pro-angler Mark Courts and co-angler John Hoyer emerged as the Lucas Oil Angler of the Year Award (AOY) winners. Along with custom Lucas Oil AOY rings, both anglers earned paid entry fees for the 2016 NWT season.

Pro-angler Mark Courts (right) and co-angler john Hoyer (left) pose with their Angler of the Year trophies at the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour championship event at Devils Lake, N.D., on Sept. 19. (For a high-res image, please contact Greg Duncan)

Courts has chased an AOY title for his 16 years of professional competition. After a number of tournament wins and close finishes in other AOY races, Courts can check this one off of his list.

“This was a huge relief,” said Courts. “It’s something I have strived for my whole career. That’s the one title I didn’t have. It’s something I am really proud of. Being that angler that stayed consistent enough throughout the year to win that title. I’m glad to have it up on the mantle.”
Courts made the decision to step up his game and become more aggressive with his decision making and tactics.
“I fished really aggressively all year,” said Courts. “I took some risks that worked out, which is always a part of being on top at the end. The one thing about tournament angling is there is always decision making involved. All of these decisions have to work out and this year it did.”
There were times during the season where Courts made mistakes but he didn’t let the setbacks put him in a losing mindset.
“I look at Green Bay where I lost a couple of crucial fish the second day,” said Courts. “That cost me some points, but I didn’t let it bother me. When we got to Devils Lake, I had a one point lead. That first day was where I almost mentally beat myself. I stopped and took a break to refocus. Then I settled in and started catching fish.”
Courts competed in all four NWT events and managed to place in the top 25 in each tournament. This consistency was key to topping the AOY leaderboard.
“It was one of those years where I was really consistent,” said Courts. “I fished really well and, for the most part, I fished really clean.”
John Hoyer finished first in the AOY race for the co-angler category with four straight top-10 finishes. After placing second at Lake City, Hoyer placed high again with third place at Leech Lake. The co-angler finished the regular season at Green Bay with another third-place podium call and placed fifth in the championship at Devils Lake.
“There’s obviously a lot of luck involved in the draws,” said Hoyer. “I tried to stay completely positive the whole time.”
Hoyer won over $10,000 fishing as a co-angler this season and plans to fish the pro category in 2016.
“This has kind of been the final push for me to finally go pro,” Hoyer said. “Fishing as a co-angler is the fastest crash course you can get as far as learning. Each pro does it just a little bit differently.”
Hoyer also credits his pro partners as an invaluable source of fishing knowledge with the pros always willing to impart a few bits of wisdom.
“They are very helpful,” said Hoyer. “We talk throughout the day and you can gain lots of knowledge from just talking. As much as you want to ask, they have answers for you.”
The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour will kick off the 2016 season in April and will include 3 qualifying events and a year-end championship. Dates and locations should be announced soon. For more details, anglers are encouraged to check out the website atwww.nationalwalleyetour.com.