Pros Fish Alone on Final Day of Competition at FLW Walleye Tour Championship in Bismarck, ND
The weather was all the talk this morning as the championship competitors worked to make sure their equipment was all in order for the last day of fishing today. After howling winds from different directions each day wreaked havoc on bodies and minds, the fishermen were given a reprieve this morning when they stepped out of their hotels to find calm, whispering winds out of the North.
The forecast doesn't call for anything more than a 5-8 mph wind, so it's going to be a great day to be on the water. Temperatures, on the other hand, are normal for this time of year, but not what anyone is used to yet. It was 80 degrees when the fishermen hit town last week, and now the high has only been in the high 40's to low 50's for the past three days.
The Pros will be fishing alone today. The Co Anglers are done now, so that means that the Pros can only have a 5 fish limit in the boat, compared to the 8 they were allowed earlier in the competition, making it a tougher decision to keep or release a fish after it is caught.
After talking with each Pro this morning, it's clear that every one of them is hoping that the fish come in the "right order". This is a no cull event, so once a fish is placed in the livewell, they cannot replace it with a bigger fish and throw the smaller one back in the water. The "right order" would be catching a big fish first, and then a bigger one after that, and a bigger one after that and so on. But, seldom does that happen, and tough choice must be made.
Sometimes that choice to throw a fish back, instead of keeping it, can come back to bite them. Sometimes, throwing a decent fish back in the hopes that a bigger one will bite, can be the wrong decision, especially if that bigger bite never comes, and a smaller fish must be kept as time runs out.
To find out what the Pros were thinking about this morning, I asked them how their day on the water was yesterday, and what presentations they were using to catch their fish, and what their game plans were today. Read below for each of their responses.(They are listed below in order of their finishes yesterday)
Tony Renner of Hutchinson, MN: I had a great day on the water yesterday. I caught quite a few fish and ended up with 24 pounds. I'm not going to change anything up today. I'm going to go out and pull Lead Core with bright colored Shad Raps in high current areas. Hopefully, I can get 5 bites. I'm not going to be real fussy today. With an 8 pound lead, I'm just going to try to get 5 fish in the box and see what happens.
Juls: Is this your biggest day ever fishing tournaments?
Tony:I've had a lot of struggles the past few years, and just missed a lot of cuts. You know...I'd get 11th place...12th place, you know. I'd have a fish come off right at the end of the boat that fish would of got me into the top ten, so, yeah, this is absolutely the biggest fishing experience of my career!
I've been real consistent and fortunate to have made the championship every year, but I've never really had that tournament where I went out and had a day like yesterday. You know, I finally had that big bite day where they came at the right time. The first two days I was just real consistent with 13 and 15 pounds, and I'm just hoping for one of those days today.
Juls: What would the win mean to you?
Tony: It would mean so much to me. All the sacrifices at home...the kids make, and my family makes, and my employees make...to bring it home for them would be awesome! And, all the other fishermen that don't get a chance to do this...I fish with a lot of guys back home that fish smaller tournaments and they're sure root'n me on. Just for the smaller guys in this circuit, that maybe don't have the sponsorships, and don't get quite as much publicity as the rest, it would be great for all of us.
Juls: You said, "employees"...what's your business?
Tony: I have a small business. I have three employees and right now it's pretty slow. It's metal finishing. We do a lot of work for motorcycles, and that's not good right now, so...(laughs). Anything that's chrome plated, we do it.
Scott Steil of Richmond, MN: I had a good day on the water yesterday...I had 16 and a half pounds. I went out hoping I could weigh 15. I've been right around, real close, to 15 every day. The fish are a little fatter as the lake fish come up. The fish are actually getting bigger...the fish that we're getting, so we could have some good weights today. I'm taking that into account, but Tony's my teammate, and has set the bar pretty high with that big weight yesterday. (laughs) I mean, if he gets 5 bites we're all fishing for second place, including me, so I do need to hold onto where I am. So, I think if I can get that 15 or 16 pounds today it should be fine.
I'm pulling Lead Core in the spot that a lot of the guys are fishing...just up river from here (Eckroft's (sp?)), so it won't burn a lot of gas. But, you do have to get the right bites, and it's going to take some good decisions today too, as far as what fish to keep and what not to keep. We've got none to play with...you know, you only get 5. You've got to get the right bites early.
Bobby Crow of Paterson, WA: The first couple days of the tournament I rod-lined most of the day. On day two I couldn't get my fish rod-lining, so I ran down to the lake and caught a few fish down there, to give me my bag to make the cut. Yesterday, I went back rod-lining again hoping that the fish were there again.
I think it's just a current deal. We did really well using the rod-lines while prefishing...and, the current just really hasn't been right for some reason. I think a lot of the reason is that it hasn't been going (winds pushing up river slow the current down).
Fishing alone today, I'm just going to go back up river today. I went up the river yesterday, at about 11 o'clock, and caught my fish up there. So, with only me fishing with two rods, it's...(he changes thoughts)...
The trollers are going to have a tough day today. I think I can get my five fish pretty easily up the river just jigging and rigging, and you know, trolling...I honestly don't think I can get 5 fish all day long by myself...the way this bites kind of been going. The first day of the tournament, yeah, I would have said, "It's no big deal", but here lately, with the weather, the bites been falling apart and everything.
I'll run up the river and do some rigging. I want to get 11 or 12 pounds. With just the two rods and me, that's a pretty good number to get to. And, you know, if you get lucky, hopefully you'll stick a 10 pounder or something, or a big fish. But, that's the name of the game here. These fish are moving through so much, that if you sit down on the right spot and the right time you can weigh a heck of a bag. But, if you can't get there, you hope you can weigh 11 or 12 pounds. That should at least keep me in third place. Hopefully, I'll stick a big one and move up...you never know. A couple good fish today could....Tony's got an 8 pound lead on all of us, but that can change if someone sticks a 10 pounder today. And, if he makes a little bit of a mistake, he is catchable. He's out there a ways, but we'll see what happens.
Juls: Ok, on your polelines, what leads are you using? What cranks are you using? And, how much weight?
Bobby: I'm using a 10 foot lead on the bottom clevis and a 20 foot lead on the top, with original floating Rapalas, and a 12 oz weight. Bleeding Hot Olive has been a good color, and chart./white was pretty good for me, and the Yellow Perch was a good bait for me too. I think a lot of the bait deal was...these fish are moving through and they're eating, and I think that's a lot of it too, it's just getting your stuff in the right spot at the right time, and getting it in front of them. I think these fish aren't finicky. If they're there, they eat. I probably fished 5 spots yesterday before I finally got on fish. When you get on fish...you KNOW you're on fish. They don't hide, they bite and that's all there is too it. So, you just have to chase them around...you know, the typical river deal. Every spot I didn't get fish in yesterday, I have to go fish it again, because they could be there today.
David Andersen of Amery, WI: Well, I had a good day on the water yesterday. I got a decent basket, which was kind of what I was hoping for, but of course everyone is looking for that one kicker. Today it looks like it's going to be a little nicer, the wind's not going to blow. I plan on going out and doing the same things I have been for the last three days, and hopefully, those fish are there.
Juls: And, what exactly is it you have been doing the last three days?
Dave: I've been pulling crankbaits on Lead Core. I've been pulling number 7 Flicker Shads and Glass Shad Raps in 15-18 foot of water. I've been running out about 2-3 colors of lead out. I've been fishing North within ten miles.
Carl Adams, Jr of Blackduck, MN: My day yesterday started out a lot slower than what I had been hoping and just got a couple fish early...not very much...and, late in the day I caught a couple fish, but I didn't boat a lot of fish. But, I've been in the same area three days in a row, and my spot has been pretty consistant every day. I've been trolling cranks right in the same area as where a lot of the guys in the lead are trolling right now.
My game plan today is to go back to that area and hope that I get a couple of the right bites. I going to make sure I run baits that maybe don't catch a lot of fish, but maybe catch the right fish, because I don't want to have to catch any smaller fish and have to make the decision of throwing them back. I'm hoping the fish I catch are the right size, because I think most of the fish I'm going to catch are going to go in the box today.
Todd Riley of Amery, WI: (tied for 6th) Well, I kind of dropped the ball yesterday. I'm a little disappointed in myself. I made the cardinal sin of leaving fish to find fish, and my timing was terrible. And, today, I'm going to be scrambling, trying to play catch up to see if I can't salvage a decent place out of this.
I'm basically just pulling crankbaits on Lead Core. I'm pulling a lot of Flicker Shads, and I've had pretty good success with it. There's never really been any...when I had four lines...I didn't double up on any color, because some prefer apples and some prefer oranges. I've had 4 different color lures in the water up until today. Now I have to decide which two to pull.
Juls: Are you fishing North or South?
Todd: Well, yesterday, I started in the right spot (EcKroft's), and that's where I've been catching a lot of my fish. But, they didn't go right away. It's just amazing me how many fish that spot has held. I mean the first two days of the tournament, half the field was fishing it periodically.
Juls: Why do you think that is? Why do you think that that spot is holding so many fish compared to other areas on the river?
Todd: It's a holding spot and I haven't been able to determine if those fish are actually moving up from the lake and resting there? Or, if these are fish that are moving down with the falling water levels. I wish I knew that, because it would help me make some adjustments and move. I actually fished a spot above it yesterday morning, and we got a big fish on that got off without either of us seeing it. But, it might of been another one of those monsters I had on the first day. And, of course, I'm hoping to get lucky enough to run into one of them today. And, we have no extra fish today, so it's going to be a real chess game trying to decide what to keep and what not to keep....what to let go...you set your mark and decide what to do with it.
Juls: So, after leading the tournament for the first two days, what are your feelings on the FLW format in regards to the top ten having to start from zero again on day 3? Do you wish the weights would have carried over?
Todd: Well, of course in this scenario it bothers me (laughs), but we used to do it years ago when the RCL just started, and there was a couple of tournaments that I would of won, because I led going into the final day, and I would of won, so I never did really care for it. But, then again, if you were lucky enough to make it in in the number 10 spot, and then have your good day the last day or two, well, then, it's a bonus. So, I don't know, I guess it really doesn't make that much difference to me. (smiles)
Ron Seelhoff of Burlington, CO: (tied for 6th) Yesterday was a pretty tough day. All the water is rushing back to the lake, and it was muddy right here where I've been fishing, and at noon I didn't have any fish, so it was pretty stressful. I was thinking maybe I wouldn't get any fish. So, I ran South to the casino, and that was really...
Juls: Ran right down through the trees, I hear. (laughs)
Ron: Right down through the trees, and out of the wind. Yeah, that seemed like the best way to get there. (he says matter of factly....picture branches breaking off in the boat as they pass)...it keeps it exciting.
So, we got 6 fish right away and we came back here, and caught two 19 or 19 1/2 inchers immediately, so then I was thinking I shouldn't have left, so who knows? I'm probably going to have to try and catch some good fish. I'm probably going to have to go back to the casino again. There's some really good fish down there, and be back here by noon. We'll see. I might have to make one pass here first, I don't know.
Juls: What exactly is your presentation.
Ron: Mainly #5 and #7 Glass Shad Raps and regular Shad Raps...pulling Lead Core up through the seams and breaklines....moving around a lot.
It seems like if you don't have your baits within 6 inces of the bottom you don't get bit. That was a challenge yesterday...you had to keep bringing in your baits to clean them. Every little bit you would have to bring them in and clean them and put them back out. That was a big challenge. Now, it should be clean today. Hopefully, we can plan on catching some 19 or 20 inchers. I don't plan on keeping anything below 18 inches. We'll see how it goes. I'll probably be taking a little bit of a chance today.
It's awesome fishing here though, it really is. It's funny how we thought 7 or 8 years ago that the fish were all gone, and they were scrawny and how it's rebound itself. These fish are eating everything. They're coughing up little baby Northerns, bluegills, smelt, shad, and it seems like all of them have something in their bellies. They are very nice fish here now.
Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, IA: (tied for 6th) I'll tell you what, my game plan yesterday didn't go exactly as planned. It went exactly as planned as far as the fish I caught, and as far as the nubmer of fish I caught, but the spots where there had been 19 to 22 inch fish turned into 16, 17, and 18 inch fish. I'm pretty blessed I got what I got. I'm not in that bad of a position. I'm in 6th place, and if Tony Renner hadn't run away with this, this would be a whole different ball game. But, I 've won four of my six majors coming from behind thinking that I was fishing for second. And, there's still a lot of coin sitting in that second place spot.
I'm really fired up about today. I'm going to change things up a little bit. I've been Lindy Rigging and dragging jigs up in the river. And, it's a pretty wild run. I've touched would three times. I've been running up almost all the way to town for a couple of my spots, so running the ETEC I still have a lot of fuel and a lot of range left, but with what's going on with the fish...on the way back, I had room for two in the box, and went to verticle jigging and "Slam-Slam" put two in the box right away, and one of them was my nicest one. So, today I have on the "Touch Down Tommy T-Shirt" it says, "Field Goals are for Sissy's"!
I'm going to make sure that I verticle jig them up. Less running time means more fishing time. We're done earlier today...at 3:30. And, with some 50,000.00 at stake for second place that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm going to do it 'old school' today. I'm going to pull out the Lindy Fuzzy Grubs, and I'm going to use some "GULP!". I'm going to have one rod that I'm going to use verticle jigging with a crawler and a Fuzzy Grub head, and the other one I'm going to go to the old school and I'm going to us the Fuzzy Grub and a piece of "GULP!" piggy backed on it, just like you would have minnow on there. And, I think that bigger profile is going to catch fewer fish, but I think it's going to catch bigger fish! That's how I won the AIM tournament at Saginaw Bay this Spring...with a jig and "GULP!". It's really caught me a lot of fish the past three or four years and I really have a lot of confidence in it. So, I think I can make a little bit of a move today, and we'll see what happens.
The biggest thing is that I'm having a great time here in Bismarck, and I love all the people here, and I love dragging these interviews on, so Juls has to type a lot. Thanks for being here Juls!
Juls: Well, you're very welcome. Thanks for making it so easy for me to interview you. :)
Chris Gilman of Chisago City, MN: I'll tell you what...I went way North this whole tournament. I was going through a lot of numbers. I think the day before yesterday I caught about 25 fish or so, and weighed a good basket, but yesterday when I went up there they had all shifted. The water had dropped about two feet North of town, or way North, and the guys that stayed real close to the ramp, the fish weren't as affected as much. The further South you get on the lake the less water elevations change. And, then I had to struggle to get 5 fish and weighed in. I got my 5, which I'm really thankful for, but certainly my bigger fish were gone. So, today, I am going to adjust. I'm going to fish a little deeper. I have two or three spots I'm going to start at. I'm going to troll upstream with Lead Core and Jointed Shad Raps probably and then I'm going to vertical jig downstream. That's my plan, so we'll see how that goes today.
Nicolas Schertz of Tomahawk, WI: Well, yesterday I went up to the area that got me to this point. I have a spot that's about as far as anyone is going....probably 22 to 25 miles up North. I found an area that I thought I could catch fish in the wind if the weather conditions got bad. Three little areas up there and they seem to be replenishing with fish throughout the week, they reloaded. They're all like little funnels on the backside of sandbars...current seams where fish feed and have a little bit of a break from the current. They held on for a week and the first two days of the event. Yesterday, I couldn't get a bite up there, stayed up there till about noon, then I had to start backing down to some of my other spots. I relocated some fish in some deeper water. I kind of feel like the dropping water made some of those fish move back into deeper water. This river has been changing every day, and with limited experience I have here, I still think my best chance to catch a big bag is up in that part of the river...in those areas that got me here. So, I'm going to start there and see if any fish have moved into those areas again, because if there's fish moving down, then I can still have fish slide in and move over and I only need 5 in there.
Juls: What exactly is your presentation that you've been using to catch your fish?
Nicolas: I've been mixing it up in there. I've done some rigging, mostly with crawlers, a half a crawler on a slip sinker rig. I'm actually using a heavy weight, because I don't want it dragging back to far, because there's a lot of moss and stuff. I'm using a 2 oz weight, and a Slow Death hook and a couple beads. It's usually a couple floating beads. That's my primary presentation. I've also been trolling number 7 Flicker Shads on braided line on some of these seams as well, and they seem to really like that. But, that bite seems to be fading, so I've been spending more time with the crawlers. On day one, I actually anchored up in there and dumped slip sinkers into one of the sweet spots in there...that's one of these holes...and, put some fish in the boat doing that. So, if they're there, it's simple fishing. Hopefully, I can go up there and get my 5 today.
The community is invited to attend tomorrow's takeoff and weigh-in as well as the Family Fun Zone, which opens at 12:00 p.m. Saturday at the Bismarck Civic Center. Saturday is free fishing rod and reel day at the Fun Zone, where the first 300 children 14 and under receive a free fishing rod and reel, courtesy of Cumulus Bismarck.
Today's final weigh in is expected to begin at 4:30PM Central Time in the Civic Center, and if you cannot make it down there, you can watch the weigh in LIVE on Walleye Central's Live Leader Board where we will have a live webstream of the event. To view the video and chat with your friends in the chatroom, just click on the "Missouri River" link in the current FLW event on the homepage of the LLB at www.liveleaderboard.com or copy/paste this link into your browsers search bar: http://www.liveleaderboard.com/LeaderBoard/event_redirect.aspx?t=473&s=Pro&c=FLWC
The winning pro at the FLW Walleye Tour Championship is guaranteed a cash award of $70,000. If the winner is Ranger Cup qualified, he will earn a $17,500 bonus, and could receive another $17,500 bonus if the boat is equipped with a qualifying Evinrude or Yamaha outboard, for a total cash award of $105,000.
Coverage of the Walleye Tour Championship, hosted by the Bismarck-Mandan Convention & Visitors Bureau, will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS, the network which brings anglers the best fishing programming on television featuring the most-trusted authorities on the water. The Emmy-nominated “FLW Outdoors,” will air Nov. 15 from 12:30 to 1:30 ET. “FLW Outdoors,” hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide, including internationally through agreements with WFN (World Fishing Network) and Matchroom Sport to such countries as Canada, Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. FLW Outdoors has also taken fishing mainstream with FLW Fantasy Fishing, offering the largest awards possible in the history of fantasy sports. Sign up for Player’s Advantage to get your edge and win.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player's Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.